Saturday, June 30, 2007

Le Shorter: Box Score

Darth 70,000 Endangered Salmon 0

Dialogue with Hillary VII: Free Advice

Only your friends will tell you this, Hillary: You can't win the White House. Oh sure, you could muscle your way into the Democratic nomination with your rich insider support like the jet setting 'Friends of Bill' and the 'Hollywood Crowd', but even Obama is giving you a race on the inside. You raised $27 million last quarter. Obama was a few hundred thousand short of that. This quarter he will raise more than you. Its not all about money or a theme song. Your negative ratings are simply too astronomical, as I have said before. According to Mason-Dixon Polling 52% of us would not vote for you. 60% of independents (yellow dogs!), 56% of men (chauvinists!), 47% of women (traitors!) and 88% of Republicans (dummies!) would just say, no. You could be a lot more useful to your party and your country by bringing the Senate to a workable majority than running for President.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Double Standard

One of the very few officer corps casualties of the Abu Ghraib war crimes scandal was Major General Antonio Taguba. He had worked his way up the ranks from a military family in the Philippines. His father was a Philippine Scout who survived the Bataan Death March. Late in his distinguished career,Taguba got stuck with the career ending assignment of investigating what happened in the wee hours at the infamous prison. As Taguba himself put it to his interlocutor Seymour Hersh,"If I lie, I lose. And if I tell the truth, I lose." Luckily for America, he chose to honor his code and tell the truth. The truth is that the military police unit caught on camera subjecting prisoners to perverted follies were not simply a "few rotten apples". They were directed by military intelligence personnel to breakdown detainees for interrogation. The intelligence interrogators were using torture approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The White House knew about the interrogations early on and well before Taguba's report in May 2004 despite his superiors' disingenuous claims of ignorance. Taguba, as the bearer of unwanted news, was asked to retire in 2007 after thirty-four years of honorable service. He never got his third star, but that is of relatively little consequence compared to the humiliation and suffering inflicted on innocent civilians by our soldiers following orders. Below is a particularly cogent point made by General Taguba:

From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity and selfless service, and yet when we get to the senior officer level we forget those values. I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention and we violated the core of our military values....[T]hose civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.

Impeachment now.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hamburgesa en Paradiso Revisted

You may have read my multi-part post about my recent visit to the Galapagos Islands (pictured from space). I told you about the increasing adverse ecological impacts caused by mass tourism. At a UNESCO World Heritage Committee conference in New Zealand, Ecuador asked that the islands be declared endangered. On Tuesday, the international body listed the islands, home for numerous unique wild species, as endangered. According to UNESCO the number of days spent visiting the islands have increased by 150% over the last 15 years. The increase has fueled inter-island traffic, illegal immigration, and the importation of invasive species. The Charles Darwin Foundation has identified 490 introduced insects and 53 new invertebrate species of which 55 are particularly problematic. Immediate steps must be taken to strictly limit access to the geographically isolated island chain if the unique indigenous wildlife is to survive in tact. Galapagos Islands National Park could loose the prestigious World Heritage status if greater conservation actions are not taken.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Senator Dodd: Impeachment not Helpful

Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) on the campaign trail in Rochester, New Hampshire told voters that there are too many more important issues on the agenda to impeach 'Darth' Cheney. It apparently does not matter that there is a sitting Vice President who lied about the necessity of war, supports immoral torture and illegal domestic spying, illegally outed a covert intelligence agent for political revenge, and now publicly states he is above the law. The man has literally told America to go diddle itself and is getting away with it. Why? Because we have compromised Senators like Dodd unwilling to defend our nation from this unprecedented assault on our freedoms. It is a crying shame. Preserving our constitutional form of government, which every Senator is sworn to do, clearly takes precedence over earmarks and marginalia. The Senate needs to wake up to the real immanent threat from within, not the chimera without.

The Washington Post is currently outlining the unconstitutional extent of the Vice President's power grab in a series of articles entitled, "Angler". No doubt that is the Vice President's security call sign.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Will Mitt Romney Become God?, Continued

Its doctrinally incorrect to say the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) is a Protestant denomination. According to Church doctrine all other Christian denominations are apostasies. Only the LDS possesses the latter day revelations of Jesus Christ and is the true Christian faith. This dogma is no different than the Roman Catholic Church's which maintains its transmission of true doctrine is received directly from the early church founded by Saint Peter in Rome. A fundamental difference in belief between the LDS and other Christian churches is it's concept of the Godhead. Whereas most Protestant denominations are monotheistic, accepting a single god in the form of a trinity, the LDS holds that there are innumerable gods composing a heavenly hierarchy and that God was once as man is now. These startling ideas were first presented to the Saints by Joseph Smith in one of his last sermons in Nauvoo, Illinois known as the "King Follett Discourse". Brigham Young, the immediate successor to Smith, claimed later that the Prophet taught him Adam was God in human form though there is no historic evidence that Smith held this view. Where these ideas may have originated, other than from divine revelation, was the subject of intense historic research during the two year period the LDS was confronting the Salamander Letter controversy and the correspondence was considered possibly authentic.

One aspect of early Mormonism that has been studied and accepted by scholars and even the LDS was it's leaders association with various forms of Freemasonry. Dr. Reed Durham an LDS historian stated: There is absolutely no question in my mind that the Mormon ceremony which came to be know as the Endowment, introduced by Joseph Smith to Mormon Masons had an immediate inspiration from Masonry. The "immediate inspiration" is understandable because Smith was initiated into the cult (March 15, 1842) in the same second floor office where he founded the Mormon Temple in Nauvoo. The Temple itself was adorned with Masonic symbols. Every prominent male Mormon in Nauvoo also became a Mason. Smith explained that Freemasonry represented a corrupted "remnant" of the true priesthood which God intended him to restore. Two days after being entered as a Master Mason he founded a "Female Relief Society" along Masonic lines with lodges, rituals, degrees and orders similar to a French version called "Adopted" Masonry. Orthodox Freemasonry as practiced in Illiinois at the time did not include women. Eventually every officer of the Society became Smith's spiritual wife and consort. His first wife, Emma, presided as the Society's first "Elect Lady". Smith was undoubtedly aided in his masonic exertions by John Bennett, a disreputable frontier gynecologist and Mason. His brand of Masonry was apparently of the libidinous variety. Arriving in 1840, he enjoyed a meteoric rise in Nauvoo becoming mayor and assistant president of the Church. In 1841 the idea of "spiritual wifery" or plural marriage was introduced. According to a contemporary Nauvoo newspaper editor, it was Dr. Bennett who introduced esoteric Masonry concepts to Joseph Smith. Bennett experienced an equally rapid departure from Nauvoo in 1842 after being excommunicated for alleged sexual improprieties. Alarmed by the irregularities instituted by Smith and his followers, the Illinois Grand Lodge removed all authority from the Mormon lodges.

But Smith's association and knowledge of Freemasonry goes farther back than Nauvoo. The Smith family originated in Vermont. Two of Joseph's uncles became Masons there. After relocating to upstate New York, his father became a Master Mason in 1818. His older brother and life long companion Hyrum entered a Palmyra, N.Y. lodge around 1826 about the time Joseph began work on the Book of Mormon. Joseph associated with other Masons like Brigham Young. Around 1836 be became intimate with Lucinda Young, the wife of another Mason, who eventually became one his "spiritual wives". She was the widow of the noted Captain William Morgan of Battavia, New York. Morgan was murdered presumably by Masons for exposing their secrets in 1826. The murder touched off a period of nationwide anti-Mason agitation. Thus, the young Smith was steeped in all things Masonic. His story of the discovery of the Golden Plates bears strong similarities to the legend of Solomon's treasure as noted by historian John L. Brook:
Freemasonry provides a point of entry into this very complex story. As it had been in Vermont, Masonic fraternity was a dominant feature of the cultural landscape in Joseph Smith's Ontario County. . . . The dense network of lodges and chapters helps explain the Masonic symbolism that runs through the story of the discovery of the Golden Plates. Most obviously, the story of their discovery in a stone vault on a hilltop echoed the Enoch myth of Royal Arch Freemasonry, in which the prophet Enoch, instructed by a vision, preserved the Masonic mysteries by carving them on a golden plate that he placed in an arched stone vault marked with pillars, to be rediscovered by Solomon. In the years to come the prophet Enoch would play a central role in Smith's emerging cosmology. Smith's stories of his discoveries got more elaborate with time, and in June 1829 he promised Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris that they would see not only the plates but other marvelous artifacts: the Urim and Thummim attached to a priestly breastplate, the 'sword of Laban,' and 'miraculous directors.' Oliver Cowdery and Lucy Mack Smith later described three or four small pillars holding up the plates. All of these artifacts had Masonic analogues.. . . Smith's sources for these Masonic symbols were close at hand. Most obviously, Oliver Cowdery would have been a source, given that his father and brother were Royal Arch initiates; one Palmyra resident remembered Oliver Cowdery as 'no church member and a Mason.' . . . A comment by Lucy Mack Smith[Joseph's mother] in her manuscript written in the 1840s, protesting that the family did not abandon all household labor to try 'to win the faculty of Abrac, drawing magic circles, or sooth-saying,' suggests a familiarity with Masonic manuals: the 'faculty of Abrac' was among the supposed Masonic mysteries [Refiner's Fire, Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 157-158].

The early Mormon Church's incorporation of esoteric ideas went deeper than mere Masonic ritual and symbols. Esoteric concepts entered its theology too. Church leaders in Utah would later claim that Mormonism was the "true Masonry". Michael Quinn, a prominent historian of the occult said in his seminal study of Mormonism's occult roots, Mormonism and the Occult World View: "To be sure Masonic rituals also shared some similarities with the ancient mysteries, but these were not linked to any concept of heavenly ascent, which was fundamental to both the occult mysteries and to the Mormon endowment. Therefore, what similarities may exist between Freemasonry and Mormonism seem more appropriately to be regarded as superficial, whereas the ancient occult mysteries and the Mormon endowment manifest both philosophical and structural kinship." (Ibid., p. 190). Indeed, the purpose of the Mormon rituals was for the mortal faithful to attain Godhood. The following is from a description of the Mormon ritual of the Second Endowment:

The second anointing is an extension of the initiatory. One could say, in fact, that the second anointing completes the initiatory: where the initiatory promises future blessings contingent on initiates' faithfulness, the second anointing actually bestows those blessings. Unlike the endowment or temple marriage, the second anointing is not regarded as essential for salvation. Relatively few Saints receive the second anointing; indeed, the rite is so rarely spoken of that most Saints around the globe are probably unaware it exists. Presumably the rite is administered to General Authorities and their wives, as well as to other couples with whom the hierarchy is acquainted, in recognition of extraordinary faithfulness....The second anointing is administered only to married couples, on the recommendation of a member of the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve....The officiator pronounces upon the husband additional blessings as the Spirit directs. Typically he is blessed with the Holy Spirit of promise; the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the power to bind and loose, curse and bless; the power to live as long as life is desirable; the power to open the heavens; the power to attain to Godhood; and the sealing up to eternal life.... [emphasis mine]

Brooke, ibid, notes the "striking parallels between the Mormon concepts of coequality of matter and spirit, of the covenants of celestial marriage, and of an ultimate goal of human godhood and the philosophical traditions of alchemy and Hermeticism, drawn from the ancient world and fused with Christianity in the Italian Renaissance." In sum to be a fully endowed Mormon is to be initiated into the possibillity, through conjoining with a celestial mate (mysterium coinunctionis), of becoming a new Adam-- god. To fully understand the ramifications of these doctrines, I will discuss another major influence, the ancient Jewish mystic tradition, Kabbalah, in a future post. Suffice it to say here that according to the later reformulation of traditional Jewish Kabbalah man contains a divine spark and that attribute reflects a fundamental duality in creation summed up by the cryptic words attributed to the legendary Egyptian philosopher-priest Hermes Trismegistos, "That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One." [Emerald Tablet] . An adept may use his powers to merely transmute metals, but the higher calling is to transform himself.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Rudia Undressed

I doubt many flag waving red staters read this blog, but they should because I will be discussing their pseudo heroes running for president in the coming months. Its becoming more clear that the Republican race is down to a slug fest between 'Rudia' Giuliani and 'Mad John' McCain. McCain has got a legitimate excuse for his flaws: he was imprisoned in the "Hanoi Hilton" and tortured by the North Vietnamese. Giuliani's character formation is another story altogether.

Giuliani made his bones as a crime busting federal prosecutor in Manhattan's Southern District of New York. During his tenure, that office was responsible for over four thousand convictions. Perhaps the biggest win was the Mafia Commission Trial (1986). Five mafia bosses and their subordinates from New York's "five families" were brought to trial and eight were convicted. He parleyed that performance into winning the mayor's office on the second try in 1993. As mayor he is often credited with cleaning up New York street crime, but admirers tend to forget that unleashing the NYPD on petty criminals came at a price. Prominent examples of police excesses suffered by New Yorkers under Giuliani's mayoralty were the killing of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed black man who was shot 41 times while reaching for his wallet by members of the NYPD street crimes unit. Abmer Louima, a Haitian immigrant, was beaten and sodomized with a toilet plunger while in NYPD custody. One of police assailants is alleged to have shouted, "This is Giuliani time", during the sexual assault. Giuliani also had a habit of asking financially interested parties to form city policy. He allowed a deputy mayor on the payroll of Major League Baseball to work on deals for the Yankees and Mets. He commissioned a $600,000 report on privatizing JFK and LaGuardia from a consultant with ties to the company personally chosen by him to manage the airports. Bernie Kerik, Giuliani's Police Commissioner, was forced to withdraw his nomination for the post of Homeland Security director when it was discovered he had ties to a mob controlled construction firm among other ethical problems. Kerik took over an apartment donated for recovery efforts after September 11th and used it as a private rendezvous with his girl friends. In 2oo6 Kerik pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors and was fined $221,000. Giuliani often wows right wing audiences with his mantra of national security and free market capitalism. As a lobbyist he knows about the latter. He took money from everybody: Robert Murdoch, Hugo Chavez, Bechtel, Chevron/Texaco, Saudi Arabia and Seisint, a security firm. Seisint is run by Hank Asher, a former cocaine smuggler. When a federal prosecutor Giuliani called drug dealers murderers. Two million dollars of Asher's money must have changed his opinion.

His heroic media profile amid the rubble of the Twin Towers has made him an "expert" on national security issues in popular opinion. However, Mayor Giuliani put the city's sophisticated terror response command center on the 23rd floor of 7 World Trade Center (WTC) after it had been attacked once. Large tanks of diesel fuel to power the center caught fire on 9/11 and is said to have caused the collapse of that building. He looked and sounded like a leader in the aftermath, but he also profited from the tragedy. The macho mayor with the bull horn reported $8 million in speaking fees in 2002. He received $200,000 for one engagement alone. Giuliani seized control of the cleanup effort and contracted out jobs to politically connected firms. The city's Department of Design and Construction emphasized speed, not the safety of cleanup workers or the public. Contractors were told they would be fired if the highest level of efficiency was not maintained. The city's health department took no responsibility for testing air quality or supervising clean up in private buildings. Only now, with the development of respiratory diseases apparently caused by breathing the toxic atmosphere at the WTC site, is the extent of atmospheric contamination being fully realized. "Ground Zero" was a toxic waste site on the level of Love Canal or Times Beach. The air contained dioxin, benzene and asbestos among other toxins. At the Pentagon, OHSA required disaster workers to wear hazmat suits. Its estimated that by October respirators were being used at the WTC only 29% of the time. Nevertheless, "America's Mayor" told the public the air at the WTC site was safe to breath. Later, Giuliani sent a letter to Congress asking it to cap the city's liability for injured workers at $350 million. An attorney representing workers in a class action suit says that more people will die from clean up related diseases than died in the attack itself. You just got to admire a guy who can ask workers to risk their lives in a disaster site and still put on a party dress. He makes George W. Bushwack look sick.

Weekend Update: Former EPA Administrator Christie Whitman says she urged Giuliani to make WTC rescue and recovery workers wear respirators but was rebuffed by the take charge Mayor. Whitman made the allegation in an interview with WNBC prior to her scheduled appearance before an investigating congressional committee on Monday. Documents from the lawsuit against the city show that New York had a plan for worker saftey but never enforced federal regulations. Workers who refused to wear respirators were banned from working at the Pentagon disaster site. Ms. Whitman also said that she was "tired of having to be defensive" about her role in the aftermath.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dialogue with Hillary VII: Self Inflicted Wounds

I haven't read Carl Bernstein's biography of you, but there was an interesting review of it in the New Yorker magazine. One of the observations brought to mind your recent statement that "you still have wounds" from the fight on Capitol Hill for universal health care in 1994. Apparently Bernstein thinks most of those wounds were the self inflicted variety. Your organization of five hundred staffers into thirty four committees must have made the work of drafting the legislation more entertaining. Just think of how many more cellphone calls were made, not to mention the number of pages generated. Was the proposal really 1,324 pages long? Of course you understood every page of it, but maybe it was not such a good idea to make the proposal so complex that some on the Hill did not understand it all. And then Senator Bill Bradley got a little peeved at you when you threaten to "demonize" opponents. Forgetaboutit--the nerve of him! Some key senators and congressmen from both parties wanted to help and introduce a simpler proposal. Silly congress persons, thinking they could actually make a better proposal than you and your 500 staffers! Americans can wait for their health care until you are in the White House on your own, right? Whadaya gointodo about ungrateful cads like Bob Boorstin, your former deputy for media relations, who said he found you to be "the most self-righteous" person he has ever known? Blaming the Iraqis for the failure of a bungled invasion you voted for was like butter. Ah, the arrogance, the disdain, the hypocrisy-- you and Tony Soprano should get together.
Weekend Update: Michael Moore, muckraker extraordinaire, at the DC premiere said movie mogul Harvey Weinstein asked him to delete a scene from SiCKO in which he identifies the divine Ms H as the second largest recipient of contributions from the health care industry. Weinstein is a major backer of Hillary's climb to the White House. As you would expect, it takes a lot money to write a bill so complicated that it insulates the very industry responsible for America's health care crisis.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Geronimo Does Not Rest

The great grandson of the legendary Chiricahua Apache warrior, Geronimo, has asked the President that the Yale secret society, Skull and Bones, return the bones of his ancestor so that they may be properly buried near his birthplace in the Gila wilderness. Harlyn Geronimo believes that the remains entombed in the club's headquarters are his great grandfather's. Legend has it that Geronimo's skull and bones were removed from burial at Fort Sill, Oklahoma by Prescott Bush, the President's grandfather, and others. The President is also a member of the secret organization. The White House has not responded to the request received last year. Whether the bones are Geronimo's or belong to another Native American prisoner of war, they should be returned for proper burial according to the tribe's customs. Granted an audience by newly elected Theodore Roosevelt, the war chief requested that he be allowed to die in his own country. He died at Ft. Sill in 1909. Surely he can go home now.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Italian Job--Revisted II

According to The Hill, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) is not interested in pursuing the circumstances surrounding the creation of the Niger Documents forgery. He prefers a "narrower perspective" as to how the discredited claims ended up in the Charlatan's State of the Union speech. I think that is a mistake because a pursuit of the circumstances surrounding the creation of the forgeries will reveal the culpability of sympathizers advancing the Vice President's case for war. Committee member Rep. Carolyn Maloney D-NY is correct to insist that committee investigators at least try to interview Rocco Martino, the Italian intelligence bag man who turned over the forgeries to a Berlusconi connected journalist who in turn gave them to U.S. officials. Italian intelligence sent the CIA a verbatim copy of the text in French in February, 2002. The actual documents did not come into CIA possession until October, 2003. However, they were not publicly debunked as forgeries until the IAEA received them one month prior to the invasion of Iraq. Stephan Hadley, then a deputy at the National Security Council under 'Condo' Rice, has refused to testify before the House Government Oversight committee. He took out language claiming the Niger connection at George Tenant's instruction from a presidential speech in 2002. Three months later the language was restored in the President's State of the Union address. Both Rice and Hadley have ignored committee subpoenas. Chairman Waxman's professed interest in why the discredited claim was resurrected will be answered ipso facto, once the creation of the forgeries is traced to it's source.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Good News from Borneo

Three nations, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia whose territories encompass the island of Borneo have agreed to preserve 85,000 square miles, about one third of the island, called "the Heart of Borneo". The remaining rain forest is threatened by unsustainable exploitation. The preservation agreement includes fostering sustainable economic use by indigenous people, but puts an end to a Chinese backed plan to create the world's largest palm oil plantation. The plan would have cleared an area of mountainous forest larger than the state of Connecticut. More than 400 new species have been found in the Heart of Borneo in the past decade. Thirteen primate species, 350 bird species, 150 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 15,000 species of plants live in the region. Recently a new leopard species was discovered there. The clouded leopard was determined to be unique species by DNA testing. A salute to these governments for taking steps to preserve this natural reserve of biodiversity so necessary to our survival as a species.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Enduring Occupation

Of the major Democratic candidates only one, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, really wants to withdraw all American occupation forces from Iraq within six months. All of the other candidates who currently hold public office have voted for legislation or made public statements that support the continued presence of American military personnel in significant numbers after our participation in the fighting ends. At the current casualty rate 5,000 Americans will be killed in the war by January 2009. But as many as 12 fortified bases will remain and be occupied by U.S. personnel at a cost of perhaps $5 to $7 billion a year. In Pentagonspeak they are called "enduring bases" rather than the more controversial "permanent bases". Whatever they are termed they are more than simply army camps. Besides post exchanges, movie theatres and fast food restaurants, one even has its own miniature golf course. The bases are part of the Regime's plan to leave behind a big enough U.S. military force to protect the oil fields if the Iraq central government collapses. The model for this enduring occupation of Iraq is South Korea where the American military has garrisoned personnel since the 1953 cease fire. Currently approximately 37,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea facing down the godless communists. There is even more reason to stay for six decades in Iraq.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Will Mitt Romney Become God?

Mitt Romney, the former Governor of Massachusetts, is running for President. For a former governor to run for the highest elective office in the land is not unusual. Romney is a Mormon, an endowed member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). Since John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, campaigned for the presidency in post modern times, a candidate's religious beliefs have been subject to public scrutiny. Many majority Protestants felt in 1960 they could not trust Kennedy to exercise independent leadership free of the suspected influences of the Vatican. Many nonreligious Americans today think the current President's fundamentalist Christian beliefs cloud his judgment. Polls indicate that perhaps thirty seven percent of Americans would not vote for a Mormon for President. Historically, the Mormon Church was ostracised for it's practice of polygamy, but that practice has been officially repudiated by orthodox Mormon leaders. The church's political isolation in the desert ended with Utah statehood. There were only eight Mormon temples in the late fifties, now there are over a hundred worldwide. The LDS is an immensely wealthy and influential religious organization in a country that is very religious. It exemplifies conservative, patriotic behavior and extols the virtues of family life. Yet many Americans apparently believe that a Mormon should not be President, and Mitt Romney has felt it necessary to defend his faith in public. Why do 'mainstream' Americans distrust Mormonism? The explanation may lie in the origin of doctrines that have been called "the American Religion".

If there is a religion that is quintessentially American, formed in its own culture and time, it must be Mormonism. Joseph Smith, the church's founding "prophet, seer, and relevator" was only a young boy living in Palmyra, New York when he experienced his first ecstatic vision around 1820. He experienced a second vision in 1823 when an angel named Moroni told him where to find golden plates on which was inscribed in an ancient language the Book of Mormon. The Book told the history of a clan of Israel that left before the destruction of the first Temple and wandered by boat to America. Christ appeared to this Jewish remnant in America after his resurrection and some were converted while others remained faithful to their Jewish traditions and some became pagans. The factions lived in peace for a century until a series of fratricidal wars exterminated the Christian believers, but not before they had hidden the Book of Mormon named for its last redactor. Smith was able to translate the "reformed Egyptian" inscriptions with the use of seer stones called "Urim and Thummin", reminiscent of the sacred stones used by ancient Israelite priests for divination and mentioned in the Bible. It was not the first use of divination tools by Smith. Considered clairvoyant, in 1822-27 he aided several treasure hunting groups as a "seer". This activity was known then as "money digging". He would use a seer stone such as the one pictured above to locate buried treasure by putting the stone in his hat and covering his face with his hat. He peered into the peep stone's interior until he divined the information he wanted. In 1826 the young Smith was brought into court on charges of being disorderly which inlcuded persons pretending to have a skill in divination. The judge found him guilty as charged. Several thousand copies of the Book of Mormon were published and the church was launched in 1830 with Smith at it's head. The Smith family has handed down through the generations other esoteric objects such as a ceremonial dagger and parchments covered with hermetic symbols. Objects such as these are used in ceremonial magic. On the night of his murder in the Carthage, Illinois jail by an enraged mob on June 27, 1844 he was wearing an amulet engraved with the symbol for Jupiter and a hermetic square. Before being shot, he is said to have given the Masonic hand signal for distress and repeat the code phrase, "Oh Lord, my God, is there no help for the widow's son?".

In the early 1980's a Salt Lake book dealer produced documents relating to the early history of Mormonism. The most controversial one of these was a letter purportedly written by an early disciple of Joseph Smith. The "Salamander" letter as it became known claimed that it was not the angel Moroni who revealed the golden tablets, but a mystical white salamander that transformed itself into a spirit. The find was so controversial and potentially damaging that the LDS began negotiations with the dealer to purchase and sequester the material. A Mormon historian involved in these dealings was murdered by a bomb. Forensic investigations determined the letter to be a forgery. However, the publicity surrounding the bizarre incident spurred intense historical study of the origins of Joseph Smith's singular revelations. These investigations soon brought to the surface Smith's and his followers' associations with magic, irregular Freemasonry, Kabbalah and traditions generally termed occult. More about these occult influences on early Mormonism and their significance for modern Mormons like Mitt Romney and his fellow Americans in another post.

Friday, June 15, 2007

District of Bizzaro XVI: Razzle Dazzle 'Em

I enjoyed Richard Gere's number in the musical "Chicago" when his character, a high powered criminal defense attorney, displays to his wide-eyed client the distracting theatrics of the courtroom. The Democrats are also trying to razzle dazzle the American public with their subpoenas and "symbolic" votes concerning the Justice Department firing scandal, but its not working. Attempting to have 'Gonzo' Gonzales fired for incompetence is the actual waste of time, and congressional overreaching. Only the President can fire his cabinet officers and he is not going to fire the intensely loyal Gonzales. This is not the first instance of an administration politicizing the Department of Justice, nor the last. The affair is another irrelevant turf war staged for media value. The Senate is hopelessly deadlocked because of the repeated use of the "nuclear option", as Republicans referred to the filibuster when they were in power. Failing to obtain cloture to advance the bipartisan immigration bill with presidential support, and refusing to cut funding for the war indicates how weak the Democratic majority in the Senate is. Congress' poll numbers are dropping as Americans become increasingly dissatisfied with it's lack of performance.

In the House, Speaker Pelosi continues to stand in the way of the what should be the real agenda of Congress: bringing the nation's Executive to account for the lies it told the country to obtain authorization for war on Iraq. Her justification that trying to impeach the Commander in Chief would divert energy from passing needed legislation has proven hollow and expensive. As Rep. Dennis Kucinich succinctly put it, "minimum wage for maximum blood". His bill, HR 333, to bring impeachment charges against the Vice President for his role in the deception gained another ally in Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA). Her endorsement is significant because she sits on the House Judiciary Committee and is in a position to request that the bill be placed on the committee's agenda for consideration. Chairman John Conyers sponsored his own impeachment bill, HR 635, in the last Congress that eventually ended up with 39 co-sponsors. But because he wanted the Judiciary Committee chair, he is not been willing to cross Nancy Pelosi so far. Thanks, Pat Oliphant for the 'toon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Oregon Unleashes the Dogs

Once again revealing its conservative rural underpinnings, the Oregon legislature passed a measure that allows bears and cougars to be hunted by dogs with state permission. Cloaked as a dangerous wildlife management measure, it passed the Democratic controlled legislature. There has never been a recorded human fatality caused by a cougar in Oregon. In reality the measure is a stealth trophy hunting bill that allows hunters with political connections to engage in a sport that is hardly sporting. Oregonians to their credit passed a referendum in 1998 that prohibited cougar hunting with dogs, but their will has been ignored by their representatives. Governor Ed Kulongoski claims to be pro environment, but seems poised to sign this cruel and unnecessary bill into law. If you live in Oregon and care about preserving it's remaining wildlife contact his office and tell him to send the bill back to the Legislature for reconsideration.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Brand America

Tony Blair's sour grapes attack on the British press is interesting for it lack of perspective. Certainly his criticism of lack objectivity and confusion between commentary and factual reporting has been made before to general agreement. But he totally ignores the use of the press by governments for public relation purposes. In an era of embedded reporters, selective leaks, and special relationships between reporters and their subjects its a foregone conclusion that the media is no longer objective or disinterested. It has become a tool of policy making.

Its rather redundant at this point to say the Iraq war was sold to Congress and the American people with little consideration for the truth of the accusations against the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. But Jeffery St. Clair at Counterpunch tells us some of the nitty gritty details of who was involved and how it was done. In his article Marketing an Invasion he identifies key Madison Avenue players hired to brand the war. Charlotte Beers was hired by Collin Powell as an undersecretary of state. Her claim to diplomatic expertise was two boffo ad campaigns for Uncle Ben's rice and Head & Shoulders dandruff shampoo. At the Pentagon, Rumsfeld hired Victoria Clarke as his director of public affairs. She had previously headed the D.C. office of the advertising firm Hill and Knowlton. She brought together PR experts and political fixers like Sheila Tate, Rich Galen, and Tommy Boggs on an advisory team referred to as the "Rumsfeld Group". This group gave the Pentagon "messaging advice". They advised that the Pentagon needed a fixed, identifiable enemy like a nation state in order to convince Americans the war was necessary and winnable. Since 50% of the gullible public still believes that Saddam was connected to the mainland terror attacks, the Regime's domestic PR campaign is one of the few parts of the war effort that worked. But the campaign, regardless of how sophisticated, would not have been effective without a complaint fourth estate. Read the article for more.

Good News from Sudan

Generally the news from Sudan is grim. The civil war that is raging in the Darfur region has taken the lives of uncounted thousands of victims. But from southern Sudan, which is relatively peaceful after a compromise was reached in 2005, comes good news. A wildlife survey, the first since the 1980's, shows that large numbers of herbivores have escaped destruction and are migrating in massive herds. These animals were thought to have been wiped out in decades of civil war. Conservationist Michael Fay conducted the survey. He says that the herds are even larger than the ones in the Serengeti and "could represent the biggest migration of large mammals on Earth". The aerial survey revealed that there may be more than 1.2 million antelope, gazelle, ostrich and other animals. Despite there numbers, they still need protection from poachers armed with automatic weapons, returning refugees and oil development. Thanks to Reuters for the photo of elephants in the Sudd wetlands.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Gas Guzzlers Anonymous

Every time I see a Hummer or Suburban roll by at 10 mpg I want to pull the driver over and give him or her a lecture on the critical need to change our wasteful energy habits. Probably all I would get for my efforts would be a response with the right hand like that Alabama legislator got. There is a better way to do something about global warming and foreign oil dependency. Require an increase in vehicle fuel efficiency. Despite advances in technology fuel economy standards have remained stagnant. Average fleet fuel economy has actually declined with the popularity of big SUVs. Nothing like wrapping yourself in tons of steel to make one feel secure in an age were feelings of security are hard to find.

A bipartisan group of senators introduced the Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act this year. The bill requires an increase in average fuel economy of cars, SUVs and pickups of approximately 10 mpg over ten years and an increase to 35 mpg by 2019. Automakers can meet these standards with available technology. The price of vehicle would increase some, but the higher price ($1,100 average) would be offset by fuel savings within three years or less depending on the price of fuel. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that by 2025 the U.S. could save as much oil as we currently import from the Persian Gulf and reduce global emissions by 358 million metric tons or the equivalent of taking 50 million of today's vehicles off the road. A Senate subcommittee has passed out a weaker version of the bill. Take action by calling your senators and asking for support of the bill as originally written. Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121

Eighteen More Months

To see what the Regime and its corporate masters have in store for the Rocky Mountain west, watch this disturbing trailer from the film, "A Land Out of Time". Once again the oil and gas industry, whose only ethic is the bottom line, (that's a younger Rumsfeld on the left) has their sights set on destroying the last wild places in America.

With a thirty percent approval rating, George W. Bushwack should do most of us a favor by resigning and go run Albania. They seem to like him there. On second thought, he should take Joe Leiberman with him.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Impeachment Now

If any president deserved to be impeached its the current occupant of the bunker at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. In what is probably an unprecedented and widespread effort from below, petitions to the U.S. House demanding impeachment proceedings against George W. Bushwack have been introduced in these states: California, Hawaii, Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Washington, Wisconsin and Vermont. Maine is the latest to join this distinction.

As the body count from the ridiculous 'surge' escalates in Iraq, and a delusional Commander in Chief utters inflammatory nonsense everyday, it is became increasingly hard for the House leadership to prevent a vote on the issue. Call the sympathetic Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative John Conyers (D-MI) and demand, "Impeachment now."

Weekend Update: The leaders of the House Congressional Progressive Caucus have signed on to Rep. Dennis Kucinich's HB 333 instigating impeachment proceedings against Vice President 'Darth' Cheney. Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee, Democrats from California have personally endorsed the measure. Four other progressive legislators have also endorsed. There is some political and legal sense in trying to bring Cheney to account first, although I continue to think that the President as head of government is responsible for his Cabinet officer's actions as well as his own. Cheney headed up the rogue intelligence operation located in the Pentagon that provided dubious data so the war could be justified to Congress. However, Cheney certainly did not develope this irregular procedure on his own authority. Call it sedition? I call it real patriotism, and we have company too. Fifteen state Democratic parties and 77 cities and towns have passed resolutions calling for impeachement. Take your government back by contacting your representatives in Congress and Chairman Conyers and demand, "Impeachment now."

An Oldie But Goodie: The Cold War

President Putin's statement that the current U.S. government is attempting to return to the Cold War has a ring of veracity. The GWOT is a wash out as a way of generating revenue for the military industrial complex. Its difficult to justify buying multibillion dollar weapon systems when your enemy drives a camel and carries a surplus AK. Taxpayers are completely fed up with the Iraq adventure, but they meekly payed for fleets of B-52s,nuclear subs and Minuteman missiles when the Soviet Union was the official, godless enemy of a righteous America for four decades. So a return to a nuclear standoff in Europe is as good a way as any to keep the government in expensive guns. Since the beginning of the decade defense spending has nearly doubled not counting spending on the current wars. Twenty eight big ticket weapon systems alone will account for $44 billion in 2008.

The rationale for putting unproven anti-ballistic missiles in Poland to defend against a non- existent Iranian ICBM is, as Putin said, laughable if were not so sad. What is left unexplained by the militarists is why the rich Europeans are not capable of providing for their own defence against the alleged threat. Apparently, the Europeans are not impressed by Iran as a security threat. The reason the Russians are so upset about the plan is that the system could just as easily be used against Russian missiles on there way to strike U.S. military bases in Europe should the unthinkable conflict ever become a reality. Russia has been dealt setbacks in prestige and influence since the end of the Cold War. It has watched nervously as it's Cold War adversary, NATO, advanced to the European border. The U.S. desire to place anti-ballistic missiles on it's doorstep and thereby dilute the deterrence effect of it's nuclear arsenal is one shove to many. Can anyone blame President Putin for not taking the Charlatan's word as a security guarantee, given his unilateral and unprovoked attack on Iraq? America's arrogance is sometimes frightening to behold.

Weekend Update: Blowing hot and cold on the Baltic coast the U.S. regime got it nervous Nelly ally, Poland, to restate its commitment to resuming of the Cold War. Within 24 hours it rejected an offer of a common approach to possible ballistic missile threats put forward by President Putin. He suggested basing a joint missile shield in Azerbaijan. Caught of guard by the suggestion, U.S. officials labeled it "interesting". But when meeting with the reflexively anti-Russian Poles, the Charlatan apparently rejected the friendly offer. Secretary 'Condo' Rice chimed in with an obvious remark that basing missile systems is "all about geometry". Duh, look at the map Ms. Secretary. Its clear the the triangulation of Flyingdales and the proposed site in Czech Republic is pointed directly at European Russia. The battery location on the Baltic coast of Poland at Gorsko is ideal for intercepting Russian ICBMs on course for U.S. nuclear bases in UK. A battery located in Azerbaijan would be closer to missiles leaving Iran, but less effective against missiles headed toward U.S. bases in Europe. Did Tony Blair get more than a medal for being a lap dog on Iraq? I think he got a commitment from the U.S. to shield Britain with an anti-ballistic missile system.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Election Special Tart

The Edwards campaign is offering a "slice of the pie" if you contribute to his campaign. I thought you might like my recipe for a strawberry-rhubarb tart, no contribution required:
Crust: 2 cups flour
1 stick butter (8tbls)
2 tbls sugar
2 tbls shortening
pinch salt
ice water
Filling: 2 cups cored & sliced strawberries
2 cups 1/2in diced rhubarb
3-4 tbls minute tapioca
1/4 cup sugar
lemon juice to taste
Preheat oven at 375F. Put dry ingredients into food processor, pulse until mixed well. Add cubes of butter and shortening while pulsing until mix is just crumbly. Slowly add ice water while processing until dough begins to pull away from sides of bowl. Pour out and knead by hand for about a minute. Do over knead or dough will be tough. Form ball and refrigerate while making filling. Mix fruit together in large bowl with sugar. Add tapioca depending on how firm you want your tart. (I like my firm.) Add a little lemon juice to taste. A few drops of vanilla extract is optional. Allow fruit to macerate for 15 minutes. Roll out dough into 10" tart pan with removable bottom. Fill crust evenly with fruit mixture. Bake approximately 45-50 minutes until filling is set and crust is gbd (golden brown and delicious). Cool on rack and serve a la mode.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Wolf Blitzer for President?

This chart from confirms my major impression of the Democratic candidate debate of last night. Moderator Wolf Blitzer was getting in the way. He gave himself more air time than six of the eight candidates. His schoolroom requests for a "show of hands" was condescending and his hypothetical questions were loaded. In short, his bias was showing. If CNN is attempting to fulfill its FCC mandate and perform a public service by devoting air time to the issues of life and death that face our nation, it should do viewers a favor and tell Blitzer to put a cork in it or have him declare his candidacy. Of the real candidates, I thought Gov. Bill Richardson gained the most from his participation.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Why We Cannot Win in Iraq

Another prominent British military officer, General Sir Michael Rose, former commander of U.N. peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and SAS officer made a recent public comment that there is no way coalition forces can win the war, and that forces should withdraw from Iraq. This is a view reaching consensus outside of official Washington because there is a belated realization among professional military men that military forces were deployed to Iraq without an achievable political goal. Military planners in the UK are preparing a one year withdrawal schedule to present to new Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The stated goals for the invasion have varied over time. "Regime change" toppled a secular dictator creating a power vacuum that has not been filled by an effective democratic government. Establishing a liberal, western style democracy in Iraq by free election was one of the stated reasons for the invasion. Such an outcome was highly unlikely given the historical pattern in the Middle East. Islamist parties won in Algeria in the 1990's and in Palestine in the 2000s. In place in Iraq is a popular theocracy whose limited national power is underwritten by Shia militia. Their goal is to oust the foreign occupation and eliminate from power their former oppressors, the Sunnis. Their goal is not national reconciliation. Despite U.S. requests, the Maliki government can do little to control them. By eliminating the Baathist regime, the U.S. guaranteed the rise of radical Islamic forces. The only functioning government within Iraq's boundaries is that of Kurdistan which has accomplished a de facto secession. The possibility of a fully independent Kurdistan is alarming Turkey because it has a large and restive Kurdish minority living in its eastern border region. The situation in northern Iraq is so tense that Secretary of Defense Gates felt it necessary to warn Turkey not to attack Kurdish forces. Making Iraq a front in the 'global war on terror' has been counterproductive. Saddam ruthlessly suppressed radical elements in Iraq and refused to entertain overtures by the master terrorist, Bin Laden. Iraq post Saddam is one of the main recruitment and training sites for terrorists, and they use the foreign occupation as an effective propaganda tool. Critics, including myself, think the invasion was largely driven by strategic geopolitical considerations. But controlling Iraq's significant oil reserves has not been accomplished due to the anarchy that reins in Iraq's southern oil region and the corrupt, disorganized reconstruction program. The central government still cannot reach agreement on the method of sharing oil revenue between it's three major factions.

To stay in Iraq for as long as the U.S. has maintained forces in South Korea is not a viable political or military solution. There is no guarantee that Iraq would not dissolve even with significant U.S. forces occupying their "Lilly pads" or the fortified permanent bases currently being built. American military analysts think that the U.S. military is suffering a slow melt down similar to what was experienced during the defeat in Vietnam. The pace of redeployments to the war zone is consuming men and material at a rapid rate. It may take many years for the Army and Marine Corps to recover their readiness ratings. British military thinker and former NATO deputy commander in the successful Kosovo campaign, General Sir Rupert Smith, says the true aim of military force in counterinsurgencies is to influence the intentions of the people. Thus, the battle for hearts and minds is not a complementary activity to the use of force, it is the main purpose of modern warfare. This is an inversion of what was war where the objective was to break the enemy's will to fight. In his view the use of force in Iraq is pointless, insofar as it never had achievable political goals.

This is not to say there are no effective counterinsurgency strategies. There are a few success stories. Over a period of thirty years, British governments conducted a two prong strategy against Irish terrorists. British officials treated the acts of terror, including an attempt to decapitate the government at Brighton in 1981, as criminal acts, not acts of war to be dealt with exclusively by the army. While protecting the government of Northern Ireland, Britain began a political process intended to engage sectarian factions so that a cease fire and power sharing arrangement could eventually be reached. Such a political process is impossible in Iraq now that regime change has effectively dismantled the state. Its equally clear that America's current position in the middle of a sectarian civil war is untenable. The recent increase in troop strength is not quelling violence but underlining the reality of failure. The U.S. succeeded in suppressing the Philippine Insurrection at the beginning of the last century. Famine, disease and a poorly equipped enemy aided our harsh efforts. The 'Injun Fighting' used then would be morally unacceptable and constitute war crimes now.

There is no easy exit from Iraq. Its not like Vietnam in this respect. There was an effective government in the north waiting to take over the south and unify the country after the Americans departed. Vietnam had a largely agrarian economy of small global significance. Iraq has no unifying government, and its oil resources are critical to global commerce. When Americans leave Iraq there will be a struggle for control of resources that may draw in proxy forces from Syria, Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. Whatever the outcome of that struggle is, we will have to accept it as part of our own doing.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Invisible Hand Revealed

James Cramer is a Wall Street type I could like. He tells it straight. A former hedge fund whiz, he now comments on the Street of Broken Dreams at his financial news site, and is host of CNN's Mad Money where he waves his arms and paces manically as he touts stock picks. This quote is from a video feature on the web site:
Who cares about fundamentals? Look at what people can do. The great thing about the market is that it has nothing to do with the actual stocks. Now look, maybe two weeks from now buyers will come to their senses and realize everything they heard was a lie...It's just fiction and fiction and fiction. I think its important that people recognize that the way the market really works is to have that nexus: hit the brokerage houses with a series of orders that push it down, then leak it to the press...It's a pretty good game, and it can pay for a percent or two.

District of Bizzaro XV: We Have Become Them

US and Russia relations have hit a new low reminiscent of the Cold War. Disputes over the future of Kosovo and the U.S. plan to install anti-missile systems in Poland and Czech Republic have soured the love affair between the Charlatan and Comrade Putin. Putin is accusing the U.S. of reigniting the arms race. It will take more than an invite to the Maine dacha to settle the differences to the satisfaction of a resurgent Russian bear.

Something else in the news reminds us of the terrible days of the Cold War. If its true that you end up secretly emulating your worse enemy, then the U.S. is no exception. Soviet interrogation techniques were closely studied by our armed forces so that they could train our captured pilots and other personnel to resist the techniques. Those methods of Soviet torture have been put to use in the so-called 'war on terror' against detainees at Guantanamo. According to a recently declassified report by the DoD Inspector General, SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) instructors were requested and sent to the gulag for training detainee interrogators. Several intelligence officers objected to the extreme methods, but their objections were ignored. The report says the techniques then "migrated" (the Pentagon has a way with words) to Iraq where they were also used to extract cooperation. In September 2003, a SERE team was sent to Iraq to evaluate interrogation techniques there. A government research panel recently found that torture does not produce reliable information, and one expert characterized the current efforts as "amateurish" compared to the more sophisticated psychological interrogation techniques used during WWII. Somebody should send the 325 page report to the Republican presidential candidates.