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Candide’s Latest
Daily Journal: Monday, February 5, 2007

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A quote to start the week
Mary Cheney's Vagina

“Let us contemplate, for a moment, the vagina of Mary Cheney, lesbian daughter of the Vice President. Let us think about its ridges and folds, let us think about the size of her clitoris, about whether it's secretly pierced, about the things that only Mary, Heather Poe, and perhaps a few others might know. For, indeed, Mary Cheney's vagina - in fact, her genitals and reproductive organs - have become our newest site of contention in the war between reality and religious fundamentalists, between the blatant hypocrisy of the Cheney family and the people who their followers would condemn.”

—The Rude Pundit (See the full post...)


Inventing Enmity, Again
Iran, the Muddle

Iranian troops during the first Iran-Iraq war. Their children are wearing the uniforms now.

So then with Iran we’re following the very same scenario as in the run-up to the war in Iraq: The administration is making wild claims. It’s drawing Iran as the sworn enemy of peace behind every rock. It’s staking its success in Iraq on defeating Iran. It’s blaming every failure on Iran. And so on. With this difference: at least we know now that the Bush administration will do everything, from lying to inventing (in politics it’s the same anyway) to sexing up intelligence to make whatever case it chooses to make. And on Saturday we learned that the administration was doing exactly that with Iran’s “meddling” in Iraq. From the LATimes:

Bush administration officials acknowledged Friday that they had yet to compile evidence strong enough to back up publicly their claims that Iran is fomenting violence against U.S. troops in Iraq. Administration officials have long complained that Iran was supplying Shiite Muslim militants with lethal explosives and other materiel used to kill U.S. military personnel. But despite several pledges to make the evidence public, the administration has twice postponed the release — most recently, a briefing by military officials scheduled for last Tuesday in Baghdad. "The truth is, quite frankly, we thought the briefing overstated, and we sent it back to get it narrowed and focused on the facts," national security advisor Stephen J. Hadley said Friday. The acknowledgment comes amid shifting administration messages on Iran. After several weeks of saber rattling that included a stiff warning by President Bush and the dispatch of two aircraft carrier strike groups to the Persian Gulf, near Iran, the administration has insisted in recent days that it does not want to escalate tensions or to invade Iran.

Either someone in the Bush administration has come to his senses or the Pentagon dispatched someone with balls to tell the president that he might have to be institutionalized if he keeps up his begs for war with Iran. This, however, should be acknowledged: It’s not as if Iranisn’t meddling in Iraq. But so is Saudi Arabia. So is Pakistan. So is every Sunni power from the Maghreb to Indonesia. The Sunni world doesn’t want a second Iran. And Iran obviously doesn’t want another Sunni Iraq on its borders. But the meddling is their affair— Iran’s and the Arab and wider Muslim world’s. Let them sort it out. The United States has had its time there. Provoking a war or an expansion of the Iraq war with Iran as the next target would only accelerate the ruinous course the United States is on. It wouldn’t change it necessarily. The Iraq war is a done deal: it’ll be ruinous no matter what. The question is, how deeply, and for how long. Iran has the capacity to be more than a nail ion the coffin. It can be the tombstone of American ambitions in the Middle East, with Iran’s mullahs writing the epitaph. Could Bush be trying harder to aid and abet the enemy? Even Osama must be thinking to himself: This fool isn’t worthy.

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Spare Me the Word “Terrorist”

Cult of personality, maybe. Terrorist? Not quite.

On and off over the years, in his books and columns, Robert Fisk has been among the only western journalists willing to analyze the word terrorist for all its double-entendres, prejudicial applications, inaccurate applications, and so on. To this day, whether in reference to Palestinians or insurgents or Hezbollah militants, the word terrorist is thrown around with an air of self-evidence that, obviously, is not supported by the evidence—unless the same term was applied to the other side. One of the recurrent fallacies of the language of terrorism, at least in the western media, is the application of the word to anyone who, in Iraq or Israel and Palestine, attacks military installations or soldiers when, by definition, an attack on uniformed military in a war zone isn’t terrorism but an act of war. Fisk isn’t concerned with that aspect of things. He focuses rather on terrorism’s applications (or rather mis-applications) to Hezbollah in Lebanon. From the UK Independent:

So it was back to terror, terror, terror this week. The “terrorist” Hizbollah was trying to destroy the “democratically elected government” of Fouad Siniora in Lebanon. The “terrorist” Hamas government cannot rule Palestine. Iranian “terrorists” in Iraq are going to be gunned down by US troops. My favourite line of the week came from the “security source”—just how one becomes a “security source” remains a mystery to me—who announced: “Terrorists are always looking for new ways to strike terror... There is no end of the possibilities where terrorists can try to cause terror to the public.” Well, you could have fooled me. Lebanon is as good a place as any to find out what a load of old tosh the “terror” merchants talk. For here it is that the hydra-headed monster of Iran is supposedly stalking the streets of Beirut, staging a coup against Mr Siniora and his ministers. […] Now it’s true that Nasrallah - an intelligent, former military commander of Hizbollah in southern Lebanon - is developing a rather odd cult of personality. His massive features tower over the Beirut airport highway, a giant hand waving at motorists in both directions. And these days, you can buy Hizbollah T-shirts and Nasrallah key chains. But somehow “terror” is not quite the word that comes to mind. This is partly because the tens of thousands of Shia Muslims whom Hizbollah represents are staging a social revolution rather than a coup, a mass uprising of the poor who have traditionally been ignored by the great and the good of Lebanese society. […] Nasrallah is said to have been personally shocked by the extent of the violence and hatred manifested in last week’s miniature civil war in which both Sunni and Shia Muslims used guns against each other for the first time. […] But as the story of Lebanon continues, please spare me the word “terrorist”. See the full column…

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Full-Metal Insanity
Bush Wants $245 Billion More for War

Trench waste

This is bewildering. It's sheer madness. It's President Bush daring the Democratic Congress to say no. And No is what Democrats should say. From Reuters:

President George W. Bush on Monday will seek $245 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while boosting other military spending and curbing domestic programs, setting the stage for a big battle with Democrats over funding priorities. Democrats newly in control of Congress have pledged careful oversight of the hefty proposals for Iraq spending. And as details of Bush's fiscal 2008 budget spill out into the media, Democrats took aim at expected proposals to wring savings from children's health care and other domestic programs. He will seek $145 billion in war spending in 2008 and forecast $50 billion in expenditures for Iraq in 2009, Portman said. The war spending for 2007 will mark the highest annual level since the invasion of Iraq nearly four years ago. The total for this year, $170 billion, includes the $100 billion request and $70 billion that Congress already appropriated. [...] Meanwhile, an administration official who has been briefed on the numbers said the president will seek to boost the Pentagon's regular budget by 10.5 percent to $481 billion. The 2008 spending plan -- which will total $2.9 trillion -- would also hold discretionary nondefense spending to a 1 percent increase, according to the official who was contacted by Reuters and spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to pre-empt Bush's announcement. The proposed rise in domestic spending would mean a cut in programs after accounting for inflation, which is running at 2.5 percent.

More signals that this isn't a war on terror. It's a war on America.

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Biodiesel Take My Mind
Willie Nelson's Wife Annie Talks Fuel

Urbane cowboy

Annie Nelson, wife of Willie Nelson and co-chairperson of the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance, spoke to Truthdig about stomaching the State of the Union and the myth that alternative fuels are years away:

Truthdig: Did you see what the president said about ethanol? ...  He did say one sentence or one line about biodiesel.  Did any of that resonate with you? 

Nelson: Yeah, about as much as it did the last time he said it. I mean, it’s all a bit of—it’s just talk. You know, they give 13 gazillion dollars to the oil and gas industry as some welfare for these people who are making phenomenal historic record-breaking profits, and less than—I think it’s 7.7 [billion] for research into alternative fuels which are already here. It’s lip service. It’s all lip service. 

Truthdig: And what’s your involvement in biodiesel? 

Nelson: Pretty much we’re proponents. I don’t know how else to say it. We’re in production. We have partnerships with Pacific Biodiesel Texas and Pacific Biodiesel, and we are doing community production of biodiesel. And our intent is to keep them community [based] and then promote that idea where each community ... can and should create their own fuel, and let that be the market for the community. 

Truthdig: What is biodiesel?  [...]

Nelson: The fuel that powers a diesel engine. Biodiesel needs to run in a diesel engine, and what it does—where it comes from are several sources. It can come from recycled cooking oil, which then keeps that junk out of landfills; several plant seed stocks from seeds and those types of things; the rendering of animals, just you name it.  There are tons of ways to get it. There’s a process where they remove the glycerin—that’s biodiesel. You can put pure cooking oil into your car, but you have to have a converter inside of it. But just any regular diesel [vehicle] can run on biodiesel because it’s been refined, which means the glycerin has been taken out. 

Truthdig: So ... you can actually drive on recycled cooking oil? 

Nelson: Yes, the diesel engine was designed to run on peanut and hemp oil, not petroleum. But then again Rudolf Diesel disappeared over the Atlantic. It never was intended to run on petroleum, and in fact I think an interesting connection is if you go—if you check out the Prohibition era, when the government was going after stills that were on farms and such, a lot of those stills were producing ethanol and biodiesel for—mainly ethanol—for farm production, for their machinery. That’s what happened. There were so many people involved in it, in that whole deal, that Prohibition was probably a whole lot less about alcohol and a whole lot more about killing the renewable energy possibilities. Obviously the petroleum companies were behind it. See the full interview...  

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On the Other Hand
Stop the Escalation
This ad, by, was scheduled to run in Minnesota during the Superbowl. Minnesota is home to Sen. Norm Coleman, who doesn't support escalation but has yet to support the Chuck Hagel-Joe Biden resolution opposing it. Thanks to Think Progress.


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Photojournalism's Pitfalls
Truth or Metaphor?
From a post asking whether metaphorical images are replacing reality, at The Big Picture


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Crumbs & Quickies

In the Blogosphere

Ohdave's Sunday Reading
Women and Islam

At Into My Own, Ohdave devotes his sunday essay to three books: On Bernard Lewis, who suggests in “What Went Wrong" that that the current course of Islamic states in trending towards fundamentalism as a means to combat modernity and preserve the purity of Islam. On Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who claims in “The Caged Virgin”that, in Ohdave's words, “Muslim men have appropriated Islam in order to subjegate women throughout Islamic culture,” while Moreover, she argues that “European liberals like the Social Democratic Party, whom she left in order to join the more conservative Liberal Party, have accomodated Islamic mysogyny in the name of tolerance and multi-culturalism.” And on Yasmina Khadra, whose novel, “The Swallows of Kabul,” set in the Afghanistan of the Taliban, where women are forced into anonymity and death visits “anyone who dares to look them in the eyes.” See Ohdave's full essay...


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