Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Few Reasons Why I'm Slightly Less Than Fond of the Holiday Season

Or some things I could have lived without.





  1. My dad finally admits what I've long suspected: He's a registered Republican. Dad's another of the many Republican who never voted for Bush. So just how did our Decider-in-Chief get elected? Never mind.
  2. My sweet civilian sister is still somewhat xenophobe. (Fortunately my equally sweet Gulf War vet sister is not).
  3. A guest in someone's home should not find a used condom on their bathroom sink. Eewwww!
AF

Touch Me I'm Still Sick

Still not feeling too perky.

However, I am extremely impressed that the assembled Italians know every word to this classic slice of Mudhoney. Italians are so cool.

Let there be rock!

AF

Friday, December 28, 2007

Touch Me I'm Sick

I've been sick hence no new posts. Some interesting topics on tap so stay tuned...




Merry Christmas, a belated Happy Hanukkah, a kick ass Kwanzaa, a super Solstice or whatever it is you do.

Cheers,

AF

Friday, December 21, 2007

Outrage Overload
















So much outrage, so little time. I have a couple of posts in progress.

While you're waiting, Scott Horton has three typically genius posts at Harper's No Comment blog: Voltaire on the Danger of Being Right When Those in Authority Are Wrong, Vladimir Putin: Person of the Year and continued insight into the GOP 's persecutive prosecution of Alabama's former Democratic Governor: Siegelman Accuser Released

AF

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Condi Gets The Cold Shoulder

MSNBC: Snub for Rice over Turkey airstrike on Iraq






Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State, has suffered a setback in her effort to reduce the fall-out from Turkey's recent airstrike in Iraq when a prominent Kurdish leader refused to meet her.
Surprise, surprise.


US Turns A Blind Eye As Turkey Bombs Iraqi Kurds

On Sunday, Turkey sent 50+ war planes over the northern border of Iraq to bomb suspected PKK camps. Top Turk General Yasar Buyukanit sez the US gave Turkey the green light:


America last night opened Iraqi airspace to us. By opening Iraqi airspace to us last night America gave its approval to the operation.
Mebbe we did or mebbe we didn't. According to the Guardian, an unnamed US official offers a typically cryptic reply:
We have not approved any decision. It is not for us to approve. However, we were informed before the [air strikes]. (Emphasis added)
What the fucking fuck? It is not for us to approve?!?! C'mon. Our NATO ally Turkeu launches a substantial attack on our long time Kurdish allies in Iraq's most stable region. The US allows Turkey to violate Iraqi airspace. But we had nothing to do with it, didn't approve of it and claim we couldn't do anything to stop it. No one in their right mind believes this.

Deathly allergic to integrity, diplomacy and leadership, George Bush has cut what is perhaps the worst, most dangerous deal in a Presidency marred by many dangerous deals. Remember Turkey's rumored invasion of Kurdistan? In his infinite wisdom, George told PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan that, in return for halting Turkey's imminent full-scale invasion, the US would allow "limited cross-border strikes."

Now 50+ war planes does not a "limited cross-border strike" make. It's not as though Turkey is dropping water balloons from bi-planes folks. The US didn't just sell the Turkish Air Force 246 F-16s, We gave Turkey a goddamned F-16 factory.

President Bush is crazier than a shit house mouse. How on earth can anyone believe the US endorsement of "limited" Turkish air raids on Kurdistan somehow improves this extremely volatile situation? Nothing could be further from reality. Perpetually oblivious to history, the Bush Administration seems unaware that Iraqi Kurds will not ever forget their betrayal at the hands of Bush I. Tens of thousands of Kurds were killed as Saddam's Revolutionary Guard crushed the rebellion. In the humanitarian crisis that followed, an estimated 1000-2000 Kurds died each day. All the while the US twiddled it's thumbs.

Understandably, Kurdistan is seething with rage at the Bush Administration for allowing Sunday's TuAF attack. Harper's intrepid Ken Silverstein has the deets:
The blowback here in Kurdistan is building against the U.S. government because of its help with the Turkish air strikes. The theme is shock and betrayal. The Kurds see themselves as the only true friend of the Americans in the region, and the only part of Iraq that is working, and are especially hurt by the attack.
The Bush Administration has committed a diplomatic and tactical blunder of epic proportions.

AF

More on Sunday's attack from Time.

Update #1: NYT - Iraq Leaders Denounce Bombings by Turkey

Update #2: NYT - Rice in Baghdad as Tensions With Turkey Rise
Can somebody give Condi a map? Baghdad is in Central Iraq. Kirkuk is in Northern Iraq.

Update #3: AFP - Turkish incursion overshadows Rice visit to Iraq

Update #4: AP - Officials: Turkey withdraws from Iraq
The Turks sent "hundreds of troops" over the border Tuesday AM.

Update #5: AFP - White House won't condemn Turkish incursion in Iraq
Perino:
"Let's wait and see what is actually happening on the ground there before we comment."

Update #6: AP - US military not told of Turkey bomb plan
Is this the truth or is Turkey helping US cover their ass? It's irrelevant. The Kurds aren't buying it.




Monday, December 17, 2007

My Big Problem W/AFP's "Qatif Girl" Pardon Story

Apparently French news agency AFP story broke this story.


I take great exception with how AFP mischaracterized
the US response to this woman's increased sentence:

The sentence against the 19-year-old girl had drawn criticism of the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom from key ally President George W. Bush.
Nothing could be further from the truth (see Our Leader's Response to Saudi Rape Atrocity). Asked about his recent conversation with King Abdullah, Bush said "I don’t remember if that subject came up." Bush didn't have to broach the subject because Abdullah “knows our position loud and clear.” In other words: "I don't think I have to tell him what I think 'cuz I think he already knows what I think I think." So, in the absence of any sort of diplomacy are we to believe that Bush communicates with King Abdullah (and perhaps other heads of state) telepathically? Bush must have sensed that his comments didn't cut it. As he does with such alarming frequency, Bush veered sharply into the Strange. He turned the subject from the Saudi case to a creepy hypothetical situation involving one of the Bush daughters.

This "telepathic diplomacy" hasn't prevented the Bush Administration from trying to assume some credit for her "pardon." Per AFP (my emphasis in itlalics).
Casey said he was not aware of any specific US contacts with King Abdullah on the move, but added Washington had "made quite clear what our views were on this subject" through its embassy in Saudi Arabia and in its public statements.
In stark contrast to previous administrations, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Rice and Ambassador Fraker said little and did nothing to urge King Abdullah to address this blatant miscarriage of justice. A few weak "public statements" were made not by top Bush officials but rather through their surrogate spokespeople: Dana Perino and Tom Casey. Please. We, the American people, don't take them seriously. There's no reason to believe the King of Saudi Arabia does either.

AFP was lazy. They peddled a perception rather than the truth.

AF

Saudi King Pardons "Qatif girl" Gang Raped In Sectarian Hate Crime

Per French news agency AFP, Saudi King Abdullah has "pardoned" the 19 year-old Shiite woman AKA the Qatif girl who was brutally raped by 5 Sunni men.

I've discussed this case at length in my series Saudi Law Can't Punish Female Victims Too Harshly & Gay Sex Is OK As Long As It's Rape By Married Men Also Raping A Woman Parts I, II and III. Though this "pardon" may be the most transparent kind of PR ploy, a kind of justice has been served.

It's justice served late and begrudgingly. The only way this could happen is due to
three extraordinarily courageous people: the woman, her husband and her lawyer. Each stood up to a strict patriarchal theocracy. This was without precedent amongst those strict fundamentalist Sharia-governed Muslim countries i.e. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, etc.

Unable to properly present his case in any way whatsoever, this woman's lawyer went public with details of this atrocity and her mistreatment at the hands of the Saudi Sharia courts. Most of the world was outraged. The Sunni judges retaliated. The court increased her punishment as well as that of her attackers. Still these rapists weren't punished to the fullest extent of the law. More AFP:

A rape conviction carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, but the court did not impose it due to the "lack of witnesses" and the "absence of confessions," the justice ministry said last month.
I guess the rapists' cell phone video didn't count.

That she had to be pardoned at all when she did nothing wrong begs the question: Will this have any effect on the Saudi's historically poor treatment of women or is this a one off? Could this be a kind of Tiananmen Square moment for Saudi women? I live in hope but I doubt it. The first key indication will be how she is regarded by other women her community. Will she be treated as one worthy of respect or as a pariah?

King Abdullah wants this story to disappear already. His government botched this case from the start and he knows it.
Years will pass before we will know if this case has any long term impact on Saudi law or culture. Other than the extremely rare exception, the Saudi legal system is entirely self-reporting. We normally only know what the Saudis want us to know and when they want then want us to know it.

We'll be watching...

AF


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Anger Is The New Black

Anger is the new black. I wanna trademark the phrase. My mind's eye sees a brisk trade in T-shirts and coffee mugs. Alas and alack, it is not to be. Money's too tight to mention. I'll settle for repeating it. A lot.

Anger is the new black. I coined the phrase commenting on the incomparable Digby's post here. She was talking about CNN's Jack Cafferty. On Thursday, apparently having mixed his meds, Cafferty had a spectacular xenophobic conniption. Digby dissects the whole sordid incident and the "new" style MSM champion. So I won't bother. She kicks her post off thusly:

I can't tell you how sick I already am of the latest incarnation of the angry, white male "star" as personified by Dobbs, Cafferty and lately (god help us) Matthews.
Hear, hear. It's the rare media types like Olbermann and Stewart who use their platform to rail against injustice, hypocrisy and corruption. Dobbs, Matthews and the other bargain basement Howard Beale's have a different intent. As alpha males competing to lead the MSM's howler monkey troop, they seek the shortest path to tap into our collective zeitgeist. Their very livelihood depends on it.

In Cafferty's case, it's his inconsistency I found maddening. Sure, his rants were often on target but his misses were absolutely excruciating. Even on a good day, Cafferty veered dangerously close to just every other howler monkey in the troop. With this whole lotta shrieking going on, it can be impossible to hear a specific simian above the din. When you can, it's frequently not good news. Since his rabid xenophobic meltdown Cafferty can howl all he wants. I'm not listening. He's dead to me.

Anger is the new black. We live in angry times. We live in desperate times. The average Joe yearns for someone to blame for this mess -- so long it the "accountability trail" doesn't lead back to them. They prefer to pretend they bear no responsibility for electing amoral officials, cheering for an unjust disastrous war or their reckless personal behavior.

MSM howler monkeys hope to cash in on this antipathy. They'd be well advised to keep their paws inside their cage.

AF

Friday, December 14, 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Torture Is Fun For All Ages

The incomparable Digby has some very sharp readers. One commenter leads us to an outstanding "enhanced interrogation"... from 1638.

AF

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What I Want To Know Immediamente












Former CIA interrogator John Kiriakou has been all over the tube this week talking about waterboarding. What struck me was his ambivalence towards torture. To summarize his position: "torture was necessary but it now I think it was wrong." Fuck that shit. Either it's wrong or not Johnny. No grey area here.

Kiriakou attempts to rationalize torture as the end justifies the means. He specifically cites the waterboard interrogation of Abu Zubaydah claiming it:

probably disrupted "dozens" of planned al-Qaida attacks
Probably disrupted? If that is in fact the case, tell us exactly which attacks were "disrupted". There is no possible security issue here (other than securing protection for the Bush Administration against prosecution). It's no secret that Abu Zubaydah has been in US custody since 2002. He can no longer offer any timely actionable intelligence. The despicable "harsh interrogation" techniques employ by the United States are a matter of public record. I can think of no reason why our government will not divulge exactly how torture prevented even one attack.

Like the torture videos, any proof that information gleaned through torture "disrupted al-Qaida attacks" would, for many Americans, justify Bush & Co.'s otherwise unjustifiable actions. No specifics are forthcoming. We are expected to take their word for it.

I for one am not comfortable with that.


AF

Separated At Birth?









I couldn't resist.

Ex-CIA Interrogator John Kiriakou (L) & Comedian Mo Rocca (R).

AF

"If That Is True..."

The Bush bullshit is flying so fast and furiously that sometimes our vision is at least partially obscured. Dig too deeply in search of the truth and you miss the big lie at the surface. This is purely intentional. Still, I'm really pissed at myself for missing the latest Bush Inc. whopper.

Former Congressman Tim Roemer (D), House Intelligence Committee & 911 Commission alumnus, was on Olbermann last night. He eviscerates the Bush Administration/CIA excuse for destroying the torture videos :

Right now the CIA is saying that they destroyed these tapes because it would've provided some information about Agents that should be classified and sources and methods if that is true then they should destroy almost everything at Langley. That is really not something that we buy.
More later.

AF

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

CIA Torture Team Leader Hired For "Kite Runner" Kids' Flight












Last week the finale to my epic Saudi Law: Can't Punish Female Victims Too Harshly... series noted that Paramount Pictures whisked The Kite Runner's young actors out of Afghanistan.

The three boys and their families feared reprisals in response to the film's "culturally inflammatory" homosexual rape scene. A crew of 2o including a former CIA counterterrorism expert worked for months to pull this off. We now know the CIA agent's name.

The brilliant Majikthise has exclusive deets:

A retired CIA agent who lead the team that waterboarded terror suspect Abu Zubaydah went on to work as a security consultant for the film adaptation of The Kite Runner (2007).

Lobbyists for Viacom helped the producers of the film retain retired CIA agent and "countererrorism expert", John Kiriakou, according an Oct 4 article in the International Herald Tribune--before Kirkakou went public about his career as a torturer.

Paramount Pictures is wholly owned by Viacom.

More on Kirkakou later.

AF

Monday, December 10, 2007

When Caution Becomes Cowardice

From town politics to the national stage, I've watched the Democrats' overabundance of caution turn to cowardice. People too worried about what other people will think to do what's right. People too afraid to lose their stature to speak out. Fuck putting your town, state or country first lest it put an end to the gravy train. The Democratic Party as a whole is in need of an emergency testicular implant.

I won't rehash theories on what and when Sen. Rockefeller and Rep. Harman knew about the destroyed torture tapes. Nor will I prattle on about House Speaker Pelosi's apparent knowledge of waterboarding dating to 2002. Smarter people than I have said plenty already.

Obviously the CIA torture videos were tossed to protect the torturers and others from prosecution. In the current discussion, two far greater motivations are being overlooked:

  1. If torture were effective, the video wouldn't have been destroyed. Hundreds of hours of "interrogations" were recorded. I can't think of anything more valuable to torture proponents than visual evidence bolstering their case. Instead, the video showed torture for what it is: sick, useless and profoundly un-American.
  2. Another less obvious reason the tapes had to be tossed: The administration couldn't allow the specific questions to become public. What the torturers asked their prisoners would reveal way too much about the mindsets of Cheney and Bush. It would also put their attitudes on a time line. Both were not only actively urging torture but also provided specific lines of questioning.
Taken in this light, I'm surprised the CIA kept the tapes as long as they did.

On torture, impeachment, ending the Iraq war and too many other issues, the Democratic leadership has served us little else but bitter disappointment. Among past and present members of House and Senate Intelligence Committees, key Democrats were privy to some info about some aspect of the disgraceful torture debacle. They did nothing. They said nothing.

Yes, it is illegal to reveal classified information. Leaks put Dems at risk of being labeled "traitor" and worse. C'mon! What ever happened to the distinctly American notion that we should do what's right, honest and humane and damn the consequences? The never ending so-called "War on Terror" is not a blanket excuse to throw away those principles we hold so dear. Like bin Laden at Tora Bora, once we let go of our honor it's not easily recaptured.

In direct contrast, unnamed CIA analysts recently risked all: jail, their reputations and their careers. Threatening to go public if the Iran NIE did not reflect a nuclear program halted in 2002, these patriots forced the Bush administration to squelch their Iran war drums. This took muchos huevos grandes. They may still face retaliation with some Republicans pressing for an investigation. Unlike Senators and Congresspeople, a CIA analyst fired under such circumstances has few options upon returning to the private sector. It's not as if Blackwater or any other defense contractor will hire him.

The world is officially topsy-turvy. CIA analysts have more courage to stand up to the Bush Administration than Sen. Rockefeller (D), Rep. Harmon (D) and Rep. Pelosi (D). By keeping illegal Bush policies and decisions confidential, our Democratic leadership gives tacit approval to many of this Administration's actions. Their continued reluctance to come clean is troubling and misguided.

Beyond the moral arguments for full disclosure, why give Bush & co. any more power than they already have? The Dem's silence gives the impression specific confidential knowledge is being wielded as political blackmail. Nothing cuts a blackmailer at the knees like going public. Sadly, that would require an abundance of courage where courage is lacking.

Moreover, Capitol Hill Democrats still labor under the mistaken impression that the Bush Administration will occasionally obey the law. Dems think that keeping square with the Official Secrets Act also offers protection from the political damage that would result if their complicity were known. Stupid, stupid Dems. Republicans can't even follow the rules about not following the rules. This Administration has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to leak any info that may prove politically expedient. A new CIA leak puts Pelosi at a 2002 waterboarding briefing. Did Bush order the leak to embarrass the Speaker? John Aravosis sure thinks so.

Speaker Pelosi followed the letter of the law and got screwed. Had she leaked the Administration's torture policy back in 2002, Pelosi could have been trebly screwed. If the leak had been traced back to her, she may not have won reelection. Leaker Pelosi certainly would never been named Speaker of the House. But perhaps Bush and Cheney's shameful torture orgy could have been nipped in the bud.

That would have been courageous.

AF

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Silence Emboldens

After the Saudi government punished the victim of a brutal rape, the Western world (sans the U.S.) expressed outrage. Rightly so. Muslims and non-Muslims alike should be outraged when a mindset inappropriate in the 14th Century rears it's ugly head in the 21st Century. But this is one of those situations in which real change can come only from within. Where exactly are those moderate Muslims we hear so much about? I know they are out there. Given recent slew of injustices committed by governments in the name of Islam, now would be a good time to speak up. Not a peep has been heard.

Feminist and former member of the Dutch Parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali published an editorial in yesterday's NYT. She's also a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute -- that always raises screaming giant crismson flags with me. Neocon bona fides aside, Ali places a powerful call to Islam's Silent Moderates:

It is often said that Islam has been “hijacked” by a small extremist group of radical fundamentalists. The vast majority of Muslims are said to be moderates. But where are the moderates? Where are the Muslim voices raised over the terrible injustice of incidents like these? How many Muslims are willing to stand up and say, in the case of the girl from Qatif, that this manner of justice is appalling, brutal and bigoted — and that no matter who said it was the right thing to do, and how long ago it was said, this should no longer be done?
Exactly right. Sharia i.e. Islamic Law desperately needs to be brought out of the dark ages and into the new millennium. (There are powerful forces working to prevent such a thing but that is a topic for another time). She takes to task those Muslim groups "quick to defend any affront to the image of Islam." Yet these same groups stands mute in the face these multiple incidents that have "done more to damage the image of Islamic justice than a dozen cartoons."

Ali calls moderate Muslims on the carpet for their hypocrisy:
I wish there were more Islamic moderates. For example, I would welcome some guidance from that famous Muslim theologian of moderation, Tariq Ramadan. But when there is true suffering, real cruelty in the name of Islam, we hear, first, denial from all these organizations that are so concerned about Islam’s image. We hear that violence is not in the Koran, that Islam means peace, that this is a hijacking by extremists and a smear campaign and so on. But the evidence mounts up.
These groups are adept at misdirection and practiced at denial. It's one thing to claim you are a "moderate" Muslim. It's quite another to be a moderate Muslim. Ali's conclusion is cut-and-dried:
When a “moderate” Muslim’s sense of compassion and conscience collides with matters prescribed by Allah, he should choose compassion. Unless that happens much more widely, a moderate Islam will remain wishful thinking.
Read the whole thing here. Now.

AF






Friday, December 7, 2007

Our Leader's Response to Saudi Rape Atrocity

via Think Progress: King George speaks to King Abdullah about various things. The Saudi rape case? “I don’t remember if that subject came up.” But it doesn't matter if Bush broached the subject because Abdullah “knows our position loud and clear.” Our position? "And our opinions were expressed by Dana Perino from the pulpit — from the podium." Really? Perino's entire comment on the subject:

I think that the situation is very discouraging and outrageous. There is an appeals process and we hope that the verdict changes. It is certainly not consistent with the judicial reforms that the Saudis have said that they would undertake.
That is not an unambiguous condemnation of a Saudi government for persecuting a Shiite woman brutally raped by 5 Sunni men. It is not one head of state putting direct pressure on another head of state to force the recognition of basic human rights. Instead our President sent a surrogate up to the "pulpit" to say we hope you do better like you told us you would. Bush further diluted his message by his choice of messenger. You don't enlist a diminutive woman who doesn't even hold a cabinet position to deliver a missive to the King of a patriarchal society.

If this had been say Myanmar or Iran, Condi would be screaming bloody murder. But the House of Saud and the Bush family have long been uncomfortably close. And when it comes to Bush's loyal friends, no crime is too large to be ignored.

AF

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Have Love...

Will Travel.
On the Road. More tonite.

AF

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Saudi Law: Can't Punish Female Victims Too Harshly & Gay Sex Is OK If It's Rape By Married Men Also Raping A Woman, Pt. 3










The first two parts of this series, here and here, document the extent to which the Saudi Sharia courts' strict interpretation of Islamic Law is blatantly punitively sexist and prejudicial. Like other countries under strict Islamic rule, Saudi courts treat women as half-citizens at best. Shiite women in a Sunni court system fare far worse. In this case, the judicial outcome was a particularly egregious parody of justice.

While presenting their case against 5 Sunni Saudi men who viciously gang raped a Shiite woman, Prosecutors were not permitted an opportunity to prove their case in court. Sunni judges refused to allow video of the crime (recorded on one rapist's cell phone) to be entered as evidence. This woman was not allowed to testify against her attackers in court. For good measure these judges charged her with "fornication" and then denied her request to defend herself against that charge. Because Saudi law can't punish female victims of sex crimes too harshly, she was convicted. Her Sunni rapists were charged with and convicted of only the least serious of their multiple offenses: kidnapping.

It's the crime not cited that exposes the hypocrisy and duplicity at the heart of the Saudi legal system (and therefore the entire Saudi government). The court turned a blind eye to, what was by this court’s own strict Sharia interpretation, the rapists' most "serious" crime of all: gay sex. Yep, these 5 married Sunni men weren't satisfied with sadistically brutalizing a Shiite woman. They also repeatedly raped her male Shiite blackmailer.

This is remarkable. Homosexuals are widely persecuted throughout Muslim world. Moderate Muslims who refer to homosexuality as a "mental illness" seem comparatively charitable until they force their sons to seek "medical help." Former Guardian Middle East Editor (2000-2007) Brad Whitaker is author of Unspeakable Love. Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East. His 2006 lecture "Sickness or Sin? Attitudes Towards Homosexuality in the Middle East" tells of a psychiatrist's attempt to "cure" a gay patient through aversion therapy:

The treatment involved showing pictures of men and women, and giving him electric shocks if he looked at the men.
This strategy was ultimately unsuccessful.

Even fictional depictions of homosexual acts can prove death defying. The NYT reports Paramount Pictures was compelled to delay the release of their big budget Kite Runner six weeks to ensure the safety of the child actors. The father of one of the boys feared as far back January that at the very least "people will come and arrest us and put us in jail." The Times spells it out:
They were feared to be vulnerable to reprisal because of the film’s depiction of a culturally inflammatory rape scene.
In the film as in the book one of the boys is bullied and raped by another boy. Homophobia is so endemic to Muslim culture that these young actors' lives were endangered by something that never happened!

Back in Saudi Arabia consensual gay sex is on the book as a capital crime. International protests have led the Saudis to recently publicize a few convicted gay citizens sentenced to lengthy prison terms in lieu of execution. Color me skeptical. The Saudi legal system is completely self-reporting making it impossible to determine how widespread this "leniency" is. Furthermore a US State Department report released earlier this year notes that organizers of a "gay beauty pageant" arrested over two years ago have yet to be sentenced. Their present fate is unknown.

In our highlighted case, 5 married Sunni men raped a Shiite man. It wasn't considered gay sex. It wasn't considered rape. It wasn't considered at all. Due to the Saudi court's selective application of justice, two capital crimes were utterly ignored. By virtue of it being a hate crime, this type of gay "sex" is tacitly approved. The monarchy's directive is unambiguous: Sunnis are free to commit unlimited sectarian violence against minority Shiites without fear of facing the most serious punishments. For members of Saudi Arabia's majority Sunni sect, membership clearly has its privileges.

My conclusion
returns to my introduction and provides the title for this series. Saudi courts can't punish female victims too harshly. Gay sex is OK if as long as it's rape by married men also raping a woman.

I'm left struggling to comprehend how this society, which places righteousness and strict morality at the very foundation of their belief system, can consider itself just.

-AF
Si Fractus Fortus

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Saudi Law: Can't Punish Female Victims Too Harshly & Gay Sex Is OK If It's Rape By Men Also Raping A Woman, Pt. 2

Before I return to the topic at hand, I want to make two points clear. Although organized religion does not work for me at all, I strongly believe in and very much admire genuine spirituality. I define "genuine" spirituality as that which places a powerful emphasis on tolerance, kindness, honesty, empathy, generosity and humility. I've read quite a bit on the subject. I have attended the services of many different faiths.

Islam sports a number of characteristics that impress me. The priority Islam places on fostering the community and the requisite discipline (perhaps best exemplified by the Salah or compulsory ritual daily prayers) are but two. Having lived for years in a Muslim-rich inner city neighborhood, I found Muslims to be excellent neighbors. I believe in my heart that most Muslims practice Islam is as a religion of peace. Unfortunately (and exactly analogous to fundamentalist Christianity), the fundamentalist form of Islam is a perversion of spirituality rife with intolerance and riddled with hypocrisy.

Few incidents have exposed this intolerance and hypocrisy more clearly than the case of an engaged to be married Shiite woman attacked, kidnapped and brutally gang raped by 5 Sunni men. This woman was thought to be "fair game" because they determined she had an "inappropriate" meeting with a man not related to her. (She has steadfastly maintained she was being blackmailed by this man. Her account best explains why she would ever take such a risk). Having deputized themselves in their own minds, these self-styled vigilantes appointed themselves judge and jury too. Her punishment was a fait accompli as was their role as her punishers.

These pigs later bragged about their heinous crimes confident her family would disown her. They expected her fiancé to break their engagement. They were certain they would escape prosecution because they were Sunni and their victims were Shiite. They depended on her shame and that of her family, at what they did to her, to end the story there. In fact, her brother did try to kill her. But it was her now-husband's response that was completely unanticipated. Upon learning of the atrocity committed upon his betrothed, her husband filed a complaint with the police. After an investigation, the case went to court.

The BBC makes clear the extent to which the burden of proof is skewed against women once a "sexual offense" reaches the Sharia legal system:

In Islamic law, both adultery and rape require four witnesses to be present at the "act". A woman's evidence is still only worth half of a man's, and in adultery cases she cannot be a witness at all.
It comes as no surprise that the Saudi rapists were not actually convicted of rape. They were convicted of the lesser charge of kidnapping supposedly because prosecutors could not prove rape. Per Human Rights Watch:
The judges reportedly ignored evidence from a mobile phone video in which the attackers recorded the assault.
Under Sharia law "unproved rape is fornication, punishable by stoning." Despite ample evidence to the contrary the married rapists also avoided being charged with "Zina" (adultery) which is also deemed "fornication." Evidently the Saudi courts give married Sunni men a free pass on "fornication" with a Shiite woman as long as that woman was in public and unaccompanied by a Sharia-required "guardian" i.e. a husband/male member of immediate family).

This is post is running longer far longer than expected. I'll wrap it up with Part 3 tomorrow.

AF
Si Fractus Fortis

Saudi Law: Can't Punish Female Victims Too Harshly + Gay Sex Is OK If It's Rape By Men Also Raping A Woman, Pt. 1












The Sunni Saudi court system has justifiably received world wide admonishment for sentencing the Shiite victim of a brutal, unbelievably sadistic gang rape to 90 lashes. (The Independent has the deeply disturbing story here). On Wednesday it was announced that her lawyer's successful appeal led to increased punishment for her Sunni rapists. The seven animals' original sentences ranging from 10 months to 5 years were boosted to run from 2 years to 9 years. At first glance the rapists' increased sentences could appear to be one in a series of small measures the Saudi government has taken lately to improve treatment of women under that country's strict interpretation of Sharia Law. It's not.

The body of Islamic Law, Sharia, is open to a variety of interpretations (and subject to selective application by the all-male judiciary). However three aspects appear almost universal:

  1. Women who are raped are frequently punished more severely than their attackers.
  2. Courts in those countries ruled by Sharia law are extremely charitable in their handling of men who commit violent crimes against women. This is especially true of sex crimes. A rapist's confession can been thrown out on a "technicality." That same "technicality " does not apply to the victim's case even if it would "prove" to "exonerate" the victim.
  3. Minority Shiites cannot expect objectivity from a Sunni legal system and vice versa.
The Sunni Saudi judges, who have repeatedly retaliated against the Shiite victim, have increased her punishment to 200 lashes and 6 months in prison! CNN sheds light on a vindictive legal system that can't keep its stories straight:
The judges more than doubled the punishment for the victim because of "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media."
The ministry has previously said the woman's punishment was increased after further evidence came to light against her when she appealed her original sentence.
In contrast, her story has remained consistent throughout. Not that this benefited her in anyway whatsoever. Her "trial" was worse than a farce. It was seized as an opportunity by Sunni males to heap abuse upon a Shiite woman who had been raped for what they perceived as her "crime": being raped.

Appearing in a closed courtroom, she was subjected to threats by her Sunni attackers and berated by one of the Sunni judges. Worst of all she found herself denied "any chance to prove her innocence or describe how she was a victim
of multiple brutal rapes." Having found himself unable to defend his client in court, her lawyer stepped up his efforts to get her story out. CNN:
Al-Lahim previously said the woman met the man at a shopping mall in order to retrieve an innocuous photograph from him. He has also said the man was blackmailing his client and forced her to have the meeting to save her engagement and avoid embarrassment.
The need to avoid embarrassment is a particularly powerful motivation in Arab culture. Taken in this context her story rings true. Understandably, most of our planet found it incomprehensible for her to be charged with any crime. Suddenly it's the Sunni Saudi
government that is embarrassed. They've responded by taking every opportunity to vilify this Shiite woman. The latest official Saudi government smear via CNN:
The woman had an "illegitimate relationship" with a man who was not her husband, and that both "exposed themselves to this heinous crime."
(I'm glad they cleared this up for me. I always have a problem getting passed the whole pursuit-of-happiness/don't-blame-the-victim/
innocent-until-proven-guilty/feminist frame of reference encoded within my DNA).

The victim's lawyer did not escape unscathed either. His clamor for justice may cost him dearly:

Judge Saad al-Muhanna fom the Qatif General Court also barred al-Lahim from defending his client and revoked his law license, al-Lahim said. The attorney has been ordered to attend a disciplinary hearing at the Ministry of Justice next month.

At this disciplinary hearing, Al-Lahim could be slapped with a three-year suspension or disbarment. Regardless of the final outcome, the court's numerous retaliatory actions in this case will have an incredibly chilling effect on any Saudi woman (and her lawyer) considering whether or not to seek justice after being victimized by a violent crime.

The Saudi court's shameful conduct in this trial goes far beyond their harassment and cruel treatment of the victim and her lawyer. Part 2 will look at the court's hypocrisy and duplicity in dealing with male perpetrators of violence against women.

AF

Ed.'s note: Call me oversensitive. I cringe at labeling anyone who has been raped as a "victim." It comes from knowing and loving too many people who have been sexually abused. They are amazing, resilient and strong folks. "Victim" appears an insult. Yet to say otherwise minimizes the terrible crime committed against them. That strikes me as far worse. Regardless of the crime, those upon whom criminals prey are called victims.

"So victims" it is.

Sully Is Not Just Tone-Deaf and Colorblind. He's Flat-Out Dumb Too!

Sully is told just how much of a bigoted jerk Will Saletan is. Our zero learns important lessons about the folly of using standardized IQ tests to determine genetic and racial absolutes. Robert Farley delivers a mighty body blow calling out Saletan for his utter failure to research the racist source of the very research upon which he based the worst of his recent ignorant and inflammatory columns. You'd think this sort of thing would be important if one were about to write that science sure does prove them black folks are dumb. Then again maybe not. It's not like people actually read Slate, right?

Upon being learning the truth about the deeply flawed basis of Saletan's argument, Andrew Sullivan's response is so typically Sully:

A chastened Will Saletan...deserves mad props for raising this important but frustrating issue.
Is Sully for real? Could he really be that clueless? At best Saletan is an egotistic hack nonpareil "accidentally" peddling bigoted bullshit. At worst he's a nasty racist. For Sully's part he time and time again fails to examine his active role in disseminating such nonsense. Then he puts the topper on this by giving Saletan a compliment!

I'm officially speechless.


AF

h/t Atrois

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More Songs About Buildings And Greed








The music industry is reminiscent of a B-movie thug bleeding out from a belly wound who refuses medical treatment lest he get thrown in the slammer. The main difference is that the music biz's wounds are entirely self-inflicted. These wounds were caused not only by unprecedented stupidity but also by unprecedented greed. A bold statement given our subject but hear me out. It wasn't enough for the label honchos to fill their coffers to overflowing with found money re-selling their back catalog as music buyers converted their vinyl faves to CD.* They had to overcharge for new releases too.

I recall an extremely frustrating and somewhat bizarre conversation with a now former major label president in the mid-90s regarding CD pricing. We were trying to break a completely unknown new artist. The list price was $16.98 with certain stores charging up to $18.98. Competitive artists were selling in the $11.98 to $13.98 range. I asked this prez who ran our distributing label to agree to lower our list by at least $2 and preferably by $4. His verbatim reply: "If they (the consumers) really want it, they'll pay $16.98 for it."** Through persistent lobbying, the list price was eventually lowered. We did break this band after a year-and-a-half single-minded perseverance. No thanks to a certain old school label fat cat their debut sold in excess of 1 million copies.***

Can the music business as we know it survive? Not a chance. There's been decade-long mass exodus of many of the industry's brightest minds. Frustrated by the stupidity, sickened by the greed and tired of jumping from one unstable company to the next, these folks have forsaken their life's passion for relative normalcy. They have rewarding new careers as real estate agents, insurance salesmen, teachers, caterers, software developers, activists, advertising executives, political bloggers, and stock brokers. That's right. Those who could have performed timely surgery necessary to save this wounded beast have long since left it to die on its own.

Some of collateral damage caused as the music industry staggers bleeding into the future has been difficult to swallow. I hate watching old friends and former colleagues lose their jobs. I acutely feel the loss of history and tradition as labels from A&M, Virgin and Polydor (US) to the much maligned, and deservedly so, MCA became mere imprints. (For fuck sake the EMI idiots sold the Capitol Records Tower to be made into condos! Thankfully, the resulting outcry and loss of face forced them to enter into a sale and lease back agreement).

Still I cannot help believe that this may be for the best. We've seen how the music industry historically is highly resistant to change. Their bloated inefficient business model begs to be razed to the ground. Perhaps then and only then will a visionary or three be free to undertake a long overdue industry re-make/remodel.

AF

*Record companies rushed their back catalog CDs out so fast that they didn't bother to master them properly. No worries. A few years later, after much negatively publicity (just two examples here and here) regarding the superior sound of vinyl vs. that of CDs, they re-mastered them and sold them back to us yet again. The re-mastered CDs were then followed by "expanded" or "special anniversary" editions containing B-sides, unreleased tracks, demos, radio spots et al. Those bastards! I can't count how many different CD versions I have of Elvis Costello's This Year's Model alone.

**Music fans' resulting resentment and rejection of this highway robbery were major factors spurring the explosion of "free" MP3 sharing discussed previously.

***For this and our overall unprecedented success, we were rewarded with the equivalent of our long-promised, long-awaited Christmas bonuses...and pink slips. Natch.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Music Biz Still Hemorrhaging From Deadly Self-Inflicted Wound

Former Reprise Records prezzie Howie Klein has a post, How To Destroy A Profitable Industry, over at his wonderful Down With Tyranny. It's his response to this New Yorker piece describing backward Universal Music honcho Doug Morris' ineptitude in dealing with the introduction of MP3 technology almost a decade ago. Howie mentions a key aspect of this equation a key that deserves elaboration. By hemming and hawing (and suing rather than embracing MP3s, record companies alienated an entire generation of young music fans. This is important particularly since teenage consumers traditionally spend a large part of their disposable income on music. At this time they also tend to establish specific buyer behavior that may last at lifetime.

One again the Luddite old school record company presidents foolishly believed that they could bend the marketplace to their will instead of pro-actively responding to the marketplace's demands. The result is a whole generation of music buyers with a deeply ingrained belief that they should always get their music for free. Furthermore, they believe that by not paying for this product, they are striking a blow against the evil, greedy music biz establishment. The same corporate forces that had been suing people just like them.

Once the record companies finally surrendered it was too late. The music industry's belated demand to charge the consumer for mp3s was akin to locking the barn door after the cow was stolen. To make matters worse, they've been spectacularly unsuccessful in convincing these music fans as to why they should pay for music. Just telling people that it's stealing doesn't cut it.

The extent to which this fandango has negatively impacted recording artists has been largely and typically ignored. Without going into mind-numbing specifics, the wholesale distribution of "free" MP3s makes it exponentially harder for musicians to make a living. Any directly related reduction in sales further limits artists' leverage with their record co. as well as the music industry at large. This affects everything from recording budgets, tour plans and radio airplay. These factors may force musicians to compromise their artistic vision in ways hitherto unthought-of of. Thus discouraged an artist could feel compelled to cut their career short before its time.

Wholesale sharing of free downloads can be murder to a developing artist. It can wreak havoc on a new release by an established artist too. A few years back I worked with an artist whose intricate marketing plan was sabotaged by a college kid who somehow got his hands on an advance copy. 125,000 downloads later we were forced to release the album's six weeks earlier than planned. We had to forgo some important set up in the process. This cost us a good third of our projected sales before this album's new street date. Once the album was in stores the lost six weeks of marketing setup cost us dearly too as it's impact was lessened considerably.

AF

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sully's Colorblindness

The Prospect's Dana Goldstein applies the wood to evil bigot William Saletan on Race & IQ. Saletan's written a series of columns on the subject. Race, Genes and Intelligence defends uber-biologist James Watson who last month claimed that Africans' "intelligence is the same as ours." Here he scribes the particularly self-serving Jewgenics.

It's not enough for unabashed Saletan admirer Sully to buy into Saletan's racial rhetoric. He does him one better:

I like the fact that asking these kinds of questions is also part of the Jewish inheritance.
Really? Did you also know that all Irish are drunks and those blacks are such wonderful dancers?

As an openly gay HIV-positive "journalist" of British descent, you'd think that Andrew Sullivan would be more sensitive to stereotypes, bigotry and the folly of sweeping generalizations. Instead he once again chooses to perpetuate them.

These two deserve each other.

AF

h/t Atrios

Monday, November 12, 2007

Atrios Gives Sully A Poke or Two

Atrios finds fault with Sully's fantasy world within which we would all agree...with him (natch):

"National Consensus"

I'm always puzzled when this phrase is thrown around, as Andy Sullivan and others do. I don't know why it's assumed to be a good thing. I don't know how we'd know if we had it when we did. I don't know why Andy and the gang imagine they'd feel better if such a thing were achieved, or why it seems to be important to them.
Exactly. Andy, the retro-cons and his formerly close friends, the neo-cons, yearn for the days of yore when everyone thought the same and lived in perfect harmony. The reality is that there hasn't been anything close to resembling a national consensus in either our country or his in 50+ years. It's a dirty little historical secret that even in in the dark days of World War Two, dissent was commonplace especially among the socially marginalized. The African-American community was particularly ambivalent. Why fight for a country that tried Nazi saboteurs in court while lynching black men for minor slights real or imagined?

But I digress. Sully's fervent wish for a national consensus reflects a deep inferiority complex at the core of the conservative baby-boomer. Having been raised by the Greatest Generation, it's only natural to want to blaze your own trail. But with the Cold War won (by pre-boomers no less) and Vietnam lost there has been scant opportunity to do so. Until 9/11. Thus a war for oil is marketed as a "global war against islamofacist terroristas" or what have you. This is position is born not just out of the need to mollify the masses but also is a desperate attempt to convince themselves that they are continuing in the honorable legacy of that "greatest of generations."

Which leads nicely into where Atrios gets to the nub of what drives Andrew Sullivan and his compadres. He goes in for the kill:

...I mean, I guess I do basically understand - it's the need of the narcissist for the world to line up completely with their views, along with the ego to be convinced that one's rightness transcends all.
AF

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Manifesto










Welcome to the party.

The impetus behind this modest blog is my burning desire to stop "progressive" bloggers from uncritically disseminating the views of one Andrew Sullivan. Bringing positive attention to this fraud only serves to legitimize him. This must end now.

Why so angry Anacher? I’m glad you asked. Andrew Sullivan is an opportunistic hack. A weather vane if you will. I freely admit that Sully is a gifted writer and upon occasion makes a cogent point or two. His ability to tap into the zeitgeist of whichever side he's taken on any issue is impressive.

Unfortunately, Andrew Sullivan is not to be trusted. For starters, he sinned too long in the service of the neocons and retrocons. In spite his partial public repentance, Sully remains permanently damaged. I cannot and will not accept his supposed mental makeover. It’s too convenient how his “changed“ position has largely allowed him to avoid bearing responsibility for so enthusiastically beating his Iraq war drum. $100 says that under the right circumstances Sully would flip-flop rejoining the other side so fast he’d throw his back out. Make that double-or-nothing.

That's the least of it. It has been ignored how the biggest ramification of Andrew Sullivan’s “conversion” is also the most beneficial. Let’s be honest. The Right was never going to embrace a gay conservative blogger. He was an oddity -- a freak. (Not that there's anything wrong with that). Suddenly Sully is perceived to be far more "relevant" than previous. This transformation has conveniently made him a hot commodity:

Tada! It’s the new improved Sully! Now with Progressiverol (TM). He’s not too far left… He’s not too far right… He’s juuuuuuust right!
His installation at Time magazine alone proves how eminently more marketable Andrew Sullivan’s carefully crafted “new” image is.

After this greatly hyped ideological “Presto! Change-O!,” the vast majority of progressive bloggers have fallen all over themselves to haul out the welcome wagon. Sure Atrios, Ezra Klein and a scant few others direct consistent criticism towards Sully (tempered by their occasional “Atta boy” and a pat on the back). But what’s with the rest of the crowd?

Their compliant response is a fascinating psychological phenomenon. Exactly as the freepers need to believe in the false neocon/retrocontm mythology, the lefty blogosphere desperately wants to swallow Andrew Sullivan’s cock-and-bull story of how a conservative HIV-Positive out gay man renounces his years of gushing support for the most corrupt administration in this nation’s history. Hey, if Sully admits that we were sorta right all along then we really must be right. Right?

Even more disturbing than his intellectual dishonesty, Andrew Sullivan is a barefaced liar. Sully frequently misrepresents himself as an American citizen. As recently as last week appearing on Real Time with Bill Maher Andrew Sullivan claimed, that though he had "voted for Bush in 2000," he could not bring himself to do so in 2004. Damn straight he couldn’t again “vote” for his former crush George W. Bush. Sully can’t even “vote” in a local school board election. He’s not a United States citizen!

This is no small matter considering the column inches Andrew Sullivan has dedicated to whomever he has purported to have "voted" for in our elections. A writer's credibility begins and ends with his or her integrity. In this respect Sully is sorely lacking. Integrity cannot coexist with falsehood and manipulation.

Andrew Sullivan is a Fraud will not be a one-trick pony. I'll be sure to examine other topics for your perusal and entertainment.

Stay tuned...

AF