Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bye-Bye, Bhutto

Like so many of Pakistan's politicians, including her father, Benazir Bhutto went to the netherworld yesterday, assassinated during a campaign stop before elections. As expected, she is being billed as a martyr of democracy. What is ignored is that when she was in power (serving as Prime Minister in two stints in the late '80s and early to mid-90s), her government was known for being the most corrupt in the history of Pakistan (Mr. and Mrs. Bhutto are reputed to have stolen over $1.5 billion in money accrued from government agencies and criminal enterprises). This is no small achievement for a country that has a long and sordid record of violence and graft. In fact, her corruption and theft is why her Pakistan People's Party was electorally crushed and the ex-PM and her husband sent into exile to begin with (only returning to Pakistan two months ago).

That she was assassinated should not be entirely unexpected. When Mrs. Bhutto was allowed back into Pakistan from exile in October, she was greeted with a suicide bomber, an attack that killed over 140 people, but missing Bhutto. The subsequent two months were filled with periods of house arrests, following President Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule, and appeals for votes, finally getting a chance to campaign in earnest the last few weeks.

Naturally, this killing begs the question of who really killed Benazir Bhutto? Al-Qaeda is claiming responsibility, but there are many within Bhutto's camp who hold President Musharraf culpable in some way. He certainly had much to gain by her death, eliminating one of the few national figures who could legitimately defeat him and his allies in an election. Still, Taliban-allied Islamists have long tried to kill her, dating back to her days as Prime Minister, where she survived numerous assassination attempts--this in spite of the fact the Taliban came into power during Prime Minister Bhutto's reign, even supporting the Taliban's ascension in Afghanistan. Her many attempts to win Islamists over in the '90s never worked. She was always seen as a meddling heretic, in a world filled with religious men who deem women breeding cattle. They repaid her initial attempts to gain their support by trying to kill her.

It says much about the weakness of President Musharraf that he would have to roll back his emergency rule, quit his position as the commanding general of the Pakistani military, and be forced to negotiate with people like Bhutto and ex-PM Nawaz Sharif (a man General Musharraf once had arrested for hijacking and terrorism after ordering the general's military plane to be refused entry into Karachi). Many commentators are already writing that this assassination will damage the PPP in the upcoming elections, but this is unlikely to happen. If anything, the media coverage and her martyrdom will only make the People's Party even more popular and the likely winners in the upcoming elections. What will be more interesting is to see what happens afterward.

It is no secret in Pakistan that its government is and has almost always been the military. It is one of the few effective, and probably the only real national, institutions in Pakistan. Trying to install a liberal democracy in increasingly chaotic, stateless societies usually ends in failure (examples, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Somalia in the '90s and 2000s). To really "democratize," on the West's terms, means subordinating the military to civilian control. This is not always so easy in developing countries with internally contested systems. Indonesia since 1997 (formerly a military junta for over three decades under General Suharto) has served as a regional exemplar of the limitations of democratization in such conditions, although the R.J. Rummels and Jared Diamonds of the world (or as my mentor once called them, "stormtroopers for democracy") would have you believe we are all on a Kantian quest.

As someone who has lived and traveled throughout Asia, I can attest that Rummel-Diamond-Fukuyama, et al., are not widely read or respected. In a region where democracy is seen as a luxury, authoritarianism has been and continues to be the order of the day. Actually, authoritarianism is, irrespective of the claims of democratic fundamentalists, a preferred order in this part of the world, for the governments and international investors. This is not to advance the notion that democracy is bad. It is recognizing what Asia and countries like Pakistan are like, and possibly, hopefully, avoid the same political cookie-cutter pitfalls that people like Rummel and Diamond constantly fall into, like on Iraq (which Rummel, that great supporter of democracy and freedom, responded to the failures of his Middle East crusade by advocating censorship of the media). Our demands for Pakistan to defangle its military is occurring in the backdrop of a country whose increasingly militant Islamist movement (the openly pro-Taliban Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, especially) is striving for power and control
(albeit its appeal is relegated to the western provinces). Many of these militant sects within the movement are unapologetically supportive of al-Qaeda, and they make clear their support for the installation of Sharia law on Pakistan (which has a mix of Western and elements of Sharia law), as well as other such liberal causes like exterminating gay people, non-believers, and rape victims who cannot produce four eyewitnesses to their assault.

Without wanting to rain on anyone's march of freedom parade, insisting on democratic constitutionalism in a system like this is going to in all likelihood produce what Pakistan has been for the past six decades: A dysfunctional democracy without a real national appeal, beyond Islamabad and Karachi. It will also help precipitate internal strife by the losers who will not accept the results. Lastly, it will hasten a military takeover and repressive response to neutralize the political losers and the dysfunctional winners. This does not exclude the possibility that Pakistan can finally break the cycle of liberalization, social combustion, and countermanding political repression. However, if one looks at the history of democracies, even the top-down democracies that are so prevalent in Asia (where social movements did not play as much of a role in the democratization process until the late 1980s), there are not too many led by a person who, along with their spouse, steals over a billion dollars from state and private coffers.

So, what does this mean for Pakistan? Well, like the Dutch Pim Fortuyn List following the assassination of controversial party leader Pim Fortuyn in 2002, it is highly probable that the Pakistan People's Party will actually experience a bump in the polls and increase its vote (and the PPP is already the largest political party in Pakistan). As harsh as this may sound, the PPP might be better off without the leadership of someone as tainted with scandal as Bhutto, while using her memory to maintain its electoral windfall. Nevertheless, the Pakistani military is not going to go away. President Musharraf's retirement from the military does nothing to decrease his authority and power over the armed forces, since he hand-picked his successor. Not the least important, Hizb-i-Islami
and the more violent terrorist cells that it ideologically foments, and likely responsible for Bhutto's assassination, are never going to concede any election. In a country where the only national institution is the military, it appears remote that a democratically-elected government is going to deal with this threat, or mollify those internal actors, while simultaneously creating a democratic state worth its name. The game sounds eerily familiar and so will the results.

Differing from what the hooka holders, I mean, the freedom lovers, might tell you, positive answers and results are not always foreseeable or even doable. Sometimes, things really do get worse before they get better. For the sake of the people of Pakistan, here is to hoping that I am wrong.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ron Paul and Slavery

For those progressives who still live the Sisyphean illusion that Ron Paul is one of you.



These views are nothing new, by the way. Paul has always felt this way about the Civil War and slavery. And of course these views are just a natural extension of Paul's views on the Tenth Amendment, which extends to opposition to all civil rights laws under those most leftist of institutions, states' rights and private property. But hey, Mike Huckabee commuted a few prisoners in Arkansas, so let us ignore his views on the Patriot Act, Iraq, interning AIDS patients, and women's wombs, and delude ourselves into thinking he is one of us. Who knows, maybe if Jefferson Davis reanimated himself, he too could be a closeted hero of the workers.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Comprador's Conversion.......


After a couple of years of rumors, ex-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and full-time lackey, completed his desertion of what he once claimed to believe by converting to the world's number one pedophile club. On first sight, Blair becoming Catholic does not seem a natural marriage, but consider that this is a man who has killed more people than any European since World War Two, and the comprehension is crystallized into clarity.

His friendship with Rupert Murdoch, colluding in the murder of thousands of Serbs and Arabs like an imperial servant of old and, every white man's favorite past time, blaming the ills of your society on black people--Blair is a perfect fit for a group that relativizes the mass sexual assault of children as an over reported conspiracy.

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Blair blames spate of murders on black culture · Political correctness not helping, says PM

· Community leaders react angrily to comments

Patrick Wintour and Vikram Dodd
Thursday April 12, 2007
The Guardian

Tony Blair yesterday claimed the spate of knife and gun murders in London was not being caused by poverty, but a distinctive black culture. His remarks angered community leaders, who accused him of ignorance and failing to provide support for black-led efforts to tackle the problem.

One accused him of misunderstanding the advice he had been given on the issue at a Downing Street summit.

Black community leaders reacted after Mr Blair said the recent violence should not be treated as part of a general crime wave, but as specific to black youth. He said people had to drop their political correctness and recognise that the violence would not be stopped "by pretending it is not young black kids doing it".

It needed to be addressed by a tailored counter-attack in the same way as football hooliganism was reined in by producing measures aimed at the specific problem, rather than general lawlessness.

Mr Blair's remarks are at odds with those of the Home Office minister Lady Scotland, who told the home affairs select committee last month that the disproportionate number of black youths in the criminal justice system was a function of their disproportionate poverty, and not to do with a distinctive black culture.

Giving the Callaghan lecture in Cardiff, the prime minister admitted he had been "lurching into total frankness" in the final weeks of his premiership. He called on black people to lead the fight against knife crime. He said that "the black community - the vast majority of whom in these communities are decent, law abiding people horrified at what is happening - need to be mobilised in denunciation of this gang culture that is killing innocent young black kids".

Mr Blair said he had been moved to make his controversial remarks after speaking to a black pastor of a London church at a Downing Street knife crime summit, who said: "When are we going to start saying this is a problem amongst a section of the black community and not, for reasons of political correctness, pretend that this is nothing to do with it?" Mr Blair said there needed to be an "intense police focus" on the minority of young black Britons behind the gun and knife attacks. The laws on knife and gun gangs needed to be toughened and the ringleaders "taken out of circulation".

Last night, British African-Caribbean figures leading the fight against gang culture condemned Mr Blair's speech. The Rev Nims Obunge, chief executive of the Peace Alliance, one of the main organisations working against gang crime, denounced the prime minister.

Mr Obunge, who attended the Downing Street summit chaired by Mr Blair in February, said he had been cited by the prime minister: "He makes it look like I said it's the black community doing it. What I said is it's making the black community more vulnerable and they need more support and funding for the work they're doing. ... He has taken what I said out of context. We came for support and he has failed and has come back with more police powers to use against our black children."

Keith Jarrett, chair of the National Black Police Association, whose members work with vulnerable youngsters, said: "Social deprivation and delinquency go hand in hand and we need to tackle both. It is curious that the prime minister does not mention deprivation in his speech."

Lee Jasper, adviser on policing to London's mayor, said: "For years we have said this is an issue the black community has to deal with. The PM is spectacularly ill-informed if he thinks otherwise.

"Every home secretary from [David] Blunkett onwards has been pressed on tackling the growing phenomenon of gun and gang crime in deprived black communities, and government has failed to respond to what has been a clear demand for additional resources to tackle youth alienation and disaffection".

The Home Office has already announced it is looking at the possibility of banning membership of gangs, tougher enforcement of the supposed mandatory five-year sentences for possession of illegal firearms, and lowering the age from 21 to 18 for this mandatory sentence.

Answering questions later Mr Blair said: "Economic inequality is a factor and we should deal with that, but I don't think it's the thing that is producing the most violent expression of this social alienation.

"I think that is to do with the fact that particular youngsters are being brought up in a setting that has no rules, no discipline, no proper framework around them."

Some people working with children knew at the age of five whether they were going to be in "real trouble" later, he said.

Mr Blair is known to believe the tendency for many black boys to be raised in families without a father leads to a lack of appropriate role models.....

http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,2055148,00.html
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It is hardly a stretch to see why Murdoch's news outlets so dearly love the ex-PM. Naturally, being a new convert to the cult, Mr. Blair will have to consolidate his ideological immersion into full public acceptance of the cult's worldview (including the institution's hatred of abortion, gays [except them, of course], and women's birthing canals). Not that any of us would want him back. For Mr. Blair, I sincerely hope your Catholic-schooled kids are not receiving the same lessons Mr. Law's underlings were dolling out on the children of the Boston Archdiocese. Least anyone need a reminder of what Mr. Blair is giving his loyalty to.

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A pedophile's accomplice?

Boston Catholics want Cardinal Bernard Law to resign because of his role in protecting a priest who molested boys. Why isn't he being charged for his role in covering up the crime?

Mar 7, 2002 | Boston has been outraged by the revelation that Cardinal Bernard Law knew of the many sexual abuse complaints against ex-priest John Geoghan for years, but shifted him from parish to parish anyway, and Boston Catholics are angriest of all. Yet Law shrugs off calls for his resignation. "Our faith doesn't rest on the shifting winds of popular opinion," the cardinal said, giving a beautiful example of the way Catholic Church leaders evade criticism on the pedophilia issue, while reiterating their lordly authority.

Note the language. It's not Law or his decisions that are being questioned by detractors, it's the Catholic faith itself, as if the two are the same thing. Many religious Americans may believe that the laws of God should take precedence over the laws of man -- but most of them obey the laws of man anyway. The pedophilia scandal shows the extent to which the Catholic Church has been allowed to essentially ignore the law, and raises real questions about whether a true separation of church and state exists in America.

Whether Law will resign is still up in the air. What's already clear is that he should be prosecuted as an accomplice in Geoghan's crimes.

While the media has done some good work uncovering church sex abuse scandals, it's done less well looking at the roots of the problem. Sensitivity about religion seems to blend with overall newsroom political correctness -- we don't want to make any group uncomfortable anymore -- to mute tough questions as to what the scandal might tell us about Catholicism. Newsweek's recent cover story on the child sex-abuse scandals is a case study. While it detailed the extent of the problem, it contained this boilerplate disclaimer: "Of course, priests have no monopoly on child abuse."

Of course they don't -- men in all walks of life sexually abuse children, and the vast majority of priests are not child molesters. But the sentence also serves to minimize the problem. The sheer numbers involved in the recent scandals show that sexual abuse by priests is not a freak occurrence. Law turned over the names of 80 priests to authorities in Massachusetts; bishops in Maine, New Hampshire and Philadelphia have begun to follow suit. News of a cover-up in Tucson has come to light. Los Angeles' popular Cardinal Roger Mahony is being pressured to turn over abuse complaints to the LAPD. And the National Catholic Reporter estimates the church has paid out more than $1 billion to settle sex-abuse suits in the last two decades (the U.S. Conference of Bishops insists the figure is closer to $250 million -- still, not exactly a small sum).

Reporters have seemed reluctant to ponder the reasons for the prevalence of pedophilia among priests. Are pedophiles attracted to the priesthood because it gives them easy access to children? Do men with such sexual desires become priests seeking a way to curb those impulses? There's something to be said for both positions. What seems clear is that, through a combination of its teachings on sexuality and its repeated willingness to shelter and cover up priest-pedophiles, the Catholic Church has created a safe haven for child sexual abuse, if not a breeding ground for it.

Asceticism plays a role in many religions of the world, not just Catholicism, of course. But it seems obvious that the risk of child sexual abuse is greater in a church that insists its clergy take a vow of celibacy. Insisting that priests cannot marry, let alone have sex, and then giving them power over the most vulnerable of beings -- kids who are trained from birth to think of priests as God's representatives on Earth (and thus almost unable to do wrong) -- would seem to create the conditions for this scandal.

The church's teaching that sin can be expiated by confession and sincere contrition may also play a role in allowing pedophilia to flourish. When crime is treated solely as a sin, there is nothing to prevent it from happening again. And when that crime is a sexual compulsion -- which, as all compulsions do, follows a recurring pattern, with the need to act building up again after each release -- it doesn't matter how contrite the penitent is. Part of the thrill for sexual predators is the transgressive nature of their desires. What, for a child rapist, could be more thrilling than committing his crime in an atmosphere where the object of their desire is revered, bathed in blessed innocence?

These questions are missing from most mainstream media reports on the scandal. In fact, the liberal National Catholic Reporter has been braver than most secular media in suggesting that the church's celibacy requirements mean the priesthood disproportionately attracts men with sexual problems. But whatever the reasons for priest-pedophilia, there is no mystery about what the Catholic Church did in Boston in response to years of charges against Geoghan. I honestly don't understand why Cardinal Law hasn't been charged as an accomplice in Geoghan's crimes. The only justifiable answer can be that the Boston authorities are still in the process of gathering evidence.

Law, who has been Boston's cardinal since 1984, has admitted that he knew of Geoghan's pedophilia and, instead of reporting it to authorities or alerting parents in the parishes where Geoghan worked, he simply reassigned the priest -- though he flat-out lied about that in the diocese's newspaper last year. (The shuffling of Geoghan went on for 30 years. Law's predecessor, the late Cardinal Humberto Medeiros, was also guilty.)

The facts about Geoghan became known only after the Boston Globe took the diocese to court to have the records on him unsealed. It was only this public revelation that prompted Law to turn over the names of other priests, more than 80 in all, who have been accused. When Law previously addressed the issue of how the church should proceed in cases of child sexual abuse in 1993, there was no mention of notifying authorities. Instead, priests have been sent to church-run "treatment centers," again keeping these scandals under wraps.

Even viewed in the most charitable light, Law's actions have been remarkably callous. How can he, or any Catholic official who has covered up allegations of abuse, be said to have demonstrated any Christian concern for his charges? His mealy-mouthed statements of regret ("We do not always make holy decisions, and we turn to God for the forgiveness he is always ready to give") show no awareness that he should have to answer to any authority other than God, and confidence that there, at least, he will find forgiveness. In one statement he said that he is not like the CEO of a business. That is exactly what he is. As the head of a large division of a rich and powerful international organization, he must take responsibility for its decisions, especially the ones he makes. There is no reason to think that Law showed any more concern for the people in his care than did Enron's Kenneth Lay (in fact, he sounds more like former CEO Jeffrey Skilling, parsing language to try to evade responsibility).

But Law is not alone. Cover-up has long been the church's modus operandi when dealing with sexual abuse cases. The problem first made national headlines in 1984, when the story of a child-abusing Louisiana priest became news. In 1986, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops rejected the recommendation of a committee that the public be notified about priests who committed sexual abuse. Instead, to this day most cases are settled out of court and come with a gag order. The Newsweek story revealed that records are often shipped outside of U.S. jurisdiction to further protect the priests.

Finally, the law seems to be taking steps to end the extraordinary privilege the church has enjoyed in dealing with the pedophiles in its midst. On Feb. 26, the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill requiring clergy to report suspected cases of child abuse. California already has a similar law, and Los Angeles authorities have been questioning whether L.A.'s Cardinal Mahony has complied with it in the way he's faced his diocese's priest-pedophilia scandals.

What's been oddest about the Boston case is that before the legislature's vote, Cardinal Law had been under greater pressure from Catholics than he had from secular authorities. The 66-year-old Geoghan recently was sentenced to 10 years for one incident of assault. (Newsweek reported that there are 129 other potential victims.) But that's not enough. In this case, as in all others where church officials knew of pedophile priests and didn't make the accusations known to officials, those officials must be held legally culpable. There is no dispute about what Law did. His Eminence has very considerately detailed his prior knowledge of Geoghan's crimes and provided the most damning evidence against himself. The question now is, do prosecutors in a largely Catholic city like Boston have the guts to put Law on trial, instead of bowing and scraping to him?

Certainly the laws vary from state to state, but there seems to be widespread national support for requiring people in care-giving professions to report evidence of a crime, especially child abuse. How is it that for so long, the church has escaped this trend and been allowed to make its own rules for dealing with pedophiles -- rules that almost never include informing the police? Are the formation of those guidelines protected by the same violation of the separation of church and state that has provided us with the legal protection conferred on the confessional?

Finally the Massachusetts legislature has made it clear that church officials are legally obligated to report allegations of child sexual abuse. That's a good first step. Now the authorities have to demonstrate that they are willing to act on clergy who cover up, no matter how high up in the church.

The church can go on insisting that pedophilia is a spiritual problem. But while its leaders prepare all they want to for the next world, they live in this one, and they have to obey its laws. A church that believed in the human sacrifice of children would not be allowed to carry out that practice. A church that has regularly sacrificed the souls and spirits of children to protect its public image has to suffer the consequences. It's time for everyone involved to do their jobs. Leave the souls to Cardinal Law, and let the law have a shot at his flesh.

http://dir.salon.com/story/news/feature/2002/03/07/law/index1.html
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If on the off chance I am wrong, and there truly is a hell, Mr. Law, Ratzinger, and Blair, may Dante's Ninth Circle, designated for the greatest of traitors, envelop and burn what remains of your rotted souls. To everyone else, in the normal world, enjoy the winter's solstice.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Cultural Divide: From Generation X to Y

There are many signs one can see that divides the pre-30 from post-30 generation in our culture. First, Generation X, those of us born primarily after the mid-1960s (until the early 1980s) grew up on television, but with newer high tech creations (like videos, mass distribution of music recording, as well as the first generation with home computers) and reside in a society in which expectations of future employment and wealth are lower than the World War Two and Baby Boomer generations. Second, the younger crowd, referred to as Generation Y (those born after the late '70s, early '80s), grew up not just with lowered expectations, and all of the technological gadgetry of before, but with newer innovations like digital recording and the internet.

How has the internet revolutionized our culture? Well, I am not sure to what degree the internet has revolutionized things (since revolutions are political), but it has certainly changed how we live. The biggest change I have noticed is the hyper-sexualization of our youth. It is estimated that over 40% of all internet activity involves pornography, which is a $13 billion a year industry. More disturbing, 20% of all pornography on the internet is child porn. When I was a kid, we had maybe Playboy or, on a bad day, the swim wear section of the Sears catalog (and if our fathers were not connoisseurs of porn, well, we were out of luck and relegated to masturbating to our memories of Phoebe Cates getting out of the swimming pool on Fast Times At Ridgemont High). Today, 90% of all 8-16 year olds have viewed pornography on the internet, which I might add contains images much more graphic than what was in some '80s teen comedy or magazine pose. Needless to say, these are very different times.

Interestingly, women are now more apt to like pornography than ever before. Over half feel it is OK to watch porn and nearly 30% of internet porn addicts are female. Predictably, porn has become more hardcore with time, to meet a public's insatiable demand for more nontraditional fetishes developed by the consumption of such material. The 2 Girls 1 Cup phenomenon this last year exemplifies this (one could only imagine what the Puritans or James Madison's reaction would have been).

Generation Y females, especially, have been socialized with an idealized pansexuality as the backdrop to their environment. This is not to pass judgment. That is not the point of this post. God knows, I remember back in the early '90s having to endure the critiques of the Baby Boombers (of all people!), lambasting my generation as "slackers" (ironically, many of these same negative stereotypes attributed first to the Baby Boomers, and passed down to Generation X, have now made their way to Generation Y). The purpose here is simply to notice the reality of a cultural shift in acceptance, even normalization, of a set of behaviors, acts, and mode of thought, which was not as prevalent before the 1990s. For those old enough to remember the Vanessa Williams-Ms. America controversy back in 1984, we have lived to witness a generation where such a thing is a non-issue (i.e., the trivial media's obsession with the foibles and exploits of Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton). If the Vanessa Williams "controversy" were to happen today, undoubtedly the vast majority of people would support her being crowned Ms. America. Admittedly, I would be one of those people, so I am in some ways an admirer of this generation's ethos, which while tending to be more perverse (the bad) yet retains
a maturity in social acceptance (the good) from previous generations.

Still, there are some things that defy explanation. Enter the shocker. I should note that this wonderful advance was not around when I was in high school (we had to settle for the innocuously non-erotic devil horns, thanks to our metal head friends). Just the sight of the shocker, even used in a joking and educational manner, would likely elicit threats of limb separation from many a Gen. X female. Credit must be given to our Generation Y kids yet again. They have taken what should be an offensive hand gesture, denoting dual penetration, and made it their own. It is at times like this I am thankful that I do not have a teenager.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Should the Left Support Ron Paul?

This is a question that has been fancied about for the past few months. Much of this is a product of the lackluster Democratic field. Of the three Democratic front runners for the party's Presidential ticket, only Barack Obama has opposed the Iraq War from the outset, and Obama is hardly a pacifist on foreign policy. About the only two Democratic candidates who are consistently antiwar are Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. Consequently, it is easy to see why progressives are looking elsewhere.

However, Ron Paul is no progressive. He is basically a libertarian version of Pat Buchanan. Yes, he is a foe of interventionism abroad, but he is also stridently nationalist on immigration, opposed to national health care, the income tax, Social Security, or any type of a social safety net for people not as wealthy as he is. It is hardly a coincidence that his nickname in Congress is "Dr. No." Of course, there are those, on the left and the paleoconservative right, who purport that a grand antiwar coalition can be built from this campaign. I am not one of those people.

First, while in agreement on most foreign policy issues, like with Mr. Buchanan, Congressman Paul's rationale is primarily on grounds of national sovereignty (something that should ideally be of no consequence to a true libertarian). In Ron Paul's world, our military would not be in Iraq, but over time quite possibly be needed in American cities, or what remains of those cities after erupting in the kind of chaos and stratification his policies would incite. Those policies include abolishing Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, public funds for education of any kind (indeed, he wants to vanquish the Department of Education), abolishing Social Security, and facilitating the legal purchase and spread of high powered firearms for individual "self defense" (seemingly appropriate, as they would be needed in the responding violence). Unemployment benefits? Workers' compensation? Congressman Paul considers such programs as another form of socialism.

Moreover, on social issues, he is only a more local version of Mike Huckabee. Abortion? Not in Ron Paul's world. He is pro-life, favors overturning Roe v. Wade and over three decades of stare decisis on reproductive rights, although Dr. Paul claims that the issue should be left up to the states. The same with gay marriage, which as a religious and devout Christian he personally opposes and feels has no basis in federal law (believing the banishment of acts of buggery and copulation between folk of the same kind within the bonds of matrimony should be a right of the states to decide).

Such a strong supporter of the Tenth Amendment, Congressman Paul would like to eliminate the Voting Rights Act and leave it up to the states whether to re-impose poll taxes and literacy tests as a condition of voting (historically used by the Congressman's fellow white Southerners to restrict and terrorize African Americans from voting). Civil rights laws fare no better in the doctor's kingdom. To Congressman Paul, civil rights laws are discriminatory, against property owners who might want to exclude blacks, women, and other non-Republican/libertarian voters from wanting to do things like eat at lunch counters, shop, or much of anything else. For that matter, he opposes FEMA and all federal aid to victims of natural disasters, claiming that such aid infringes upon states' rights. And contrary to what some of his supporters claim, Ron Paul does not favor wholesale leagalization of drugs. He merely opposes the federal government locking away a generation of black men. Instead, he thinks the states should be the parties responsible for locking them away (even though he personally favors legalization of medicinal use of marijuana). If nothing else, he is consistent.


This conservative/libertarian worldview is oftentimes coined as "strict constructionism," which is the belief in interpreting the Constitution in light of what the framers originally intended. Of course, this is a farce. I know of no libertarian or conservative today who practices what they preach on original intent, as at the time of this country's foundation the only voters allowed in the booth were white male property owners (and even then they had to own a certain acreage or property of a particular value to gain that ballot). You never see anyone talk about bringing back the three-fifths clause, which was intentionally inserted into Article 1 of the Constitution so the Congressman's ancestral allies, believers in the same concept of states' rights, could apportion enough House seats come time for the census without having to face the reality that slaves were full human beings.

With regards to the Bill of Rights, I know of not one single jurist, regardless of how libertarian (including Ron Paul supporters), who advocates going back to original intent of the framers on the First Amendment. If you bother to read the first words of the First Amendment, it only refers to the federal government because until the 1920s the Bill of Rights only applied to restricting the powers of the federal government. States, under the policing powers granted to it by those states' rights supporters on the Supreme Court since the early 19th century, could and did regularly ban books and issue injunctions against public speakers considered "dangerous to law and order." Thanks to the doctrine of incorporation (a 20th century reality), however, brought on by Gitlow v. New York, local and state governments could no longer ban you from speaking and writing freely (and this was imposed through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment [ever hated by states' rights advocates]).

Notice, conservative/libertarian candidates like Ron Paul never expound a position on these issues, even though the same framers (from states' rights supporters like Jefferson and Madison to federalists like Hamilton and Marshall) were unanimous in their opposition to any incorporation of the Bill of Rights on states (an issue that should be near and dear to anyone that claims to be such a supporter of states' rights and original intent). In fact, the Congressmen who wrote the Fourteenth Amendment stated on the Senate floor, in 1866, that the Due Process Clause only applied to the Reconstruction Amendments and not the Bill of Rights itself (answering concerns of those who feared, even then, that the amendment would eventually be applied by future courts to incorporate the rest of the Constitution). Nothing but silence on these issues and with good reason. Either they are hypocritical for allowing courts to legislate the Constitution, or else remain consistent supporters of allowing states to revert to the days when they had near unlimited powers to regulate and punish the minutest realms of human behavior, like enforcing miscegenation laws or allowing state courts to forcibly sterilize citizens deemed unworthy of reproduction.

On war and peace, Paul deserves credit (and it is the only reason any progressive should be debating whether or not to support his candidacy). He was one of the few candidates who voted against going to war in Iraq. For that alone, he has my respect. Nevertheless, he voted in favor of the resolution (Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists) to give President Bush an open and blank check to go to war after 9/11. So, even on the one issue Congressman Paul is good to the left, he is hardly perfect. And his views on international law, and international organizations (like the International Criminal Court), are as negationist as Tom Bolton's.

To the Joshua Franks and Alexander Cockburns (you know there is something wrong when progressives seem preoccupied with wanting to make sane the conservative wing of the Republican Party), this is the kind of candidacy I am supposed to support. Why is that these types of progressives always seem to want us to join the other side (and for me to vote for Ron Paul, in a closed primary state, I would have to register as a Republican)? For Joshua Frank, we should be joining in because we are just "a whim" of the antiwar movement and Paul and his supporters the base (a base, by the way, that is even less successful in getting votes than the antiwar left). Indeed, Paul's national polling numbers have yet to exceed 8% (and hover around the 3-5% range), in a party where 90-plus percent of its members are rabidly pro-war and seem as interested in having a coalition with us as they are to secretly desire worshiping the sun god Ra. How is that the "forefront" of a grassroots movement against a war? These people are talking about joining a group that has no electoral chance whatsoever, in their own party (never mind the rest of the country), so why is it that I should forgo Dennis Kucinich or even the Green Party to join the campaign of a man who thinks civil rights laws are discriminatory against property owners? This is a question that has yet to be answered. My suggestion would be if the Justin Raimondos want to have a left-right coalition, join us, since antiwar voices are much more numerous on the left than the paleoconservative foreign policy perspective is on the right (a perspective which died after World War Two).

To be sure, war and peace matters, but they should not be mutually exclusive in deciding which candidate to support (assuming one is worth supporting at all). As with civil rights, peace is, as Martin Luther King Jr. called it, part and parcel of "the waters of justice," interchangeably flowing with the same interlocked message--of peace and justice. To that extent, Ron Paul is the inversion of Lyndon Johnson (no guns [unless privately owned] and no butter [unless you have disposable income]). To him, and his tax exempt friends from the Cato Institute, I say, no thanks.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Muammar In From the Cold


Before there was Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, Manuel Noriega, Kim Jong-il; before just about every Third World dictator, there was and remains just one with the fashion sense only a designer could love. Muammar Gadhafi.

Gaddafi has been in power for almost four decades and the scourge of Western countries for the past twenty six. That is, until now.

Before noting the recent developments of Muammar's rehabilitation by the Western media (the same media that compared him to Adolph Hitler before he paid off the families of the Lockerbie bombing and surrendering his nuclear ambitions), it might be instructive to recount this amazing man's career.

In the early days of his coup, in 1969, Colonel Gaddafi began implementing a policy of "Islamic socialism," which included not just a program of nationalization of the country's major industries, but financial and military support for pan-Arab "national liberation" movements, as well as other acts of a military nature. These include.
  1. Sending troops to the aide of Ugandan strongman Idi Amin, during the Ugandan-Tanzanian War (a blatant act of militarism by Amin, attempting to annex part of Tanzania).
  2. Sponsored the exiled and defunct Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (in Western Sahara), first under the auspices of fighting "Spanish imperialism," but eventually ran afoul of the land's current claimants Morocco.
  3. Since the 1970s, supported "armed resistance" groups like the Red Army Faction, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Palestinian Liberation Organization, Palestinian Liberation Army, and other such groups, who carried out numerous attacks on Israeli and Western interests.
  4. Sponsored the 1986 disco bombing in Berlin, which killed two US servicemen and injured hundreds. As a result, one of Gaddafi's diplomats, and two of the diplomat's cohorts, were convicted for the bombing in a German court.
  5. Sponsored the 1988 Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people, all civilians (and 259 of whom were on the flight at the time it was destroyed by an explosive device planted by Libyan agents). This little massacre ended with the conviction of two Libyan diplomats in an international court in 2001.
  6. The instigator of the Chadian-Libyan War, in which Libya attempted to annex Aouzou Strip on the Chad-Libya border. Heavily favored at the outset, Libya lost to an opposing army that was reduced to depending on foreign assistance and the infusion of Toyota trucks to mobilize its militia-infantry forces. This war, or series of wars, really, lasted almost a decade and lead to the deaths of thousands, mostly civilians.
Putting aside all of the people the good Colonel's ventures killed, which pales in comparison to the number of Iraqi civilians slaughtered by means of "collateral damage," what is also not mentioned is his Amazonian guard, which is responsible for his physical protection. What is so remarkable about Amazonian guards? They are the world's only all-female bodyguard outfit for any head-of-state.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Soccer Moms and Ah Ha

One of the guilty pleasures I sink myself to, as an academic and chronicler of the descent of our empire, is as a periodic consumer of kitsch Americana. It is a specialty of ours, as a nation, and one that embodies the commodification and attention-seeking humiliations of our country's commercial degeneration. Thus, no social scientist, regardless of how ritualized in quantitative research methods, should ignore these social and cultural mediums warning us of our impending doom.

As such, I usually do not care for music videos. Their quality, purpose, and for that matter the artistic merit of the music typifies lameness. Worse yet, I do not personally believe that I have seen a really good music video since Ah Ha's Take on Me (and that is over twenty years ago).


In the tradition of numerous preceding white parodies of hip hop, I introduce Broad Comedy's Soccer Mom Ho. A joy for all the appreciative children this coming Christmas season, the suburban moms have a message for us all.



Oh, by the way, for the kids not old enough to remember the good old days (back when MTV was actually filled with music videos, instead of cheesy reality shows), here is the greatest music video of all time.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Waterboarding and You

The House of Representatives voted, mostly along party lines, to outlaw the torture technique of waterboarding. Of course, our beloved White House, who exclaims that "we do not torture," is threatening a veto (out of concern for water supply and nothing else, to be sure).

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House Votes to Outlaw CIA Waterboarding

By Thomas Ferraro 1 hour, 1 minute ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defying a White House veto threat, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on Thursday to outlaw harsh interrogation methods, such as simulated drowning, that the CIA has used against suspected terrorists.

On a largely party line vote of 222-199, the Democratic-led House approved a measure to require intelligence agents to comply with the Army Field Manual, which bans torture in compliance with the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war.

The measure, part of a sweeping intelligence bill, passed amid a congressional probe into the recent disclosure that the CIA destroyed videotapes of al Qaeda suspects undergoing waterboarding, a simulated drowning.

Many countries, U.S. lawmakers and human rights groups have accused the United States of torturing terror suspects since the September 11 attacks.

President George W. Bush says the United States does not torture, but the administration will not disclose what interrogation methods it has approved for the CIA.

In threatening to veto the House-passed measure, which now awaits Senate action, the White House argued it would prevent the United States from conducting "lawful interrogations of senior al Qaeda terrorists."

House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer countered that the current administration had blurred the line "between legitimate, sanctioned interrogation tactics and torture."

"There is no doubt our international reputation has suffered and been stained as a result," Hoyer told colleagues.

Backers of harsh interrogation say it is needed to pry vital information out of enemy combatants. But critics say torture is inhumane and such information is often unreliable.

The CIA has told lawmakers they stopped waterboarding a few years ago, aides say.

The overall intelligence authorization bill that contains the interrogation provision faces another fight in the closely-divided, Democratic-led Senate.

The Army Field Manual provides 19 approved interrogation methods. They include isolating prisoners, allowing American interrogators to pose as representing another country and the "good-cop, bad-cop" interviewing technique.

It prohibits eight methods, including waterboarding.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20071213/pl_nm/security_usa_torture_dc
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For those who believe that waterboarding is just the new form of tickling, here is a demonstration.



Of course, for our friends of the party of Jesus Christ, not only is this not torture, but a godsend that should be expanded.



Notice, the media only seems to care about people like Mitt Romney when a fellow candidate questions the legitimacy of his religion. Where is the outrage over views like this?



Who knows, at this rate, maybe there will be a reconsideration of the Spanish Inquisition, or as our budding de Torquemadas would call it, the liberation.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Last Guarantors of Russian Democracy: Communists

The thing I loved the most about the Cold War was that at least our opponents were progressives, even if totalitarian stooges. Now, in the ultimate of ironies, the last opposition to Vladimir Putin and his authoritarian consolidation of power of the Russian state is the Communist Party, the heirs to the first real Vladimir, Uncle Joe, and Brezhnev. Unfortunately, the CPRF membership looks like a retirement home. Still, there is always hope, and for you right-wingers who loathe the thought of socialism's return, look at this way: You never had to worry about the Communists hijacking planes and wrecking them into your buildings.

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Look Who’s Still Standing in Russia
By CLIFFORD J. LEVY
Published: December 9, 2007

LET’S say Russia’s beleaguered political opposition were to hold a casting call for a new leader. Here are a few characteristics that it should probably avoid: a physical resemblance to the provincial party bosses who used to bluster about tractor quotas in the glorious five-year plan; a talent for rousing only those Russians who have fond memories of Khrushchev; a past tendency toward remarks that might be construed as anti-Semitic.

The opposition might, in other words, not necessarily want to coalesce around a politician like Gennadi A. Zyuganov, head of Russia’s Communist Party. But these days, it does not have a lot of other choices.

With President Vladimir V. Putin’s party swaggering to an election landslide last week that wiped out the liberals in Parliament for the first time, Mr. Zyuganov’s party now seems to represent the only viable force remaining against the Kremlin.

They are the only ones left with a toehold in the government — these heirs to Lenin, Stalin and the other titans of the last century, these stalwarts who continue to brandish the hammer and sickle even as many younger Russians consider it more of a hokey T-shirt logo than a mighty symbol. It is a party that draws its backing largely from the elderly and others who feel left behind as the country has lurched toward capitalism.

It is a measure of the dismal state of the opposition that liberals — including icons like Vladimir A. Ryzhkov and Boris Y. Nemtsov who gained prominence in the 1990’s by pursuing a pro-Western, free-market philosophy — are making noises about an alliance with Mr. Zyuganov in a desperate attempt to bring down Mr. Putin.

Even some among the urban intelligentsia, who have typically viewed Mr. Zyuganov as a has-been beloved by misguided pensioners, nonetheless pulled the lever for his party last Sunday in hopes of bolstering a Putin rival.

While not disavowing his forebears, Mr. Zyuganov has tried in recent years to recast the party in the style of a Western European Communist or even Social Democratic one. The Russian Communists support private property, freedom of religion and multiparty democracy. In the recent campaign, they ran on the populist slogan “restoring lost values,” attacking business oligarchs and the gap in wealth in Russia.

Still, Mr. Zyuganov is such a warhorse, having run in elections since the Soviet Union’s end, that for the opposition to put his candidacy forward in the presidential election in March would be as if the Republicans in the United States were to unite around Bob Dole for president in 2008.

And despite the Communists’ moves to improve their image, it may be hard for the Russian electorate to get past the Zyuganov of old.

In the 1990’s, the Communists had the largest faction in Parliament, and voters these days tend to associate politicians from that era with political and economic disarray. Back then, Mr. Zyuganov assailed capitalism, and while Russians may now have mixed feelings about the post-Soviet age, they adore their big-box stores and cars and freedom to travel.

Mr. Zyuganov has also expressed ultranationalistic views — including suggesting that Zionists and Jews have too much influence in Russia and the world — that were anathema to liberals. No matter that lately he has held his tongue more, and said he is opposed to anti-Semitism.

For now, as the country looks toward the March election and questions intensify over who will succeed Mr. Putin (if he does step down when his term ends, as he has pledged), some liberals are suppressing their doubts and thinking about uniting with the Communists in order to run a candidate against whomever Mr. Putin favors.

Even if they do join forces, Mr. Putin’s favorite will most likely win. The Kremlin’s advantages were evident in last Sunday’s election results, with Mr. Putin’s party, United Russia, reaping 64.3 percent of the vote and the Communists finishing a distant second, with 11.6 percent.

Opposition parties and election monitors denounced the balloting as unfair and biased toward United Russia. The current Parliament has a handful of liberals like Mr. Ryzhkov, but all were defeated. Because of new election laws pushed by Mr. Putin, Mr. Ryzhkov could not even run.

Leonid N. Dobrokhotov, a Communist historian and informal adviser to Mr. Zyuganov, said the Communists were seeking to become a home for the well educated, noting that among its members of Parliament is Zhores I. Alferov, a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000.

“I know that it looks very paradoxical to receive the support of liberals, but it is possible to explain — the Communists have become the only democratic party in the Parliament,” Mr. Dobrokhotov said. “This is a tremendous change from the past. We are not the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.”

Mr. Ryzhkov did not exactly agree. He said the Communists have in recent years usually reached an accommodation with the Kremlin in Parliament, declining to oppose most of Mr. Putin’s initiatives in return for patronage and other spoils. He contended that if Mr. Zyuganov continues on that path, the party will face extinction because the older voters who are its base will die off and younger voters will have little reason to support it.

“The second strategy is more risky and creative, and it is for the Communists to join the other opposition forces, even the liberals and other left forces, to create a people’s front for democracy,” Mr. Ryzhkov said. “It would be a wide front of opposition against Putin’s authoritarianism and his police state, and it will be something entirely new.”

Mr. Ryzhkov, by the way, would not say whether he would back Mr. Zyuganov for president. He said he had another candidate in mind — himself.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/09/weekinreview/09levy.html?ref=world
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Of course, if you bother to read the conservative-liberal media in the US, one would think the Cold War has returned and President Putin is the next Joseph Stalin. It is nonsense like this that trivializes the millions who perished under the Soviet state. As authoritarian as Putin is, there are no gulags, mass executions, a state the controls every aspect of your life--never mind the lack of an overarching, universal ideology to justify such actions. What you have is a personalistic quasi-dictatorship based on the desire to keep and maintain influence by a small number of ex-KGB bureaucrats. Odious to Western sensibilities? Sure, but then Mr. Putin is not the first "democratically elected" leader to rig an election, either, is he?

Then again, these are the same people who thought a referendum, an open and free vote, on issues they disagreed with equated with Communism in Venezuela (and only supported Chavez's democracy when a vote went their way).

What all of this misses are the real problems in Russia, such as the decrease in population, an aging workforce, and over dependence on the energy sector as the primary means of economic growth. Or how about Russia's main export, outside of oil, which is armaments? How often do you read stories on these issues anymore, compared to, say, an ex-FSB agent defector who is microwaved in Great Britain?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Huckabee: Quarantine AIDS People

It has taken long enough for the media to finally begin attacking their John McCain of the 2008 campaign (i.e., the Republican "underdog" that folks in the "liberal media" inflate to the stars, before finally tiring of his surging poll numbers and revealing the less attractive sides of his character). The I Heart Huckabee 2008 Campaign has been the media's side project to generate interest and ratings for the past few months.

I have long felt that the media is attempting to operate as unpaid advertisers for Huckabee. Why? Well, maybe to get the other Republicans to spend more money before the convention (an understandable tactic, if true). Most likely, because the media loves an underdog story, and when they attach to one it starts to take a life of its own. Sound pathetic? Remember eight years ago when Mike Wallace, the man who reduced Barbara Streissand to tears, fawned and swooned over John McCain on 60 Minutes, culminating in a promise to volunteer for his campaign if he received the nomination?

All of this obfuscates Huckabee's less intelligent and downright dangerous and ugly positions on issues of the day. First, like the Southern Baptist he is, the Governor of the great state of Arkansas hates gays and lesbians. So much so, he compares the allowance for gay marriage to the destruction of civilization. Yes, that is because in a country where heterosexuals are getting a divorce 55% of the time, civilization just cannot stand the thought of gay folk mucking it up.

Most recently, it has been revealed that our nice Jesus fan once advocated quarantining AIDS patients and declaring homosexuality a health hazard.

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Huckabee wanted to isolate AIDS patients

By ANDREW DeMILLO, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 6 minutes ago

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Mike Huckabee once advocated isolating AIDS patients from the general public, opposed increased federal funding in the search for a cure and said homosexuality could "pose a dangerous public health risk."

As a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in 1992, Huckabee answered 229 questions submitted to him by The Associated Press. Besides a quarantine, Huckabee suggested that Hollywood celebrities fund AIDS research from their own pockets, rather than federal health agencies.

"If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague," Huckabee wrote.

"It is difficult to understand the public policy towards AIDS. It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents."

The AP submitted the questionnaire to both candidates; only Huckabee responded. Incumbent Sen. Dale Bumpers won his four term; Huckabee was elected lieutenant governor the next year and became governor in 1996.

When asked about AIDS research in 1992, Huckabee complained that AIDS research received an unfair share of federal dollars when compared to cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

"In light of the extraordinary funds already being given for AIDS research, it does not seem that additional federal spending can be justified," Huckabee wrote. "An alternative would be to request that multimillionaire celebrities, such as Elizabeth Taylor (,) Madonna and others who are pushing for more AIDS funding be encouraged to give out of their own personal treasuries increased amounts for AIDS research."

Huckabee did not return messages left with his campaign.

When Huckabee wrote his answers in 1992, it was common knowledge that AIDS could not be spread by casual contact. In late 1991, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were 195,718 AIDS patients in the country and that 126,159 people had died from the syndrome.

The nation had an increased awareness of AIDS at the time because pro basketball star Magic Johnson had recently disclosed he carried the virus responsible for it. Johnson retired but returned to the NBA briefly during the 1994-95 season.

Since becoming a presidential candidate this year, Huckabee has supported increased federal funding for AIDS research through the National Institutes of Health.

"My administration will be the first to have an overarching strategy for dealing with HIV and AIDS here in the United States, with a partnership between the public and private sectors that will provide necessary financing and a realistic path toward our goals," Huckabee said in a statement posted on his campaign Web site last month.

Also in the wide-ranging AP questionnaire in 1992, Huckabee said, "I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk."

A Southern Baptist preacher, Huckabee has been a favorite among social conservatives for his vocal opposition to gay marriage. In 2003, Huckabee said that the U.S. Supreme Court was probably right to strike down anti-sodomy laws, but that states still should be able to restrict things such as gay marriage or domestic partner benefits.

"What people do in the privacy of their own lives as adults is their business," Huckabee said. "If they bring it into the public square and ask me as a taxpayer to support it or to endorse it, then it becomes a matter of public discussion and discourse."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071208/ap_po/huckabee_aids
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Swell guy, ole Huck. Of course, this is not going to offend his conservative voting bloc, since most of them only practice homosexuality in privacy of hotel rooms and bathrooms, but it should be instructive for the media to remember what they are flacking for.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Tschuess, L. Ron


In a move that will outrage tens of overpaid celebrities and otherwise weak-minded people, the German government is on the verge of declaring the Church of Scientology a cult and outlawing the organization on German soil. I never thought I would be praising the tactics of Enver Hoxha, but then this is the same German government that confiscates taxpayer dollars to subsidize the Catholic and Lutheran Church. Still, it is a nice start.

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German ministers say Scientology unconstitutional

By Louis Charbonneau 1 hour, 2 minutes ago

BERLIN (Reuters) - German federal and state interior ministers declared the Church of Scientology unconstitutional on Friday, opening the door for a possible ban on the organization.

Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and 16 state interior chiefs agreed "that we do not consider Scientology an organization that is compatible with the constitution," Ehrhart Koerting, Berlin's interior minister and chairman of a ministers' conference in Berlin, told reporters.

Germany does not recognize Scientology as a religion. seeing it as a cult masquerading as a church to make money. Scientologists reject this view.

The government permits the Church of Scientology to operate in Germany as an organization, and in January it opened a six-storey headquarters in the heart of west Berlin.

Earlier this week, a Berlin district set up an office to deal with complaints about Scientology.

Koerting said Germany's domestic intelligence agencies should continue gathering information on the legality of Scientology's activities in Germany so that a decision could be made on what to do about it next year.

Earlier this year, the German Defense Ministry said it would not allow the makers of a movie about an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Hitler to film at German military sites because U.S. actor Tom Cruise, a Scientologist, was appearing in it.

The government later insisted that Cruise's personal beliefs had nothing to do with its initial decision to prevent him from shooting scenes at a site in the Defense Ministry complex and permitted the actor to film there.

The ministers also agreed to examine ways of cutting off funds to far-right organizations by taking a close look at state aid to foundations that supported them, Koerting said.

The far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) entered the regional parliament in the eastern state of Saxony in 2004 after winning more than 9 percent of the vote.

The NPD and another far-right party now hold seats in several state parliaments, giving them the right to financial support from the government.

(Additional reporting by Markus Krah; Editing by Andrew Dobbie)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20071207/en_nm/germany_scientology_dc
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This is not the first time the German government has gone after the Church of Scientology.

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Background Papers

Scientology and Germany

Understanding the German View of Scientology

The German government considers the Scientology organization a commercial enterprise with a history of taking advantage of vulnerable individuals and an extreme dislike of any criticism. The government is also concerned that the organization's totalitarian structure and methods may pose a risk to Germany's democratic society. Several kinds of evidence have influenced this view of Scientology, including the organization's activities in the United States.

There are three notable American court cases involving Scientology that illustrate why Germany's concerns about this organization are justified. In the early 1980s, American courts convicted 11 top Scientologists for plotting to plant spies in federal agencies, break into government offices and bug at least one IRS meeting. In 1994, in a case involving Lawrence Wollersheim, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a California court's finding of substantial evidence that Scientology practices took place in a coercive environment and rejected Scientology's claims that the practices were protected under religious freedom guaranties. In September 1997, the Illinois Supreme Court found there was evidence enough to allege that Scientology had driven the Cult Awareness Network into bankruptcy by filing 21 lawsuits in a 17-month period. The court stated that "such a sustained onslaught of litigation can hardly be deemed 'ordinary', if [the Network] can prove that the actions were brought without probable cause and with malice."

In addition, a New York Times article on March 9, 1997, outlined "an extraordinary campaign orchestrated by Scientology against the [IRS] and people who work there. Among the findings were these: Scientology's lawyers hired private investigators to dig into the private lives of IRS officials and to conduct surveillance operations to uncover potential vulnerabilities." A related New York Times article on December 1, 1997, added that earlier IRS refusals to grant tax exemption "had been upheld by every court." (On December 30, 1997, a Wall Street Journal article outlined details of the $12.5 million tax settlement between the IRS and Scientology, including the Scientology agreement to drop thousands of lawsuits against the IRS.)

On December 1, 1997, a New York Times article described Scientology records seized in an FBI raid on church offices that prove "that Scientology had come to Clearwater with a written plan to take control of the city. Government and community organizations were infiltrated by Scientology members. Plans were undertaken to discredit and silence critics. A fake hit-and-run accident was staged in 1976 to try to ruin the political career of the mayor. A Scientologist infiltrated the local newspaper and reported on the paper's plans to her handlers." A related Times article also on Dec. 1, 1997, reported on a criminal investigation into Scientology's role in a member's death in Clearwater, Florida. In November 1998, the responsible State Attorney charged Scientology's Flag Service Organization with abuse or neglect of a disabled adult and practicing medicine without a license.

Given this background, Germany, as well as Belgium, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Israel and Mexico, remain unconvinced that Scientology is a religion.

Scientology has never disputed the neutrality of Germany's independent judicial system. In German courts, the Scientologists' cases often deal with the organization's desire for tax exemptions. The Federal Labor Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht) ruled on March 22, 1995, that the Scientology branch in Hamburg was not a religious congregation, but clearly a commercial enterprise. In its decision, the court quotes one of L. Ron Hubbard's instructions "make money, make more money -- make other people produce so as to make money" and concludes that Scientology purports to be a "church" merely as a cover to pursue its economic interests. In a November 6, 1997, decision, the Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) sent a case back to a lower court saying it was irrelevant whether Scientology was a religion. The court stated that the Scientology organization's legal status must be judged by its level of commercial activity.

In response to numerous petitions, including those from relatives and former members and one signed by over 40,000 concerned citizens, the German Parliament (Bundestag) established a study commission to gather factual information on the goals, activities and practices of "so-called sects and psychological groups." The commission, which was not focused exclusively on Scientology, neither examined religious and ideological views nor prepared a list of groups active in Germany. Following two years of study, in June 1998 the commission issued a final report which included a recommendation that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution keep Scientology under observation (see Fact Sheet).

The Federal Government has also conducted thorough studies on the Scientology organization. Expert reports and testimony by former members confirm again and again that membership can lead to psychological and physical dependency, financial ruin and even suicide.

Because of its experiences during the Nazi regime, Germany has a special responsibility to monitor the development of any extreme group within its borders -- even when the group's members are small in number. Given the indisputable evidence that the Scientology organization has repeatedly attempted to interfere with the American government and has harmed individuals within Germany, the German federal government has responded in a very measured legal fashion to the Scientology organization. On June 6, 1997, Federal and State Ministers of the Interior asked the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz) to formally investigate several activities of the Scientology organization and make a report. The published report presented October 12, 1998, found that while "the Scientology organization agenda and activities are marked by objectives that are fundamentally and permanently directed at abolishing the free democratic basic order," additional time is needed to conclusively evaluate the Scientology organization. The ministers approved this request for more time.

FACT SHEET ON SCIENTOLOGY

Should Scientology Be Considered a Religion?

In its ads and writings, the Scientology organization claims it is internationally recognized as a religion, except in Germany. This is false.

Among the countries that do not consider Scientology a religion are Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, and Spain, as well as Israel and Mexico.

In the United States, the Scientology organization did in fact receive tax-exempt status as a religious congregation in 1993 -- after a decades-long, contentious battle with the IRS. Referring to this battle, The New York Times in a front-page article published March 9, 1997, "found that the (tax) exemption followed a series of unusual internal IRS actions that came after an extraordinary campaign orchestrated by Scientology against the agency and people who work there. Among the findings were these: Scientology's lawyers hired private investigators to dig into the private lives of IRS officials and to conduct surveillance operations to uncover potential vulnerabilities." A related New York Times article on December 1, 1997, added that earlier IRS refusals to grant tax exemption "had been upheld by every court." (On December 30, 1997, a Wall Street Journal article outlined details of the $12.5 million tax settlement between the IRS and Scientology, including the Scientology agreement to drop thousands of lawsuits against the IRS.)

In Germany, there is no process by which the government officially recognizes a religion. However tax authorities grant tax-exempt status to organizations that act in the public interest and are non-profit. Some 10,000 groups have requested and received tax free status, but to date, the Scientology organization has repeatedly failed to establish its qualifications. Among the groups that are tax free are the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons.

Two of the highest German courts recently dealt with cases involving the Scientology organization. On March 22, 1995, the Federal Labor Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht) ruled that the Scientology branch in Hamburg was not a religious congregation, but clearly a commercial enterprise. In its decision, the court quotes one of L. Ron Hubbard's instructions "make money, make more money -- make other people produce so as to make money" and concludes that Scientology purports to be a "church" merely as a cover to pursue its economic interests.

In a November 6, 1997, decision, the Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) sent a case back to a lower court saying it was irrelevant whether Scientology was a religion. The court stated that the Scientology organization's legal status must be judged by its level of commercial activity.

Also in France, the Scientology organization is neither a religion nor a non-profit institution. The organization's Paris head office was closed in early 1996 for not paying back taxes.

In Great Britain, the Scientology organization has been rebuffed repeatedly by the Charity Commission which insisted as recently as 1995 that the organization could not be considered a religion under British law and could, therefore, not enjoy any tax-exempt status.

Is Scientology a Threat?

In its March 22, 1995, the Federal Labor Court also found that Scientology utilizes "inhuman and totalitarian practices." Often members are separated from their families and friends. The organization is structured so as to make the individual psychologically and financially dependent on a Scientology system.

In response to numerous petitions, including those from relatives and former members and one signed by over 40,000 concerned citizens, the German Parliament (Bundestag) established a study commission in 1996 to gather factual information on the goals, activities and practices of "so-called sects and psychological groups." The commission included 12 experts from the fields of justice, sociology, psychology, education, religious studies and theology. The commission, which was not focused exclusively on Scientology, neither examined religious and ideological views nor is it preparing a list of groups active in Germany. Following two years of study, in June 1998 the commission issued a final report which included a recommendation that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution keep Scientology under observation. (see below Federal and Regional Action)

In the United States, there are three notable court cases involving Scientology that illustrate why Germany's concerns about this organization are justified. In the early 1980s, American courts convicted 11 top Scientologists for plotting to plant spies in federal agencies, break into government offices and bug at least one IRS meeting. In 1994, in a case involving Lawrence Wollersheim, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a California court's finding of substantial evidence that Scientology practices took place in a coercive environment and rejected Scientology's claims that the practices were protected under religious freedom guaranties. In September 1997, the Illinois Supreme Court found there was evidence enough to allege that Scientology had driven the Cult Awareness Network into bankruptcy by filing 21 lawsuits in a 17-month period. The court stated that "such a sustained onslaught of litigation can hardly be deemed 'ordinary', if [the Network] can prove that the actions were brought without probable cause and with malice."

On December 1, 1997, a New York Times article described Scientology records seized in an FBI raid on church offices that prove "that Scientology had come to Clearwater with a written plan to take control of the city. Government and community organizations were infiltrated by Scientology members. Plans were undertaken to discredit and silence critics. A fake hit-and-run accident was staged in 1976 to try to ruin the political career of the mayor. A Scientologist infiltrated the local newspaper and reported on the paper's plans to her handlers." A related Times article also on Dec. 1, 1997, reported on a criminal investigation into Scientology's role in a member's death in Clearwater, Florida. In November 1998, the responsible State Attorney charged Scientology's Flag Service Organization with abuse or neglect of a disabled adult and practicing medicine without a license.

Other countries, too, view the Scientology organization with great concern. In France, a government commission led by then-Prime Minister Juppé, and charged with monitoring the activities of sects, first convened in mid-November 1996. On November 22, 1996, French courts in Lyon judged several leading Scientologists guilty of involuntary manslaughter and fraud in a case where methods taught by Scientology were found to have driven a person to suicide.

In Greece, a judge declared in January 1997 that an Athens Scientology group was illegal after ruling that the group had used false pretenses to obtain an operating license.

Federal and Regional Action Taken Against the Scientologists in Germany

On June 6, 1997, Federal and State Ministers of the Interior asked the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz) to formally investigate several activities of the Scientology organization and make a report. The published report presented October 12, 1998, found that while "the Scientology organization agenda and activities are marked by objectives that are fundamentally and permanently directed at abolishing the free democratic basic order," additional time is needed to conclusively evaluate the Scientology organization. The ministers approved this request for more time.

Some of the German states have also responded to Scientology. Bavaria requires all applicants for admission to Bavarian public service to indicate any connections to the Scientology organization. Applications acknowledging a tie are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. To date, Bavaria has not rejected any such applications.

What is the Truth about the Scientologists' Claims?

In its campaign to discredit Germany, Scientology uses the tactic of supplying only incomplete information to back up its claims, making it extremely difficult for the German government to research and respond to charges. However, the German government continues its attempts to investigate Scientologists allegations, as it would any citizen's.

The Scientologists' repeated allegations that artists belonging to Scientology cannot perform in Germany are false. Freedom of artistic expression is guaranteed in Article 5 (3) of the German Basic Law (Germany's Constitution), thus artists are free to perform or exhibit in Germany anywhere they please.

Jazz pianist Chick Corea performed in Germany on March 24, 1996, during the 27th International Jazz Week held in Burghausen, an event which received approximately $10,000 in funding from the Bavarian Ministry of Culture.

"Mission Impossible," starring Tom Cruise, was a hit in Germany, grossing $23.6 million.

Likewise, the Scientologists' claim that a teacher who taught near the city of Hannover was fired for her beliefs is untrue. The woman was not fired, though she repeatedly violated school regulations by using the classroom to recruit students and their parents to Scientology. After multiple warnings, the woman was transferred from classroom to administrative duties to prevent further violations.

Contrary to Scientology's allegations, no child can be prevented from attending public school in Germany. In fact, like all children in the country, Scientologists children must be enrolled in either public or private institutions.

The Scientology Public Relations Campaign Against Germany

The Church of Scientology has waged an aggressive campaign against Germany. Using full-page ads in the New York Times and the Washington Post that began in October 1996, the Scientology organization has compared the treatment of Scientologists in present-day Germany with that of the Jews under the Nazi regime. This is not only a distortion of the facts, but also an insult to the victims of the Holocaust. Officials in Germany and the U.S. have repeatedly spoken out against this blatant misuse of the Holocaust. Ignatz Bubis, the recently deceased chairman of the Council of Jews in Germany who was Germany's top Jewish leader, denounced the comparison as "false." On June 6, 1997, the State Department's spokesman again defended Germany, saying :

"Germany needs to be protected, the German Government and the German leadership need to be protected from this wild charge made by the Church of Scientology in the U.S. that somehow the treatment of Scientologists in Germany can or should be compared to the treatment of Jews who had to live, and who ultimately perished, under Nazi rule in the 1930s. This wildly inaccurate comparison is most unfair to Chancellor Kohl and to his government and to regional governments and city governments throughout Germany. It has been made consistently by supporters of Scientology here in the United States, and by Scientologists themselves. I do want to disassociate the U.S. Government from this campaign. We reject this campaign. It is most unfair to Germany and to Germans in general".

The Scientology organization has also distributed pamphlets such as "The Rise of Hatred and Violence in Germany," reiterating its allegations.

An open letter to Chancellor Kohl, written by a Hollywood lawyer with famous Scientology clients, appeared in early 1997 in the International Herald Tribune. The letter repeated Scientology organization assertions against Germany and was signed by 34 American celebrities. "Disgraceful and irresponsible" is how Michel Friedman, a member of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, described the letter. He added: "It's totally off the mark. Today, we have a democracy and a state based on the rule of law."

Following the letter, the U.S. State Department also criticized the Scientologists' public relations campaign, saying, "we have advised the Scientology community not to run those ads because the German government is a democratic government and it governs a free people. And it is simply outrageous to compare the current German leadership to the Nazi-era leadership. We've told the Scientologists this, and in this sense we share the outrage of many Germans to see their government compared to the Nazis."

American Media Reports on Scientology

ABC 20/20 Sunday
"A Misunderstood Religion or a Predatory Cult?" (December 20, 1998)

A&E Investigative Reports
"Inside Scientology" (December 14, 1998)

NBC Dateline
"Bob Minton; One Man's Battle Against Scientology" (June 6, 1998)

CBS Public Eye
"The Sad End of Lisa McPherson" (January 8, 1998)

CBS 60 Minutes
"The Cult Awareness Network" (December 28, 1997)

Time Magazine
"Scientology: The Cult of Greed" (May 6, 1991) by Richard Behar

New York Times
"$12.5 Million Deal With I.R.S. Lifted Cloud Over Scientologists" (December 31, 1997)
"Boston Man in Costly Fight with Scientology" (December 21, 1997)
"Scientology Faces Glare of Scrutiny After Florida Parishioner's Death" (December 1, 1997)
"In Clearwater, Fla., Grudges Against Scientology Are Slow to Die" (December 1, 1997)
"Scientology Denies an Account of an Impromptu I.R.S. Meeting" (March 19, 1997)
"Scientology's Puzzling Journey From Tax Rebel to Tax Exempt" (March 9, 1997)
"An Ultra-Aggressive Use of Investigators and the Courts" (March 9, 1997)
Douglas Frantz authored the above articles

"Who Can Stand Up?" (March 16, 1997) in Journal by Frank Rich

Wall Street Journal
"The Secrets of the Universe" (February 24, 1998) in Review and Outlook
"Scientologists and IRS Settled for $12.5 Million" (December 30, 1997) by Elizabeth MacDonald
"The Scientology Problem" (March 25, 1997) in Review and Outlook

Boston Herald
Series March 1-5, 1998, by Joseph Mallia
"Judge found Hubbard lied about achievements" (March 1)
"Inside the Church of Scientology; Powerful church targets fortunes, souls of recruits" (March 1)
"Church keys programs to recruit blacks" (March 2)
"Milton school shades ties to Scientology" (March 2)
"Scientology reaches into schools through Narconon" (March 3)
"Church, enemies wage war on Internet battlefield; Copyright laws used to silence online foes"(Mar. 4)
"Sacred teachings not secret anymore" (March 4)
"Battle sites in the Web war" (March 4)
"Scientology group reaches kids through PBS videos" (March 5)
"Church wields celebrity clout" (March 5)

Providence Journal-Bulletin
"The Germans Have a Word for It" (February 5, 1997) by Philip Terzian

Associated Press
"U.N. investigator rejects as 'puerile' Scientology's Nazi claim" (March 3, 1998) in Worldstream, International News

http://www.germany.info/relaunch/info/archives/background/scientology.html
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If only we viewed the rest of the cults with the same cynicism as Scientology.