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May 15th, 2004

 

ALLAH'S TAXIRIDE

 

HOW TO STAY YOUNG

" Throw out nonessential numbers.
This includes age, weight and height."
George Carlin

 

Hi Folks,

I'm sure everyone is familiar by now with the Iraq torture photos and the beheading incident. Two things occurred to me reading about the latter. Firstly, did you notice that when the media, US media especially, covered the torture story, the victims were referred to as 'Iraqis' or 'detainees', never by name, nothing much personal, but during the beheading story, not only did we know the name of the victim, but also the names of his mother and father and had pictures of their grief. Example:

" Nicholas Berg, 26, of Pennsylvania. Berg's family learned about his death Monday and is devastated by the news. The family has asked the State Department to release the body as soon as possible. Berg's family told The Associated Press that they knew he had been decapitated but weren't aware of the details. "I knew he was decapitated before," Michael Berg told the AP. "That manner is preferable to a long and torturous death. But I didn't want it to become public." Suzanne Berg said her son was in Iraq as an independent businessman. "He had this idea that he could help rebuild the infrastructure," she told the AP. The Berg family was told by the State Department that Nicholas' body is in Kuwait and may arrive in the United States as early as Wednesday. " CNN

This hyper-personalization of the US victim allows us to identify with him as though he were one of our own family, firing up an internal revenge, and desire for justice, as though this awful deed were being done to us personally. But with the Iraqis being tortured, it was only the 'government' which was to blame i.e. Rumsfeld should resign etc, but no empathy on any kind of personal or family level with the actual victims - we never felt that this abuse was happening to a member of our group. I attribute this primarily to racism, but also it is an attempt to manipulate and spin public emotion, by the government and media, to obtain a desired result: renewed support of the occupation of Iraq for 'a good cause.'

The second anomaly was the MOTIVE of the beheading reprisal. It was as though the perpetrators were trying to show the West that they were capable of greater brutality than we were, gangland one-up-manship, an eye-for-an-eye, in some primitive tribal show, i.e. we'll teach YOU who can commit and document brutality better - not understanding that it actually worked against their larger goal. Public opinion was ALREADY on the side of the Iraqis being humiliated and had the beheading not occurred, the US would have had an almost impossible defense. It's as though the men who did the beheading could not even CONCEIVE of how people of a voting democracy, through internal protest, could rise up against their government's policies and that the government would be forced to pay heed, if enough voters stood up and spoke out. There was never such freedom of public protest in recent Iraq history. This indicates to me that the majority of people in Iraq don't even UNDERSTAND what it means to protest your government's policies, without being hunted down and murdered.

Favourite Reader Feedback of the Week

Joe,

Please put me back on your newsletter mailing list.  I love your letter.  It cheers me up and gives me a great example of how to love the world -- fcuked up as it is -- in all its beauty and shame.  Thanks every week, Joe. Peace, Katy Y
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Some Warm Up Humour

Q. How many mice does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A. Two, but you have to get them in there first.

Q. How many Vietnam vets does it take to change a light bulb?
A. YOU WEREN'T THERE, MAN! YOU WEREN'T THERE!
(thanks to Craig Memery)

 

ALLAH'S TAXIRIDE

I just got back from the Yag'Ugi Festival up in Queensland and after picking up my luggage at the airport carousel, I flagged a taxi for a ride home. From his accent, I first thought my driver was from India and I was dying to ask him his opinion on LAGAAN (the film I recommended to you last week) but after a few kilometers of driving, I noticed he was fingering a green beaded stringy kind of thing in his left hand. After awhile I couldn't help myself - I asked him what it was. He told me that it was his way of staying in touch with the Creator. As he was Muslim, and came from heaven and was returning to heaven, he said, while he was here on earth, he had a task to do and this green stringy thingy was his way of remembering his mission. (Mission? I thought. What exactly was in the LP gas cylinder in the rear of his car?) I know I was being a little paranoid but as Fats Waller said, 'One never know, now do one?' So I figured the best thing to do was to find out more about this 'mission.' He said he was a Sunni and he proceeded to talk non-stop to me about Islam for the entire 45 minute drive home. It was really incredible and I had a hard time believing I was simply in a taxi. I felt I was getting some private tuition in one of those Islamic teaching cells where you whack your head on the book. (Never take the mundane things for granted, folks. A taxi ride is not necessarily a taxi ride.) I asked questions. He answered them. Everything went along fine until he got to the part about how we couldn't be allowed into heaven with stool in our bowel and there had to be some kind of cleansing stage before that slight problem would be taken care of. (I think I came out of my 'Student of Islam' trance about then.) What? Did he just say what I think he said? That I'm going to need some kind of Middle Eastern 'anal probe' before I can cavort with the 10,000 Virgins? (Actually, if I had my choice, you can keep all those virgins -I'd actually prefer one enthusiastic and intelligent slut, like Mary Magdalene, or the Arabic equivalent, Mary Soula Habib Camelhumpdalene, PhD.)

Anyway, I was just about home and I recalled the words of Pope John the XXIII:

" Everytime I see a wall between people, I like to pull a brick out.'

I thought maybe I better pull a brick out at this point 'cause there was definitely a Wall of Stool starting to materialise in front of me. I said to my driver that the thing I especially liked about Islam was the custom of not portraying Allah in a drawing, a painting, in a film or in any graven image. Because no person had the ability to visually grasp the concept of Allah. That sounded remarkably like 'Science' (matter=energy, etc) to me - almost Einstein. He corrected me that that rule also applied to Mohammed. I then decided to ask my 'brick' question:

I said that let's suppose that before Mohammed had the revelation that gave him the Koran, being a somewhat successful merchant and being somewhat well off, that someone in his village had either painted or sketched his portrait (like one does) and sealed it in an air tight olive urn where it remained buried for hundreds of years. If we were to find that urn and that portrait today, would THAT image of 'The Prophet' be a Holy Relic or would it be sacrilegious and have to be destroyed.

His face went blank for about a minute and all the blood drained out. Very loudly he said that there was no way that anyone could draw Mohammed's face because there would be too much light coming out of it, and that the colours didn't exist to capture it. I said, yeah, I know that but I'm talking about before the light got in his face, before he got the Koran, when he was married and a merchant, when his face was a lot dimmer like yours and mine. The cab pulled up in front of my house. I got out and gave him a good tip and he was friendly and grateful. I don't know if I got a brick out, but I think I at least gave it a little wiggle. (Later, when I told this story to my partner, Lin, she said, what if he decides that his mission is to come back and drive that taxi into our house. Hmmmmm . . . I hadn't thought of that.)
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(My brother Frank sent me these items he found on the internet.)

LA DOLCE VIAGRA
A new study, funded by Pfizer, shows Italians are not sexually satisfied.
By Jack Boulware

The results are in from a recent study of the sexual habits of Italians. The research goes against the grain of what we perceive to be a healthy, sexually robust culture that produced Sophia Loren and tight-fitting leather clothing. To put it bluntly, the study implies Italians are not sexy people. Men are worried about sex, and single women are not satisfied with sex. The only people having sex in Italy, according to the study, are the elderly. (more)

And this anonymous bit of advice:

" Once the bird is safely inside, seal the seduction with some sexy music. Barry White, Marvin Gaye, Donna Summer, etc., are recommended. Not recommended are: 'Shaddapaya Face' by Joe Dolce."

(Obviously, that particular misinformed critic hasn't read the following testimonial:)

' . . . as everyone out there knows, spending a fortune on champagne and an expensive hotel room doesn't necessarily mean the sex will be any good. eg. I had probably the most intense orgasm of my entire life in the back of a plumber's van while the radio played 'Shaddap You Face'. Latrobe RABELAIS

(Note: That makes sense. Think about it. Screaming out all those 'heys!' while your ashes are being airlifted. Reservations now being accepted for 2006.)
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Hands off the fat guy in the chicken suit, Mr. Mogul
by Greg Palast

(Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy,"  and currently in LA to receive the ACLU's Freedom of Expression award.)

WHEN the fattened cats at Disney put the kibosh on Michael Moore's new film, "Fahrenheit 9-11," they did more than censor an artist.  Gagging Moore is only the latest maneuver in suppressing some most uncomfortable facts:  the Bush Administration's killing off investigations of Saudi Arabian funding of terror including evidence involving a few members of the bin Laden family in the USA.

I know, because, with my investigative team at BBC television and The Guardian of Britain, I wrote and filmed the original reports on which Moore's new documentary are based.

On November 11, 2001, just two months after the attack, BBC Television's Newsnight displayed documents indicating that FBI agents were held back from investigating two members of the bin Laden family who were fronting for a "suspected terrorist organization" out of Falls Church, Virginia - that is, until September 13, 2001.  By that time, these birds had flown.

We further reported that upper level agents in the US government informed BBC that the Bush Administration had hobbled the investigation of Pakistan's Khan Laboratories, which ran a flea market in atomic bomb blueprints.  Why were investigators stymied?  Because the money trail led back to the Saudis. (full article)

 

MEL GIBSON WOULDN'T TOUCH IT WITH A TEN FOOT SCOURGING WHIP

" Disney came under heavy criticism from conservatives last May after the disclosure that Miramax had agreed to finance the film when Icon Productions, Mel Gibson's company, backed out. . . A senior Disney executive elaborated that the company had the right to quash Miramax's distribution of films if it deemed their distribution to be against the interests of the company. The executive said Mr. Moore's film is deemed to be against Disney's interests . . . because Disney caters to families of all political stripes and believes Mr. Moore's film, which does not have a release date, could alienate many. " from the New York Times. (article)

Oh Really? How about these controversial films distributed by Miramax? Most are very violent or deal with sex or drugs. How does that square with those families Disney caters to? Why do you suppose Disney never stepped in and stopped distribution of any of these films? Were they somehow "alienation proof?"

Kill Bill Vol. 2 2004
Prozac Nation 2004
City of God 2003
Dirty Pretty Things 2003
Dysfunktional Family 2003
The Human Stain 2003
Kill Bill Vol. 1 2003
Full Frontal 2002
Apocalypse Now Redux 2001
Trainspotting 1996
Pulp Fiction 1994
Reservoir Dogs 1992
(thanks to John Jacobs)

 

Mickey Mutes Mikey
By Paul Harris

(YellowTimes.org) -- By now most of us have heard about Michael Moore's upcoming movie "Fahrenheit 9-11." It will be aired at the Cannes Film Festival this month where it is almost certain to live up to its hype. There is still some question about whether it will be aired anywhere else.

The film is said to investigate a long relationship between the family of United States president George Bush (both of them) and a group of elite from the Arabian peninsula including the Saudi royal family and the bin Laden family. It is said to examine that relationship in light of the events of September 11, 2001 and to raise some very uncomfortable questions about alleged free tickets out of the United States on September 12, 2001 for those same Arabic elite, in spite of a nation-wide grounding of all aircraft. It is said to imply that the Bush administration could have prevented the attacks of September 11 and that even if the attack was unstoppable, the slow reactions to it do not jive with accepted American defensive response.
But now the story goes that Disney, the owner of Miramax, is alleged to have put the brakes on distribution of the film. According to Moore, he learned about this on May 3 and was told that Disney boss Michael Eisner wanted the distribution stopped because it might jeopardize favorable tax status at Disney World, which just happens to be in the state where President Bush's brother is the governor. It is hard to tell who is telling the truth about this film, including Michael Moore.
(full interesting article)
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Red Cross report describes systematic U.S. abuse in Iraq
ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS
Associated Press

A Red Cross report disclosed Monday said coalition intelligence officers estimated that 70-90 percent of Iraqi detainees were arrested by mistake and said Red Cross observers witnessed U.S. officers mistreating Abu Ghraib prisoners by keeping them naked in total darkness in empty cells.

The report by the International Committee of the Red Cross supports its allegations that abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers was broad and "not individual acts" -- contrary to President Bush's contention that the mistreatment "was the wrongdoing of a few." (article)

 

We Are All Wearing The Blue Dress Now
The Daily Brew

" Actually the photographs have confirmed people's belief that the US and Britain are not in Iraq as an act of goodwill. They have strengthened the feeling that there is a deep racism underlying the occupiers' attitudes to Arabs, Muslims and the third world generally. "
Ahdaf Soueif - The Guardian

Whether Republicans like it or not, if George Bush is elected in the fall, the entire world will view the election as American approval of the torture and sexual humiliation of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. It might not be fair, it might not be reasonable, but it is nevertheless reality. Apologies, prosecutions, firings and courts martial will not be enough to expunge the stain this scandal has placed on the honor of the United States. The pictures are simply too graphic. The abuses are simply too horrible. If George Bush is elected President, the entire world will view the election, at a minimum, as tacit approval of these events.

This election will thus no longer merely determine the Presidency. This election is now much larger than the office. The United State's place in the family of nations is now on the ballot. This election will determine whether the United States will ever again have any standing or moral authority in the rest of the world. The United States cannot simultaneously stand against depraved sexual torture and the wanton abuse of human rights, while electing the commander in chief upon whose watch these events occurred. The seven hundred thousand or so viewers of Fox News may be able to rationalize such cognitive dissonance; the six billion people who make up the remainder of the world will not.

The stakes are thus immeasurable. For better or for worse, a strong, just and moral United States is not simply a luxury. Instead, it has become a precondition for human progress. For better or for worse, the United States has become the indispensable nation. Our economic, technological, and military position in the world insures that we will remain as such for the foreseeable future. The only question that remains, therefore, is whether the United States will have a moral authority on par with our economic and military dominance. That question will be answered in the fall. The election will determine whether America can ever again be seen as a shining city on a hill, a beacon of hope and freedom the illuminates the entire globe. Sadly, the election of George Bush will mean that the United States will instead be viewed as a rat hole prison in Iraq, where nude prisoners were bound together, tortured with hot chemicals, and beaten to death. (more)
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Resistance
by Ignacio Ramonet

It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others the permission to do the same." ­ Nelson Mandela

 

RESISTANCE means saying no. No to contempt, arrogance and economic bullying. No to the new masters of the world: high finance, the countries of the G8, the Washington consensus, the dictatorship of the market and unchecked free trade. No to the quartet of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. No to hyper-production. To genetically modified crops. To permanent privatisations. To the relentless spread of the private sector. No to exclusion. No to sexism. No to social regression, poverty, inequality and the dismantling of the welfare state.

No to the abandonment of the South. No to the daily deaths of 30,000 poor children. No to the destruction of the environment. No to the military hegemony of a sole superpower. No to "preventive" war, to invasion, to terrorism and to attacks on civilians. No to racism, anti-semitism and Islamophobia. No to draconian security measures. No to a police state mentality. No to dumbing-down. To censorship. To media lies. To manipulative media.

Resistance also means saying yes. Yes to solidarity between the six billion inhabitants of this planet. Yes to the rights of women. Yes to a renewed United Nations. Yes to a new Marshall plan to help Africa. Yes to the total elimination of illiteracy. Yes to an international campaign against a technology gap. Yes to an international moratorium that will preserve drinking water.

Yes also to generic medicines for all. To decisive action against Aids. To the preservation of minority cultures. And to the rights of indigenous peoples.

Yes to social and economic justice. And a less market-dominated Europe. Yes to the Porto Alegre Consensus. Yes to a Tobin tax that will benefit citizens. Yes to taxing arms sales. Yes to writing off the debt of the poor nations. Yes to banning tax havens.

To resist is to dream that another world is possible. And to help build it.
Translated by Gulliver Crag
(thanks to stefanabeysekera)
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SOME OBSERVATIONS THIS WEEK

1. Marriage changes passion. Suddenly you're in bed with a relative.
2. I saw a woman wearing a sweat shirt with "Guess" on it. So I said "Implants?" She hit me.
3. Sign in a Chinese Pet Store: "Buy one dog, get one flea..."
4. I live in my own little world. But it's OK. They know me here.
5. There are two sides to every divorce: Yours and s**thead's.
6. I am a nobody, and nobody is perfect; therefore, I am perfect.
7. Everyday I beat my own previous record for number of consecutive days I've stayed alive.
8. Why is it that most nudists are people you don't want to see naked?
9. Snowmen fall from Heaven unassembled.
10. Every time I walk into a singles bar I can hear Mom's wise words: "Don't pick that up, you don't know where it's been!"

 

The Parrot

A young man named John received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird's mouth was rude, obnoxious, and laced with profanity. John tried and tried to change the bird's attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to "clean up" the bird's vocabulary. Finally John was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. John shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even more rude. John, in desperation, threw up his hands, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute. Fearing that he'd hurt the parrot, John quickly opened the door to the freezer.
The parrot calmly stepped out onto John's outstretched arm and said, "I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I am sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behaviour." John was stunned at the change in the bird's attitude.
As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behaviour, the bird continued, "May I ask what the chicken did?"
(thanks to JOE CREIGHTON)

 

FOOD

TWO BREAKFASTS

While up in Hervey Bay, Queensland, I got a change to cook and also be cooked for. Here are a couple of simple and unusual breakfasts.

POACHED EGGS IN MILK ON TOAST WITH NUTMEG

This recipe is one of my mother's and I hadn't made it for years. I prefer free range eggs for this recipe but if you want an unusual edge, you can use battery chicken eggs. (All that repression, tight cage living, pecking each other's feathers out, and forced feeding and drugs they give the battery chickens, impart to the eggs that extra psychotic 'je ne sais quoi' . . . )

Ingredients:
2 free range eggs
cup of milk
buttered toast
grated nutmeg
salt and pepper

Method:
Toast the bread. Put the milk in a saucepan. Break the eggs gently into the milk and poach until cooked. Butter the toast and spoon the eggs and as much milk as you like over the top. Sprinkle some nutmeg over and salt and pepper to taste.

 

BREADED FISH AND FRIED GREEN TOMATOS WITH HOT SAUCE

Serving hot sauce on the side is a Soul Food and Cajun custom.

Ingredients:
2 skinless fish fillets
2 firm green tomatoes
flour and/or breadcrumbs
corn meal
1 egg
1 slice of bacon or guanciale (vegetarians can use olive oil)
bottle of favourite hot sauce

Method:
Coat the fish fillets in the flour or breadcrumbs and set aside.
Mix half flour and half cornmeal in a dish. Break the egg in another dish. Slice the green tomatoes in 1/2 inch slices and dip first in the egg and then in the flour/corn meal mixture.
Fry the bacon or guaniale until crisp. Remove. Add a little oil if necessary and fry the green tomatoes until ready. In a separate pan, fry the fish in a little butter or oil until ready. Serve side by side with the bottle of hot sauce nearby. You can also crumble up the crisp bacon and serve over the tomatoes if you wish.

 

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"... Suppose there is no light and people are unable to see things, does that mean that they cannot see the darkness? If it is possible to see the darkness when it is too dark to see things, it simply means there is no light; it noes not mean they cannot see. Supposing, Ananda, they were in the light and they could not see the darkness; does that mean, also, that they cannot see?"
Lord Buddha to Ananada
Suranyama Sutra

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