Friday, September 29, 2006

En garde!

Normally a rather docile creature, content to drift from lingerie emporium to chocolatier, your blogstress today, alas, finds herself in a position that requires the unsheathing of her mighty sword of rhetorical wit. This crusade arises from a very poorly executed attack on your Webwench by one of the resident liberal wags of Fox News Channel, who has accused your cybertrix of writing things she never wrote -- a trick more typically used by right-wing commentators. Herewith, your écrivaine's rebuttal:

With (the Christian) God on her side, who needs facts?

I don't find it particularly surprising that a Fox News commentator would resort to a factually challenged and misleading retort to an essay on Pope Benedict XVI's recent geopolitical mischief in the Islamic world. I did, however, find it a bit alarming to see that modus operandi employed at The American Prospect Online, by Kirsten A. Powers.

In her commentary, Who Should Apologize? (which includes an ostensible rebuttal to my essay, Benedict the Bombthrower), Ms. Powers misrepresents my work as a defense of the violence perpetrated by some Muslims in the name of God, and accuses me of blaming the U.S. for the murderous and abusive actions of Islamic theocracies. Hers is a tactic more commonly used on the right: State that someone said something she clearly did not, then berate her for having supposedly said it.

An honest rebuttal would have taken on my interpretation of the pope's speech, which is what my piece was about.



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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Parallel universe

Who knew that, in the land of liberals, there lives a pundit with designs on becoming the Ann Coulter of the left. At least that's how it seems. At The American Prospect Online, one Kirsten Powers uses your blogstress's essay on the pope's dastardly comments about Islam to falsely accuse, by implication, your Webwench of justifiying the violence conducted against women and Christians by Islamists and their leaders. But at no point does Powers thoughtfully address the central premise of your the point made by your cybertrix: that the pope's remarks were irresponsible, and designed to provoke the response they got.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Gingrich Plan

Among the many unsettling things your blogstress heard tonight from disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was a call for the imposition of a literacy test for parole from prison. From the podium of tonight's gala at the Family Research Council Action PAC Washington Briefing, Newt also seemed to call for Congress to shut down the 9th Circuit federal court. (That would be that troublesome group of federal judges located in San Francisco.) More tomorrow.

Bon soir, mes amis.

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Bauer launches presidential campaign
(At least that's how it looks to your blogstress)

What won't your blogstress do for her devotees? Today, for instance, she has been at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, feeling the hate pouring off the rostrum of the Family Research Council Action PAC "Washington Briefing" gathering for "values voters." (Don't all voters have values? Otherwise, what would be the point in voting?)

While there was so much more hate to report on than your cybertrix has energy for at this late hour (imagine Ann Coulter, L. Brent Bozell and Gary Bauer speaking from the same podium on a single day), it was Bauer who took the cake in the category of hard-core demonizers of his opponents. Most interesting was Bauer's swipe at Senator John McCain (R-Az.) for his refusal to accept the White House version of a bill that would have created unconstitutional tribunals for so-called "enemy combatants" that also would have permitted some forms of the "inhumane and degrading treatment" forbidden by Article Three of the Geneva Conventions. [McCain, together with Senators John Warner (R-Va.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) yesterday announced a compromise bill negotiated with the White House.]

What makes this all so interesting is that, in the 2000 presidential campaign, Bauer permanently lost his spot as head of the Family Research Council (FRC) when, after dropping out of the race himself, he threw his support to John McCain. (Your blogstress actually broke this story.) The rest of the religious right had thrown in with George Bush, and during the South Carolina primary, religious right leaders ran a vicious campaign against McCain, insinuating that he was the father of a black child. (Misegenation is apparently still a sin in South Carolina.) (The "black" child actually turned out to be an orphaned Indian girl whom McCain and his wife adopted.)

Tonight Bauer delivered a speech to his faithful that wreaks of a coming presidential run, one that would put him up against McCain in the Republican primary. Given his long absence from FRC events, and his sudden rehabilitation, one suspects that he may have been recruited for this job. No, he won't win, and your net-tête figures that he suffers no delusions of victory. What he will do, quite convincingly, is push McCain, the self-styled "maverick" -- or whomever should win the G.O.P. primary -- far to the right. Two years out, and it's already looking ugly.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Pressure mounts for arrest of CIA contractors
Identities revealed of men who abducted German

In the U.S., the top stories today focus on who's dissing us now at the big rectangle on the East River (a.k.a., the U.N.). In Germany, the top story also focuses on the U.S., but there the big news is the disclosure of the identities of three CIA contractors who abducted an apparently innocent man, Khaled el-Masri, from where he was staying in Macedonia, then beat him and shipped him to Afghanistan, where he languished in a secret prison for five months.

Because el-Masri is a German citizen, pressure is mounting on the German government to issue arrest warrants for the three, who, according to a European broadcaster, live in North Carolina. Spanish authorities are under similar pressure because the flight manned by the three originated on the Spanish island of Mallorca. According to Deutsche Welle:

[M]any journalists wonder why it is taking prosecutors [so long] to find out more about el-Masri's case. In an article on Thursday, the Süddeutsche Zeitung wondered why German legal authorities have been so hesitant about pursuing the issue.
"If the suspects involved were from Libya, then prosecutors would have ordered their arrest a long time ago," Green party politician Hans-Christian Ströbele told the paper.

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Between the devil and the Holy See

Did you think your blogstress had abandoned you, mes amis? Tsk, tsk; you should know by now that at times the work of a blogstress will demand her removal from the world -- yes, even her own blog in the virtual world we call cyberspace -- in order to prepare herself spiritually and sartorially for all that lies ahead. And so it has been that your Webwench has been hunkered down in the Oppo Factory, mitts deep in a box of bon-bons, nose buried in theology and history texts -- and fall fashion magazines.

The impetus for the history cramming was provided by those unfortunate comments about Islam uttered by the Holy Father from a podium in Germany. As for the fashion mags, well, your cybertrix hears that the pontiff does love Prada -- yes, the same Prada reportedly worn by the devil, whose identity, revealed this week by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, is shared by a man named George W. Bush. In case you missed it, Latin America's socialist standard-bearer took some time out yesterday from skipping down the halls of the U.N. hand-in-hand with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to give a speech to the General Assembly naming the leader of the free world as Lord of the Underworld. (Special thanks to Bassman Geoff Harper for delivering that info in real time to the breakaway republic.)

In the meantime, the Islamic world is a bit agitated, thanks to the utterances of Benedict XVI, who essentially used the words of a 14th century Christian monarch to denounce Islam as a religion founded on stolen ideas, save for its introduction of evil and inhumanity to the great religions of the world. Herewith, at The American Prospect Online, the result of your écrivaine's toil in the realms of substance and style.


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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ann Richards has left the building

My last memory of former Texas Governor Ann Richards, who died yesterday, was of her needling fellow Democrats -- who wanted to avoid talking about gay rights and appear unified at the 2004 party fundraiser at which she payed host:

“We are so unified,” said emcee Ann Richards, the former Texas governor, “that before their wives got wind of it, Joe Lieberman and Al Sharpton were on their way to San Francisco for a marriage license.” True to form, Richards, all wise cracks and cotton-candy hair, once again proved herself to be a character who, had she not existed, would have to be invented by a playwright with a queer eye...
That quote is from your blogstress's coverage of that event for the Washington Blade.

For more of your Webwench's musings on the the late doyenne of Texas politics, go to TAPPED, the blog of The American Prospect Online.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

More a protest than a clash?

NBC News

In response to your blogstress's musings on the great Clash of Civilizations published at The American Prospect Online on the 5th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, the mail is rolling in.

From the land of Tom DeLay (she notes with some irony), your cybertrix received this well-reasoned missive from a reader less cynical than she:

Dear Ms. Stan:

[Your blogstress loves it when they call her "Ms."]

I read your article at The American Prospect Online with interest, however, I do feel that we need to combat what I see as a fundamental misperception which is common in America and is actively promoted by the President and his minions.

In your fourth paragraph, your friend states “They hate our way of life…”

In the next paragraph you partially agree with her conclusion.

That is where I would disagree. If you want to know why we were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, I think it would be wise to ask the people doing the attacking; after all, who knows their reasons better than themselves? For a one-page summary of their reasons, I would suggest there is no better source than the fatwa issued by Osama bin Laden on February 23, 1998.

I believe that as long as we believe that our enemies “hate our freedom” or “hate our way of life” there is no possibility of negotiating with them. After all, how can we negotiate away our “freedom” or our “way of life”?

Furthermore, we constantly refer to our enemies as “madmen” or “fanatics”. Once again, it immediately follows that you cannot deal rationally (negotiate) with madmen.

I believe that those who want this conflict [to perpetuate] want to frame it in such a way as to preclude the possibility of negotiation, and that their rhetoric is designed with that end in mind.

Mark Steele
Sugarland, Texas

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Monday, September 11, 2006

The 5th Anniversary of 9-11
Just who does he think he is?

So the president once again used the tragedy of the September 11th terrorist attacks to justify every lie he's told to the American people, every transgression of the U.S. Constitution his administration has executed and unleashing of unspeakable violence on a nation of Arabs who had nobly endured the tyranny of the despot who ruled them, and the cruelty of policies intended to starve the despot out of office. Non, mes amis, your blogstress is not surprised by what she heard tonight from the Oval Office, but she finds herself nonetheless enraged.

Vying for most audacious line in his speech is the president's quoting of Osama bin Laden's description of al Qaeda's offense against the West as "World War III." Mr. Bush failed to mention the use more recent use of that description by one Newt Gingrich, the disgraced former Speaker of the House. Also in competition, however, is the president's appropriation of Gingrich's "clash of civilizations" scenario, and the disgraced speaker's contention that, in Bush's words, the "war...will not be over until either we or the extremists emerge victorious."

Once again, the president conflated the war in a Iraq with the U.S. response to al Qaeda's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, though, as Vice President Richard V. Cheney did, at last, yesterday on "Meet the Press," he did admit that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

Yet, your blogstress's favorite line in the speech was neither of those mentioned above. It was this: "We look to the day when the nations of that region recognize their greatest resource is not the oil in the ground, but the talent and creativity of their people."

Hello? How 'bout: "We look to the day when America and all of the West recognized that the greatest resource of the Middle East is not the oil in the ground, but the talent, creativity and historical legacy of its people."

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The 5th Anniversary of 9-11
Despising dissent

As I write, President George W. Bush is addressing America on the subject of the attacks of September 11, 2001. He defined the enemy that committed those attacks as one that "hates freedom, rejects tolerance and despises all dissent."

The same could be said of his own administration, no?

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The 5th Anniversary of 9-11
Clashing Civilizations

On this somber anniversary, your blogstress contemplates the ballyhooed clash of civilizations between the West and the Islamic world -- and concludes that the clash is real. Read it here, at The American Prospect Online.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

ABC to re-edit 9-11 mockumentary;
Scholastic pulls misleading classroom guide

The folks at Media Matters for America have apparently prevailed in their challenge to ABC's entertainment division for its politicization of the upcoming anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, prompting ABC to re-edit its docudrama, "The Path to 9/11," which depicts Clinton administration officials as dismissive of the threat posed by al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Media Matters also won the day with Scholastic Inc., which produced and distributed accompanying classroom materials that were misleading and contained factual errors.

Great work, folks!

Now, can anybody explain why the reputation of 9-11 commissioner Tom Kean, who served as a consultant to the project, isn't marred by this? Obviously, coming so close to the November mid-term elections, the presentation would likely have, whether or not by design, the effect of shoring up the Republicans' fear-mongering message. Kean's son, Tom, Jr., is challenging Democrat Robert Menendez for the U.S. Senate seat vacated last year by Jon Corzine, who now governs the great home state of your blogstress. It's a very tight race in a state where Bush's approval ratings are in the dumpster.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Clinton slipped a Mickey

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Even as the indefatiguable Brian Ross of ABC News broke a blockbuster story revealing the Bush administration's flexible standards for evil-doers in its so-called "War on Terror," the ABC entertainment division appears poised to enter the political fray on the side of the Bushies -- and against former President Bill Clinton and the Democrats -- in its dramatized depiction of the events that led up to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. That the docudrama, "The Path to 9/11," will air nationally less than two months before mid-term congressional elections in which national security issues will take center stage, shows the willingness of ABC honchos (note: ABC is owned by Disney) to throw in with the Republicans in a most blatant way.

If you have any doubt, mes amis, consider the fact that while Bill Clinton was denied a review copy of the mini-series, Rush Limbaugh and a handful of other right-wing commentators were visited by the review-copy fairy godmother.

Media Matters for America is doing a bang-up job on this story, covering the craven reporting of several newspapers about the miniseries, and breaking the story of an inaccurate and misleading study guide (PDF file), based on the ABC series, produced by Scholastic Inc., for distribution in schools. From Media Matters:

The ABC/Scholastic "Student Resource Sheet 1" omits key information, resulting in a distorted account of pre-Iraq war WMD capabilities; misleadingly suggests a tie between Iraq and 9-11; and minimizes the current role of coalition troops in the country.
Check out the "Take Action" feature on the Media Matters site to register your opposition to the show and the study guide. Oh, and your blogstress firmly advises that her devotees cancel those planned vacations to Disney World, Disneyland and -- Goddess forbid -- EuroDisney. (And you know what happens if you defy your cybertrix.)

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

St. Jude on the Night Train Express

St. Jude as he stands in the New Orleans Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe near Congo Square

On Rampart Street, just west of New Orleans's historic and sacred Congo Square, sits a sweet little Roman Catholic chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the image of the Blessed Mother Mary said to have appeared to a Mexican Indian on Tepeyac hill, just northwest of what is now Mexico City, in 1531. She is often referred to as the patroness of the Americas.

When Africans were brought as slaves to Louisiana in the early 1700s, they found it necessary to syncretize their native faith traditions with those of their European captors; it was the only way to keep their own traditions alive. This gumbo of West African and Roman Catholic practices gave birth to voudoun -- what we now call voodoo -- as well as the Brazilian tradition of candomblé, and the Latin American Santeria rituals.

As an icon, Our Lady of Guadalupe has a distinctly Mexican Indian appearance, right down to the anatomically-shaped halo that surrounds her goddess-like image. (Along the Gulf Coast of the 18th Century, Africans and American Indians formed a formidable alliance.)

A bit further along Rampart Street sits Congo Square, where Africans were periodically permitted to gather to play music. In the beginning the drum was the primary instrument, and it was with the drum that the essence of a particular spirit, or orisha, was called via the use of his or her particular rhythm. These are the rhythms that gave birth to all manner of American music, particularly jazz.

Back at the chapel, your blogstress found a setting unlike any she had ever known in a Catholic church. Over the altar hangs not a crucifix, but a beautiful, gold-embellished portrait of the Mexican Mother of God. The stations of the cross along the walls of the sanctuary reveal a brown-skinned Jesus. In the statuary grotto to the right of the altar, a more European depiction of the Blessed Mother, dressed in her customary blue and white robes, stands flanked by statues of two romanesque centurions. A small plaque notes the donation of the statues by the sheriff's department (apparently represented by the centurions).

In the grotto to the left, a forbidding statue of St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, stands, tongue of fire sprouting from his head. (This refers to his presence at the Pentecost, when each of the apostles were blessed with tongues of fire by the Holy Ghost.) Surrounding the walls of each grotto are 7-foot-tall racks filled with 7-day candles in brightly colored glasses -- red, gold, green and blue. These are left by devotees who petition the intercession of either St. Jude or Our Lady on behalf of their loved ones. It looks like Mardi Gras.

In West African traditions, gifts are left for one's patron spirit on the eve of calling him or her forth. These are often food and drink, sometimes flowers.

On the day I met St. Jude in the chapel, he bore a half-dead bouquet still in its plastic wrapper, which read, "Flowers Make the Difference." More flowers were strewn at the foot of the statue, along with an unopened bottle of Night Train.

It is estimated that in New Orleans, at least 20 percent of the people practice some form of voodoo. At least, that was the case before the 200,000 people who have yet to come back left in search of shelter in the wake of the storm.

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