All posts by Station Agent

Fictional blogger living in a fortified Ice Station at the South Pole Until George W. Bush is out of office.

Global Blogging Arrests Triple

American bloggers have it pretty easy compared to the perils that freedom-loving bloggers in more repressive countries face. The number of blogging arrests world-wide tripled last year. Egypt, Iran and China account for more than half of all blogging arrests.

Jane Novak at Armies of Liberation blogs regularly about the case of online journalist Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani, who received a six-year jail sentence from the Yemeni government last week. Her reporting has really pissed off the Yemeni government, and they have banned her blog in that country.

Al-Khaiwani (pictured), a pro-democracy journalist and activist was convicted by a Yemeni court for conspiring with anti-government rebels, a ridiculous charge that Novak and others have soundly refuted.

Frontline Defenders has more on al-Khaiwani:

Charges of insulting the president and “demoralising the military” as well as allegations that he had links with an al-Houthi terrorist cell had been brought against Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani based on articles written about the Sa’ada war in Yemen.

The newspaper for which Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani works has been closed and his website has been blocked. His family have also been subject to physical abuse and threats. In 2004, he was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for supporting Hussain Badr al-Din al-Huthi, a cleric from the Zaidi community. On 20 June 2007, he was arrested at his home for allegedly having ties with an al-Houthi terrorist cell. According to reports, these accusations were fabricated. Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani has previously reported on human rights violations against the Zaidi community and those suspected of having links to al-Houthi. On 27 August 2007, after having been released, Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani was abducted and tortured by a gang of armed men. His family have also been subject to physical abuse and threats.

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In Singapore on Monday a U.S. citizen named Gopalan Nair was charged with insulting a judge because he wrote on his blog that the judge was “prostituting herself during the entire proceedings, by being nothing more than an employee of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his son and carrying out their orders”. Nair faces one year in prison and a fine.

The whole NSA wiretapping deal is a pisser, and the Bush administration are horrendous by American standards, but imagine the sentences some American bloggers would face if we had to answer to the Singaporean government.

Maher Takes on Religion in New Film

Bill Maher, a man who I firmly believe is moving comedy forward by sucking it dry of all funniness, has a new film coming out in which he engages religious people all over the world on the subject of whether or not what they believe is ridiculous.

Director Larry Charles (also directed Borat) describes the project:

What do you believe, why do you believe it, and why do you need to believe it? Can we be good without God? Is religion a calling or a mental illness? Were Jesus, Moses and Mohammed prophets and visionaries, or crackpot nut cases who today would be put away? Is religion an obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Comedian, acerbic commentator, raconteur, skeptic, seeker Bill Maher and I set off in search of answers to these questions in a raunchy, rude, irreverent, outrageous, and shocking nonfiction film about the greatest fiction ever told.

I have long been disappointed by the exemplars of atheism and agnosticism in our society. Some of the most famous doubters are complete douches. Maher on the other hand is firm in his beliefs and, though he has at times been rather dismissive of people of faith, he’s not unable to have a real conversation and he seems capable of seeing people of faith as human beings.

My friend Seamus O’Rourke and I had an interesting conversation about documentaries the other day. We agreed that for the most part they give people the impression that they’re watching something truthful and on the level, when most of them have obvious biases they’re not owning up to.

I think that the approach that Maher is taking here, however, is obviously not a documentary. We do need a new genre term for these personality driven non-fiction films, but I like this approach because Maher is so far out in front of it that it can’t be mistaken for anything other than something, which may or may not be interesting, that a comedian is doing.

Anatomy of a Swiftboating–Has Obama Crossed the Bubba Threshold?

If John Kerry couldn’t get through the swiftboat blockade, what chance does Barack Obama have?

I think he’s going to smash right through that pathetic barricade, but perhaps there’s room for debate.

Smearing is an art form. There are guidelines to constructing a good smear. Simplicity is crucial. These people cast doubt on Kerry’s war record. The question handed to the voters by Bush’s campaign and the 527s was how can this windsurfing, liberal fairy be a war hero?

It’s stupid, but it worked because it was simple. At the Republican National Convention people put little purple heart band-aides on their faces and laughed it up.

Let’s look at another swiftboating. Bill Clinton faced a sustained nine years straight of swiftboating back when it was called smearing. The entire right wing threw several kitchen sinks and porch awnings at him. At different points he was a murderer and a “pussy” or a “fag”. He was a pacifist who wouldn’t stand up for America and then later he was a butcher of women and children all over Bosnia and the Sudan. There were too many strands and many of them contradicted each other leaving nothing but a lump of politically motivated hatred and the voters, more or less, saw it for what it was.

Andrew Sullivan shows how complicated and contradictory the various smears of Obama have become:

Is Obama a Muslim? Does it matter any more? We are in world of McTruthyism. In that world, Obama is an atheist, a Muslim, a black liberation theologian and a Marxist. Since the truth is irrelevant, they can all be true!

How deep we are into the realm of McTruthysim is a variable that I can not discern. I think we’re on the way out of the desert of the un-freaking-real, but cultural vertigo is difficult to shake and that desert is vast.

Still, I remain pretty well convinced that the Obama smears have already crossed what I call the Bubba Threshold of cognitive dissonance. The tipping point may have been the ABC debate. We’ll see.

Satire: The Borowitz Report: Democratic Race too Mean Says Swiftboat Veterans.

“Today We Have 50 Saddams”

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the statue of Saddam Hussein falling in Iraq.

Five years ago William Shawcross wrote this in the Wall Street Journal (h/t Rachel Maddow):

April 9th–Liberation Day! What a wonderful, magnificent, emotional occasion–one that will live in legend like the fall of the Bastille, V-E Day or the fall of the Berlin Wall. Watching the tearing down of Saddam Hussein’s towering statue in Baghdad was a true Ozymandias moment.

It slowly tumbled and, with perfect symbolism, just two rusty pipes were left sticking up from the boots. In the BBC’s London studio an Iraqi dissident said though tears, “April 9 is not just spring, it is for Iraqis eternal spring.”

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Well done Shawcross, you idiot. Read the rest of that article it’s really effed up. It’ll bring back some old memories.

Ibrahim Khalil, an Iraqi mechanic, took part in toppling that statue. He told AFP that he deeply regrets that. “If history can take me back,” he said, “I will kiss the statue of Saddam Hussein which I helped pull down.” He went on to tell AFP, “Now I realize that the day Baghdad fell was in fact a black day. Saddam’s days were better. I ask Bush: ‘Where are your promises of making Iraq a better country?’ These days when we go out we have to carry a pistol. In Saddam’s regime, we were safe. We got rid of one Saddam, but today we have 50 Saddams.”

You Didn’t Happen to See Four Nose-cone Fuses for Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles Did You?

China wouldn’t be mad if we accidentally hooked Taiwan up with some ICBM technology by accident would they? I mean, it’s not like we’re arming space or anything… Uh…

From CNN.com:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The U.S. Defense Department accidentally shipped non-nuclear ballistic missile components to Taiwan, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Four nose-cone fuses for intercontinental ballistic missiles were shipped instead of helicopter batteries that Taiwan had requested, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne said.

The fuses were shipped to Taiwan in 2006 and kept in a warehouse there. The Taiwanese military informed the United States last week about their presence on the island.

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China has been notified. China, you might have noticed, is in a bad fucking mood due to the simmering unrest that threatens to make their precious Olympics into a legendary embarrassment.

By the way something, on her radio show last night, Rachel Maddow spoke to sports writer Dave Zirin about the likelihood of protests affecting the Olympics. Zirin, who is very good on radio, explained that countries are making it very clear to their athletes that they are not to make political statements of any kind. Zirin predicted that the most likely group of athletes to break that silence could be NBA players. Members of the Cleveland Cavs, shamefully not LeBron James, have already spoke up, calling on China to help end the genocide in Darfur. LeBron has other interests. Zirin pointed out that this is pretty weak sauce from a guy who claims to be following in the footsteps of Muhammad Ali.

Zirin wrote an article for The Nation looking at how the unrest in Tibet affects the Olympics.

The Iraq News

Fifth Anniversary Edition


Ten shy of four thousand members of the American military have lost their lives in Iraq. The first 3,990 of those did not have to die and the ten more that will soon die and bring this total to a mindblowing 4,000 do not have to die either. The ones that will likely die on the way to 5,000 and beyond do not have to die. The untolled masses of Iraqis that will be killed, do not need to be. All it would take to end this is a few words spoken into a telephone by George W. Bush. Just a few words. But, instead, the words we hear from him are “it was worth it“.

The democratic majority in Congress ruthlessly squandered the opportunity to defund the OCCUPATION, so now, Congress can only end it with the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. These things sound impossible. They are not. They can happen right now. Today. It’s a matter of will. Waiting another year is obviously a tragic mistake.

We continue to be told that a we just need to hold out for political reconciliation. It’s never going to happen. Never was that more obvious than yesterday at a national reconciliation convention in Iraq that was boycotted by some of the most important political players in the country.

Here’s the Iraq News:

We’re Doing the Decadent End of America Wrong

There was a time when I thought I might be a communist. As a frustrated capitalist, it’s not hard to see how I could think that maybe–even though the grass isn’t greener in Cuba, China or North Korea– that splitting the largest pool of wealth ever seen 300 million ways might be a good idea. The brick wall that is reality approaches the American communist at a high velocity every five minutes or so. This country is deeply capitalist and it’s not changing.

So a new philosophy was in order. Luckily one presented itself to me as I read more and more about the founding fathers. Just getting the country back to what they intended it to be would be would take a lifetime of steady progress. Even then we would still be far from that happy political center between today’s corprotocracy and the utopian democratic communism of my whimsical daydreams.

But when I see shit like this…


…the commie inside stirs. This is Simon Cowell’s car. He dropped $1.4 million on it. What world do we live in where this schmuck gets to spend $1.4 million on a car that goes 250 mph! What road is this for? Hopefully one with a really high cliff at the end of it.Seriously, our music was bad before, now it may never recover and the reward for getting revenge for the American Revolution, which must’ve been Cowell’s intention, is a personal wealth of £100million.

What I want to know is how much money have the so called American Idols made? I’m sure it’s a lot, but if we’re going to be rank materialists, shouldn’t the “artist” at least be the one zooming down the road at 250 mph in a car that costs more than an entire school district’s annual budget? Repo this thing from Cowell, seize this man’s assets, give them all to Green Day or Death Cab for Cutie and let’s do the decadent end of America the right way.

Now That’s Plagiarism

After allegations and counter allegations of plagiarism flew between the Clinton and Obama campaigns earlier this month, an actual case of plagiarism hit the news cycle today that makes questions about Barack Obama lifting words from one of his campaign co-chairs and Hillary Clinton borrowing phrases from her husband seem like small potatoes.

Tim Goeglein, a senior White House aide, admitted copying from a ten-year-old essay by Jeffrey Hart. Goeglein’s plagiarized article appeared in The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.

In an email to The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Goeglein came clean, writing, “I am entirely at fault. It was wrong of me. There are no excuses.” Goeglein also said that he wrote to Hart and apologized.

So far, no word on whether Goeglein will resign his post, director of the White House office of public liaison. Paul Kiel of Talking Points Memo describes what Goeglein does at the White House. “[H]e’s tasked with serving as the “pipeline” to the president for the administration’s ‘most conservative supporters,’ as New York Times and Washington Post profiles put it,” Kiel wrote.

Blogger Mitch Harper of Fort Wayne, Observed says his blog is a “friend” to both Goeglein and the blogger who caught Goeglein by googling his work (well, actually not really his work), blogger Nancy Nall. Harper sums up how it went down.

UPDATE:  Goeglein’s resigning.

60 Minutes to Finally Air Story on Siegelman

The Young Turks preview the coverage of Rove’s viscous railroading of former Alabama Governor turned political prisoner Don Siegelman.

Key line from Cenk: “They went to go get him with U.S. Attorneys that were tainted.”

By the way something, CBS is running the story on the episode of 60 minutes that happens to run while the Oscars are on. I guess they missed the opportunity to break the Sibel Edmonds story opposite the Super Bowl.

Here’s a part of 60 minutes report.