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February 28, 2006


The following Editorial is from Gay City News, New York City's largest gay Iran_noose_9 weekly -- it will appear in tomorrow's print edition, and was posted on the GCN website this morning:

An Urgent Appeal for Simple Humanity

Saba Rawi is a 30-year-old gay Iranian now facing imminent deportation back to the Islamic Republic of Iran by the Netherlands.

Saba, who lived in the northern Iranian city of Rashd, was arrested for kissing his boyfriend on the street-the boyfriend was able to flee arrest. Saba was tortured by the police and raped by a police officer, who, using the threat of a prison term, blackmailed Saba into signing a letter saying he was not harmed by the police and that his rape was at the hands of others. Saba signed the letter under this horrific pressure-and then managed to flee Iran.

Saba eventually arrived in the Netherlands. That was some four and a half years ago. Since then, Saba has been serving as the Dutch representative of the Persian Gay and Liberation Organization, the largest Iranian gay group.

After the worldwide protests against the hanging of two gay Iranian teenagers in Mashad last July, the Netherlands was one of several countries to have temporarily suspended deportations of gay Iranians who had not been granted asylum. But that Dutch suspension has now ended, and Saba-who inexplicably had his request for asylum refused, and his deportation ordered-now will find himself in a Dutch court once again, on March 8, to present his final appeal against deportation back into Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's fiery furnace for gay Iranians.

If the Dutch government sends Saba back to Iran, he will face arrest, prison, and perhaps even execution, a fate that has befallen so many other victims of Iran's lethal anti-gay pogrom.

The Netherlands has an international reputation as a defender of human rights but this new threat to deport Saba and other gay Iranians is a shameful blot on that reputation. Yet our U.S. national gay orgnizations-including the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force-have maintained a discreet silence on the crisis facing Iranian gays, and none has raised its voice in public on behalf of Saba.

We demand a halt to deportations of gay Iranians by ALL countries, including the Netherlands.

And we ask that deportation proceedings against Saba Rawi be halted immediately, and that he be granted permanent asylum by the Dutch government. This we ask in the name of our simple, shared humanity. Stop the deportation of Saba Rawi!

We also ask our readers to take five minutes to phone, fax, e-mail, or write immediately on Saba's behalf to H.E. Boudewijn J. van Eenennaam, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, at The Royal Netherlands Embassy, 4200 Linnean Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008. The phone number is 202-244-5300; the fax number is 202-362-3430. The ambassador can be reached via e-mail at webmaster@netherlands-embassy.org.

Written on behalf of Gay City News by Doug Ireland.

Pglo_logo_5 To find out how you can help gay Iranian refugees from persecution like Saba Rawi, contact the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization (PGLO) -- the largest gay Iranian organization -- through the English-language page of the PGLO's website by clicking here.

For background on the new wave of anti-gay repression in Iran, see my previous articles: July 21, 2005 -- Iran Executes Two Gay Teenagers (Updated); August 11 -- Iran Sources Question Rape Charges in Teen Executions; August 12 -- Two New Gay Executions Scheduled in Iran, Says Iranian Exile Group; August 17 -- Iran's Deadly Anti-Gay Crackdown: With Two More Executions Scheduled, the Pace of Repression Steps Up.August 25 -- Iran's Anti-Gay Purge Grows: Reports of New Executions. September 8 -- Iran and the Death of Gay Activism. September 20 -- "They'll Kill Me" -- A Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks of His Ordeal ; September 29 -- Iranian Gays Urgently Appeal for Help ; October 6 -- Canada Introduces UN Resolution Condemning Iran's Human Rights Record; November 24, "Save Us"-- A Gay Iranian Who Married His Partner Begs for Help from the West ; January 12, 2006 -- "Kidnapped: Another Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks".....January 27, 2006 -- "A Call to Solidarity: U.S. Gay Groups Must End Their Isolationism; February 8, 2006 -- "An Iranian Trans Torture Victim Speaks from Inside Iran." Also, don't miss Rob Anderson's excellent article in the November 10, 2005 New Republic, "How America's Gay Rights Establishment is Failing Gay Iranians."

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Please excuse some typographical oddities in this post, my blogserver is having a nervous breakdown.

Bhl_shirt Bernard-Henri Levy (left) is so well-known in France he is universally referred to as BHL. But in Parisian intellectual and journalistic circles he is also snidely referred to in private as "BHV" -- which happens to be the name of a famous French department store that sells anything and everything.

"A philosopher who's never taught the subject in any university, a journalist who creates a cocktail mingling the true, the possible, and the totally false, a patch-work filmmaker, a writer without a real literary oeuvre, he is the icon of a media-mad society in which simple appearance weighs more than the substance of things, BHL is thus first and foremost a great communicator, the p.r. man of the only product he really knows how to sell: himself." That's the lapidary judgement of two French investigative journalists -- Nicolas Beau of Le Canard Enchaine and Olivier Toscer of Le Nouvel Observateur -- in their superb, just-published inquest into how BHL has built his success, "Une Imposture Francaise."Beau_book_jacket_1 They're right. During the near-decade I spent living in France, my numerous wordsmith friends -- intellectuals, writers, journalists -- all considered BHL an intellectual fraud, a poseur, and a frimeur, or show-off. So did I. Writing in the London Review of Books a little over a year ago, the great Perry Anderson called him "a grotesque" and "this crass booby in France's public sphere, despite innumerable demonstrations of his inability to get a fact or an idea straight." A good example can be found in an article Katrina Vanden Heuvel inexplicably commissioned from BHL for the February 27 issue of The Nation, "Letter to the American Left." In his Nation article, BHL wrote -- a propos of the CIA's "special prisons" in Eastern Europe -- "since when does the press excuse citizens from their political duties? Why haven't we heard from more intellectuals like Susan Sontag" on the issue? Sontag, of course, died in 2004, almost a year before the existence of the "special prisons" was made public in the press, and is no longer here to defend herself. Another BHL idiocy in The Nation came when he wrote that "a number of progressives needed, by their own admission, to wait for Hurricane Katrina before they got indignant about, or even learned about, the sheer scale of he outrageous poverty blighting American cities." This statement of BHL's is so self-evidently false that it needs no comment.

The flaws in BHL's work were evident from the beginning. His third book, for example, the 1979 Le Testament de Dieu -- which prescribed monotheism as the only possible defender of liberty and democracy -- was shot down in flames by one of Franceâs most respected intellectuals, the historian and world-class Hellenist Pierre Vidal-Naquet (a moral leader of the Pierre_vidal_naquet_1 French left, photo right), in a famous Nouvel Observateur article that detailed the many errors of fact in it. BHL cited texts he claimed were from the decline of the Roman Empire (Fourth century A.D.) which were in reality from the First Century B.C., and cited Heinrich Himmle's "deposition" at the Nuremburg trials (which opened six months after the SS leader's suicide), Bhl_le_baba_book_jacket to take just two examples. Interviewed 20 years later by Jade Lindgaard and Xavier de la Porte, the authors of Le B.A. BA du BHL (The ABCs of BHL, Editions la Decouverte, Paris, 2004) -- an excellent and meticulous book which documents in detail the flaws in BHL's oh-so-checkered written output -- Vidal-Naquet said sadly, "We have passed from the Republic of Letters into the non-Republic of Media. I thought I had 'killed' BHL. I hadn't. I consider that a defeat.

It was from the giant publishing house of Grasset -- where BHL has been an editor since 1973 -- that he launched his first media operation: the creation of the "nouveaux philosophes," that little band of scribblers whose leitmotif was anti-Marxism, anti-Communism, anti-anti-Americanism, and the embrace of the free market as guarantor of human well-being. In 1977, BHL published three books of the grouplet -- by Andre Glucksmann, Guy Lardreau, and Christian Jambet, before then publishing his own, La Barbarie a Visage Humain (Barbarism With a Human Face). Depoliticization and anti-ideology were the catchwords of the day -- in reaction to the moral collapse of Communism , underscored by the publication of Solshenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, the evaporation of the spirit of May 1968, and the triumph of the consumer culture. anBHL launched his book from the platform of the high-rated, prime-time literary talk show, "Apostrophes." A handsome dandy, with carefully coiffed long hair, and a white shirt carefully unbuttoned to reveal his tanned chest, BHL caused the TV host's daughter to tell him afterward, 'I have seen Rimbaud on television!' (below left, BHL in his 20s). Bhl_in_his_20s BHL's books always sell, because he is omnipresent on the little screen. But little of the so-called "nouvelle philosphie" made any lasting impact on the world of ideas -- for, as the late philosopher Gilles Deleuze wrote, "I find their ideas null."

BHL THE BUSINESSMAN: By the way, those unbuttoned shirts, an important element of BHL's TV and public image, tell a lot about the man. If you tried it with your own shirt, the collar would sag. But BHL's shirts are specially designed, with collars that withstand the unbuttoning and never disappear under his jacket, by the famous shirt-maker Charvet -- and cost $400 apiece. BHL, you see, is a rich man. Very rich. The French business magazine Capital recently named him one of the 100 richest people in France.

Born with a silver cuillere in his mouth, BHL inherited the family's huge lumber business, Becob, from his father -- indeed, he played a major role in running the company while he was building his reputation as a media star, both before and after his father's Francois_pinault death, until BHL finally sold it to the billionaire godfather of French business tycoons, Francois Pinault (left), in the early 90s. The company specialized in rare woods from black Africa -- and, as "Une Imposture Francaise" reveals for the first time, while BHL was running the company it was the subject of numerous reports by international bodies (and one by the Canadian government) denouncing it for keeping its exploited African workers in penurious semi-slavery, deprived of the basics of human existence, like running water, health care, and education. This crass exploitation of impoverished black Third World residents doesn't exactly square with BHL's carefully self-constructed image as a "humanitarian activist." The Beau and Toscer book also describes in detail BHL's avid stock market speculations, how he's been questioned in investigations of insider trading, and of the secret shell companies he owns in France, Switzerland, England, and even America, and his troubles with the taxman over undeclared revenue. An indictment of BHL recommended by civil service tax investigators was quashed beforeSarkozy_7  it could be executed by the then-Minister of Finances, the rising star of the conservatives, Nicolas Sarkozy (right) -- one of the many politicians BHL has cultivated over the years (by commissioning him -- just co-incidentally with the tax fraud invesigation, of course -- to write a book for Grasset, a favorite BHL ploy for seducing everyone from TV hosts to literary critics. Sarkozy never delivered the book, but kept the advance.)

BHL changes his allegiances to politicians like he changes his Mitterrand_3 shirts. As a courtier of Francois Mitterrand (left), BHL helped create two major supports for the cancer-ridden French president --  SOS Racism, supposedly created as a civil rights organizations for Franco-Arabs and blacks from France's former colonies - but which was, from its inception, created, financed, and designed by the Elysee Palace as a Mitterrandist vote-getting mechanism. So was the monthly magazine Globe, designed and financed by Mitterrand's entourage, which featured BHL's column on the cover of every issue. BHL eventually got his reward for his services to Mitterrand, when he was named to chair the government commission that provides subsidies to French film as an advance Bhl_chirac against future ticket sales. BHL used this powerful post, which had life-or-death power over French films, to finance his own failed cinema creations and movies starring his glitzy trophy wife, the actress-singer Arielle Dombasle (photo right). Arielle_dombasle Balladur When he sensed that Mitterrand's star was fading, BHL began cozying up to the right-wing's then Prime Minister Edouard Balladur (photo left), to whom he'd sought to be introduced by the Baron Edmond de Rothschild and his wife -- and was soon rewarded for his newfound coziness with the conservatives by being given the presidency of the state-owned TV network Arte, where he continued using the taxpayers' monies to subsidize his own productions, those of his friends and liege-men, and, of course, projects featuring La Dombasle. (above left, BHL sucking up to conservative President Jacques Chirac.)

BHL and "A." (as he always refers to Dombasle in his books) spend a lot of time at the lavish 18th century palace they own in Marrakech, the most sumptuous in the Moroccan city, just a stone's throw from one of King Mohammed VI's residences (the BHL palace was formerly owned by one of the Gettys, the multi-billionaire oil family.) Here they entertain politicians, journalists, press barons, anyone useful to the advancement of the couple, whose jet-set lifestyle is portrayed endlessly in the celebrity press -- for which they frequently pose for layouts in magazines like Paris Match.

"Une Imposture Francaise" also details the dark side of BHL as the prince of networking: how he has used his relations with the likes of the press magnate Jean_luc_lagardere (and arms merchant), the late Jean-Luc Lagardere (right), to assure not only hugely favorable reviews for his intellectually shabby books, but to blackmail editors and journalists into censoring any negative criticism of him. The bold application of carrot and stick, and the mutual log-rolling the French call copinage have made BHL a man many fear to cross. He uses his weekly column in the large weekly Le Point to favor or punish those whose support he needs or whose reputations he wants to destroy. He'll use his considerable influence with the rich and powerful to assure someone a job or a political appointment, or to threaten those suspected of being less than enthusiastic about him with economic defenestration.

With "American Vertigo," in which he travels the U.S. "in the footsteps of Toqueville," BHL had hoped to sell himself to America. Well, nobody's buying. The book has received universally critical reviews, and its bric-a-brac of dime-store observations has been widely laughed at. Like Garrison Keillor's front-page critique in the New York Times Book Review, which skewered BHL for "the grandiosity of a college sophomore," "a student padding out a term paper," adding, "There's no reason for [the book] to exist in English, except as evidence that travel need not be broadening."

In an interview with New York magazine, BHL claimed his trip was under three shadows: "The shadow of the war in Iraq, the shadow of an election, and the shadow of Katrina." When the interviewer pointed out that Katrina hadn't struck at the time he wrote the book, BHL simply pirouetted: "The anticipated This incredible statement proves the accuracy of the judgement Mariane_pearl rendered on BHL by Mariane Pearl (photo right), the wife of the subject of BHL's hallucinated last book in English, "Who Killed Daniel Pearl?" who became disillusioned by her exposure to BHL. As the perspicacious Mrs. Pearl told the authors of "Une Imposture Francaise," "BHL is a man whose ego destroys intelligence.

And those are "les mots justes." P.S. For a brilliant dissection of the flaws in BHL's "Who Killed Daniel Pearl" by William Dalrymple in the New York Review of Books, click here. And to order a copy of 'Une Imposture Francaise," click here.

The above is a considerably expanded version of an article I wrote for IN THESE TIMES, of which I am a Contributing Editor, and which will appear in its March 2006 issue.

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February 20, 2006


Pentagon_1 Yesterday's Times of London carried an article, "U.S. Military Planes Criss-Cross Europe Using Bogus Call Sign," that raises several questions, including the possibility that these Pentagon planes were ferrying arms to the genocide-scarred nation of Rwanda, although the European Union has been outlawing such shipments by its member states. The planes may also have been used to transport prisoners to the CIA's secret prisons in Eastern Europe. Said the Times special investigative report:

"The American military have been operating flights across Europe using a call sign assigned to a civilian airline that they have no legal right to use. Not only is the call sign bogus — according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) — so, it appears, are some of the aircraft details the Americans have filed with the air traffic control authorities.

"In at least one case, a plane identified with the CIA practice of “extraordinary rendition” — transporting terrorist suspects — left a US air base just after the arrival of an aircraft using the bogus call sign.... [which] for several years and as recently as last December...has been used selectively by both the American air force and army to cover the flights of aircraft to and from the Balkans.....[Those aircraft include the] MC-130P Combat Shadows (below left)Pentagon_armsferry_plane_mc_130p , which are specially adapted for clandestine missions in politically sensitive or hostile territory....."

"On December 11, 2004, USAFE in Ramstein filed a flight plan for a Learjet 35 to fly from Tuzla to Aviano. The flight plan was copied to 15 addressees including Tuzla airport, Aviano airport and a mysterious recipient labelled 'xxxxxxxx”' The aircraft’s identity was given as JGO 80, the flight was a Learjet 35 operated by the Department of Defence and the registration was 99999E. The status of the flight was given as 'humanitarian'. But it was also given as 'state', which means government, and as 'protected', which means diplomatic.

"During the time the plane was in the air, USAFE changed some of the flight plan timings and at the same time the registration changed. The aircraft metamorphosed into 40112E but continued to be a Learjet 35 and was  still JGO 80 and a humanitarian, government and diplomatic flight. While the Learjet was on the ground at Tuzla, an Ilyushin 76 was loading a cargo of 45 tons of surplus weapons and ammunition sold off by the Bosnian military and destined for Rwanda in defiance of a UN embargo.The Ilyushin left Tuzla, flew over Italy and headed south in the direction of Africa. The American Learjet took off 55 minutes later.

"In a report exposing arms trafficking to war-torn central Africa, Amnesty International Amnesty_inernational_logo has suggested that “US security authorities were engaged in a covert operation to ferry arms to Rwanda in the face of political opposition from the European Union.....”. There's a lot more detail in the Times article, which you can read in its entirety by clicking here.

A FORGOTTEN STORY OF SEXUAL McCARTHYISM Today's Joel_dorius New York Times carries an obituary of former Smith College professor Joel Dorius (left) -- victim of a celebrated case of sexual McCcarthyism during the Eisenhower administration -- who has just died at 87. The Times quotes one of Dorius' friends: "Father Crowley, a Jesuit priest who is chairman of the religious studies department at Santa Clara University in California.... recalling an era when civil liberties were trampled and careers ruined by hard laws and public attitudes toward gay people, [said:] 'Younger folks can't imagine how different the world was not so long ago, and the price people paid.' Joel and his generation suffered ignominies, but have made life easier for those who follow after them.'"

Says the Times: "On Sept. 2, 1960, when three state troopers, a local police officer and a United States postal inspector raided the home of a colleague, Newton Arvin, 60, and found boxes of 'beefcake' magazines and pictures of men — illegal pornography then, but much of it like today's Calvin Klein underwear ads — and diaries detailing 20 years of his closeted gay life.

"Under interrogation, Mr. Arvin — a professor of American literature at Smith, winner Edmund_wilson Truman_capote_at_time_of_1st_book of the 1951 National Book Award for his biography of Herman Melville, a friend of the critics Edmund Wilson (right) and Malcolm Cowley and a former lover of Truman Capote (left, in the photo that adorned the jacket of Capote''s first book) — named names, including those of Mr. Dorius and Edward Spofford, both untenured Smith professors. Their homes were raided, too — Mr. Dorius was away at the time — and more materials deemed pornographic were found. (Below right, Dorius, Arvin, and Spofford)Dorius_arvin_spofford_2

"The raids were part of a crackdown on obscenity in the mails by President Arthur_e_summerfield Eisenhower's postmaster general, Arthur E. Summerfield (right), whose ban on 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' was overturned by the courts. The authorities raided warehouses, seized publications and then went after people on the mailing lists.

Arvin_beefcake "In an era when homosexuality was widely viewed as an abomination — criminal, sinful and a mental disease — but accepted on many college campuses as long as it did not surface publicly, the arrests crossed the line, and Smith suspended the three professors. Mr. Arvin was later allowed to retire at half-pay, but, despite faculty protests, the contracts of Mr. Dorius and Mr. Spofford were not renewed. All three, and four other men named by Mr. Arvin, were charged with possessing pornography, and Mr. Arvin was charged with being lewd and lascivious. (Left and right, examples of theArvin_beefcake_ii  "pornography" for which Newton Arvin was arrested in 1960. Two years later the material was deemed "not obscene"--and therefore not illegal-- though "dismally unpleasant, uncouth, and tawdry," by the U.S. Supreme Court." -- D.I.) Under pressure by the prosecution, Mr. Arvin testified against the others and received a one-year suspended sentence. He suffered a breakdown, committed himself to a mental hospital and died in 1963...."  In 2002, Smith College established scholarship funds in the names of Arvin, Dorius, and Spofford. You can read the entire New York Times obit of Dorius by clicking here.

GUANTANAMO VS. TREATMENT OF WW II PRISONERS The Nation's UN Ian_williams_4 correspondent, Ian Williams (left), on his blog  today has a meditation comparing the treatment of prisoners in World War II and the treatment of the Guantanamo detainees today. He disinters a quote from the Nuremburg war crimes trials' verdict on German General Alfred Jodl on the shackling of Allied POWs and other mistreatments of prisoners: "'Nonetheless the Allied judges concluded, 'Participation in such crimes as these has never beenAnguish_of_surrender_book_jacket  required of any soldier and he cannot now shield himself behind a mythical requirement of soldierly obedience at all costs as his excuse for commission of these crimes.' Jodl was hanged in 1946. Bush was re-elected President in 2004." Read all of Ian's excellent post -- including a review of Ulrich Strauss's new book on Japanese prisoner treatment by the U.S. entitled The Anguish of Surrender (right) -- by clicking here.

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February 18, 2006

The NEW YORK SUN's French Hallucination: A LE PEN-MUSLIM ALLIANCE?

Le_pen_grim Yesterday's New York Sun -- a small, conservative New York daily noted for its slavishly pro-Israel, pro-Likkud politics and its pandering to the worst fears of New York's large Jewish community -- yesterday published a hallucinatory article, "France's Le Pen to Strike a Deal with Muslims,"  It claims that neo-Fascist and notorious anti-Semite Jean Marie Le Pen (left) -- the Führer of the racist Front National party -- is "poised to strike an alliance with France's large immigrant Muslim community."

The author, one Michel Gurfinkiel, goes on to assert, "IslamicNew_york_sun_logo  leaders in France are advising their followers to act as 'democratic and responsible citizens,' i.e., to register as prospective voters and to enter as full-fledged activists into all major political parties, either right of left. Indeed, a reconstructed, Muslim-friendly National Front stands a good chance to win many of them."

Now, I lived in France for nearly a decade, and have written frequently on the European extreme right (see, for example, my article in The Nation explaining how and why Le Pen created a political earthquake when he defeated the Socialist Party's candidate for a place in the 2002 presidential run-off, "Le Pen: The Center Folds".)  My immediate reaction to the Sun's article was that it was bilge. But just to make sure I hadn't missed any recent developments, I e-mailed the article to several French journalists of my acquaintance -- and all agreed that the Sun's claims were complete tommyrot.

"Claiming that Le Pen could get 'many' Muslim votes, as the Sun does, is equivalent toGeorge_wallace_poster_453 having pretended that George Wallace (right) could get a lot of black votes in Harlem," sneers Helene Hazera, a friend at France Culture, the public radio network, who knows the French ghetto culture well, adding, "Le Pen is the embodiment of everything the Franco-Arab population detests--he represents for them what their racist neighbor 'gaulois' thinks of them."

Front_national_poster Ever since Le Pen founded the Front National (FN) in 1972, racism has been his electoral stock-in-trade, as he has crusaded against immigrants of color, both Maghrebins (those of Muslim North African origin) and blacks from France's former colonies. He has called immigrants "a mortal danger" to France, and campaigned to have 3 million "non-Europeans" deported, while the platform of the FN -- which claims to be the "inheritor" of the legacy of "the Crusaders and the [French] Empire-builders" -- calls for a total halt to immigration, opposes the right to vote for immigrants, and favors a "national preference" for "native French" in government social welfare programs. (Above left, a Front National poster, which reads: "The Immigrants Vote -- and You Abstain?!!")

During the ghetto riots in France last October and November (which I explained inFront_national_poster_on_riots  "Why Is France Burning?" ), not only did Le Pen call for the declaration of a state of emergency and the imposition of a curfew in the ghettos before President Jacques Chirac ordered them, Le Pen went further, demanding that the army be sent into the ghettos. (Above right, a FN poster from last Fall calling for a "large demonstration," and reading: "Riots, Immigration: Enough! Everybody with Le Pen.")

Le Pen is well-known to have engaged in torture when he was a non-commissioned officer during France's colonial war in Algeria, as Le Monde has documented carefully in the past -- and that is something that Franco-Arabs (the majority of Algerian origin) will neither forget nor forgive. That is why it isLepenchirac_vote_totals_02_140_1  patently absurd to postulate, as Gurfinkiel's article in the Sun does, that the FN "is surprisingly popular among Muslim immigrants or second-generation Muslim citizens."  Quite the opposite: when Le Pen, the FN's presidential candidate, made it into the 2002 run-off against Chirac, the anti-FN mobilization in the Muslim community was total because the party and its leader were both seen (correctly) as quintessentially racist, and Le Pen garnered only a handful of votes in Franco-Arab communities. (Above right, French TV reports the results of the run-off Chirac-Le Pen duel in 2002)

Dieudonne_1 There are many other idiocies in Gurfinkiel's article. He claims that the once-popular comic Dieudonné (left) -- who in recent years has become stridently anti-Semitic -- "has turned into an enormously popular French equivalent of Louis Farrakhan (lower right)," and affirms (by quoting the indigestible Bernard-Henry Levy, a.k.a BHL) that Dieudonné isLouis_farrakhan_ii  morally "Le Pen's son." But, as Xavier de la Porte of Radio France (author of a number of political books, including one on BHL) e-mailed me this morning, "Dieudonné has always been a militant opponent of Le Pen. He ran against the FN on an anti-racist platform in several elections. BHL has blown a fuse when he claims that 'Dieudo' is 'Le Pen's son,' because his anti-Semitism is of a very different character than Le Pen's -- the comic is pro-Palestinian, a primitive Third Worlder, vaguely pro-Black, and infinitely less ideological than Farrakhan. Most of all, Dieudonné has never organized a 'Million Man March' and has no organized troops as Farrakahn does-- he's a total pariah today on both the political scene and in the media landscape, and is seen as a pathetic loser. In fact, what is happening politically in France today is the Le Pen-izatiion of the political landscape far more than the Arab-ization of the FN, as the center takes an increasingly hard line and moves radically right-ward." Well said, Xavier.

As part of his scary story, Gurfinkiel claims that "more than 50%" of under-20 youth in the "big citiees" are Muslim. How does he know? The official French census is both racially and religiously blind, because the government is forbidden in law by "republican principles" from gathering any data on religion or ethnicity. Gurfinkiel cites no sources for his statement, and I was unable to locate any data confirming his wildly exaggerated claim.

Martinez_book Then, Gurfinkiel claims as more evidence of his thesis a recent book by Jean-ClaudeJeanclaude_martinez_90_1   Martinez (right), a Front National member of the European Parliament, entitled "To all French who may have voted for Le Pen if only once in their life" (left), which, Gurfinkiel says, argues the FN must "welcome immigrant blacks and Arabs into the national fold" -- and adding that Martinez is supported by Le Pen's eldest daughter, Marine (right). ButMarine_le_pen_1  what Gurfinkiel doesn't tell you, as Claude Angeli -- editor of the investigative-satirical weekly Le Canard Enchainé  and the dean of French investigative reporters -- said to me on the 'phone from Paris this morning, is that "the book actually attacks Le Pen, and Martinez is on the outs with Le Pen and in a distinct minority within the party. Moreover, when Marine Le Pen made similar noises to those of Martinez, she was slapped down in public by her father, who distanced himself from her and put her into political isolation within the Front. And the idea of Muslims voting en masse for the FN is ridiculous."

Michel_gurfinkiel So, just who is this Michel Gurfinkiel (left), author of the Sun's deranged article? He's the editor of a small Francois_dorcival magazine, Valeurs Actuelles, noted for its anti-immigrant and homophobic views, and that -- as Angeli put it -- "is ideologically very extreme right." The president of the editorial committee of Gurfinkiel's magazine is a former leader of the French extreme right, Francois d'Orcival (above right.) This d'Orcival was a leader of Jeune Nation (Young Nation), a violent group of ultra-rightists dissolved by the French government in 1958. In 1960, d'Orcival was a founder of the Federation of Nationalist Students (FEN), which participated in the violent bombing campaign of the OAS (the pro-Algerie francaise Organization of the Secret Army) during France's Algerian war -- for which d'Orcival was interned by the government in a prison camp with other OAS and FEN members in 1962. A close associate of the theorist of a "Nordic Europe," the extreme-right ideologue Alain de Benoist (right), d'Orcival co-authored with de Benoist a bookAlain_de_benoist in praise of the OAS and of Ian Smith, the then racist prime minister of Rhodesia, entitled "Le courage est leur patrie" (Courage is Their Country). D'Orcival was also a founder of GRECE (Reserach Group  for the Study of European Civilization), an extreme-right caucus of Nordic-pagan ideologists, grouped around de Benoist and noted for their strident anti-Americanism. D'Orcival is today the editorialist for the magazine Gurfinkiel edits, Valeurs Actuelles, and serves as the mag's public face on radio and TV shows.

"When Gurfinkiel became editor of Valeurs Actuelles," Angeli told me, "he was widely criticized, particularly in the French Jewish community -- 'how can a Jew be part of such an extreme-right magazine?' they said." Valeurs Actuelles is owned by the right-wing French cosmetics king Pierre Fabre -- whose director of information for eight years was (according to the weekly L'Express) none other than Bernard Antony, a longtime Front National leader, one of the Front National's elected members of the European Parliament and an ultramontane Catholic fundamentalist, anti-Semite, and notorious gay-baiter who insists on mass being celebrated in Latin.

So, why is the New York Sun publishing the unfounded fantasies of a toady of France's extreme right? Gurfinkiel's hallucinations include the following declaration: "The Islamicization of France is largely a fait accompli." That certainly sounds like pure Le Pen-ism to me. But if that is true, will the Sun kindly explain to us why there is not a single Muslim member of the French parliament.? Sheesh!

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February 15, 2006


Algeria's most famous cartoonist, Dilem, (right) has been given a one-year prison Dilem Bouteflika_2 sentence for a caricatue of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika (left), the daily news-bulletin of the French weekly Nouvel Observateur reported today. The cartoon was published in Dilem's home base, the French-language Algers daily Liberte.

You can see a selection of Dilem's cartoons for the year 2005 by clicking here. And, here below is the cartoon for which Dilem was condemned (the caption reads, "Bouteflikka will speak to the people," and the balloons read, "Here is the people"; and "Essential, the people!"):


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February 13, 2006


The Bush administration has spent $1.6 BILLION on domestic propaganda since 2003, accrding to a new General Accounting Office report released today. "The extent George_miller of the Bush Administration's propaganda effort is unprecedented and disturbing," said California Congressman George Miller (left)., one of the Democratic members of Congress who requested the GAO report. "The fact is that after all the spin, the American people are stuck with high prescription drug prices, high gas prices, and high college costs. This report raises serious questions about this Administration's priorities for the country and I would hope that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle would agree that changes need to be made to reign in the President's propaganda machine."

Rep. Henry Waxman of Los Angeles (right), another of the Democrats who asked Waxman_henry_1 for the GAO report, commented: "The government is spending over a billion dollars per year on PR and advertising. Careful oversight of this spending is essential given the track record of the Bush Administration, which has used taxpayer dollars to fund covert propaganda within the United States."  Free Press, the excellent media reform organization which put out a release today that alerted me to the report, has a lot of background material you can read by clicking here. And you can read the entire GAO report itself (it's a PDF file) by clicking here.

WHO'S BEHIND THAT FULL-PAGE ANTI-LABOR AD IN TODAY'S N.Y. TIMES? If you haven't seen today's New York Times, there's a screaming full-page anti-union ad, that ballyhoos a new anti-labor propaganda group called "Center for Union Facts." But the ad doesn't say who's really behind it. Well, our good friends at P.R. Watch, as usual, have the goods on this pro-business, union-busting scam. "Nothing in the advertisement or the webpage  mentions Rick Berman, but --Bingo! -- that's who owns the website domain name," P.R. Watch reports.

Rick_berman "Rick Berman (left) is a right-wing lobbyist who has built a  lucrative career establishing industry-funded front groups including  FishScam.com, the Center for Consumer Freedom, the Employment  Policies Institute, the Employment Roundtable and ActivistCash.com.  Berman specializes in personal attacks, smear tactics and playing  loose with the facts. He has raised millions of dollars from tobacco,  booze, biotech, fast food, grocery and other businesses eager to have  Berman do their dirty work.  Another Rick Berman connection to the  Center for Union Facts is Sarah Longwell, the group's PR contact, who  has also worked for Berman's Employment Policies Institute." For the full P.R. Watch report with links to more info, click here.

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A smart mid-western friend who has a lot of quail-hunting experience writes:

Quail The entire Cheney hunting accident story stinks.  The delay in announcing it isCheney_2  suspicious, obviously.  I'll bet Cheney had a few beers in him, but I'm not sure that is illegal in Texas (drinking and hunting is illegal in most states, but I couldn't find out if that includes Texas).
But a few other points that may be worth noting:
1.    The news reports say the accident happened "around 5:30 pm" on Saturday.  In Texas, quail can be hunted until 30 minutes after sunset.  Sunset on Saturday, in Corpus Christi, was at 6:18, which means they were legal until 6:48.  The "around" is suspicious.
Harry_whittington 2.    The news reports say that after Whittington (left) had gotten off his shot and went looking for his bird, Cheney and the other hunter went to another spot where they saw a covey of quail.  Texas quail might be different from Iowa quail, but in Iowa when a shotgun goes off, every quail within earshot flutters away.  The story doesn't make sense.
3.    None of the stories have commented on the fact that they were "road hunting", or hunting from a car.  That is just about the lowest kind of low-rent, dishonorable kind of hunting there is (the phrase "road hunting" is often used synonymously with "poaching").  When I was growing up in Iowa, I went pheasant or quail hunting on scores of occasions with my Dad and others.  We never would have hunted from a vehicle and it was an insult to even suggest that someone might.  It was considered dangerous and declasse, as it was too great an advantage for the hunter to be "fair".   It most states, including Texas, it is also illegal: Shotgun

"It is unlawful to hunt from or by means of motor-driven vehicles and land conveyances or aircraft of any kind except paraplegics and single or double amputees of legs may hunt from stationary motor-driven vehicles or land conveyances."
However, Texas exempts private property owners from the prohibition when they are on their own land and Cheney was with the property owner on his ranch.  But it is still really tacky.
4.    Hunting quail in Texas requires an "Upland game bird stamp", which costs $7.  This is a relatively new requirement, but I'll bet Cheney didn't have one.
5.   The spin is that Whittington "came up from behind the Vice President", implying that he snuck up on him or was somehow partially responsible because Cheney didn't know he was there.  When hunting, it is bad form to walk in front of someone's gun.  When given a choice, one would always approach another hunter from behind.
Cheney has gotten negative press in the past for participating in "canned hunts" Cheney_roadkill and a couple of years ago he got really negative press for going on a canned pheasant hunt in Pennsylvania where he got between 70 and 95 birds (depending on which report is to be believed).  The typical daily limit in places like Iowa and South Dakota, where we have many more pheasants than Pennsylvania, is 3 or 5 per day and a possession limit of 15 or 20. 
To many of our milieu, hunting is hunting is hunting and the distinctions noted above aren't that big of a deal.  To hunters, these are important distinctions.  Hunting regulations are strictly enforced in most states and every sixpack Joe knows he better abide by them or he'll get in trouble.  Most hunters aren't affluent suede vest guys, they are working class guys within a couple of generations of agriculatural roots.  The gluttony of shooting 70 pheasant in a day is almost impossible for them to comprehend.
Focusing on the kill rather than the hunt is frowned upon.  Killing more than you can eat is frowned upon.  Canned hunts and that kind of over-indulgence is for the Rambo hunters, who are not thought highly of by the old-fashioned Izaak Walton league type of guys, like my Dad.
Someone should be asking if Cheney was drinking, if he was properly licensed with his Upland Game Bird Stamp, when (and if) the hunting accident was actually reported to the authorities and if anyone has investigated why the quail in Texas seem to have gone deaf.
Ms. Armstrong claims to have been in the car, but to have witnessed the shooting.  If so, that would mean the hunters were fairly close, within eyeshot, which makes it even less likely that Whittington had gotten off a shot at a quail and then there were other quail still waiting around for Cheney to find them. It just does not make sense!
UPDATE AT 1:50 PM: CBS news' White House correspondent reports that Secret Ser ie agents prevented local law enforcement from interviewing Cheney. At White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's late morning press conference, he said that Cheney had a valid hunting license -- but no one asked whether the Veep had the required Upland Game Bird Stamp. Think Progress has a partial transcript of the McClelln presser here. And my quail-hunting friend updates his comments above with the following:
"I spoke to my younger brother today who did not know anything about the hunting accident.  He kind of lives off the grid, doesn't pay attention to news, I'm not sure he has a wallet, checking account or even pays taxes.  What he does is hunt and fish.  And generally vote Republican I am sorry to report.
I read him the story and when I got to the part about Cheney and the other guy going to flush a second covey of quail, he interrupted me "You NEVER break your hunting party when hunting quail.  NEVER NEVER NEVER."  He explained that game birds flight patterns vary when they are taking flight or flushed.  Quail flush in a starburst or "blizzard pattern" and fly all around, often between the hunters themselves.  Pheasant go up in a linear fashion, away from the hunters. 
My brother said that it also depended on what kind of quail they were hunting and Blue_quail_1 whether or not they were stocked quail or wild quail.  He said if they were "blues" (one of the two main species in Texas) (left), they typically first run on the ground, in a single file, to the nearest cover.  It might be a piece of sagebrush, but the entire covey will hover underneath it.  Then, when one of them sees better cover and takes off for it, they'll all follow single file. 
He thinks it may be possible that some of them were flushed--and Whittington took his shot--and the other birds ran a few yards to better cover, and Cheney and the other hunter followed those birds.  At this point he repeated his comment about "never breaking your party when hunting quail".  That is, apparently, one of the most common reasons for hunting accidents (that and alcohol).
Bobwhite quail (right) don't run and they'll sit tight until they are flushed.  Bobwhite_quail
Whether the initial shot would have caused the other nearby birds to flush or not may depend on whether or not they were stocked birds.  He said that wild birds usually would flush upon hearing a shot, but stocked birds may be less likely to and could just sit tight.  "They'll watch the hunters and if the hunters don't see them, they'll sit tight until they figure out they've been detected and then they'll flush".
In any case, when I read to him the part about Whittington approaching the Veep from behind, without announcing himself, he said "that's bullshit, it is his fault.  It is always the shooters' fault".  That reminded me of "the pause" which was what our Dad taught us to do right before squeezing the trigger.  We were taught to build in a moment, even if a fraction of a second, right before firing the gun to look at precisely what you were shooting at.  This was true whether hunting birds or shooting skeet (clay pigeons).  You never fired your gun as part of a swinging motion or in excitement; you maintained safety and control by always having that fractional pause.
Cheney_nra He said Cheney is "a weekend warrior who really just wants to do his blasting" and is "more interested in the kill than in the hunt". (Left, Cheney gets gift of gun from NRA Convention.) He called that type of hunter "overzealous and lazy" and said they "don't enjoy the hunt for what it is".
My brother and our Dad have won all sorts of awards for hunting, as have their dogs.  They travel all over the continent to shoot various fowl (no mammals), including some of the most respected bird hunts, like the []deleted] and the [deleted] Championship. 
I asked him if he could be quoted on the record and he said "you gotta be kidding, these people will track you down".  That prompted me to ask him if the election were held today, would he vote for Bush or Kerry and he stunned me by saying he thought he'd go for Kerry now.  That was the best news of the day.  I then asked Bush or Hillary and he said "I won't for her".  I asked Bush or Vilsack and he said, without hesitation, Vilsack."
2nd UPDATE MONDAY MIDNIGHT: My perspicacious friend was right in his speculation above: Smoking Gun now has the local law enforcement report showing that Cheney indeed did NOT have an Upland Game Bird Stamp on his hunting license.
GOP SEN. ALLEN CALLS FOR PROBE OF CHENEY IN LEAK Meanwhile, Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia (left) -- a potential Allen_george Republican presidential contender in 2008 -- has called  for Cheney to be put on the grill about reports in the Plame case that he leaked her name to Scooter Libby, AP reports. On Fox News Sunday, Allen said a full investigation was necessary, adding, "I don't think anybody should be releasing classified information, period, whether in the Congress, executive branch or some underling in some bureaucracy.".... and kudos to Murray Waas, the guy who broke the story of the Cheney leak. MurrayMuray_waas  (right) , a friend and sometime colleague, has done some great reporting on the Plame case from the beginning -- and it was Murray who last week broke the story of the Cheney leak in the National Journal. Smart people who follow this case -- including the leading journalists on the story -- have learned to keep tabs on Murray Waas's blog for new developments and insights no one else has.

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February 11, 2006

26 Men Imprisoned 5 Years Each for Being Gay in United Arab Emirates

Uae_map In the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Friday, "As many as 26 people were sentenced to five years in prison by a court in Abu Dhabi for admitting to be gays and organizing a cross-dressers party and wedding at a hotel," reports WebIndia News, in a story written with a decidedly anti-gay tinge. "Their arrest had made news in November last year when they gathered at a hotel in Ghantout, a desert region on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi highway to org anise a gay wedding. Police got wind of the meeting and swooped on the hotel and arrested the participants...." The men were charged with homosexuality, a crime under Sharia law, although police acknowledged that none of the men were engaged in a sexual act when police raided the event.

WebIndia added that reports in local newspapers in the UAE "said the gays defended themselves in the court saying they were proud of their act and were keen to practice it......The police had broken up the riotous wedding party with balloons and champagne last year at a hotel and took into custody some 12 men in Arab dress and others dressed as women who were to be the 'brides' at the wedding," although other reports said some of those arrested asserted they were transgendered. An Indian disc jockey who had come to perform as part of the celebration was among the arrested.

An earlier report said the gays may be given hormone treatment to correct their behavior, since sodomy is punishable by death under the Islamic sharia law in force in the UAE  "In 2005 UAE police made mass arrests at another event, also described by authorities as a gay wedding in the conservative emirate of Sharjah and at the Khor Fakkan beach resort in Fujairah emirate," notes 365gay.com in its report on the sentencing. The UAE has also just banned the film "Brokeback Mountain," as part of "its efforts in protecting the society from unethical and immoral practices."

The question for privileged U.S. gays is, will our national gay institutions -- like HRC and NGLTF -- maintain the same discrete silence about these 26 unjustly imprisoned men, the latest victims of Sharia law's brutal punishments for homosexuality, as they've observed about persecution of gays in Iran, Poland, the Baltic countries, Nigeria, Nepal and more? Or will our national gay groups join the global fight for gay freedom, liberation, and the basic human right to love whom and how they wish, according to the dictates of their natures? See my recent article for Gay City News, "A Call to Solidarity: U.S. Gay Groups Must End Their Isolationism."

INDIANA CONSIDERS ANTI-ABORTION RELIGIOUS DEFINITION  OF LIFE More evidence of galloping theocracy from the American heartland: The Indiana State Legislature is considering a bill that would tell women seeking an abortion that life as "begins at conception," CNN reports Baby_cries_cartoon on its website. "To put our religion or faithful beliefs into a statute that's going to be law, without being able to back it up scientifically, I have real hard questions about doing that," said Indiana Rep. John Elmer, a Republican who voted against the bill.

Indiana is one of 29 states with "informed consent" laws that require women seeking an abortion to receive information about the procedure, according to the Stomacher Institute, a reproductive rights organization in New York and Washington, D.C., that researches and tracks state abortion legislation.Most tell women assistance is available for prenatal care, childbirth and infant care if they decide to carry their pregnancy to term. Three states -- Arkansas, Nevada and Wisconsin -- provide information about the possible psychological effects of an abortion. Only South Dakota has beginning-of-life language similar to Indiana's proposal, which would require women seeking an abortion to be informed in writing that "human life begins when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm."

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February 10, 2006


Mario_cooper I've long admired the AIDS activism of Mario Cooper (left). A former White House advisor to Bill Clinton who managed the 1992 Democratic National Convention, Mario became radicalized when he seroconverted, and In 1994, he began organizing the Leading for Life Campaign, a coalition of influential black academics, advocates and other movers and shakers, to raise awareness of the burgeoning HIV epidemic in the African-American community.

After being turned away by such black civil-rights bulwarks as the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), he used his Clinton contacts to win the support of the nation's two leading African-American health officials, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher and Dr. Helene Gayle, the head of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control)'s HIV/AIDS division) to fight indifference to AIDS in the black community.

In a ringing clarion call for militant action that has just appeared in The Body -- the useful online 'zine and resource site on HIV-AIDS -- Mario calls for a Black ACT-UP:

"If the African-American community is to save itself from an AIDS epidemic as devastating as anything sub-Saharan Africa is facing, we need our own ACT UP. Act_up_cartoon_harin More than money, more than media attention, more than HIV medications, we need the kind of body-on-the-line activism that would make Rosa Parks, H. Rap Brown and Martin himself Martin_luther_king_drawing proud. But why is it so hard for black people to march against HIV/AIDS?

"What we need, right now, is for 20 African Americans with HIV to do a sit-in at the offices of the Black Congressional Caucus and demand that the caucus make AIDS the No. 1 issue on its agenda. If Magic Johnson wants to come risk arrest, he's more than welcome, but we cannot wait: With or without the support of our celebrities, our churches, our family and friends, African Americans with HIV must hold our own leaders accountable.The statistics are staggering. HIV rates among black men who have sex with men may be as high as 46% -- which would mean that almost one out of two of us are already infected. The rates for African-American women are 19 times those of white women, five times those of Latinas; it's true that they dipped a bit in 2004, but it's too early to tell if that's a trend. We get diagnosed later and we die faster -- about 40% of all AIDS deaths are African American....

Act_up_demo "The crisis is as serious now for certain parts of the black community as it was in the 1980s for the white gay community, when they formed ACT UP and went on to seize the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, storm the National Institutes of Health and throw the ashes of dead HIV-positive people on the White House lawn. The HIV rates for African Americans are an outrage. The fact that we are not acting up is too....

"What we need is a movement. A national group of people with HIV, church leaders, Actupbanner_1 grassroots prevention and treatment advocates, policymakers. A black ACT UP....

"What is stopping us from taking the streets and disrupting business as usual to sound the alarm about black AIDS? We know we are capable of fighting for our rights, facing down water hoses and police dogs, even marching into Capitol buildings.What is it about HIV/AIDS that holds us back?

"Maybe we're too used to hiding the fact that we're gay, or that we're loving a woman while we sleep with men on the side. So many of us grew up going to church with our mothers and still don't want to do anything to embarrass the family. We are all in deep denial....

"We must fight to lift the veil of denial....As African Americans with HIV, we know this better than anyone else, so it's our responsibility to lead the way, to refuse to accept no for an answer, to lay our bodies on the line. Act up -- and prove that Martin's legacy is alive." To read all of Mario Cooper's important manifesto -- and there's a lot more to it -- click here. And you might also want to take time to reflect on the the latest data, in the CDC's just-released new report on "Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Diagnoses of HIV-AIDS.", a report which makes Mario's call very timely.

Sean_strub_2 And, as a companion piece to Mario's call to action, if you haven't read it already you should take a look at the important World AIDS Day Speech by POZ magazine founder Sean Strub (left), "What's Wrong With the AIDS Movement?" ,  a searing diagnosis of why we -- black and white --are losing the fight against AIDS.

Vito_russo Nobody embodied the spirit of ACT UP better than the late Vito Russo (right), author of "The Celluloid Closet" (which posthumously became an award-winning documentary), and a dear friend of mine. To remember what ACT UP was all about, read Vito's speech from 1988, at an ACT UP demo at the Department of HHS in Washington, "Why We Fight."

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February 08, 2006


Cartoon_mohammed_1 The global controversy over the Danish caricatures of Mohammed  (one of which is at left) has claimed its first U.S. victims in the American press -- the weekly New York Press's editor in chief Harry Siegel and three of his colleagues (two editors and a reporter) resigned in protest after the paper's new Ny_press_logo management pulled this week's front page, which carried an editorial attacking those who refused to publish the cartoons, and reproduced some of the cartoons themselves. You can find the full resignation statement of Siegel and his comrades in this week's New York Observer.  You can read my own view of this international attack on the right to publish the cartoons in an article I wrote for the excellent London-based 'zine on issues, Open Democracy, entitled "The Right to Caricature God -- and His Prophets." Bravo to Siegel and his colleagues for standing up for principle and being willing to pay the price.

Out on the West Coast, my L.A. Weekly colleague Marc CooperMarc_cooper_2_2 (right) is under attack by a threatened lawsuit from the United Farm Workers union, which has been on a long downhill slide -- in ethics, politics, and membership -- since the Cesar_chavez days when it was lead by the late Cesar Chavez (left). Cooper's crime was penning a stinging dissection last August, "Sour Grapes: California farm workers' endless struggle 40 years later." In a blatant attempt to silence critics of the union for its organizing stasis, its collecting monies supposedly destined for the farmworkers but which finance the nest-feathering, incestuous construction of a skein of agencies by its morally spavined leadership, the UFW has targeted not only l'ami Cooper, but also the L.A. Times -- which has been targeted for a similar lawsuit for its four-part investigative series on the UFW -- and the Bakersfield Californian. Of these multiple law suits, Cooper writes:

"The union...has responded [to critics] in the worst way possible. Instead of taking any of the very valid press criticism to heart and conducting some minimal good-faith re-examination of its own work, it has, instead, bunkered in and lashed out Howard_berman wildly at its critics. The UFW has enlisted Hollywood publicist Steve Rivers, as well as local Congressman Howard Berman (left), in its defensive PR campaign. Berman, to his credit, is an original co-author of landmark state agricultural-labor-protection legislation, and his tight relationship with the UFW dates back decades. But Berman and the UFW are also integral political partners, and union cash was a primary lubricant of the legendary Waxman-Berman political machine. No wonder, then, that the UFW has called in its chits in hiring Berman andMickey_kantor  other prominent Democrats — like former Clinton cabinet secretary Mickey Kantor (below right)— to run offense against the press.

"The chilling tactics now being employed by the UFW are those it has learned from its abusive employers. Simultaneously threatening a number of news agencies and reporters with expensive lawsuits smells suspiciously similar to the corporate strategy of pressing so-called SLAPP suits against public critics. These suits are never intended to seek any real redress — only to inflict punishment. In this case, their collateral effect would be to shut down media scrutiny of the UFW...." Read Cooper's full account of all this, and his reply to the UFW, by clicking here. Hang tough, Brother Marc, UFW deserved every shot you gave them.

And Wayne Besen reports on his blog that, "A Northern Virginia radio show that caters Chad_larson to a younger gay audience received threats this week to shut down, or else. E-mails from right wing yahoos hinted at violence if Chad Larson (left), host of The Edge Show , did not cancel his program.....'The penalty for homosexuality is death. Humans are not allowed to kill,' one e-mail stated. 'That's why God sent AIDS. When Chad Larson is lying on his death bed from this incurable illness, he will wish he had of turned to us for help....'" Read the full story by clicking here.

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