6/29/2006

Who the hell is Sean O'Malley?

For those of you who don't know, he is the Cardinal of the Boston Archdiocese, and there's nothing that gets him quite as riled up as gay marriage. He has spent most of his time since taking over the archdiocese a couple of years ago trying to divert attention from the scandal of the sex-abuse cover-up that rocked the archdiocese by demonizing gays and lesbians in no way linked to said sex-abuse or its cover-up. Obviously, blaming gays who had nothing to do with the culture of abuse and deceit in the Church hierarchy itself, which involved all manner of abuse, victimizing boys and girls alike, is the moral thing to do. I mean, why reform the hierarchy and punish the perps? Much easier to just level wholesale blame on people who had nothing to do with any of it.

Not very subtle, but then the Catholic Church isn't exactly known for its subtlety, is it?

So here's a man who works for an organization that brooks no dissent and has not shown itself to be very tolerant of debate, all the sudden infected with the democratic spirit (according to the Globe): "We urge that the legislators let everyone's voice be heard. Let the people vote." It was O'Malley's first appearance at a State House press conference, according to his office.

He has partnered in his effort to get a referendum on the issue with Governor Mitt Romney, a Mormon. Talk about an unholy marriage. Good-for-nothing Romney has said he opposes procedural tactics that would prevent an up-or-down vote. "It will not be a vote for or against gay marriage," Romney said. "No, it will be a vote for or against democracy."

Neither of these snake-oil salesmen are in any way qualified to lecture the rest of us about democracy. And any issue of equal rights and protections under the constitution is not for lobbyists, churches with their own internal issues to deal with, or hatemongers willing to forge as many signatures as necessary to get the issue on the ballot to vote on.

The saddest thing of all about O'Malley's gay-baiting-n-bashing is that it's such blatant pandering to the lowest, basest, sleaziest--the worst of which organized religion is capable. Marshaling people's earnest need of community against a segment of their community to divert attention from the sins of the Church's hierarchy is morally repugnant.

From the beginning this has been a PR issue, not in the least a moral one, for the Boston archdiocese. It is disturbing that this man, who has exploited this issue so cynically, is now issuing diktats from the State House with the Governor at his shoulder.

I have nothing against Catholics (after all, they say you should hate the sin, not the sinner). But, sad to say, Cardinal O'Malley is a sleaze. That is precisely why he was elevated to Cardinal by Ratzinger, who is also a sleaze. And why he is in cahoots with Romney, who is a supersleaze, too. It's just a big, ol' sleazy trinity.

6/21/2006

Terror Porn, Part II

Headlines today:

Abducted soldiers' remains are found

US pair reported tortured, beheaded

Al-Qaeda says new leader 'beheaded' kidnapped US soldiers

This is apparently the debut of Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, the man the US has elevated to new head of al-Qaeda in Iraq. That didn't take long, did it? It is a real question whether it matters who steps in as the "head" of an "organization" like al-Qaeda. And there is also a question as to whether the US genuinely believes it matters, or this is a kind of public relations issue for them.

To admit that al-Qaeda's nominal leaders are easily replaceable, that their martyrdom is built-in to their functioning as nominal leaders, would be admitting the futility of killing them, which seems to be the only strategy to "defeat the insurgency" we've been able to come up with.

The search for the two soldiers also resulted in the death and maiming of more soldiers, by the way. The Globe reports that, according to the military: "One US soldier was killed and 12 wounded during the three-day search [for the missing soldiers]..., while two insurgents were killed and 78 detained."

So, on and on it goes. No end in sight.

6/12/2006

Terror Porn


There are two issues I want to treat separately here. One is the "progress," per se, of "The War on Terror." The other is the increasing brutality of our public discourse on it, and the likely impact of this on the war effort, itself.

The death of Zarqawi, as I've said elsewhere, is, in my opinion, not a major victory in the war, regardless of whose terms you're applying to it. The fact that it dominated the news for three days last week, and through the weekend as well, is a sad comment on how far the media is willing to go to appease the administration's shrill cries for "more good news" from the Iraq campaign, even if the good news is really bad news in the long run.

We have every indication that the more the US and its media crow about having killed Zarqawi the more energized that loose confederation of international jihadists we think of erroneously as a salient conspiracy called Al-Qaeda, becomes. And the more we dwell on the methods of the hit (the eerie shot from thousands of feet above and the video game-like scene of the smart bomb blowing its target to smithereens), and parade his corpse for the television cameras, the more jihadists we recruit to their cause.

The so-called war on terror has become little more, as far as we can tell from media coverage, than a mafia-like game of tit-for-tat, where revenge-killing is heaped on revenge-killing. Within a year there will likely be another terror attack somewhere in the world, and the perpetrators will publicize it as revenge for Zarqawi's killing. By then, a new Zarqawi will have taken the old one's place.

And I'm obviously not the only one who thinks so. But when I tuned in to the CBS Early Show Saturday, an expert was telling us it didn't matter that in the big scheme of things this will only add fuel to the fire. He said the hit had merit on its own, regardless. "[Zarqawi] is a bad person, and he's been put into his grave, and that's where he belongs," the expert said. What are we, a nation of four-year-olds?

But this childlike summation of the Zarqawi hit caps a parade of images of the terrorist's corpse that, however they may be viewed as proof of Zarqawi's death by the US, will most assuredly be viewed as proof of US barbarism by those whose hearts and minds are supposedly at stake in all of this.

On the home front, complacency about the public parading of enemy corpses and the coarsening of our national discourse marks a moral departure of sorts. We are becoming the enemy. Rather than promoting justice and the rule of law, a world in which civility must prevail, we are engaged in a war of vengeance without end. And these images, and the dwelling on the lurid details of Zarqawi's death do nothing but contribute to this downward spiral.

This morning details from the autopsy were released and broadcast around the world. The reason we must assume for doing so is to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Zarqawi is indeed dead. But this is both somewhat irrelevant, as those who believe he is dead will believe, and those who don't won't, but it also shows the desperation of the US to have something definitive to show for the over a quarter of a trillion dollars they've spent in Iraq so far.

The AP story on the autopsy paints a gruesome picture, in case you didn't get the point:

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi lived for 52 minutes after a U.S. warplane bombed his hideout northeast of Baghdad, and he died of extensive internal injuries consistent with those caused by a bomb blast, the U.S. military said Monday.

"Blast waves from the two bombs caused tearing, bruising of the lungs and bleeding," [a military spokesman] said. "There was no evidence of firearm injuries."

The al-Qaida in Iraq leader also suffered head and facial wounds, bleeding in his ears and a fracture of his lower right leg.

[The spokesman] said an F-16 dropped a 500-pound bomb on the house at 6:12 p.m. A second bomb followed immediately after.

U.S. troops arrived at 6:40 p.m. and found Iraqi police at the site. He said a coalition medic treated al-Zarqawi, who lapsed in and out of consciousness.

"At 7:04 p.m. on 7 June, Zarqawi was dead," [he] said.

He added that no decision had been made on what to do with the remains of al-Zarqawi and his spiritual adviser, Sheik Abdul-Rahman, who also was killed instantly in Wednesday's airstrike.

"These autopsies were performed to make a definitive determination as to the cause of both Zarqawi's and Rahman's deaths," [he] said. "The scientific facts provide irrefutable evidence regarding the deaths of terrorists will serve to counter speculation, misinformation and propaganda."

We now routinely hear politicians, journalists, and talking heads on TV calling for hits, talking about killing (sometimes "eradicating") individuals. When a hit is executed we are then treated to extensive details as to the condition of the body and the means of death. Offered up as proof, it is really the same gloating we see in the enemy when they get one of ours, just without the ululating.

We know that mafia-style hits aren't going to end the war on terror, only perpetuate it. The parading of dead and mutilated bodies by US forces mirrors the same inflamatory methods of al-Qaeda. There will be a reciprocal act on their part soon.

More terror will not win the war on terror.

6/08/2006

my semi-regular bullshit round-up, no.2

I've been focused on this rally to keep bus and subway fares fair here in Boston, which is why I haven't been keeping this nonesuch and miscellany blog up-to-date lately. Plus, you know, there's so much bullshit going down every day, sometimes you've got to take a break or you just start stinking of it yourself.

I have no desire to become some kind of activist harpie (ever since I started trying to organize the rally, I've been meeting my share of them, and it's not a pretty fate). Activism, especially for armies of one, is the refuge of borderline personalities attracted to hopeless causes precisely because they are hopeless. They live to rage against the machine, but not really for the sake of justice or the greater good--they rage because it allows them to live out their persecution fantasies in public. Hey, we've all got them, but most of us keep them to ourselves.

I mean, if I told you one of my most nagging conspiracy theories is that the weather is out to get me, personally (like yesterday, when it didn't start raining really, REALLY hard until I got on my bike to ride home from work--what was that? I mean, clearly the weather is out to get me), you would probably think I was nuts.

Lone, self-styled "activists," I am coming to see, not only believe in conspiracies, but they always seem to be the target of them, too, somehow. I saw signs of the cancer of this kind of activism in me when I looked in the papers yesterday and didn't see anything on my little rally, really. And hardly anything on the hearing that followed it, either. I thought to myself, who can I call to demand redress? Why isn't the press covering this? What's really going on here?

But I didn't let myself go too far down that path, because it's like the kid in the bed-wetting commercial says: "I'm not gonna let it rule my life." Politics is a sad substitute for a philosophy of the good life. Politics is, at best, a philosophy for low-lifes.

So now that that's all done and dusted:

The big bullshit news today (aside from the weather in New England--temperatures in the fifties and a nor'easter in June??) is the "termination" of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, described in the media as al-Qaida's leader in Iraq, as if al-Qaida needs one. You know, the press has been reporting on this "terrorist cell" in Canada, which authorities have said were "inspired by al-Qaida," but not trained, funded, or connected in any actual way with al-Qaida.

What is shocking, in a bullshit way, about the media's milking the al-Zarqawi hit is that it seems to betray absolutely no notion that the death of its leaders, especially this manner of death, is not a blow to al-Qaida at all. We have no way to quantify "progress" except the body count, but the body count is really progress not for us, but for al-Qaida and the forces of radical Islam.

This is not a big insight. When you are dealing with what is more a philosophy of jihad which can be subscribed to by anyone, anywhere, than a static, identifiable organization--a corporation with Osama bin Laden as its founder and al-Zarqawi as its president and CEO--a philosophy which extols and encourages martyrdom, death, particularly at the enemies' hand, is a victory for them, not us.

Bullshit factor: 9.9/10

A related matter. We are obviously still in revenge mode with our war on terror, which means we are obviously losing it. What is disturbing to me is how easily we have become enured to the idea of "terminating" or even exterminating other people.

An incident like Haditha is not unusual in wars like the one in Iraq, nor is the reaction to it. Because no one in the press wants to come out "against our troops" the media reaction has been somewhat muted. I mean, given the circumstances, and the reaction to it amongst Iraqis. And that's bullshit. If our troops perpetrate crimes, even in war-time, they must be held responsible. Period. Otherwise, to echo that tired old cliche, "the terrorists win."

So we need to investigate not only what really happened in Haditha, but why. Is it the nature of this war? Could it be that the conduct of the war is actually working against its intended goals? Do we know what these goals are? Or is that part of the problem?

Bullshit factor: 9.7/10

The gay marriage theatrics in Congress this week were utter bullshit, too, but very worthy of the drama queens in the GOP. The whole circus shows the complete lack of regard for the dignity of average Americans that has become the main platform of the GOP, a party that has shown itself again and again willing to essentially promote violence against a segment of the population to pander to another segment of the population.

They just don't get it. President Bush, in a political speech on the topic Monday said: "For ages, in every culture, human beings have understood that marriage is critical to the well-being of families. And because families pass along values and shape character, marriage is also critical to the health of society. Our policies should aim to strengthen families, not undermine them." Hmm. Funny. That's something gay marriage advocates have been saying all along.

Bullshit Factor: 9.4/10

And last but not least:

Bullshit factor: off the charts.

my semi-regular bullshit round-up, no.1