Investigation of U.S. naval officer for racism


USS Carl Vinson

From Wikinews:

US Naval officer temporarily relieved for “possible supremacist activities”

March 31, 2007

On March 7, 2007, the US Navy has relieved Lieutenant Commander John F. Sharpe of his duties pending an investigation into allegations that he was involved in supremacist activities.

Sharpe served as public affairs officer for the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, which is currently undergoing repairs in Newport News, Virginia.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) says Sharpe runs the Legion of St. Louis and IHS Press, organizations that allegedly espouse anti-Semitic views.

Apparently, Lieutenant Commander John F. Sharpe, on the far Right fringe of Roman Catholicism, like Mel Gibson, has links to infamous Republican politician and neo nazi David Duke.

If, instead of being a racist, Sharpe would have been gay, then he would probably not have become a sailor of the lowest rank, let alone a Lieutenant Commander.

Anti-semitism at US Air Force academy: here.

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Dutch ex Prime Minister says Balkenende and Bush wrong on Iraq war


In this cartoon, Balkenende asks Bush, Are you going to tell me another fairytale, Uncle George?

From Xinhua news agency:

Former Dutch PM slams incumbent government on Iraq war

Former Dutch Prime Minister Dries van Agt on Friday criticized fellow party member and incumbent prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende for blocking an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Dutch involvement in the Iraq war, Dutch news agency ANP reported.

Van Agt, who served as Dutch prime minister from 1977 to 1982, said in radio program Argos that the new Dutch cabinet led by Balkenende is “putting a muzzle on Parliament.”

Opposition parties led by the Socialist Party have been demanding an enquiry into the development of events which led to Dutch involvement in the Iraq war in 2003.

The 76-year-old former leader of the ruling [conservative] Christian Democratic Appeal called on Balkenende not to stand in the way of debate.

“Better late than never,” said Van Agt.

Van Agt criticized the Dutch involvement in Iraq in April 2004.

He said at the time that Netherlands should withdraw as soon as possible.

He said the war was being waged without a mandate from the United Nations Security Council and the presence of the Dutch troops in Iraq was illegal.

The Americans and British should never have invaded Iraq, he said, adding that U.S. President George W. Bush was disregarding international rule of law entirely.

Zach Snyder’s 300, a travesty of Greek and Persian history. Film review


This video from the USA is called: Seymour Hersh on planned invasion of Iran.

By Sandy English:

History cut off at the pass: Zach Snyder’s 300

31 March 2007

300, directed by Zach Snyder, screenplay by Snyder, Kurt Johnstad and Michael Gordon, based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley

Zach Snyder’s 300 is abominable, and the comic book by Frank Miller (with Lynn Varley) that it is taken from only a little better. It’s deplorable, but not astonishing.

In a culture where torture, militarism, and porno-sadism all too often fill up film, television, and computer screens, 300 is hardly shocking or even the worst example of an ignorant and needlessly violent film.

In Snyder’s work, the Spartans live in a city where boys are inured to pain from a young age and grow up to be fearless, obedient soldiers. Leonidas (Gerard Butler) is their king. As a boy, armed only with a spear, he killed a wolf-monster. …

Various characters wriggle in ecstasy or are hideously deformed. Walls are mortared with corpses. Body parts are lopped off, and blood that resembles ink flies everywhere.

If this were all the film did, it might be ignored. The problem is that it trivializes an important moment in history.

Snyder especially approaches the Persian-Spartan battle with a lazy and smirking attitude. …

Visual images can depict history with great emotional force and even move the viewer to action.

Think of Jacques-Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii or The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons.

To show the French revolutionaries of the late eighteenth century the tragic necessity of sacrifice for a great social cause, David painted the Romans engaged in struggles to found their republic in a series of semi-mythical wars against the oppression of the Etruscan kings in the sixth century BC.

To be most effective and affecting, however, historical images depend on some knowledge by the viewer of the events that they portray.

David’s viewers were often educated men and women who had read the stories about the struggle to establish the Roman Republic in Livy’s histories, often in the original Latin.

The paintings brought to life events they were already familiar with and revealed what was essential in those events for modern times. …

Why, after all, treat the Greeks who in 480 BC died to prevent an invasion by the Persians? Simply because it was a good fight? Or because men were courageous on the battlefield?

Neither Miller nor Snyder seems to have a penetrating view of who the Spartans were and why the battle of Thermopylae was significant.

They certainly search for reasons. In the film, the dark, monstrous Persians represent an inhuman, Asiatic tyranny. (Is it entirely coincidental that modern-day “Persia”—i.e., Iran—is presently in the sights of the American media and political establishment?)

The Greeks are fighting for “Reason” and “Freedom.” In Miller’s book, one reads, “Howling barbarians. The armies of all Asia—pledged to crush the impertinent republics of Greece to make slaves of the only free men the world has ever known.” …

In the absence of historical understanding, events can become surrounded by the most banal and clichéd notions. Chapters in Miller’s book have titles like “Honor,” “Duty,” “Glory” and “Victory.”

These ideas are hackneyed and empty and quickly become filled with militarist sentiment.

Historical reality is richer, more complex and ultimately a far more fertile ground for a film or a graphic novel.

The Spartan soldiers came from a unique society, even among the ancient Greeks. The Spartan was a member of a ruling military class.

He underwent relentless training and exposure to the elements because his social class was in a constant state of war with a much larger group of oppressed helots, Greek-speaking serfs, whose labor the Spartans exploited.

See also here.

And here.

And here.

US neoconservatives and ancient history: here.

Torture and kangaroo court at Guantánamo Bay


Guantanamo Bay torture, cartoon

By Kate Randall:

A Guantánamo detainee has charged that he was tortured into confessing to a role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, 41, a Saudi national of Yemeni descent, said he faced years of torture following his arrest in 2002 and that he fabricated stories to satisfy his captors.

Detainee Al-Rawi free at last: here.

By Peter Symonds:

The sham trial of Australian detainee David Hicks at the Bush administration’s prison camp at Guantánamo Bay is drawing to a close.

Yesterday presiding judge Colonel Ralph Kohlman formally convicted Hicks on one charge of “providing material support for terrorism”, and released the details of a plea bargain that will return Hicks to Australia to serve his jail term.

The deal provides for a maximum of seven years, but all but nine months have been suspended.

The strenuous efforts to dress up proceedings cannot disguise the fact that the entire affair is a legal charade designed to justify the Bush administration’s phony “war on terror.”

The plea bargain itself smacks of a dirty deal between Washington and Canberra. One of its key aims is to bolster the fortunes of the Howard government in upcoming national elections later in the year by wiping the issues of David Hicks and Guantánamo Bay off the political agenda.

Free speech in Australia on Hicks issue? See here.

Ancient Roadrunner-like Bird from the Age of Dinosaurs


Shandong

From Living the Scientific Life blog in the USA:

In the past few years, China has become famous for the number and quality of bird fossils from the Early Cretaceous that have been discovered there.

This week, another such discovery has been reported by an international team of Chinese, American and Japanese scientists.

Their discovery of 120-million-year-old fossilized footprints made by a roadrunner-like bird in Shandong Province, China, was published in the European journal, Naturwissenschaften.

The bird that made these tracks was named Shandongornipes muxiai in honor of the teen-aged daughter, Muxia Li, of team member, Rihui Li, a geologist at the Qingdao Institute of Marine Geology.

“It is a huge surprise to find evidence of a roadrunner-like species darting around beneath the feet of Cretaceous dinosaurs,” said Martin Lockley of the Dinosaur Tracks Museum, University of Colorado at Denver, and senior author of the study.

These ancient birds and feathered dinosaurs have changed our understanding of bird origins and evolution.

But it is not known whether representatives of contemporary bird groups existed 130 million years ago.

“Whether or not there were any representatives of modern bird groups in the Cretaceous is currently the subject of a lot of debate,” said Jerry Harris of Dixie State College of Utah.

Harris was part of the team that recently described the very modern-looking, duck-like bird Gansus yumenensis from similarly aged rocks in China.

He was invited to join the Shandongornipes research team because of his expertise on Chinese bird fossils.

“But as research progresses, we are finding more and more evidence that some Cretaceous birds were very similar, though not identical, to modern birds.

Shandongornipes is another surprising, but very welcome, example,” Harris added.

“If the tracks had been found in very recent deposits in North America, we would have assumed they were made by the well-known roadrunner,” said Lockley.

“But finding them in the Cretaceous of China, long before even the nearest relatives of roadrunners had evolved, makes us call them ‘roadrunner-like’.”

Organisms that live in similar ecosystems and have similar natural histories often evolve matching anatomical structures — a phenomenon known as convergent evolution.

For example, dolphins (mammals), sharks (fish), and the now-extinct ichthyosaurs (reptiles) all evolved analogous body shapes because that shape is ideal for rapid swimming.

Similarly, the bird that made the Shandongornipes tracks probably converged on a roadrunner-like body shape and likely exhibited similar behaviors.

Our modern roadrunner, Geococcyx, is a species of cuckoo and, like all cuckoos, has two forward-pointing and two backward-pointing toes, a condition known as zygodactyly that is also evident in Shandongornipes tracks.