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newsmongering 07/13 (for real this time!)

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> So apparently Iran is installing uranium centrifuges in mountain bunkers – ostensibly for medical research. Show of hands if you believe that. The US and Iran have had no formal diplomatic relations since 1979, but former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani says that he believes Iran and the US could formalize relations. However, Rafsanjani is a bitter opponent of current Iranian Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and it’s unlikely that a policy decision advocated by Rafsanjani would be considered by Ahmadinejad.

> The American embassy in Damascus and American ambassador Robert Ford’s house in the city have been attacked by pro-Assad groups. Ford and his French counterpart Eric Chevalier both visited the besieged city of Hama over the weekend, much to the Syrian government’s consternation, and both plan to visit the town of Deir al-Zar over the weekend to meet with opposition leaders.

Sources in Washington and Paris said both governments know the diplomats could face danger from Syrian troops, but both envoys offered to travel to the two cities for the sake of challenging President Bashar Assad’s regime, said Debkafile.com, a Jerusalem-based, military- and intelligence-focused Web site. Sources also said Syrian government forces are poised to stop the diplomats.

The Washington Post has a fascinating discussion of Mr. Ford’s diplomatic career here (his wife’s a diplomat, too. I’m trying to imagine how their fights work). Finally, on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented that Syrian president Assad is “not indispensable” and that the US “absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power.” This is the closest we’ve seen to a direct call for a regime change in Syria from the Obama administration.

> Glenn Beck gave an inexplicably well-received trainwreck of a speech at the Knesset on Monday, which I can’t believe I didn’t hear about earlier. An excerpt:

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at the ruling class, is about the destruction of Israel and the end of the western way of life. Period. That’s what it is. I don’t know a lot of Palestinians but I also don’t know a lot of Jewish people either. I don’t really classify people that way. They’re just people.

Yeah, but apparently some of those “just people” apparently want to destroy “the western way of life,” for reasons unspecified. Also unspecified is what he meant by “western way of life.” So he doesn’t see them as Israeli and Palestinian, he sees them as…I don’t know, Israel and Enemies? That’s substantially better, Mr. Beck, thank you.

> Polling indicates that Obama now rates less favorably than Bush in the Arab world. Glenn Greenwald comments:

In one sense, this is hardly surprising, given the escalating violence and bombing the U.S. is bringing to that region, its ongoing fealty to Israel, and the dead-ender support the American government gave to that region’s besieged dictators.  Though unsurprising, it’s still remarkable.  After all, one of the central promises of an Obama presidency was a re-making of America in the eyes of that part of the world, but the opposite is taking place.

More significantly, as democracy slowly but inexorably takes hold, consider the type of leaders that will be elected in light of this pervasive anti-American hostility.  When the U.S. propped up dictators to suppress those populations, public opinion was irrelevant; now that that scheme is collapsing, public opinion will become far more consequential, and it does not bode well either for U.S. interests (as defined by the American government) or the U.S.’s ability to extract itself from its posture of Endless War in that region.  Given that it is anti-American sentiment that, more than anything else, fuels Terrorism (as the Pentagon itself has long acknowledged), we yet again find the obvious truth: the very policies justified in the name of combating Terrorism are the same ones that do the most to sustain and perpetuate it.

> The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences noted that there were 41% fewer websites in China in 2011 than there were in 2010; over 1.3 million sites had been shut down. The Academy somehow managed to simultaneously argue that China has “a high degree of freedom of online speech.”

On the other hand, perhaps the Great Firewall’s blocking of Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter explains at least some Chinese academic success?

> A new kind of war museum is opening in Dresden, Germany. It sounds just fascinating.

Up to now, most military museums — like the Imperial War Museum in London and the Musée de l’Armée in Paris — have been more akin to an homage to warfare than places for reflection. They present weapons, shining machinery and pressed uniforms, celebrate great battles, and recall the heroic deeds of brave soldiers patriotically fighting against the odds and often enough sacrificing their lives for their country.

The new military museum in Dresden wants to do away with this tradition. Although there will also be plenty of guns and cannons on display, and the chronology of military campaigns will be recounted, the historians have a far loftier goal in mind. They want to examine the topic of violence from the perspective of cultural history.

> Speaking of Germany, apparently a flash drive containing security plans for a new intelligence agency headquarters in Berlin went missing sometime last year. Um. Oops?

> After New York governor Andrew M. Cuomo commented that “The law is the law; when you enforce the laws of the state, you don’t get to pick and choose… If you can’t enforce the law, then you shouldn’t be in that position,” a clerk in Baker, New York has resigned rather than be forced to grant marriage licenses to gay couples. The clerk, Ms. Fotusky, argued in a telephone interview that “Because protections were not provided for us to be able to practice our freedom of religion in our jobs…then I had to choose between my God and my job.”

Actually, she had to choose between being a bigot and her job, but why split hairs? Because I bet you anything she eats shrimp, wears clothing of two different fibers (damn you, ubiquitous poly-cotton blends!), works on Sunday, and even enjoys football on Sundays, and all of those are forbidden by Leviticus. And also:

Just sayin’.

In the New York Times article linked above, Brian S. Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (And By Marriage, We Mean Straight Marriage, That Is To Say, Not Yours) (I may have editorialized slightly) posits that marriage equality is not actually desired by most New Yorkers.

This. Is. Demonstrably. False. Fifty-four percent of New Yorkers favor marriage equality; in New York City, it jumps to 60%, and among those polled under 35, it’s 70%. The majority of New Yorkers favor this. Arguably the only ones who don’t are the ones who see it as an erosion of the Christian privilege they’ve enjoyed for most of their lives.

These are not unknown numbers. You could not read news about the marriage equality battle in New York without hearing those numbers. But Mr. Brown seems sadly unaware of them. We are left with a few options: that he is ignorant, that he is lying, or – and this one is fun to contemplate – that 54% don’t actually count, because in Mr. Brown’s worldview, those 54% are wrong, possibly immoral, and maybe even gay. And we’ve already determined that for Mr. Brown, gays don’t count.

> In other things that don’t make sense, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has commented that Casey Anthony’s acquittal proves that terrorists should not be tried in civilian courts. Because it’s really hard to get a conviction in a civilian court.

Man, remember when things like evidence and procedure counted? But apparently if you know your gut that someone’s guilty (and if Nancy Grace brings it to your attention), we can just dispense with all of that.

> Kansas governor Sam Brownback has hired a team of attorneys representing the Koch brothers to defend the state against Planned Parenthood next month. No word on what those attorneys will cost, but I bet you that their fee to figure out a way to deny things like Pap smears, mammograms, and legal abortions to low-income women in their state could never have been used to – for example – duck that $50.2 million in cuts from K-12 public schools. With math like that, it’s almost hard to believe we’re in a budget crisis.

> Speaking of which, New Hampshire just defunded Planned Parenthood in the state, and has “stripped its authority to dispense low-cost birth control and antibiotics to uninsured patients” for good measure. Planned Parenthood of Norther New England spokesperson Jennifer Frizzel has said that they’ve had to turn away 20 – 30 patients a day looking to refill prescriptions.

Furthermore, the process by which this occurred is really, really weird; a body called the Executive Council overturned legislative decisions and the Department of Health and Human Services in the process. And the vote was 3 – 2, meaning that this Council is made up of a grand total of five people, and really, I just don’t understand how this happened at all.

> If you are a married gay state employee in Masachussets, you are now eligible for  a stipend to cover the portion of federal income tax that married straight employees don’t have to pay.

> The first-ever Senate hearing to repeal DOMA has been scheduled for Wednesday, July 20. I’m planning on checking the Drudge Report periodically for the lulz. For those of you playing along at home, you’ll recall that a California court found DOMA unconstitutional in June, arguing that it violated the Fifth Amendment, and also taking some time out of the 24-page decision to slap Congress’s wrist for passing it in the first place (in 1994).

“Although individual members of Congress have every right to express their views and the views of their constituents with respect to their religious beliefs and principles and their personal standards of who may marry whom,” the decision said, “this court cannot conclude that Congress is entitled to solemnize such views in the laws of this nation in disregard of the views, legal status and living arrangements of a significant segment of our citizenry that includes the debtors in this case.”

Oh, and the Obama administration said basically the same thing back in February:

Attorney General Eric Holder said President Barack Obama has concluded that the administration cannot defend the federal law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. He noted that the congressional debate during passage of the Defense of Marriage Act “contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships – precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the (Constitution’s) Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.”

> Google+ no longer requires users to specify gender. So that’s cool.

> Here, have a post about how Hermione Granger is badass. I can’t say I’m onboard with the Ron-hate, being rather fond of Ron as I am, and obviously there’s a bit of artistic hyperbole going on on the post, but still! (Um, warning for language)

And when Snape assigns homework Harry is all “Wah-Wah, there is sport tomorrow, fulfilling my responsibility will be so hard.” Meanwhile Hermione is MOVING FUCKING TIME so she can take more classes. Because girl knows SOMETHING is happening and she needs to STUDY THE EFF UP.

It’s…it’s possible I have strong feelings about this.


Written by whackanarwhal

July 13, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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