Top 10 Christian Fails Of 2013


Top 10 Christian Fails Of 2013

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Watch as Christian idiots compete to see who can embarrass themselves the most in 2013. If you enjoy my work please support it by donating or picking up a shirt from my website http://www.cultofdusty.com . It really helps.

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Jewish Religious Cult Breeds Ignorance and Superstition; Haredi Middle Age Men Have An 8th Grade Education – Or Less


Almost 50% Of Israeli Haredi Middle Age Men Have An 8th Grade Education – Or Less

Haredi men walking

Haredi men have very poor educations, as the new State of the Nation report by the prestigious Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel shows. And that low educational level cripples haredim and makes it very hard for them to enter the workforce.

 

 

 

Haredi men education level Taub 2013

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In the chart immediately below, “great yeshiva” means yeshiva gedolah – a yeshiva with classes starting in 9th grade:

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The entire haredi section of the Taub Center’s report as a PDF file:

Download Taub EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT IN THE HAREDI SECTOR section of national report 2013

Orthodox Jew Connected To HASC And Yachad Busted For Child Porn


Orthodox Jew Connected To HASC And Yachad Busted For Child Porn

Roy Naim

An Orthodox Jew who is a nationally known activist for immigration reform was reportedly arrested on child porn charges and held without bail.

Roy Naim

Roy Naim

Orthodox Jew Connected To HASC And Yachad Busted For Child Porn

by Shmarya Rosenberg

An Orthodox Jew who is a nationally known activist for immigration reform was reportedly arrested on child porn charges Wednesday.

29-year-old Roy Naim was arraigned in Brooklyn federal court Wednesday and Naim pleaded not guilty to one count of receiving child pornography. He was ordered held without bond after an Assistant US District Attorney argued that Naim was both a flight risk – Naim allegedly has no real job and is not a US citizen – and a risk to the community, noting that he Naim works with a youth advocacy group and volunteers at a camp for children, CNN reported.

Naim is involved with several Orthodox and haredi children’s organizations including HASC (the Hebrew Academy for Special Children), Camp Simcha and Yahad, as well.
Naim’s attorney Richard A. Finkel reportedly argued that Naim should be granted bail, pointing out that Naim is a respected member of his community who volunteers for many charities and is a well-known activist on immigration. Finkel said that Naim did not work because he spent most of his time “helping others” and studying Torah with rabbis.

Finkel also claimed that Naim’s family, while hardworking, have little money and do not own any property.

Judge Joan M. Azrack refused to release Naim without money or property to offered to secure that release.

Naim immigrated from Israel to the US with his family 26 years ago but does not have US citizenship.

He was mentioned in a Time Magazine cover story on undocumented immigrants in June of last year.

In an online autobiography, Naim wrote that, “If you ask me what I want to do, I would say that I want to serve people. Volunteer work is what I live for.”

According to the indictment against him, Naim reportedly led federal agents who came to arrest him to his computer and told them he had been downloading and watching child pornography for several years, and that his a laptop had child pornography on it.

Naim could be sentenced to 5 to 20 years in federal prison.

Update 3:42 pm CDT 9-22-2013 – I’m told that from 2001 to 2006, Naim was a student at Ner Israel Yeshiva in Baltimore, Maryland, where he was a dorm counselor, as well.

Roy Naim LinkedIn

 

Roy Naim Facebook

Putin’s Unholy Alliance With Orthodox Church To Persecute Gays


Putin’s Unholy Alliance With Orthodox Church To Persecute Gays
by Susie Madrak

Vladimir Putin is not your typical head of state. He’s a thug, and Russia is a state run by gangsters. Frank Schaeffer, who (having grown up in the bosom of the Christian right) knows a thing or two about religious hate, writes about Putin’s unholy alliance with the Orthodox Church to persecute gays:

With the disgusting acquiescence of the Russian Orthodox bishops, Vladimir Putin has accomplished what Sarah Palin, Franklin Graham and Michele Bachmann could only dream of doing in America. He’s made it okay to persecute gay people people in Russia. Putin has built his power base of corruption and terror with the help of the religious and conservative elements of his society. He’s become expert at courting the alliance of the Russian Orthodox Church. And here in America conservatives are lining up to defend Putin. For instance, writing in The American Conservative,  in an article called Culture War Goes Global, (August 13, 3013) Patrick J. Buchanan writes:

As Father Regis Scanlon writes in Crisis Magazine, in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated Catholic doctrine that homosexuality is a “strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil,” an “objective disorder.” That homosexual acts are unnatural and immoral remains Catholic teaching.

Thus, if we seek to build a Good Society by traditional Catholic and Christian standards, why should not homosexual propaganda be treated the same as racist or anti-Semitic propaganda? …. “The adoption of Christianity,” declared Putin, “became a turning point in the fate of our fatherland, made it an inseparable part of the Christian civilization and helped turn it into one of the largest world powers.” Anyone ever heard anything like that from the Post, the Times, or Barack Hussein Obama?

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, took to TV to say that “liberalism will lead to legal collapse and then the Apocalypse.” On another occasion, he called Putin’s rule “a miracle.” When convening the heads and senior members of 15 Orthodox Churches for an unprecedented meeting at the Kremlin in the summer of 2013, Putin praised the moral authority of the church. “It is important that relations between the state and the church are developing at a new level,” Putin said in televised remarks, with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill by his side. “We act as genuine partners and colleagues to solve the most pressing domestic and international tasks, to implement joint initiatives for the benefit of our country and people,” he told the clerics.

Alongside Kirill, those present included Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria, Theophilos III of Jerusalem and Ilia II of Georgia. Also present were the heads of the Bulgarian, Serbian, Polish and Cypriot Orthodox Churches. Together they represented more than 227 million faithful.

To my knowledge not one American Orthodox bishop protested this meeting. I’m reminded of the silence of most of the German churches during the rise of Hitler.As a member of the Orthodox Church, in this case the Greek Orthodox Church, I’m ashamed.

Where are the voices of Orthodox leadership, not only in Russia but here, denouncing this awful man and the terror he’s unleashing against gay men and women? Putin has presided over show-trial prosecutions of political opponents and reformers. He’s used the full weight of his government against artists who mock religion. He’s encouraged the liquidation of crusading journalists who have been beaten and murdered. Putin and his government may have been directly involved in at least one such killing.

Now with the approval of the Russian bishops Putin is inventing a new enemy to distract attention from his fascist takeover of Russia: Russia’s LGBT men and women. As Adam Lee, a writer living in New York City points out in an article published byAlternet, Putin’s “parliament” passed increasingly draconian anti-gay laws. Russian activists have even been arrested for just holding up a signs reading “Gay is normal.”A bill now under consideration would take away children (both adopted and biological) from gay and lesbian parents. With the Russian Church, parliament and Putin saying that LGBT people aren’t fully human, homophobes in Russia are emboldened. The torture and murder of gay people, by gangs of skinheads assaulting gay-rights protestors in public, with the police looking on,is happening. And American evangelical Christians think this is all great. So, apparently judging by their silence, do American Orthodox church leaders.NOW American evangelical and Roman Catholic right-wing haters are climbing aboard the Russian hate parade .

Click back to Adam Lee’s Alternet story to see just how eagerly right-wing Christians are fanning the flames.

‘Sexual Jihad’ In Syria | Rise In Pregnancy


‘Sexual Jihad’ In Syria Cause Rise In Pregnancy Among Tunisian Women, Lawmaker Says

By

 

A number of Tunisian women have traveled to Syria to have sex with rebel fighters, a senior Tunisian politician said Thursday. The practice is known as “sexual jihad.”

The women “are swapped between 20, 30, 100 rebels,” Interior Minister Lotfi Bin Jeddo told an assembly of Tunisian lawmakers, according to Al Arabiya. “We are doing nothing and standing idle.”

“After the sexual liaisons they have there in the name of ‘jihad al-nikah,’ they come home pregnant,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse. (Jihad al-nikah is an Arabic phrase meaning “sexual holy war,” AFP explains.)

Jeddo did not specify how many Tunisian women have traveled to the embattled Muslim country.

A fatwa, or an Islamic religious ruling, was reportedly issued last spring, calling for women to travel to Syria to provide intimacy to jihadi fighters there, Al Monitor reported at the time. Although some said reports of the fatwa were false, Tunisia’s minister of religious affairs spoke out against the order, saying Tunisian women and girls were not required to obey it.

Why some women would obey such an order is less clear, but one expert suggests they may believe it’s an act of devotion.

“Muslim women prostituting themselves in this case is being considered a legitimate jihad because such women are making sacrifices—their chastity, their dignity—in order to help apparently sexually-frustrated jihadis better focus on the war to empower Islam in Syria,” writes author and Islam expert Raymond Ibrahim for The Investigative Project On Terrorism, a nonprofit research organization that studies jihad.

How I, an Australian Jewish-atheist, became a German citizen


How I, an Australian Jewish-atheist, became a German citizen

My identity is a conflicted mix that incorporates Judaism, atheism, anti-Zionism, Germanic traditions and Anglo-Saxon-Australian beliefs. I both routinely reject and embrace them all.

 

Dresden after bombing during the second world war
Dresden in 1945, after the Allies’ bombing. Photograph: Corbis

It was hard to forgive the Nazis. The “1,000 year Reich” lasted a mere 12 years, and the German state was crushed under the weight of bloody streets, genocidal concentration camps and despotism. For this to happen in the heart of apparently civilised Europe was unimaginable – especially for Jews who had often been fully included, and very often assimilated, members of society.

One of my relations fought on Germany’s side in the first world war. I’ve seen his grave in a Dresden cemetery, a city fire-bombed with spite by the allies in 1945. I was the first Loewenstein family member to visit the place after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I remember finding the street where my family had lived, unrecognisable in a sea of Soviet-inspired concrete. I used a pay phone and called my parents in Melbourne. We all cried, a silent recognition that our tragic Jewish story, sadly too common for words, began in a quiet and plain street in a deceptively normal German setting.

American writer Erik Larson’s stunning book In the Garden of Beasts, which profiles William E Dodd, the first US ambassador to Hitler’s Germany, gives a chilling taste of the seductive nature of German fascism. One of Dodd’s daughters, Martha, had her hand kissed by Hitler in 1933, and her father acknowledged “that Hitler was not an unattractive man personally.” This was the illusionary calm before the onslaught.

As a Jew born in Australia in 1974, I never imagined that Germany’s long shadow would envelop my adult life. In 2011, I became a German citizen while maintaining my Australian passport, due to a 1954 German law that allowed Jews to re-instate citizenship removed by the Nazis during their reign. I wanted citizenship for a few reasons, not least to honour my family that Germany once rejected, and to have the option of working freely across the European Union. 

Article 116 par 2 of Germany’s Basic Law reads:

Former German citizens who between January 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945 were deprived of their citizenship on political, racial, or religious grounds, and their descendants, shall on application have their citizenship restored. They shall be deemed never to have been deprived of their citizenship if they have established their domicile in Germany after May 8, 1945 and have not expressed a contrary intention.

The vast bulk of my European family were murdered during the war, and those who escaped were made stateless before they fled. The vibrant global Jewish diaspora that exists today is largely due to the rupture of Jewish life in the 1930s across a world that was far from keen to accept them. My grandparents left Europe in 1939 and arrived in an Australia that viewed Jews with suspicion. They said that Perth, where the ship first docked, was “primitive and without rye bread”.

The process of acquiring German citizenship has been a long journey that reveals the often tortuous relationships that continue to define Jewish identity in the 21st century. My father’s father, Fred, died before I recall having any serious conversations with him about becoming a German citizen. His attitude towards his birth country evolved to a point where I sensed he didn’t hate Germany, loved his adopted nation, Australia, but would not have even remotely considered re-acquiring his German citizenship.

My uncle, Herbert, also born in Dresden, is 93 and still alive in Toronto. For him too, re-acquiring his German citizenship was out of the question. He wasn’t even prepared to visit Germany until a few years ago – and then, it was because he was invited by the city of Dresden. After all, Germany had rejected our family, killed the youngest and oldest and changed the fate of our lives irrevocably.

My father, Jeffrey, was different. When I first mentioned the idea of obtaining a German passport many years ago, he dismissed the whole idea out of hand. It was not an unusual Jewish response, a visceral rejection of ever seeing Germany as a nation worth respecting and viewing us as Jews and equals. I protested his intransigence but it was futile (he had to obtain citizenship first before I was able to do so).

Over the years I would occasionally ask if his position had changed, and it took a long time for his opposition to relent. I continued reminding him that Germany had shifted, and was no longer a haven for Jew-hatred (though Neo-Nazis and the far-right remains a growing problem).

Finally, my father gave in and realised that becoming a German citizen was in no way endorsing the policies of former German governments, but a way to rightfully re-claim our birthright. My father had meticulously kept all the documents that the German consulate required. A process that officials said would take a few months took two years.

On 14 January 2011, I arrived at the German consulate in Sydney and waited until a senior official appeared. He congratulated me on becoming a German citizen and asked how I felt. I had tears in my eyes, unsure what to say, but I mumbled something about never imagining that Germany was again so keen to welcome me, as a Jew and atheist, into its heart. I also felt, but didn’t verbalise, that it was a personal victory against Nazism.

Today I feel neither German nor Australian. I hope my murdered ancestors would understand why I wanted to once again assume a German identity, or at least attachment to my pedigree as a fully-fledged member of German’s Jewish community. And yet I’m a non-practicing Jewish atheist currently based in Sydney.

Uncritical nationalism towards my birth country is impossible. I share human rights lawyer Julian Burnside’s despair at the Australian elite’s ability to unleash cruelty against asylum seekers and the dispossessed, and I question whether our settler-colonial state has ever really felt comfortable fully accepting the strange, the new, the remote, the other. Multiculturalism exists but its implementation can never be complete while politicians and media commentators divide a population by warning Australians that [insert minority group here] are a threat to our harmony.

My ostracism from mainstream Judaism is directly linked to Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians. For too many Jews, Zionism has become their main religion, and a God of intolerance is praised on a regular basis. When then Israeli finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a conference in 2003 that Israeli Arabs were a threat to the Jewish nature of his country (he said “If there is a demographic problem, and there is, it is with the Israeli Arabs who will remain Israeli citizens”) it should have been condemned as outright racism.

Instead, such comments are routinely expressed by senior Israeli officials and the world shrugs though. As leading American human rights professor and United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories professor Richard Falk said last week in Sydney, the Jewish state will increasingly face boycotts, sanctions and divestment so long as it oppresses the Palestinians.

A former head of Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, says in the Israeli film The Gatekeepers that “[We’ve become] a brutal occupation force similar to the Germans in World War II”.

This is what my people are known for around the globe. 

According to new Israeli government released figures, Jews are now outnumbered by Arabs under Israeli sovereignty by over 50,000 people. That’s segregation by definition. Israel learns nothing from history except how to brutalise the marginalised. Germany struggles to understand how it allowed itself to be overcome by 12 years of madness. Australia is a free nation that locks up refugees in remote and privatised detention camps, making a mockery of our “fair go” claim.

My identity is a conflicted and messy mix that incorporates Judaism, atheism, anti-Zionism, Germanic traditions and Anglo-Saxon-Australian beliefs. And yet I both routinely reject and embrace them all. It sounds exhausting but it’s actually invigorating. I never feel I belong anywhere. I can’t be a Jew, atheist, German or Australian without a bundle of caveats.

Perhaps that just makes me human.

Religious Right Zealot Blames Gays for North Korea Nuke Threat


Gays blamed for North Korea nuclear threat

 “A few weeks ago, we started listening to Rick Wiles’ “Trunews” radio program because we discovered that he regularly interviews a variety of Religious Right activists that we monitor here.  But since then, we’ve begun listening just because his show – “the only newscast reporting the countdown to the second coming of Jesus Christ” – is also a cavalcade of insanity.

And yesterday’s program was no exception, as Wiles’ grew increasingly worked up about North Korea’s latest threat against the United States, which he blamed on “gay rights fanatics”

Via Right Wing Watch

Atheists Face Extensive Discrimination, UN Rights Council Told


Atheists face extensive discrimination, UN rights council told

Humanist group raises concerns amid new efforts by Muslim countries in UN to ban denigration of religion

Pakistan protest over Muhammad caricatures

Atheists, humanists and freethinkers face widespread discrimination around the world, with expression of their views criminalised and even subject to capital punishment, the United Nations has been told.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) said atheism was banned by law in a number of states where people were forced to officially adopt a faith.

“Extensive discrimination by governments against atheists, humanists and the non-religious occurs worldwide,” said the union, which has 120 member bodies in 45 countries.

In Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan “atheists can face the death penalty on the grounds of their belief”, in violation of UN human rights accords, the IHEU said in a document submitted to the UN human rights council.

In several other countries legal measures “effectively criminalise atheism [and] the expression and manifestation of atheist beliefs” or lead to systematic discrimination against freethinkers, it said.

Three of the states on the rights council – Pakistan, Mauritania and Maldives – have legislation providing for death for blasphemy against Islam, a charge that can be applied to atheists who publicly reveal their ideas.

The paper was submitted as the council opened its annual spring session against a background of new efforts in the UN by Muslim countries to obtain a worldwide ban on denigration of religion, specifically what they call Islamophobia.

Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, told the council there was a “rising trend” of Islamophobia. “We condemn all sorts of incitement to hatred and religious discrimination against Muslims and people of other faiths,” he said.

This month a senior official of the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) said the body would focus on getting agreement on criminalising denigration of religion in coming talks with western countries.

Last November the head of the 21-country Arab League told the UN security council in New York that his organisation wanted a binding international framework to ensure “that religious faith and its symbols are respected”.

The IHEU and other non-governmental rights groupings argue that many Muslim governments use this terminology and the concept of “religious blasphemy” within their own countries to cow both atheists and followers of other religions.

A number of these governments “prosecute people who express their religious doubt or dissent, regardless of whether those dissenters identify as atheist”, the IHEU document said.

Islamic countries including Bangladesh, Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey had also stepped up prosecution of “blasphemous” expression of criticism of religion in social media such as Facebook and Twitter, it said.

OIC countries have 15 seats on the council, all from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, making up almost a third of the rights body.

Fly Lands on Obama, Theist Claims It’s a Sign of the Demonic One!


Does a fly landing on Obama prove he’s demonic?
Posted by: Right Wing Watch

After warning that President Obama may “declare himself as God” during his trip to Israel, TruNewshost Rick Wiles yesterday said that God is sending a plague of locusts to Israel as a “biblical sign” ahead of Obama’s visit.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Israel is covered with locusts when he arrives in Jerusalem in three weeks,” Wiles said. “How many biblical signs do we need to see to know that this man is evil?”

Wiles also agreed with the claim made by WorldNetDaily that a fly which landed on Obama may be proof that the President is “possessed by a demonic entity” and the return of the “biblical ‘Lord of the Flies,’ or Beelzebub, which is another name for Satan. “Each time I see the flies buzzing around him I think of Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies,” Wiles recounted.

Is it by coincidence that a swarm of locust from Egypt have [sic] moved across the border into Israel today just weeks before Mr. Obama’s arrival in the Holy Land? Tens of millions of locust have attacked Egypt in recent days. A plague of locust was one of the ten plagues that God used to punish Egypt for refusing to allow the Hebrew people to depart, the story is recounted in Jewish homes and synagogues each year at Passover. Passover begins at March 25th; Mr. Obama is scheduled to arrive in Jerusalem on March 20th. In recent months, Mr. Obama has been photographed with flies buzzing around his head or attached to his lip or forehead. Each time I see the flies buzzing around him I think of Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies. According to an ancient non-biblical manuscript supposedly written by King Solomon, Beelzebub claims to cause destruction through tyrants, to cause demons to be worshiped among men, to excite priests to lust, to cause jealousies in cities and murders and to bring forth war on the world. So think about it the next time you see a fly land on Barack Obama’s lip or forehead. I wouldn’t be surprised if Israel is covered with locusts when he arrives in Jerusalem in three weeks. How many biblical signs do we need to see to know that this man is evil?

BEHIND THE DICTATORS


BEHIND THE DICTATORS

Insightful, provides a clue to the seminal inspiration, real ideological and political force behind the rise of the Christo-fascist, American Religious Right!

http://archive.org/stream/BehindTheDictators#page/n9/mode/2up

Behind the Dictators

http://archive.org/details/BehindTheDictators

Fascism and Nazism as the political arms of Right Wing Catholicism

 

How Did Dov Hikind’s Career Survive His Purim Blackface Gaffe? Thuggery And Lies, Say Democrat Insiders


How Did Dov Hikind’s Career Survive His Purim Blackface Gaffe? Thuggery And Lies, Say Democrat Insiders

Dov Hikind in blackface Purim 2013

“Cross him and he’ll call you an anti-Semite and put you in the New York Post. In New York City politics, that’s something people are genuinely  scared of and he plays it. … It’s like identity politics, mixed with  money, mixed with intimidation.”

Dov Hikind in blackface Purim 2013 Dov Hikind, center, his wife, left, and son, right Purim 2013

Dov Hikind, center, his wife, left, and his adult son Yoni, right, Purim 2013

Politicker reports:

…[S]everal insiders we spoke with insisted Mr. Hikind was spared from a stronger reaction because of the unique power he wields on the local political scene.

One local political insider noted this isn’t the first time Mr. Hikind has courted controversy without facing lasting repercussions. In 2011, Mr. Hikind was one of the most vocal Democrats opposed to New York’s legalization of gay marriage. He bucked his party again this year when he suggested Jewish support for President Barack Obama was a “disease.”

“Can you imagine if somebody else had said that? What does that even mean right?” the insider said of Mr. Hikind’s comments on the presidential election. “People are not willing to stick up to him. Internally, everyone realizes he’s a dirtbag, we’re just not going to say that because that’s the game we play.”

A Brooklyn politico told us political figures running for citywide office are reluctant to take on Mr. Hikind because they fear “retribution” from a man who’s seen as “the gatekeeper of Orthodox Brooklyn.”

“If this were another Assemblyman what would happen here? A three-car pileup of city officials denouncing his actions,” they said of the costume incident before citing names of several elected officials who hadn’t weighed in on the flap.

The local political insider listed several factors as contributing to Mr. Hikind’s strength including his status as a perceived “kingmaker” in Brooklyn’s Orthodox community, his large war chest and his past association with the militant Jewish Defense League, which has been described by the FBI as “right-wing terrorist group.”

“It’s a number of things, one, he has created a perception that he is a power broker who can actually deliver and, in a city where fewer and fewer political machines are relevant, this hits home. People really are afraid to go up against him,” the insider said of Mr. Hikind. “Number two, he’s amassed an awful lot of campaign cash. … Thirdly, he’s like genuinely a scary dude. He’s connected with quasi-terrorist organizations that have been investigated by the FBI and he’s the kind of guy that can flip on you at any moment. He operates in this sort of mysterious, shadowy way up in Albany.”
Mr. Hikind’s Assembly district encompasses the neighborhoods of Borough Park and Midwood, two major components of the city’s Orthodox community. Last year, he was re-elected by defeating his lone opponent in the district 94 percent to six percent. He received over 19,000 votes in that effort, an impressive total in a city where the last mayoral election was decided by about 50,000 votes.

All of the sources we spoke with speculated the impression of Mr. Hikind as an influencer in the Orthodox community might be, as the Brooklyn politico put it, “overblown.” Indeed, some Orthodox insiders privately told us Mr. Hikind’s reputation as a power broker in the community is largely a myth because the younger generation of Orthodox Jews is less beholden to old institutional forces. However, the perception of Mr. Hikind  as a key Orthodox power player clearly persists on the political scene.

In addition to the idea Mr. Hikind influences a solid base in the Orthodox community, the insider described his role as a visible figurehead in the city’s wider Jewish community as a major source of his strength. Mr. Hikind hosts his own show on a local Jewish radio station and is always among the first and loudest officials to speak out on issues seen as affecting the community and instances of discrimination against Jews.

“He really does the Jewish thing very, very effectively,” said the insider. “Cross him and he’ll call you an anti-Semite and put you in the New York Post. In New York City politics, that’s something people are genuinely scared of and he plays it. … It’s like identity politics, mixed with money, mixed with intimidation.”…

Suppressed News | Mystery Suicide of Alleged Mossad Spy


Alleged Mossad Spy Jailed For Treason Had Chabad Connection

Ben Zygier

Ben Zygier, the alleged Mossad spy who was imprisoned in Israel under intense secrecy – allegedly because he acted as a double agent for another country – had a Chabad connection. The 34-year-old native Australian known to the world as “Prisoner X” is said to have committed suicide in his supposedly suicide-proof cell in a suicide-proof Israeli prison in December 2010.

Ben Zygier

Ben Zygier
The Age reports:

…[Ben] Zygier grew up in the comfortable suburb of Malvern, and  attended  Chabad House, a synagogue  near the confluence of well-heeled Toorak and Kooyong. It is the congregation of (among others) retail billionaire  Solomon Lew. A bright and studious learner, he went to Wesley College  and then Bialik College, graduating from the latter in 1993. He  completed a law degree at Monash  in 2001, and later began an MBA at the same university. He started articles at law firm Deacons (now Norton  Rose) in 2001, became a junior lawyer there and left in 2002. But these  are the places – not the person.…

OVER the past week, two portraits have emerged of the man called ”Prisoner  X”.

In one, we have a purported Mossad agent under investigation by ASIO for his  work as an Israeli spy, a dual citizen with multiple  aliases    charged with  unknown offences (perhaps treason), and who died alone  in the cell of a maximum  security prison in Israel one week after his 34th birthday. It is a picture made  murky by official obfuscation and confidentiality.

The other mosaic of the man  is of blue-eyed Melbourne boy Ben Zygier, son of  Geoffrey and Louise, brother of Tully. This image is  also shrouded, only this  time  because Melbourne’s Jewish community has closed ranks, partially out of  respect for a traumatised family and partially because so much is unknown.

Zygier grew up in the comfortable suburb of Malvern, and  attended Chabad  House, a synagogue  near the confluence of well-heeled Toorak and Kooyong. It is  the congregation of (among others) retail billionaire Solomon Lew. A bright and  studious learner, he went to Wesley College and then Bialik College, graduating  from the latter in 1993. He completed a law degree at Monash  in 2001, and later  began an MBA at the same university. He started articles at law firm Deacons  (now Norton Rose) in 2001, became a junior lawyer there and left in 2002. But  these are the places – not the person.

Patrick Durkin, a journalist with The Australian Financial Review,  completed his articles with Zygier. This week he remembered an open and engaged  friend  who  enjoyed recounting ”his famous story of taking a bullet in the  posterior during his military service in Israel”. He recalled an informal   footy tournament where ”five-foot something Ben dominated on the ball”, but  also cerebral debates on the Israel-Palestine conflict with ”a serious young  man who was largely aloof from the rest of our tight-knit group”.

The only person in the Jewish community to speak publicly  has been family  friend Henry Greener,  who described Zygier as ”one of the top kids in  Melbourne”.

”He did all of the things that we all did. He wasn’t a loner. He was part of  the social world, but not excessively,” Greener said. ”He was the nicest kid  that I knew. When he saw me he would give me a big hug. We’re all still gutted.  We know that he died under suspicious circumstances, and there’s nothing you can  do, and that’s the biggest frustration.”

Other friends, speaking on condition of anonymity, called him  ”sweet”,  ”focused”, ”serious, but with a joking side”, ”committed to anything he  did”, ”super intelligent” and with a wide circle of mates – one of whom noted  that the community was shocked, confused and ”genuinely concerned and disturbed  for his family, and hope that this will be resolved and understood. It’s a world  quite removed from us.”

Oscar Prints the Legend of Argo


Oscar Prints the Legend: Argo’s Upcoming Academy Award and the Failure of Truth

  One year ago, after his breathtakingly beautiful Iranian drama, “A Separation,” won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, writer/director Asghar Farhadi delivered the best acceptance speech of the night.

“[A]t the time when talk of war, intimidation, and aggression is exchanged between politicians,” he said, Iran was finally being honored for “her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics.” Farhadi dedicated the Oscar “to the people of my country, a people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment.”

Such grace and eloquence will surely not be on display this Sunday, when Ben Affleck, flanked by his co-producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov, takes home the evening’s top prize, the Best Picture Oscar, for his critically-acclaimed and heavily decorated paean to the CIA and American innocence, “Argo.”
Over the past 12 months, rarely a week – let alone month – went by without new predictions of an ever-imminent Iranian nuclear weapon and ever-looming threats of an American or Israeli military attack. Come October 2012, into the fray marched “Argo,” a decontextualized, ahistorical “true story” of Orientalist proportion, subjecting audiences to two hours of American victimization and bearded barbarians, culminating in popped champagne corks and rippling stars-and-stripes celebrating our heroism and triumph and their frustration and defeat.  Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir aptly described the film as “a propaganda fable,” explaining as others have that essentially none of its edge-of-your-seat thrills or most memorable moments ever happened.  O’Hehir sums up:

The Americans never resisted the idea of playing a film crew, which is the source of much agitation in the movie. (In fact, the “house guests” chose that cover story themselves, from a group of three options the CIA had prepared.) They were not almost lynched by a mob of crazy Iranians in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, because they never went there. There was no last-minute cancellation, and then un-cancellation, of the group’s tickets by the Carter administration. (The wife of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor had personally gone to the airport and purchased tickets ahead of time, for three different outbound flights.) The group underwent no interrogation at the airport about their imaginary movie, nor were they detained at the gate while a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard telephoned their phony office back in Burbank. There was no last-second chase on the runway of Mehrabad Airport, with wild-eyed, bearded militants with Kalashnikovs trying to shoot out the tires of a Swissair jet.

One of the actual diplomats, Mark Lijek, noted that the CIA’s fake movie “cover story was never tested and in some ways proved irrelevant to the escape.” The departure of the six Americans from Tehran was actually mundane and uneventful.  “If asked, we were going to say we were leaving Iran to return when it was safer,” Lijek recalled, “But no one ever asked!…The truth is the immigration officers barely looked at us and we were processed out in the regular way. We got on the flight to Zurich and then we were taken to the US ambassador’s residence in Berne. It was that straightforward.”

Furthermore, Jimmy Carter has even acknowledged  that “90% of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the  plan was Canadian [while] the movie gives almost full credit to the  American CIA…Ben Affleck’s character in the film was only in Tehran a  day and a half and the real hero in my opinion was Ken Taylor, who was  the Canadian ambassador who orchestrated the entire process.”

Taylor himself recently remarked that “Argo” provides a myopic representation of both Iranians and their revolution, ignoring their “more hospitable side and an intent that they were looking for some degree of justice and hope and that it all wasn’t just a violent demonstration for nothing.”
“The amusing side, Taylor said, “is the script writer in Hollywood had no idea what he’s talking about.”

O’Hehir perfectly articulates the film’s true crime, its deliberate exploitation of “its basis in history and its mode of detailed realism to create something that is entirely mythological.” Not only is it “a trite cavalcade of action-movie clichés and expository dialogue,” but “[i]t’s also a propaganda movie in the truest sense, one that claims to be innocent of all ideology.”

Such an assessment is confirmed by Ben Affleck’s own comments about the film.  In describing “Argo” to Bill O’Reilly, Affleck boasted, “You know, it was such a great story. For one thing, it’s a thriller. It’s actually comedy with the Hollywood satire. It’s a complicated CIA movie, it’s a political movie. And it’s all true.”  He told Rolling Stone that, when conceiving his directorial approach, he knew he “absolutely had to preserve the central integrity and truth of the story.”

“It’s OK to embellish, it’s OK to compress, as long as you don’t  fundamentally change the nature of the story and of what happened,” Affleck has remarked, even going so far as to tell reporters at Argo’s BFI London Film Festival premier, “This movie is about this story that took place, and it’s true, and I go to pains to contextualize it and to try to be even-handed in a way that just means we’re taking a cold, hard look at the facts.”

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Affleck went so far as to say, “I tried to make a movie that is absolutely just factual. And that’s another reason why I tried to be as true to the story as possible — because I didn’t want it to be used by either side. I didn’t want it to be politicized internationally or domestically in a partisan way. I just wanted to tell a story that was about the facts as I understood them.”
For Affleck, these facts apparently don’t include understanding why the American Embassy in Tehran was overrun and occupied on November 4, 1979.  “There was no rhyme or reason to this action,” Affleck has insisted, claiming that the takeover “wasn’t about us,” that is, the American government (despite the fact that his own film is introduced by a fleeting – though frequently inaccurate1 – review of American complicity in the Shah’s dictatorship).

Wrong, Ben.  One reason was the fear of another CIA-engineered coup d’etat like the one perpetrated in 1953 from the very same Embassy. Another reason was the admission of the deposed Shah into the United States for medical treatment and asylum rather than extradition to Iran to face charge and trial for his quarter century of crimes against the Iranian people, bankrolled and supported by the U.S. government.  One doesn’t have to agree with the reasons, of course, but they certainly existed.

Just as George H.W. Bush once bellowed after a U.S. Navy warship blew an Iranian passenger airliner out of the sky over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 Iranian civilians, “I’ll never apologize for the United States of America. Ever. I don’t care what the facts are.”  Affleck appears inclined to agree.

If nothing else, “Argo” is an exercise in American exceptionalism – perhaps the most dangerous fiction that permeates our entire society and sense of identity.  It reinvents history in order to mine a tale of triumph from an unmitigated defeat.  The hostage crisis, which lasted 444 days and destroyed an American presidency, was a failure and an embarrassment for Americans.  The United States government and media has spent the last three decades tirelessly exacting revenge on Iran for what happened.

“Argo” recasts revolutionary Iranians as the hapless victims of American cunning and deception.  White Americans are hunted, harried and, ultimately courageous and free.  Iranians are maniacal, menacing and, in the end, infantile and foolish.  The fanatical fundamentalists fail while America wins. USA -1, Iran – 0.  Yet, “Argo” obscures the unfortunate truth that, as those six diplomats were boarding a plane bound for Switzerland on January 28, 1980, their 52 compatriots would have to wait an entire year before making it home, not as the result of a daring rescue attempt, but after a diplomatic agreement was reached.
Reflecting on the most troubled episodes in American history is a time-honored cinematic tradition. There’s a reason why the best Vietnam movies are full of pain, anger, anguish and war crimes.  By contrast,

“Argo” is American catharsis porn; pure Hollywood hubris.  It is pro-American propaganda devoid of introspection, pathos or humility and meant to assuage our hurt feelings.  In “Argo,” no lessons are learned by revisiting the consequences of America’s support for the Pahlavi monarchy or its creation and training of SAVAK, the Shah’s vicious secret police.

On June 11, 1979, months before the hostage crisis began, the New York Times published an article by writer and historian A.J. Langguth which recounted revelations relayed by a former American intelligence official regarding the CIA’s close relationship with SAVAK.  The agency had “sent an operative to teach  interrogation methods to SAVAK” including “instructions in torture, and the techniques were  copied from the Nazis.”  Langguth wrestled with the news, trying to figure out why this had not been widely reported in the media.  He came to the following conclusion:

We – and I  mean we as Americans – don’t believe it. We can read the accusations,  even examine the evidence and find it irrefutable. But, in our hearts,  we cannot believe that Americans have gone abroad to spread the use of  torture.
We can believe that public officials with  reputations for brilliance can be arrogant, blind or stupid. Anything  but evil. And when the cumulative proof becomes overwhelming that our  representatives in the C.I.A. or the Agency for International  Development police program did in fact teach torture, we excuse  ourselves by vilifying the individual men.

Similarly, at a time when the CIA is waging an illegal, immoral, unregulated and always expanding drone execution program, the previous administration’s CIA kidnappers and torturers are protected from prosecution by the current administration, and leaked State Department cables reveal orders for U.S. diplomats to spy on United Nations officials, it is surreal that such homage is being paid to that very same organization by the so-called liberals of the Tinsel Town elite.

Upon winning his Best Director Golden Globe last month, Ben Affleck obsequiously praised the “clandestine service as well as the foreign service that is making sacrifices on behalf of the American people everyday [and] our troops serving over seas, I want to thank them very much,” a statement echoed almost identically by co-producer Grant Heslov when “Argo” later won Best Drama.

This comes as no surprise, considering Affleck had previously described “Argo” as “a tribute” to the “extraordinary, honorable people at the CIA” during an interview on Fox News.
The relationship between Hollywood and the military and intelligence arms of the U.S. government have long been cozy.  “When the CIA or the Pentagon says, ‘We’ll help you, if you play ball  with us,’ that’s favoring one form of speech over another. It becomes  propaganda,” David Robb, author of “Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies” told The Los Angeles Times. “The danger for filmmakers is that their product —  entertainment and information — ends up being government spin.”

Awarding “Argo” the Best Picture Oscar is like Barack Obama winning a Nobel Peace Prize: an undeserved accolade fawningly bestowed upon a dubious recipient based on a transparent fiction; an award for what never was and never would be and a decision so willfully naïve and grotesque it discredits whatever relevance and prestige the proceedings might still have had.*
So this Sunday night, when “Argo” has won that coveted golden statuette, it will be clear that we have yet again been blinded by the heavy dust of politics and our American mantra of hostility and resentment will continue to inform our decisions, dragging us closer and closer to the abyss.
***** ***** *****
* Yes, in this analogy, the equivalent of Henry Kissinger is obviously 2004’s dismal “Crash.”
*****
1 The introduction of “Argo” is a dazzingly sloppy few minutes of caricatured history of Iran, full of Orientalist images of violent ancient Persians (harems and all), which gets many basic facts wrong.  In fact, it is shocking this intro made it to release as written and recorded.

Here are some of the problems:
1. The voiceover narration says, “In 1950, the people of Iran elected Mohammad Mossadegh, the secular democrat, Prime Minister.  He nationalized British and U.S. petroleum holdings, returning Iran’s oil to its people.”

Mossadegh was elected to the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) in 1944. He did not become Prime Minister until April 1951 and was not “elected by the people of Iran.” Rather, he was appointed to the position by the representatives of the Majlis.

Also, the United States did not have petroleum interests in Iran at the time.

2. After briefly describing the 1953 coup, the narrator says Britain and the United States “installed Reza Pahlavi as Shah.”

Wow. First, the Shah’s name was not Reza Pahlavi. That is his father’s (and son’s) name. Furthermore, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was not installed as Shah since had already been Shah of Iran since September 1941, after Britain and the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Iran and forced the abdication of his father, Reza Shah Pahlavi.
During the coup in 1953, the Shah fled to Baghdad, then Rome. After Mossadegh had been forced out, the Shah returned to the Peacock Throne.

This is not difficult information to come by, and yet the screenwriter and director of “Argo” didn’t bother looking it up. And guess what? Ben Affleck actually majored in Middle East Studies in college. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t graduate.

The rest of the brief intro, while mentioning the torture of SAVAK, glosses over the causes of the revolution, but lingers on the violence that followed.  As it ends, the words “Based on a True Story” appear on the screen. The first live action moment we see in “Argo” is of an American flag being burned.

So much for Affleck’s insistence that “Argo” is “not a political movie.”

Still, as Kevin B. Lee wrote in Slate last month, “This opening may very well be the reason why critics have given the film credit for being insightful and progressive—because nothing that follows comes close, and the rest of the movie actually undoes what this opening achieves.”

He continues,

Instead of keeping its eye on the big picture of revolutionary Iran, the film settles into a retrograde “white Americans in peril” storyline. It recasts those oppressed Iranians as a raging, zombie-like horde, the same dark-faced demons from countless other movies— still a surefire dramatic device for instilling fear in an American audience. After the opening makes a big fuss about how Iranians were victimized for decades, the film marginalizes them from their own story, shunting them into the role of villains. Yet this irony is overshadowed by a larger one: The heroes of the film, the CIA, helped create this mess in the first place. And their triumph is executed through one more ruse at the expense of the ever-dupable Iranians to cap off three decades of deception and manipulation.

And brilliantly concludes,

Looking at the runaway success of this film, it seems as if critics and audiences alike lack the historical knowledge to recognize a self-serving perversion of an unflattering past, or the cultural acumen to see the utterly ersatz nature of the enterprise: A cast of stock characters and situations, and a series of increasingly contrived narrow escapes from third world mobs who, predictably, are never quite smart enough to catch up with the Americans. We can delight all we like in this cinematic recycling act, but the fact remains that we are no longer living in a world where we can get away with films like this—not if we want to be in a position to deal with a world that is rising to meet us. The movies we endorse need to rise to the occasion of reflecting a new global reality, using a newer set of storytelling tools than this reheated excuse for a historical geopolitical thriller.

*****
UPDATE: February 25, 2013 – On the heels of Oscar Night’s unsurprising coda (made all the more bizarre by the inclusion of Michelle Obama, surrounded by awkward-looking military personnel, presenting the Best Picture to “Argo” from the White House, providing a deeply disturbing governmental imprimatur to the entire proceedings), The Los Angeles Times published a report Monday morning about how “Argo” is being perceived in Iran by Iranians themselves.
The conclusion is clear from the headline: ‘Argo’s’ Oscar gets a thumbs-down in Iran. Journalists Ramin Mostaghim and Patrick J. McDonnell quote several Iranians who have seen the movie, bootlegs of which are widely available, all of whom clearly have a better grasp on, not only the politics, but also the art (or lack thereof) of cinema itself.  “The perception that the film portrayed Iranians uniformly as bearded, violent fanatics rankled many who recall that Iran’s 1979 revolution had both secular and religious roots — and ousted a dictatorial monarch, the shah of Iran, reviled as a corrupt and brutal puppet of Washington,” Mostaghim and McDonnel explain.  Here’s what we hear from Iranians themselves:

“I am secular, atheist and not pro-regime but I think the film ‘Argo’ has distorted history and insulted Iranians,” said Hossain, a cafe owner worried about business because of customers’ lack of cash in a sanctions-battered economy. “For me, it wasn’t even a good thriller.”

“I did not enjoy seeing my fellow countrymen and women insulted,” said Farzaneh Haji, an educated homemaker and fan of romantic movies who was 18 at the time of the revolution. “The men then were not all bearded and fanatical. To be anti-American was a fashionable idea among young people across the board. Even non-bearded and U.S.-educated men and women were against American imperialism.”

“As an action film or thriller, the film was good, but it was not believable, especially the way the six Americans escaped from the airport,” said Farshid Farivar, 49, a Hollywood devotee, as he stretched his legs in an office where he does promotional work. “At any rate, it was an average film and did not deserve an Oscar.”

The piece ends with the reporters speaking with Abbas Abdi, one of the revolutionary students who planned the seizure of the American Embassy in 1979 and who spent some time in prison a decade ago for criticisms of the Iranian government:

In a brief telephone interview on Monday, Abdi said the Oscars had plummeted to the feeble level of Iran’s own Fajr Film Festival, not exactly one of the luminaries on the international movie awards circuit.
“The Oscars are now vulgar and have standards as low as our own film festival,” he said. “The Oscars deserve ‘Argo’ and ‘Argo’ deserves the Oscars.”

USA Today also has an Oscar follow-up entitled, “Tourists see a different Iran reality than ‘Argo’ image,” which details the warmth, generosity and hospitality of Iranians experienced by travelers when visiting Iran.

“Argo, Fuck Yourself”


Manipulating History to Suit an Insidious Anti-Iran Agenda
“Argo, Fuck Yourself”
by KIM NICOLINI

I have to admit that the numerous times I saw the trailer for Ben Affleck’s Argo (too many to count!), I wasn’t very enthusiastic about it. I wondered who the hell would want to watch this movie about the 1979 Iran hostage crisis as seen through a Hollywood-CIA covert operation. I tend to enjoy historical movies, but this one just looked so weird, scattered and unsure of its message. After seeing it the other night, I can say that while the movie is indeed a little weird, it is far from scattered. Its message is pretty clear and insidious. In fact, Argo is so un-scattered and linear that it is boring while also being politically dubious.

I checked out the reviews of the film before deciding to watch it. Metacritic turns up with an astonishing number of 100s from all the main press, and Rottentomatoes gives the film a 95% positive rating. I thought that maybe my initial impressions from the trailer were wrong.  Given the overwhelming positive responses to the film, maybe Argo really is a good movie. So I went to see it. I should have trusted my initial instincts. As a movie, Argo is a total dud. Besides the fact that it is an exercise in problematic revisionist history, it’s just a crappy movie. I’m fine with using historical material to create a movie that is not wedded to being accurate, but at least the movie should be good, interesting or entertaining. Argo is none of these things. It is a crappy movie with an insidious political agenda. It turns a fascinating “real historical event” into a lousy and tedious screenplay. It is so wedded to its CIA-Hollywood patriotic narrative that the film completely lacks complexity and tension. Its tiresome linear progression mirrors the film’s “Middle of the Road” politics and ultimately left me both bored and bugged at the same time.

The movie is based loosely on real events: Tony Mendez’s account of the historical rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Tehran. “Loosely” certainly is the operative word here. Argo is a piece of cinematic revisionist history if ever there was one. Not only did I find the movie incredibly dull in its exceptionally linear narrative perspective of these historical events, but I was also more than a little annoyed by its historical manipulation.

For me, the only “good” thing about the movie was how it used the cinematic medium to recreate a historical time – 1979. Certainly Affleck’s recreation of history is visually accurate.  If you’re interested in indulging in Set Detail and Costume Fetishism, Affleck’s  cinematic recreation of 1979 fashions, technology and cars delivers the goods while also delivering six white Americans to safety. The cinematography perfectly mimics the look of late 70s film, and the integration of archival news footage lends a sense of authenticity. But there is only so much entertainment value that can be gleaned from indulging in late 70s fetishism. Once I oohed and ahhed a few times at the haircuts and television sets, I found the movie’s seemingly interminable 120 minutes so boring that I actually fell asleep twice.

The movie starts during the tumultuous riots in Iran when Iranians were demanding that Americans return their deposed Shah (Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavī) for prosecution in their own country. The movie is packed with rioting American-hating Iranians with guns, yet the film has no tension whatsoever. Other than a brief history lesson in the beginning of the film and one scene in a public market when an outraged Iranian insists that the diplomats give him a Polaroid photo they shot and mentions that the Shah killed his son, the movie completely neglects to provide the Iranian’s side of the story. The film is a sanitized version of the events. It minimally alludes to the back story of the Iranian revolution but then turns the Iranians into window dressing. They are simply a backdrop that allows the film to tell its patriotic story of the American Hollywood-CIA heroic and covert operation to rescue the diplomats.

Speaking of authenticity, there is nothing authentic about the film’s manipulation of historical events. Its authenticity stops with its haircuts and its use of archival news footage and photographs to give a sense of historical accuracy. Underneath the set details, the burning American flag, and the mirror images from photo archives, Argo really is pure political propaganda. I have some questions to ask here. Why didn’t the Americans just return the Shah to Iran? Why do Americans feel it’s their right to take care of other countries’ business? Why not let the Iranians prosecute their deposed corrupt leader? What’s that old saying about “cleaning up your own backyard before . . .” Also, excuse me in advance if this sounds harsh, but given the vast number of people who have died in the Middle East (Americans, Iranians, Iraqis, Afghanis, etc.), why should we give so much attention to 6 white American diplomats who were saved by Hollywood and the CIA? What about all the other people from so many cultural demographics who have and are continuing to be massacred, murdered and tortured daily?

Needless to say, since it is based on true events, we know the end of the story before going into the movie, and that can take the wind out of a movie’s sails if the film is not done well. But why is it that Hollywood Lefties (Ben Affleck has a clear track record for leaning staunchly to the Left) made a movie about Hollywood joining forces with the CIA to save some diplomats right before the 2012 Presidential election? Why is it that in this film the fact that the hostages were released after Ronald Reagan was elected President and during his inauguration is completely ignored? Why is it that the film ends with the stamp of Jimmy Carter (the Official Voice of American Centrist Democrats) in an actual voiceover narration? And why does it manipulate the delivery of historical information and disregard all the covert financial wheeling and dealing that led to the release of the hostages?

I’ll tell you why. Because Argo, above all else, is a piece of conservative liberal propaganda created by Hollywood to support the Obama administration’s conservative liberal politics as we move toward the Presidential election. In addition, it also primes the war wheels for an American-supported Israeli attack on Iran, so that Leftists can feel okay about the war when they cast their vote for Obama in November.

This leads me to why this movie is one big bore. It’s not a movie at all. It’s exceptionally underhanded political propaganda created by Hollywood to try to win over right leaning war supporters to Obama’s conservative liberal politics while appeasing centrist Leftists (which Hollywood embodies to the max) to feel good about voting for a President who supports war.

Propaganda, as a general rule, does not make good film. So why do so many movie critics love this movie? I seriously don’t know. If they were looking at the film critically, they would have to see it as boring and flawed.

Perhaps it is because movie critics are also part of the movie industry. The movie industry plays a considerable role in the patriotic heroics of this film. In Argo, Hollywood works with the CIA to save the day and the 6 American diplomats. Not surprisingly, Hollywood as an “institution” is the most entertaining part of the film. For the record, the movie industry is played by a tremendously amusing John Goodman and Alan Arkin. Their performances are enormously entertaining. They give us a chance to laugh, and they insert humor into this piece of propaganda as another level of making war comfortable by making it funny. Goodman and Arkin play the movie executives who work with Affleck’s Tony Mendez to create the fake film Argo as a ploy to get the diplomats out of Iran by “casting” them as members of a film team scouting for shooting locations for their science fiction film. The best part of the movie is Goodman and Arkin’s on-going joke “Argo Fuck Yourself.” After digesting the film’s conservative liberal patriotic agenda, I can pretty much say the same thing that Arkin and Goodman say about the movie they star in: “Argo fuck yourself.”

To wrap up the political agenda, the movie ends with Ben Affleck’s Tony Mendez returning home to reunite with his family as a hero, a father, and a husband. If you’re going to make a 2012 election year propaganda film, you’ve got to have your family values! Then finally, we get the reassuring “stamp of authenticity” as the film pairs photos of the real diplomats with the actors who played them while Jimmy Carter assures us that there can be peaceful resolutions to international crisis (even if a few thousand people die along the way, ahem). But the movie never talks about those people – all the ones (Iranian and American) who actually did die just because we felt like we needed to clean-up the world’s dirty laundry (so we could keep our American dirty hands in the oil supply).

Personally, I found the movie hard to stomach, not just because it is boring but because it is so ideologically problematic. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no enthusiast for Obama’s centrist Democratic politics, and never have been.  However, I do understand how the politics of this country work, so I will be voting for Obama in November. I understand that as much as my ideals would like to believe otherwise, there are only two choices in this America – More and Less Bad. Voting for the Less Bad Democrats is the only way to beat the More Bad Republicans, and I do not want my daughter living in a world where Mitt Romney is President. She has already inherited the nightmare legacy of two Bush administrations. Despite my antipathy toward Obama and his policies, I sure in the fuck hope he does win the election because the alternative makes me puke. But Democrats are not saints by a long shot, despite what movies like Argo make them out to be. Argo is just another piece of Democratic Party Packaging made to win votes by walking a conservative line that somehow attempts to be liberal while also supporting the problematic politics of the conservative liberal agenda. (e.g. It’s okay for Israel to bomb Gaza on a daily basis.)

Am I sorry that I wasted my time and money watching Argo? No, I’m not. Watching a movie like this and thinking about why people like it so much when it’s so wrong is worthwhile. I put my money on this film to win the Best Picture Oscar (even though there is nothing remotely “best” about it) especially if Obama can pull off winning the Presidential election. Since Ben Affleck has made Argo, if Obama does win, Hollywood will be so happy with itself. It can give itself a big pat on the back for helping save the American diplomats back in 1979, for supporting the conservative Democratic agenda, and for helping the Democrats win the 2012 election. Argo may be the most self-congratulatory film Hollywood has ever made, but that does not make it a good film, not by a long shot.

Kim Nicolini is an artist, poet and cultural critic living in Tucson, Arizona. Her writing has appeared in Bad Subjects, Punk Planet, Souciant, La Furia Umana, and The Berkeley Poetry Review. She recently published her first book, Mapping the Inside Out, in conjunction with a solo gallery show by the same name. She can be reached at knicolini@gmail.com.

Justice Department Paper on Drones Leaked


Justice Department Paper on Drones Leaked

An Air Force RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aerial vehicle as reported by ABC News.
NBC News reportedly obtained and subsequently published a previously confidential Justice Department white paper concerning the use of deadly drone strikes on American citizens. The paper addresses guidelines and circumstances for executing such strikes.
Human rights advocates are concerned the guidelines are poorly defined and leave far too much room for interpretation. This creates a situation, they claim, conducive to ill advised and otherwise unlawful assassinations and executions. Concern is also being voiced that officials are publicly averting from discussion of such loosely defined procedures while implementing their use behind closed doors.
Contrastingly, those who support the policies outlined in the paper argue that such measures are required in order to enable the Justice Department to act in timely and effective manners. Severe circumstances call for severe measures, they suggest.
Meanwhile, John Brennan, nominated by President Obama to direct the Central Intelligence Agency, will soon appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss his nomination. Brennan has acted as Obama’s chief counterterrorism consultant while serving as Deputy National Security Advisor and Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. He is credited with designing what have come to be known as US drone assassination programs. The drone projects are reported to be controversial and complex, largely consisting of circumstances unknown to the American public.

80% Of Jewish Israelis Want Haredim Out Of Government


80% Of Jewish Israelis Want Haredim Out Of Government
Israeli Flag

“[The haredi political parties] United Torah Judaism and Shas have made the wide public hate them after many years of aggression and extortion.”

Ynet reports:

…[A] new survey reveals that 80% of Israeli Jews are in favor of a civil government [i.e., no haredi political parties in the governing coalition] with an agenda focusing on freedom of religion and an equal share of the burden.

The survey, commissioned by the Hiddush association for religious freedom and equality, was conducted by the Smith Institute among 500 respondents – a representative sample of the adult Jewish population in Israel. The maximum sampling error was 4.5%.

Sixty-eight percent of Habayit Hayehudi voters were also in favor of such a government (26% said they were very supportive and 42% said they were pretty supportive of the idea).

In addition, even 39% of Shas voters voiced their support for a civil government.

In parties affiliated with the centrist-leftist camp, the support level was close to 100%. All Labor, Hatnua and Meretz voters and 99% of Yesh Atid voters said they were in favor of such a government.

According to Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev, the fact that an overwhelming majority among Likud Beiteinu voters supports a government that will advance freedom of religion and an equal share of the burden shows that “the era in which haredi parties were perceived as natural coalition partners is over.”…

In previous Knessets, the chairman of the Finance Committee was mostly a representative of the United Torah Judaism faction. The survey’s last question tried to find out whether the Jewish public is in favor or against continuing this tradition.

About two-thirds of the Jewish public (67%) were against giving the job to a UTJ lawmaker, and one-third were in favor. Eighty-eight percent of seculars were against the idea, while 97% of haredim were in favor.…

“United Torah Judaism and Shas have made the wide public hate them after many years of aggression and extortion,” Rabbi Regev added.…

Boy in the bunker: new details emerge about ‘menacing’ captor Jimmy | Alabama hostage standoff enters sixth day


Boy in the bunker: new details emerge about  ‘menacing’ captor Jimmy
Alabama hostage standoff enters sixth day

The hostage standoff in Midland City continues, as the town prepares to bury  the school bus driver killed by the suspected gunman.

As an Alabama stand-off and hostage drama enters a sixth day, more details  have emerged about the suspect at the centre, with neighbours and officials  painting a picture of an isolated man with few friends and no close family.

Authorities say Jim Lee Dykes, 65 – a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War  known as Jimmy to neighbours – gunned down a school bus driver and then abducted  a five-year-old boy from the bus, taking him to an underground bunker on his  rural property.

    He doesn’t like law enforcement or the government telling him what to do.  He’s just a loner.The driver, 66-year-old Charles Poland, was being buried on Monday  (AEDT).

Ronda Wilbur, a neighbor of  Jimmy Lee Dykes, points as she speaks with the media about encounters she's had with him at the scene of the shooting and hostage taking in Midland City, Alabama.Menacing … Ronda Wilbur, a neighbour of  Jimmy Lee Dykes, points as she  speaks with the media about encounters she’s had with him at the scene of the  shooting and hostage taking in Midland City, Alabama. Photo:  Reuters

Dykes, described as a loner who railed against the government, lives up a  dirt road north of Dothan in the south-east corner of the state. His home is  just off the main road north to the state capital of Montgomery, about 130km  away.

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The FBI said in a statement that authorities continue to have an open line of  communication with Dykes and they planned to deliver to the bunker additional  comfort items such as food, toys and medicine. They also said Dykes was making  the child as comfortable as possible.

Republican Rep. Steve Clouse, who represents the Midland City area, said he  visited the boy’s mother on Thursday and she was “hanging on by a  thread.”
“Everybody is praying with her for the boy,” he  said.
Clouse said the mother told him that the boy has Asperger’s  syndrome, an autism-like disorder, as well as attention deficit hyperactivity  disorder, or ADHD.

Along the red dirt road ... A Google satellite image of Dykes' property, where a boy is being held in an underground bunker.Along the red dirt road … A Google satellite image of Dykes’ property,  where a boy is being held in an underground bunker. Photo: CNN  screengrab

Government records and interviews with neighbours indicate that Dykes grew up  in the Dothan area and joined the navy, serving on active duty from 1964 to  1969. His record shows several awards, including the Vietnam Service Medal and  the Good Conduct Medal. During his service, Dykes was trained in aviation  maintenance.

Later, Dykes lived in Florida, where he worked as a surveyor and a long-haul  truck driver although it’s unclear for how long.

He had some scrapes with the law there, including a 1995 arrest for improper  exhibition of a weapon. The misdemeanour was dismissed. He also was arrested for  marijuana possession in 2000.

Authorities, including the FBI, wait at the scene.Tense … Authorities, including the FBI, wait at the scene. Photo:  AP

He returned to Alabama about two years ago, moving onto the rural tract about  90 metres from his nearest neighbours, Michael Creel and his father, Greg.

Dykes was known around the neighbourhood as a menacing figure who neighbours  said once beat a dog to death with a lead pipe, threatened to shoot children for  setting foot on his property and patrolled his yard at night with a flashlight  and a firearm.

Michael Creel said Dykes had an adult daughter, but the two lost touch years  ago.

Jim Lee Dykes, 65.Jim Lee Dykes, 65. Photo: Reuters

Another neighbour, Jimmy Davis Jnr, told CNN he had been shown around the  underground bunker by Dykes himself about nine months ago.

”He told me it was a storm shelter,” Mr Davis Jnr said.

“It actually had cinder blocks going down as steps and it was covered up with  two sheets of plywood nailed together with hinges and stuff as a door to open to  it.”

Mr Davis Jnr said Dykes had also buried a PVC pipe in the ground leading to  the bunker, so he could hear cars and people approaching from above.

The shelter was about a metre underground and negotiators were speaking to  Dykes through the pipe, James Arrington, police chief of the neighboring town of  Pinckard said.
“He will have to give up sooner or later because  (authorities) are not leaving,” Arrington said. “It’s pretty small, but he’s  been known to stay in there eight days.

Chief Arrington confirmed that Dykes held anti-government views, as described  by multiple neighbours: “He’s against the government – starting with Obama on  down.”
“He doesn’t like law enforcement or the government telling him  what to do,” he said. “He’s just a loner.”

AP, with theage.com.au

 

Catholic Fascist and Bigot For Hire Robert Spencer Gets The Boot


Catholic diocese boots anti-Muslim speaker
A diocese in Massachusetts disinvites Robert Spencer

By Alex Seitz-Wald

Catholic diocese boots anti-Muslim speakerEnlarge Robert Spencer

Add this to the increasing marginalization of radical anti-Muslim views: A Catholic diocese in Massachusetts today rescinded its invitation to Robert Spencer, a prominent anti-Muslim writer and activist, to speak about Islam at an upcoming conference.

“Although the intention of the conference organizers was to have a presenter on Islam from a Catholic’s perspective, we are asking Robert Spencer to not come to the Worcester Catholic Men’s Conference, given that his presence is being seen as harmful to Catholic–Islamic relations both locally and nationally,” diocesan spokesman Raymond Delisle said in a statement to the Boston Globe.

Spencer had been invited to speak at the March conference, organized by the church in Worcester, sparking outrage from local Muslim groups. After an outcry, the diocese rescinded the invitation.

Spencer, whom the Anti-Defamation League’s ­Center on Extremism has called “the godfather of the anti-Muslim movement in this country,” has made a career out of writing books and giving lectures on the dangers of Islam. He, along with close collaborator Pam Geller, helped lead the opposition to the Park51 Islamic community center in Manhattan and has been behind dozens of other controversies. More darkly, Norwegian anti-Muslim mass shooter Anders Breivik cited Spencer’s writings 50 times, though Spencer has called the shooter “insane” and refuted any association.

The response from Spencer and Geller was predictable: Blame the media. Writing at FrontPage, Spencer claimed that he was “informed” that the Boston Globe’s reporter, Lisa Wangsness, “instigated the entire controversy” and that she “asked [Muslim groups] to call the diocese and demand the cancellation.” Spencer published his entire, lengthy email exchange with Wangsness, including her phone number and email address, along with a correspondence with Wangsness’ editor. They declined to comment in an email to Salon.

Geller picked up the same line of attack, writing, today, “I am surprised that Lisa Wangsness didn’t shout allahu akbar at her attack and victory over the free exchange of ideas.”

This is typical for a group of people who want the First Amendment to work only in their favor. They cry foul any time anyone writes something critical of their work, condemning the supposed infringement on their freedom of speech, yet they turn around and try to bully critical voices in far more aggressive ways than any action directed at them.

Any journalists or public advocates who cross them are bound to have their emails published and a string of ad hominem attacks thrown their way in a manner than can only be intended to intimidate. This effectively silences many critics, who may feel it’s not worth incurring the hate to write about Geller or Spencer. Of this reporter, for instance, Geller once said it was “only a matter of time before he is getting measured for a suicide vest.” She called a Jewish group in Chicago that spoke out against her anti-Muslim bus and subway ads “Judenrat,” as in Jews who collaborated with Nazis.

That’s fine and they have the right to call anyone whatever they want, just as the diocese is free to rescind its invitation to Spencer and the Muslim groups are free to criticize it and the Globe is free to write about it, but you can’t have it both ways. It seems Spencer and Geller are not interested in “the free exchange of ideas,” as Geller said, but rather licence to express themselves with impunity and without criticism.

Jewish Cult Ruling Forbids Victim of Sex Abuse from Testifying in a Secular Court Against Rabbi Abuser


Beit Din Ruling Meant To Block Testimony In Haredi Molester’s Criminal Trial

Baruch Lebovitz at trial 3-3-10

The ruling forbids a victim of sex abuse from testifying in secular court against his rabbi abuser.

This was originally posted on March 16, 2010.

I’m re-posting it now because this ruling was cited in the Baruch Lebovitz trial, and even though it was, the Brooklyn DA did not prosecute the beit din judges for witness tampering and intimidation.

And now that the DA is about to prosecute Samuel Kellner for allegedly extorting Baruch Lebovits’ son Meir, even though the evidence the DA has against Kellner seems to be trumped up, I thought it would be a good time to remind him that there are other haredi criminals who need to be prosecuted, men who intimidate witnesses and harass victims. And here you have hard evidence against one of them. I hope you use it, Joe.

Please click to enlarge:

Psak_din redacted
A rough translation:
PSAK DIN – JUDGEMENT

In the matter of the dispute-matter between the sides, that is Mr. ____ Side A the plaintiff, and between Rabbi Berl Ashkenazy shlit”a (should merit to long good years??) the defendant, side B, after the (sides) disputants agreed to heed the judgment of the dayan signed below, and after listening to the arguments and counter arguments of both sides, and after sorting out the facts and the halacha (Jewish law) ,the following ruling went out.

A. There is no obligation from side B to side A.

B. In contrast to this, it is forbidden for the young man (bochur) _____ to inform on side B (Rabbi Ashkenazy) to the courts (because) [that] he (talked on his heart) [tried to persuade him] that he should leave the courts, which is according to their laws a grave crime, and there is an obligation on side A to do whatever is in his ability to deter the above mentioned young man from this (mesirah) [informing].

C. Side B accepted on himself of his free will that he is prepared to help the above mentioned young man with whatever is in his ability to encourage him to go in good ways, however he will begin with him after the above mentioned young man will remove himself altogether from the courts of the goyim also in other matters.

And there are no more arguments and counter arguments between the sides, only peace to us and to all Israel.

And on this I applied my signature in the 9th day of Shevat 5769

Says Israel Meir Makovetzky, Dayan

Report on America’s Violent Far-Right | 307 Domestic Acts of Terror Per Year By Christians, Neo-Nazis and Right Wing Extremists


Conservatives Don’t Like This West Point Report on America’s Violent Far-Right

Reuters
Aren’t conservatives supposed to be hawkish on terror? They tend to be when it comes to foreign terrorists, but many are taking umbrage at a new West Point report on violent far-right extremists home-grown right here in the U.S. Earlier this week, the Combatting Terrorism Center (CTC) at America’s leading military academy published an extensive report on the “dramatic rise in the number of attacks and violent plots originating from individuals and groups who self-identify with the far-right of American politics.” Christian fundamentalists, Militia movement groups, Skinheads, neo-Nazis, and violent anti-abortionists were all cited in the report, titled Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right. These factions may harbor different ideological goals, but as this chart shows, they’ve all ramped up their violent tactics in trying to achieve them:

“Although in the 1990s the average number of attacks per year was 70.1, the average number of attacks per year in the first 11 years of the twenty-first century was 307.5, a rise of more than 400%,” writes Dr. Arie Perliger, Director of Terrorism Studies at the CTC.

In short, this report makes a convincing case about extremists trying to inflict harm upon innocent Americans, and it’s full of alarming data and clear policy recommendations. Conservatives love appealing to these kinds of studies when arguing that we need to get tough on terror, right? Well, not in this case. One Republican congressional staffer—who thinks only Muslims can be terrorists—told The Washington Times‘ Rowan Scarborough:

If [the Defense Department] is looking for places to cut spending, this junk study is ground zero. Shouldn’t the Combating Terrorism Center be combating radical Islam around the globe instead of perpetuating the left’s myth that right-wingers are terrorists?

The National Review‘s John Fund also wants to change the subject to terrorists in other parts of the world:

The world is beset by terrorists—witness the American hostages taken in Algeria this week—but portions of our federal government continue to obsess about alleged home-grown threats from the “far right” … My sources inside Congress tell me they continue to worry that efforts to monitor domestic Muslim extremists as well as interdiction efforts against radical Islamists crossing the U.S. border are sometimes put on the back burner. The government denies this, but it seems to me its protestations would be more persuasive if it spent less time producing half-baked warnings about the danger of “right-wing extremists.”

World Net Daily’s Michael Carl extensively quotes blogger Pamela Geller in his article on the report. “This is another appalling attempt to demonize loyal Americans and whitewash the Islamic threat,” Geller says. “West Point probably is working on orders from higher ups. Or else it has bought into the dominant PC culture.” Over at Newsmax, Christiana Lilly buries the lede—turning a story about far-right terrorists into a story about liberals:

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point released a paper calling far right groups anti-federalists while describing liberals as “future oriented,” the Washington Times reports.

And yes, you better believe Drudge sirened it:

Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments or send an email to the author at dwagner@theatlantic.com. You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.

Video Shows Far Right Jewish Extremists Harassing African Refugees


Video: Far Right Israelis Harass African Refugees After Anti-Refugee Demonstration In Tel Aviv

1-31-2012 demonstration in Tel Aviv against Africa refugees

On New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2012, Israelis rally in south Tel Aviv  and demand that the government round up, jail and deport all non-Jewish  African asylum-seekers. After the rally, right-wing anti-African activists linked to the banned Kach Party and current MK  Michael Ben-Ari of the the Otzma LeYisrael political party harass  any African people they see on the street. Ben-Ari is a disciple of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.

The peaceful but uncooperative one coming out of Ben-Ari’s campaign office is a Chabad follower:

America’s War on Children Abroad


America’s War on Children Abroad

Ed Krayewski|

neighbors were militants

Der Spiegel has an illuminating profile of a drone pilot for the United States Air Force, Brandon Bryant, and what the work entails:

When he received the order to fire, he pressed a button with his left hand and marked the roof with a laser. The pilot sitting next to him pressed the trigger on a joystick, causing the drone to launch a Hellfire missile. There were 16 seconds left until impact.
With seven seconds left to go, there was no one to be seen on the ground. Bryant could still have diverted the missile at that point. Then it was down to three seconds. Bryant felt as if he had to count each individual pixel on the monitor. Suddenly a child walked around the corner, he says.
Second zero was the moment in which Bryant’s digital world collided with the real one in a village between Baghlan and Mazar-e-Sharif [in Afghanistan]. Bryant saw a flash on the screen: the explosion. Parts of the building collapsed. The child had disappeared. Bryant had a sick feeling in his stomach.
“Did we just kill a kid?” he asked the man sitting next to him.
“Yeah, I guess that was a kid,” the pilot replied. “Was that a kid?” they wrote into a chat window on the monitor.
Then, someone they didn’t know answered, someone sitting in a military command center somewhere in the world who had observed their attack. “No. That was a dog,” the person wrote.
They reviewed the scene on video. A dog on two legs?

“I saw men, women and children die during that time,” Bryant told Der Spiegel. “I never thought I would kill that many people. In fact, I thought I couldn’t kill anyone at all.”

At least 176 children have been killed in U.S. drone strikes in nearby Pakistan alone, with more than twenty more in Yemen and at least one in Somalia, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

In Afghanistan, though, children can apparently be legitimate targets. After NATO called a 12 year old, a 10 year old and an 8 year old killed in a Marine airstrike “innocent Afghan civilians,” the Marines took umbrage. The children were digging a hole, which could’ve been used to place a roadside bomb. “In addition to looking for military-age males, it’s looking for children with potential hostile intent,” a Marine general explained. “Military-age male” is already pretty much the only requirement to label someone killed in a drone strike a militant so including children is just a matter of revising the meaning of “military age” downward. Forward!

h/t to db for the link

Idiotic 9/11 Conspiracy Theories


9/11 conspiracy theories

On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda, an Islamist terrorist organization led by Osama bin Laden, executed a plan in which a group of (in the end) nineteen men, mostly from Saudi Arabia, hijacked four jet airplanes in order to crash them into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and probably the White House.

Besides the unspeakable horror that this plan unleashed, it also gave birth to a conspiracy unlike anything the United States had seen since Pearl Harbor. 9/11 conspiracy theorists claim that the attacks were deliberately condoned or even carried out by the United States government in order to launch the War on Terror.[1] More extreme variations on these theories suggest that the attacks were masterminded by an international Jewish conspiracy, or that they were carried out as part of an ongoing strategy to bring about the New World Order.

More here at RationalWiki

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/9/11_conspiracy_theories

It’s Irrational To Be Religious


Jared Diamond: It’s irrational to be religious

Supernatural beliefs might not make sense, but they endure because they’re so emotionally satisfying

BY JARED DIAMOND

Jared Diamond: It's irrational to be religious
(Credit: Reuters/Enny Nuraheni)

Virtually all religions hold some supernatural beliefs specific to that religion. That is, a religion’s adherents firmly hold beliefs that conflict with and cannot be confirmed by our experience of the natural world, and that appear implausible to people other than the adherents of that particular religion. For example, Hindus believe there is a monkey god who travels thousands of kilometers at a single somersault. Catholics believe a woman who had not yet been fertilized by a man became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy, whose body eventually after his death was carried up to a place called heaven, often represented as being located in the sky. The Jewish faith believes that a supernatural being gave a chunk of desert in the Middle East to the being’s favorite people, as their home forever.

No other feature of religion creates a bigger divide between religious believers and modern secular people, to whom it staggers the imagination that anyone could entertain such beliefs. No other feature creates a bigger divide between believers in two different religions, each of whom firmly believes its own beliefs but considers it absurd that the other religion’s believers believe those other beliefs. Why, nevertheless, are supernatural beliefs such universal features of religions?

One suggested answer is that supernatural religious beliefs are just ignorant superstitions similar to supernatural non-religious beliefs, illustrating only that the human brain is capable of deceiving itself into believing anything. We can all think of supernatural non-religious beliefs whose implausibility should be obvious. Many Europeans believe that the sight of a black cat heralds misfortune, but black cats are actually rather common. By repeatedly tallying whether or not a one-hour period following or not following your observation of a black cat in an area with high cat density did or did not bring you some specified level of misfortune, and by applying the statistician’s chi-square test, you can quickly convince yourself that the black-cat hypothesis has a probability of less than 1 out of 1,000 of being true. Some groups of New Guinea lowlanders believe that hearing the beautiful whistled song of the little bird known as the Lowland Mouse-Babbler warns us that someone has recently died, but this bird is among the most common species and most frequent singers in New Guinea lowland forests. If the belief about it were true, the local human population would be dead within a few days, yet my New Guinea friends are as convinced of the babbler’s ill omens as Europeans are afraid of black cats.

A more striking non-religious superstition, because people today still invest money in their mistaken belief, is water-witching, also variously known as dowsing, divining, or rhabdomancy. Already established in Europe over 400 years ago and possibly also reported before the time of Christ, this belief maintains that rotation of a forked twig carried by a practitioner called a dowser, walking over terrain whose owner wants to know where to dig a well, indicates the location and sometimes the depth of an invisible underground water supply. Control tests show that dowsers’ success at locating underground water is no better than random, but many land-owners in areas where geologists also have difficulty at predicting the location of underground water nevertheless pay dowsers for their search, then spend even more money to dig a well unlikely to yield water. The psychology behind such beliefs is that we remember the hits and forget the misses, so that whatever superstitious beliefs we hold become confirmed by even the flimsiest of evidence through the remembered hits. Such anecdotal thinking comes naturally; controlled experiments and scientific methods to distinguish between random and non-random phenomena are counterintuitive and unnatural, and thus not found in traditional societies.

Perhaps, then, religious superstitions are just further evidence of human fallibility, like belief in black cats and other non-religious superstitions. But it’s suspicious that costly commitments to belief in implausible-to-others religious superstitions are such a consistent feature of religions. The investments that many religious adherents make to their beliefs are far more burdensome, time-consuming, and heavy in consequences to them than are the actions of black-cat-phobics in occasionally avoiding black cats. This suggests that religious superstitions aren’t just an accidental by-product of human reasoning powers but possess some deeper meaning. What might that be?

A recent interpretation among some scholars of religion is that belief in religious superstitions serves to display one’s commitment to one’s religion. All long-lasting human groups — Boston Red Sox fans (like me), devoted Catholics, patriotic Japanese, and others — face the same basic problem of identifying who can be trusted to remain as a group member. The more of one’s life is wrapped up with one’s group, the more crucial it is to be able to identify group members correctly and not to be deceived by someone who seeks temporary advantage by claiming to share your ideals but who really doesn’t. If that man carrying a Boston Red Sox banner, whom you had accepted as a fellow Red Sox fan, suddenly cheers when the New York Yankees hit a home run, you’ll find it humiliating but not life-threatening. But if he’s a soldier next to you in the front line and he drops his gun (or turns it on you) when the enemy attacks, your misreading of him may cost you your life.

That’s why religious affiliation involves so many overt displays to demonstrate the sincerity of your commitment: sacrifices of time and resources, enduring of hardships, and other costly displays that I’ll discuss later. One such display might be to espouse some irrational belief that contradicts the evidence of our senses, and that people outside our religion would never believe. If you claim that the founder of your church had been conceived by normal sexual intercourse between his mother and father, anyone else would believe that too, and you’ve done nothing to demonstrate your commitment to your church. But if you insist, despite all evidence to the contrary, that he was born of a virgin birth, and nobody has been able to shake you of that irrational belief after many decades of your life, then your fellow believers will feel much more confident that you’ll persist in your belief and can be trusted not to abandon your group.

Nevertheless, it’s not the case that there are no limits to what can be accepted as a religious supernatural belief. Scott Atran and Pascal Boyer have independently pointed out that actual religious superstitions over the whole world constitute a narrow subset of all the arbitrary random superstitions that one could theoretically invent. To quote Pascal Boyer, there is no religion proclaiming anything like the following tenet: “There is only one God! He is omnipotent. But he exists only on Wednesdays.” Instead, the religious supernatural beings in which we believe are surprisingly similar to humans, animals, or other natural objects, except for having superior powers. They are more far-sighted, longer-lived, and stronger, travel faster, can predict the future, can change shape, can pass through walls, and so on. In other respects, gods and ghosts behave like people. The god of the Old Testament got angry, while Greek gods and goddesses became jealous, ate, drank, and had sex. Their powers surpassing human powers are projections of our own personal power fantasies; they can do what we wish we could do ourselves. I do have fantasies of hurling thunderbolts that destroy evil people, and probably many other people share those fantasies of mine, but I have never fantasized about existing only on Wednesdays. Hence it doesn’t surprise me that gods in many religions are pictured as smiting evil-doers, but that no religion holds out the dream of existing just on Wednesdays. Thus, religious supernatural beliefs are irrational, but emotionally plausible and satisfying. That’s why they’re so believable, despite at the same time being rationally implausible.

Printed by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. from “The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?”by Jared Diamond. Copyright © Jared Diamond, 2012.

Nazi Persecution of Masons | “The relationship between Jews and Freemasons.”


Eugenics poster entitled
“The relationship between Jews and Freemasons.”

The text at the top reads: “World politics World revolution.” The text at the bottom reads, “Freemasonry is an international organization beholden to Jewry with the political goal of establishing Jewish domination through world-wide revolution.” The map, decorated with Masonic symbols (temple, square, and apron), shows where revolutions took place in Europe from the French Revolution in 1789 through the German Revolution in 1919. This poster is no. 64 in a series entitled “Erblehre und Rassenkunde” (Theory of Inheritance and Racial Hygiene), published by the Verlag fuer nationale Literatur (Publisher for National Literature), Stuttgart, ca. 1935.

Credit: USHMM, courtesy of Hans Pauli

Few people are aware that Freemasons suffered at the hands of the Nazis following Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. This is probably because numerically Freemasons were a much small group than any of the others which also suffered.

Essentially, Hitler’s argument was that Freemasons and Jews had colluded in taking over Germany and had brought the country to its knees – politically, culturally and economically. History tells, if we are prepared to listen and learn, that there is nothing new under the sun. Hitler’s belief that the Jews and Freemasons were responsible for all the ills of Germany after the end of the First World War led him to believe that by eliminating them Germany’s problems would be resolved.

A few may be aware of the persecution of Freemasons by Hitler, but very few know that they were also hunted down and executed by Franco (Spain), Stalin (USSR) and Mussolini (Italy). When one is aware that Freemasons were also executed, and their property stolen, in countries invaded and occupied by the Nazis (e.g. Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Greece, Austria, Romania, etc.) then one begins to wonder exactly what was the total death toll of Freemasons.

It is not possible to now determine how many Freemasons were executed just because they were Freemasons, but a conservative estimate has suggested that the number of German Freemasons who died in concentration camps numbered 80,000.

Read further papers and documents about nazifascist persecution of Freemasonry:

Jews Branded ‘Enemies of Church’ by Catholic Cult


Jews Branded ‘Enemies of Church’ by Catholic Sect
Society of Pius X Leader Says Jews Engineered Vatican II
Fighting Change: Some Catholic traditionalists blame Jews for the reforms of the Vatican II conference.

GETTY IMAGES

Fighting Change: Some Catholic traditionalists blame Jews for the reforms of the Vatican II conference.

Jews are “enemies of the Church,” the head of a radical Catholic sect said in Canada.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, made the remark during a Dec. 28 address at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in New Hamburg, Ontario, about 90 minutes’ drive west of Toronto. He was reviewing the situation of the society, which opposes Catholic Church reforms decided by the Second Vatican Council and is not recognized by the Church.

Apparently speaking without a text, Fellay asked, “Who during that time was the most opposed that the Church would recognize the society? The enemies of the Church: the Jews, the Masons, the modernists.”

According to the Catholic News Service, Fellay added that Jewish leaders’ support of reforming Second Vatican Council “shows that Vatican II is their thing, not the Church’s.”

As of Friday, there was no response from the society’s Swiss headquarters to a Catholic News Service email request for comment, the agency reported.

The Society of St. Pius X, , was founded in 1970 as a reaction against the Vatican’s efforts to modernize. In 2009, Pope Benedict launched talks with the society and lifted excommunications imposed on its four bishops.

One of the bishops was Richard Williamson, who has denied that the Nazis used gas chambers and asserted that no more than 200,000 to 300,000 Jews died during World War II.

The society’s founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, spoke approvingly of both the World War II-era Vichy regime in France and the far-right National Front, and in a 1985 letter to Pope John Paul II identified the contemporary enemies of the faith as “Jews, Communists and Freemasons.”

An Inside Look at the Taliban’s Bankers


An inside look at the Taliban’s bankers

In Afghanistan, the lines between insurgency and official business are often blurred. Reporter Matthew Green takes us through the clandestine world of the infamous hawala bankers – the men deemed to be secretly funding the Taliban.

Catholic Fascist Robert Spencer and Jewish Harpy Pamela Geller United in Hate With Christian Taliban Hatemonger


Meet Catholic Talibanist Robert Spencer’s Fellow Christian Extremist: “Usama Dakdok”
Posted b Dorado

Pastor Usama Dakdok, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.

Pastor Usama Dakdok, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer

by Garibaldi

Robert Spencer is in his own right an extremist anti-Muslim who is motivated by a belief that he is in a militant Christian Crusade against Islam.

“We wanted Catholics to become informed about Islam because not only is Islam the church’s chief rival in terms of religion but Islam is a serious threat to the peace and well-being of the Western world in general.”

Spencer’s extremist allies in this cause are many, on the other side of the pond it’s the EDL, Geert Wilders, etc. and here in the USA it’s individuals like Pastor Usama Dakdok, who has said things like, every Muslim is a demon.” Dakdok has gotten high praise from Islamophobic rags such as the David Horowitz funded and operated FrontPageMag which described Dakdok as a “scholar.” Well, he must be, right? Just look at the company he’s in,

“scholars like Dakdok, Robert Spencer, Walid Shoebat”

Yup…Walid Shoebat. I’m willing to agree with this assessment by FrontPageMag, Spencer certainly is in the field of scholarship and caliber of the likes of Dakdok and Shoebat. I’m just waiting for these two to get blurbs from Spencer for any of their upcoming “scholarly” books.

Dakdok is also a presenter on the Aramaic Broadcasting Network (ABN), an anti-Islam extremist Christian proselytizing group that features Spencer very often, usually with him debating the likes of useful idiots Anjem Choudhary and Omer Bakri. Interestingly, Spencer still refuses to debate Danios.

Recently, Dakdok was speaking at a Tea Party conference in Ohio where he stated that we are “at war with Islam,” Barack Obama was the product of Muslim rape, Muslims were infiltrating the government, Muslims will kill children in America for not eating halal through beheading and other really vile nonsense. Of course Spencer will never repudiate these remarks or his association with Pastor Dakdok.

What’s disconcerting is all the applause and cheers Dakdok received at the Tea Party conference. (h/t: JD)

See Video: Tea Party Anti-Muslim Hate Comes to Ohio School

(Vimeo)

(CLEVELAND, OHIO, 12/19/12) – The Cleveland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Ohio chapter (CAIR-Cleveland) today released a video highlighting anti-Muslim hate preached at a recent Tea Party event at a school in that state, which included claims that American Muslims “will kill your children” and that “we are in war with Islam.”

At the December 10 event, titled “Infiltration of Islam in America?” and sponsored by the Mansfield North Central Ohio Tea Party, at Mansfield High School in Mansfield, Ohio, speaker Usama Dakdok called Islam a “wicked cult” and made hate-filled claims such as: (NOTE: Speaker’s linguistic errors retained.)

“The day will come and Muslim in America will have the upper hand, and they will kill your children for not eating what is liked. For not eating the lawful foods.”

“What happened to the women and the children? They were raped. By who? By Muhammad and his followers. And they got pregnant, and they had babies, and the baby was born by the name Fatima, and Khadija, and Obama, and Hussein, and Barack, and all those wonderful Muslim names.”

“[W]ithout Allah they will die and for sure they would spend eternity in hell with Muhammad and with all previous Muslims, and Baptist, and Presbyterian, and Catholic, and everyone who’s think by going to some church will make it to heaven.”

“Killing you is a small matter [for Muslims].”

“We were not in war with Bin Ladin, we are in war with Islam.”

“[T]hen you have a revival in America among the Muslim, and that’s when they start beheading your children and your grandchildren.”

“So they say this month two and a half percent of the profit [American banks] made will go to Egypt. To help to get rid of illiteracy. What do they mean by illiteracy? They meant Christian. We are gonna kill some Christian. Or this month we are gonna get rid of some AIDS. What is AIDS? That is the Jews.”

CAIR-Cleveland had called on people of conscience to ask the Tea Party group to drop Dakdok from the December 10 program.

“Our nation’s schools should be havens from the kind of hatred spewed by Mr. Dakdok,” said CAIR-Cleveland Executive Director Julia Shearson. “We urge Ohio’s religious and political leaders to repudiate this and all other forms of bigotry being promoted by a vocal minority nationwide – bigotry which can and does lead to violence.”

Shearson noted that another charge was added yesterday to those filed against an armed Indiana man arrested for burning the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in September.

Also yesterday, New Jersey white supremacists faced hate crime charges for allegedly attacking several men of Egyptian descent in 2011. One of the alleged attackers wrote on a website: “(W)e went to hunt down some sand n**gers, it was me and my other bro on like 6 or eight and we whooped them.”

As an example of recent campaigns to promote anti-Muslim bigotry, CAIR cited efforts of the designated hate group headed by blogger Pamela Geller to place Islamophobic ads in transit systems nationwide.

A scheduled 2011 speech by Dakdok at the same school was cancelled by the Mansfield City School Board after complaints from the NAACP and CAIR, but the decision was challenged by a lawsuit brought on behalf of the Tea Party.

With legal fees mounting, the Mansfield School District recently settled the law suit and granted permission for the hate preacher to speak at the school.

Fox News Inspires Mosque Arsonist Claims “I Only Know What I Hear on Fox News”


Fox News Inspires Mosque Arsonist Claims “I Only Know What I Hear on Fox News”

 

Fox Hate Speech and Paranoid Memes lead directly to physical hate crimes!
Yesterday in Indiana, 52-year old truck driver Randolph Linn pleaded guilty to all charges in an arson attack against the Islamic Center of Toledo.

Linn testified that he got “riled up” by Fox News and right wing talk radio, drank 45 beers, and set fire to the mosque’s prayer room because he learned from Fox that Muslims are terrorists who don’t believe in Jesus Christ: Mosque Arsonist Tells Court: ‘I Only Know What I Hear on Fox News’.

Linn explained to the court that he had gotten “riled up” after watching Fox News.

“And I was more sad when Judge [Jack] Zouhary asked him that, ‘Do you know any Muslims or do you know what Islam is?’” one mosque member who attended the hearing recalled to WNWO. “And he said, ‘No, I only know what I hear on Fox News and what I hear on radio.’”

“Muslims are killing Americans and trying to blow stuff up,” Linn also reportedly told the judge. “Most Muslims are terrorists and don’t believe in Jesus Christ.”

Linn claimed that he had consumed 45 beers in the 6 hours before leaving his Indiana home to set fire to the mosque, which he had discovered while working as a truck driver.

After his arrest on Oct. 2, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ava Dusten said that Linn had told officers, “Fuck those Muslims… They would kill us if they got the chance.”

Sadistic Jewish Rabbi Nechemya Weberman Convicted for Sexual Abuse | Jewish Cult Wages War Against Victims of Abuse


Satmar Reportedly Launches All Out War Against Weberman Victim’s Family, Supporters, Media

Nechemya Weberman court 11-28-2012 closeup

Since Rabbi Nechemya Weberman was convicted on 59 counts of sexual abuse Monday, his supporters in Satmar have told customers to boycott the  victim’s parents’ businesses, pulled ads from Zev Brenner’s radio show  in retaliation for interviewing Weberman’s victim’s husband and the DA, attacked anti-child-sexual-abuse activist Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg and threatened to frame the victim’s husband.

Nechemya Weberman court 11-28-2012 closeup

Rabbi Nechemya Weberman

Satmar Reportedly Launches All Out War Against Weberman Victim’s Family, Supporters, Media

By Shmarya Rosenberg
It’s an all out dirty war.

The Daily News reports that since Rabbi Nechemya Weberman was convicted on 59 counts of sexual abuse Monday, his supporters in Satmar have told customers to boycott the victim’s parents’ businesses, pulled ads from Zev Brenner’s radio show in retaliation for interviewing Weberman’s victim’s husband and the DA, and spat on anti-child-sexual-abuse activist Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg.

“It’s getting serious,” a source in law enforcement reportedly told the News.

It sure is – even more serious than the Daily News reported.
According to the victim’s husband Boory, after the conviction Weberman’s family threatened to have girls falsely claim that Boory sexually assaulted them when they were minors.

Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg was attacked with bleach in Williamsburg the day after Weberman’s conviction.
One man, a hasid named Meilech Schnitzler, has been arrested in that attack, but police and the DA Charles Hynes insist the attack was not directly related to the Weberman verdict.

Rosenberg and his lawyer – Abe George, a potential candidate for Brooklyn DA – disagree. They also want Hynes to step aside and bring in another district attorney to prosecute the case. They believe Hynes won’t handle Rosenberg’s case fairly because of the years Rosenberg criticized Hynes’ inaction on and mishandling of haredi child sex abuse cases.

Even before the conviction, the victim’s family felt the sting of Satmar’s wrath.

At trial the victim testified that after she filed a criminal complaint against Weberman, her father’s business started losing clients, her nieces were kicked out of their Satmar school, and her husband’s restaurant’s kosher certificate was cancelled, forcing the restaurant to close.

After Weberman was found guilty, a text message was circulated in the Satmar community naming the victim’s mother and accusing her of “killing the Jewish Nation.”

“Please send around to at least 10 people. If you’re going to [name redacted] to make your face . . . you are a part of killing the Jewish Nation and five [Weberman] kids are home without a father,” the Daily News translation from Yiddish reads.

“The pressure — it’s unbelievable. I can’t take it anymore,” the victim’s mother told the Daily News.
The News also reports that what they identify as “sources close to the case” say that Weberman’s backers want to hire criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz to handle Weberman’s appeal.