Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What if?

Jeffrey Goldberg posts some depressing thoughts on the future of Israel as a non-democratic nation:
Let's just say, as a hypothetical, that one day in the near future, Prime Minister [Avigdor] Lieberman's government (don't laugh, it's not funny) proposes a bill that echoes the recent call by some rabbis to discourage Jews from selling their homes to Arabs. Or let's say that Lieberman's government annexes swaths of the West Bank in order to take in Jewish settlements, but announces summarily that the Arabs in the annexed territory are in fact citizens of Jordan, and can vote there if they want to, but they won't be voting in Israel. What happens then? Do the courts come to the rescue? I hope so. Do the Israeli people come to the rescue? I'm not entirely sure. There are many Israelis who value democracy, but they might not possess the strength to fight. Does American Jewry come to the rescue? Well, most of American Jewry would be so disgusted by Israel's abandonment of democratic principles that I think the majority would simply write off Israel as a tragic, failed experiment.
Depressing, indeed. What is the US government's reaction to such a failure? How strong an alliance do we maintain with an apartheid-like Jewish state? How does the government react to pressure from various groups and citizens in the US to pressure Israel to reform or face serious economic consequences, the way we did in South Africa?

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Fallacy Played Out

It's always amazed me when opponents of gay marriage have stated, "Well, if we allow gay couples to marry, the next logical will be that someone will marry an animal."

Well, here you go. You now have your little bit of proof that the next logical step has arrived.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The New Direction of the GOP

From potential 2012 candidate, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, originally from Yazoo City:
You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you’d lose it. If you had a store, they’d see nobody shopped there. We didn’t have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City.

Uh, that's because, except for the cloaks and hoods, Citizens Councils were the same as the Klan. If someone called it the Klan you got your ass run out of town. If you started calling it something like Citizens Council, you got respect.

American Family Association? Focus on the Family? Family Research Council? Tea Party Patriots? All respectable names for organizations who can't manage to utter respectable words for anyone different than themselves. Organizations doing their best to cleanse America of these outsiders, these different people, these anti-Americans, these communists, these Nazis, these black people.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The New McCarthyism

New York GOP Congressman Peter King, as the new head of the House Committee on Homeland Security, will hold hearings on the "radicalization" of some American Muslims.

Here's the money quote from his Op-Ed in Sunday's Newsday:
As chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, I will do all I can to break down the wall of political correctness and drive the public debate on Islamic radicalization. These hearings will be a step in that direction. It's what democracy is all about.
Next step will be to hold hearings about who does business with the American Muslim community. Then who has lunch with them, then who drives past mosques in America. Better watch out.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Prepare to Be Mad

Audubon Magazine has an infuriating look inside canned hunts. Money quote:
Often the animals have names, and you pay in advance for the one you’d like to kill, selecting your trophy from a photo or directly from its cage. For example, Rachel, Bathsheba, Paul, John, and Matthew were pet African lions that would stroll over and lick their keepers’ hands before they were shot in Texas.
My emphasis. Now, truth be told, deer and elk are far more common, but just the practice of rigging hunts for "sportsmen" on tight schedules just makes my blood boil.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Afghanistan: Worth It?

An ABC News/Washington Post poll says no:

A record 60 percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has not been worth
fighting, a grim assessment -- and a politically hazardous one -- in advance of
the Obama administration's one-year review of its revised strategy.
Well, let's have at that, shall we? Sixty percent of Americans in a poll. Now, as we know, most, if not all, polls like this are conducted by contacting Americans on land lines. Cell phones are not used (for whatever reason). That means that the vast majority of respondents in the polls are older Americans, since a great number of younger Americans don't have land lines anymore (unless, like me, they have to because cell reception sucks in their neighborhoods).

Now, it's not a stretch to say that Fox News is the most popular news channel among older Americans (show of hands of those who disagree... no one? OK, moving on). Well, as a recent University of Maryland study shows, those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely to be misinformed about a great many issues, including economic and foreign policy. The poll also suggested that Fox News watchers were, in general, less intelligent than non-Fox News watchers. Therefore, what are we to make of a poll of people who might be of lesser intelligence and misinformed about many things because they watched Fox News all the time? What are we to make of a poll of Americans who, since they are land-line owners, are probably older and watch a lot of Fox News (I keep typing "Fix News" for some reason, hmmmm), probably hate our Kenyan, Muslim, schvartze President?

Okay, okay, it's a stretch, I admit. But I believe the poll is misleading because of the way the poll is conducted. If you ask Americans, "Since there has not been another terrorist attack on American soil since we invaded Afghanistan, and since the Taliban has not returned to power in that country since the US defeated them, would you say that it was worth it to invade and occupy the country?" I think the answer would be much different.

Scarborough: Drinkin' the MSNBC Kool-Aid?

Scarborough has been a consistently anti-liberal voice on MSNBC for years. But here he is coming out against Republican senators who have complained about Harry Reid possibly keeping the Senate in session through January 4:
It’s offensive that people would use Christianity for political leverage with an argument that is so baseless that I got to say, my breath is taken away. Do we want to start with the most obvious one about who else is not going to be home on Christmas day? Troops in Afghanistan. ... The Republican Party has the upper hand in so many ways; in these areas they need to just shut their mouth. They’re embarrassing themselves.
A heartening statement in support of Harry Reid, as is this one from Faith in Public Life:
[The senators'] statements suggesting Christmas is a reason to delay action on a treaty aimed at reducing the threat of nuclear war is a misuse of the Christian holiday. If anything this time of year should be an encouragement for our leaders to work harder for peace on earth in response to God who wills peace for all.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The GOP: Party of Fiscal Fraud

It's been quite the spectacle to watch the Republican Party abandon nearly everything on which it campaigned this past fall regarding fiscal sanity and getting tough on the deficit. Ezra Klein muses:

This year, [the deficit frauds have] mainly been Republicans who opposed unemployment benefits because they'd add $56 billion to the deficit but demanded tax cuts that would add $4 trillion to the deficit.
Here's Tea Party advocate Hugh Hewitt trying to rationalize what the Republicans are doing in supporting the brokered tax deal:

The worst part of "the deal" is the damage it does to the Pledge to America. Speaker-designate Boehner's website prominently features the Pledge, and this Facebook page provides all the handy links to GOP rhetoric about it from September forward.

"The deal" violates five provisions of the Pledge, though hopefully one of those provisions --"Read the bill"-- will be honored before the House votes on "the deal" this week. Representative Steve King of Iowa bluntly declared what everyone knows on last night's Sean Hannity program --he hasn't read the bill yet because there is no bill to read. Thus all the GOP members declaring for the bill have been abandoning the pledge for the sake of creating a sense of momentum around "the deal."

On yesterday's program Congressmen Dan Lungren and Tom McClintock, both fiscal conservatives, declared for "the deal." Both argue that it was the best this Congress could do. Many conservatives reject that argument, but it is obviously a legitimate position to hold. But the GOP leadership needs to get out and talk about the Pledge and why it needs to be abandoned for the moment but will guide the new Congress.
My italics. Didja get that? What Hewitt is saying is, "Hey, all you rabid Tea Partiers who followed the Republican Party because of our position on the deficit: we know we said that the deficit was a BIIIIIG problem and that we'd tackle it as part of our Pledge to America, but we felt it best at this time to compromise with President Obama because all those millions of unemployed Americans really do need the government's help, despite the fact that we believe that help will compel them to avoid seeking employment. We'll gladly increase the deficit a puny $56 billion to help them (which will actually yield over $90 billion in fiscal stimulus) so long as we get those tax cuts for the top 0.3% of earners in this country, which we promised would stimulate the economy (even though they won't) and create jobs (even though they won't)."

Actually they will stimulate the economy and create jobs, but just not in America. The Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and other exotic locales will get great benefit from all those billions. But those middle-class Republicans in the flyover states who really could use the money? Hike up them bootstraps, now, and get to work!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Post of the Day

Sullivan. Money quote:
Many of us supported the Iraq War because after 9/11, we became so risk-averse that the idea of Saddam's alleged WMDs was enough reason to invade and occupy a country for a decade. We were so frightened by ... future attacks, we instituted illegal torture as a mainstream US interrogation technique. We remain so terrified of loser teenage religious nuts we allow our privates to be vigorously groped at airports. ... We are so alarmed that America may not for ever be the unquestioned greatest power on earth that we spend ourselves into bankruptcy trying to occupy or dominate the entire planet.

The only things we do not seem to be scared of are fiscal default and climate change. On those we are perfectly happy to let the winds blow where they will. Because it might just mean a little sacrifice from... us -- and not from somebody else.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Myth Visited and Acknowledged

In typical Sunday fashion, Andrew Sullivan tackles issues of faith. My favorite quote of the week:

The Christmas stories in the Bible - and they are multiple and contradictory - are obviously myths. They are obviously not to be taken literally.... If only contemporary Christians could let go of the literalism in pursuit of the far more extraordinary fact of the Incarnation.
Now this is something I could get behind, though not as an explanation for why Jesus was the Messiah.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

This Must Not Stand

Racism and xenophobia are taking hold in Israel at an alarming rate. Haaretz reports on a group of orthodox rabbis in Israel who in October signed a religious ruling which forbid Israelis from renting their property to non-Jews (a move aimed at Arabs). Money quote from the letter:

The neighbors and acquaintances [of a Jew who sells or rents to an Arab] must distance themselves from the Jew, refrain from doing business with him, deny him the right to read from the Torah, and similarly [ostracize] him until he goes back on this harmful deed.

Another quote from one of the rabbis who signed the letter:
Racism originated in the Torah. The land of Israel is designated for the people of Israel. This is what the Holy One Blessed Be He intended and that is what the [sage] Rashi interpreted.
Yikes. Luckily there has been considerable blowback from the Israeli government, including Netanyahu:
How would we feel if someone said not to sell apartments to Jews? We would protest, and we do protest when it is said among our neighbors. It is forbidden that such things are said about Jews or Arabs.

In what way are the words of these rabbis any different from the words of white supremacists or Nazis who created official rulings for forbid blacks, or Jews, from living in certain neighborhoods, from owning property or businesses?

Mega-Hypocrisy Watch

Sullivan posts about an interview by Harper's Scott Horton of C. Bradley Thompson, who authored the book Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea. Thompson:

The single greatest threat to America, according to many neocons, is not communism or radical Islam but nihilism, and they see nihilism as the inevitable outcome of Enlightenment liberalism and America’s founding principles. The real problem with liberal-capitalist society for Strauss, Kristol, and Brooks is that individuals do not sacrifice themselves to anything higher than themselves and their petty self-interest. What America needs, therefore, is a two-step antidote for its cultural malaise: the inculcation of public virtue and the promotion of nationalism. The neocons seek to restore a public philosophy that promotes sacrifice as the great moral ideal and patriotism as the great political ideal.

I almost choked reading that passage. If there are any Americans who have wholeheartedly embodied a complete negation of anything other than self-interest, it has been the neocons. On the purely economic side, they successfully fought for the removal of all reasonable regulation of the financial markets, which led to the greatest global economic crisis in 78 years, one from which we're still recovering. They also successfully fought for deficit-exploding tax cuts that sunk precious little into the economy to spur increases in jobs, real wages, or American wealth (except for the top 0.1%, of course). And they did this, in large part, by convincing hard-working middle-class Americans, for whom there would be no benefit, material or otherwise, to vote against their own interests for candidates whose largest contributors were raking in record corporate profits. Plus, they paid lip service to the idea of sacrifice for a pie-in-the-sky social agenda, while during this whole time, gay marriage has become more widely recognized, abortion remains legal and safe, and God remains largely out of the public sphere. What a scam they have pulled. I want to see how Grover Norquist has sacrificed. I want to see how John McCain has sacrificed (and losing an election for president doesn't count). I want to see how Dick Cheney has sacrificed (well, he might be one of the only ones who has sacrificed. After all, he risks arrest for war crimes if he ever leaves United States soil).

On the non-economic side, neocons have done nothing to embody self-sacrifice. How many neocons in positions of power have sent their sons and daughters to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan? How many of them are buying American cars? Vacationing in Hawaii and the Florida Keys rather than on non-American-registered cruise ships? How many of them are volunteering and donating more of their incomes to charity? Sarah Palin is right about one thing: the neocons like the Bushes and Cheneys are "blue bloods," elites whose idea of sacrifice is riding in a town car instead of a double stretch limo, or foregoing memberships at toney tennis clubs to play at a local park.

In the neocon view, Leona Helmsley said it best: taxes are for the little people.

Neoconservatism stands for nothing -- no government regulation of corporations, no restrictions on American hegemony, no restrictions on Executive Power, no paying for any big government spending with corresponding increases in revenue, no acceptance of anything except American exceptionalism even in the face of America's decline in influence all over the world, no reality except that which they define, no objectivity in the corporate owned media, no net neutrality, no Fairness Doctrine, no free primary and secondary education for everyone, and no end to the party in D.C. celebrating their attachment to corporate welfare from the government they despise.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Theocracy Watch

The Texas GOP wants their next Speaker of the House to be a "true Christian." One candidate for the job says he's not anti-Jew or a racist:
My favorite person that’s [sic] ever been on this earth is a Jew. How can they possibly think that if Jesus Christ is a Jew, and he’s my favorite person that’s [sic] ever been on this earth?
Emphasis from the author of the piece. He also says he got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office. "They're the people that [sic] do the best jobs over all."

He'd better hope that no non-Jews ever serve him food, or cut his hair, or work on his car, or care for him in the hospital.

I hope he gets the job, I really do. Texas deserves him.

Stepford Lives!

Tell me it's just a bad snapshot of Gingrich's wife! No way! Can't you see the faint red glow around her eyes? Those are the LEDs signaling that the microprocessor is commanding the unit to smile.

(Photo: Newt Gingrich and Callista Gingrich pose for photos during the 33rd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at the Kennedy Center Hall of States on December 5, 2010 in Washington, DC. By Kris Connor/Getty Images.)

Roger Waters at Staples Center 12/5/2010

I used to go to big rock concerts regularly when I was young: Rush twice, Jethro Tull twice, Billy Joel, Sting three times, Genesis, ELP, Bruce Springsteen, King Crimson four times, Talking Heads twice, Peter Gabriel. But, since I hit 30 or so, and ticket prices spiraled way out of control, I went to fewer and fewer concerts. Then, about three years ago, I took my son Max to his first concert: Rush at the Hollywood Bowl. Since then, I've done a fair amount of concert-going. I didn't think I could be completely blown away at this stage of my life by a rock concert. Until last night, that is.

Roger Waters was the primary writing genius behind Pink Floyd's most successful recordings until leaving the band about 1983. In 1979, the band released The Wall and toured the world with an ambitious stage that featured animation, large-scale puppets, and a large white wall built brick by brick during the performance, separating the band from the audience.

Last night Waters performed his third of three Los Angeles shows re-creating and re-imagining his earlier work. The puppets, the wall, and the animation were still there, but the show benefited immensely by using modern technology, state of the art sound (critical in a place like Staples), and world events that have occurred since 1979. The use of images like victims of 9/11 and the Iraq War (both US military and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan), as well as dissidents from the Iranian Green Revolution, lent a currency to the music and the storyline that made it very chilling to witness. At times, I was moved to anger, sadness, despair, laughter, and awe. Sitting next to my wife, I wanted to applaud so often, but found I couldn't, as I was too engrossed in the story, in the visuals, and in the sheer theatricality of the performance. It was as if applause would cheapen the power of what Waters was communicating. My favorite moment came when Waters, with acoustic guitar in hand, played the haunting ballad "Mother" in unison with a grainy film of him performing it 30 years ago that was projected on the not-yet-completed wall. During the second verse, he sings: "Mother, should I trust the government?" as a graphic slowly materializes on the wall -- "No Fucking ... Way."

At 66 years old, Waters still has the voice of someone much younger, with that maniacal edge that shows up in so many of Floyd's work. The show was a testament to his genius, his world view, and his vision of despair that can give way to hope and acceptance. As he addressed the audience after the final number, he said that 30 years ago he was "pretty miserable" while composing the songs for The Wall, but has now been able to approach this music from a place of healing, of happiness, and of appreciation. Time can do that....

(Photo of The Teacher being assailed by children during "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)," the biggest single from the album, taken by me from about 100 or so feet away)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Those Eight Crazy Nights

Happy Hanukkah to my fellow Tribespeople!

As we celebrate the third night tonight, I wanted to share a little YouTube I came upon thanks to HuffPost. It's a spoof of Taio Cruz's "Dynamite" (one of my kids' favorite songs and a mainstay on Radio Disney, by the way), performed by a cappella group The Maccabeats.

Cute, low-budget, and my kids are gonna love it! Enjoy...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

WikiLeaks Reaction

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is, perhaps, one of the only persons whose words actually carry weight around the issue of the leaked State Department cables (Hillary Clinton and the President, being the others). Here's what he had to say about the disclosures:

But let me – let me just offer some perspective as somebody who’s been at this a long time. Every other government in the world knows the United States government leaks like a sieve, and it has for a long time. And I dragged this up the other day when I was looking at some of these prospective releases. And this is a quote from John Adams: “How can a government go on, publishing all of their negotiations with foreign nations, I know not. To me, it appears as dangerous and pernicious as it is novel.” . . .

Now, I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think – I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets.

Many governments – some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation. So other nations will continue to deal with us. They will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another. Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.

Brilliant. Move on.