Saturday, August 28, 2010

The spy who came in from the cold, became a best-selling author, and spoke out against the evils of his time

John Le Carre, author of dozens of cloak-and-dagger thrillers, told the Sunday Telegraph's Seven magazine that the British intelligence agencies for whom he worked in the 1950s and 1960s -- MI5 and MI6 -- carried out numerous assassinations in the name of fighting the Cold War.

"Certainly we did some very bad things," he said. "We did a lot of direct action. Assassinations. Although I was never involved."

But of course we were never as bad as they were:

Le Carre argued that the operations carried out by Western intelligence agencies were a far cry from the "unaccountable" killings by their Soviet Bloc adversaries.

"Even when quite ruthless operations are being contemplated ... the process of democratic consultation was still relatively intact and decent humanitarian instincts came into play," he said. "Totalitarian states killed with impunity and no one was held accountable. That didn't happen in the West."

Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Not only did we win, but we played nicer. We're awesome.

(Actually, I like Le Carré a great deal. I've read almost all of his novels, all of them up to the last few. While I prefer the realist Le Carré of the Cold War to the moralist Le Carré of recent years -- and it's that moralism, wrapped up in righteous outrage, that has turned me off his recent work -- I admire him for speaking out with indignation against the excesses and abuses of the West, not least with respect to Africa, as well as against the madness of recent U.S. foreign and military policy, notably the Iraq War. When he speaks, it seems to me, he ought to be taken seriously.)

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Tell me lies

By Mustang Bobby.

It's ironic that in an age where we can get instant information -- the Encyclopaedia Britannica on your cell phone -- and yet a large number of Americans haven't got a clue and are perfectly willing to believe something that is demonstrably false. It's not just things like whether or not President Obama was born in Hawai'i or whether or not he's a Christian, or whether or not it was his administration that pushed through the bank bailout and TARP (it was the Bush administration on both counts), or just simple stuff like the world is round. It's the willful ignorance of people who, when faced with the facts, choose to listen to the lies.
It would be nice to dismiss the stupid things that Americans believe as harmless, the price of having such a large, messy democracy. Plenty of hate-filled partisans swore that Abraham Lincoln was a Catholic and Franklin Roosevelt was a Jew. So what if one-in-five believe the sun revolves around the earth, or aren’t sure from which country the United States gained its independence?

But false belief in weapons of mass-destruction led the United States to a trillion-dollar war. And trust in rising home value as a truism as reliable as a sunrise was a major contributor to the catastrophic collapse of the economy. At its worst extreme, a culture of misinformation can produce something like Iran, which is run by a Holocaust denier.

We are all creatures of habit. People choose what they want to believe if it fits into their little jigsaw puzzle of a mind; new information that doesn't meet with the pattern is disturbing and disorienting. We want a simple explanation for the randomness and complexity of life. It explains religion, superstition, and reality TV. Paradoxically, the people who don't do a lot of deep thinking are prone to believe complex theories of conspiracy and control by "others"; mysterious forces beyond our control that manipulate us from beyond, be it a magical superbeing in the clouds or a man in a glass booth who makes the noises coming out of a box on the table.

We find comfort in being able to say that we can't control the things we really can. And it makes our lives that much easier when we can believe the lies rather than deal with the facts.


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Friday, August 27, 2010

"Sharia" and American secularism

by Peter Henne

It's not often that academic issues like the relationship between Islamic thought and contemporary politics become relevant. So I was excited to see the
Washington Post's story on the nature of sharia. This is connected to the Park51 debate, although the question of whether Muslims must follow sharia like an instruction book--and what this means for American society--periodically arises. The last time was an op-ed by Edward Luttwak claiming President Obama is a Muslim under Islamic law, and that all Muslims will be compelled to oppose him as an apostate.

The story includes blurbs by several experts--including Gallup's Dalia Mogahed--dispelling myths about sharia's totalizing influence over Muslims. And they are right; anyone who has spent even a semester studying Islam will have learned that sharia is not a fixed set of laws, but a set of principles drawn from diverse sources and about which there is much disagreement. Moreover, even if sharia does contain guidelines for Muslims, this does not mean all Muslims will follow it in their daily lives; Muslims are no more likely than Christians to check with their Scriptures before making a decision. This was covered well in the responses to Luttwak's piece.

The renowned Islamic scholar Olivier Roy--in his classic
The Failure of Political Islam--describes sharia as characterized by both autonomy and incompleteness. That is, it exists independently of power structures but is constantly contested. The specific application of sharia in any context is based on contingent political, economic and societal factors, not any inherent aspect of Islam. Saying that sharia will lead Muslims in America to literally follow all aspects of their religious writings would be the same as arguing that medieval Catholic Canon Law not only represents all of Christianity, but drives the behavior of contemporary Catholics.

Of course,
this does not address the question of what the effects may be of the infusion of Muslim values--whatever form they take--into American politics and civil society. This is a question that is worth pondering; we just need to ponder over the right facts.

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Season of the Witch

By Capt. Fogg

Will the process that's been so noticeable since Nixon's retreat result in civil war, or will the collapse of government be as invisible as a black hole in the midst of the raging litigation now being planned by the Republicans to mark their return to power? The legal assault on Bill Clinton, that was retribution for the legal actions taken against felonious Richard Nixon and his corrupt administration, was notable for its attempted parity.

Charge for charge, and almost word for word, the Gingrich gang and its Starr inquisitor attempted to make charges of propositioning a woman payed handsomely to make them, and having asked his secretary not to tell his wife into impeachable treason. That the Democrats have again usurped their perceived mandate of heaven and taken control ( sort of) once again, plans are already being made to cripple Barack Obama as they did Clinton, come November 8th and never mind that Obama seems faithful to his wife -- it doesn't matter.

" Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) – are quietly gearing up for a possible season of subpoenas not seen since the Clinton wars of the late 1990s,"
says Politico today.
"How acrimonious things get really depend on how willing the administration is in accepting our findings [and] responding to our questions,” adds Kurt Bardella, spokesman for the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who refers to his boss as “Questioner-in-Chief.’"
I'm assuming Obama won't readily accede to the inevitably trumped up and specious charges, but you never know, judging from his restraint in bringing up the GOP's singular failures, gross misrepresentations, war crimes and constitutional infractions, but acrimonious? That's as close to real humor as a Republican has ever come.

There are no angels in this dogfight, but the Republicans have an undeniable record of unrestrained, immoderate and rabidly vicious assault on all fronts when they're defeated and more so when that defeat is so clearly merited. They don't like rules except when the rules protect them. They love secrecy but decry it in others. They don't like taking responsibility for their failures, but find fault with anything and everything in their opposition and they don't give a damn if they're right or wrong as long as they gain power.

The November elections are only two months away, but the pyre is already under construction waiting only for the witch hunt to begin. It doesn't matter what Obama does or whether he succeeds or fails. I doesn't matter if he picks up every stitch, it's still going to be the season of the witch.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)


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Craziest Republican of the Day: John Fleming

Yes, let's give the award today to the congressman from Louisiana, for taking us right back to the Crusades:

We are either going to go down the socialist road and become like western Europe and create, I guess really a godless society, an atheist society. Or we're going to continue down the other pathway where we believe in freedom of speech, individual liberties and that we remain a Christian nation. So we're going to have to win that battle, we're going to have to solve that argument before we can once again reach across and work together on things.

Where -- oh where -- to begin? Well, let's just make a few points, however obvious: 

1) Western Europe is more "socialist" than the U.S., yes, but much of it, these days, is run by conservatives: Cameron in the U.K., Merkel in Germany, Sarkozy in France. Last time I checked, Europe is still capitalist, with major corporations that dominate the world and a dynamic continental economy that is doing better the U.S.

2) Western Europe may be less religious than the U.S., but it's hardly atheist. Last time I checked, countries like Italy and Spain are deeply Christian.

3) Obviously, Fleming is expressing a black-white worldview that is wholly without nuance (and wrong). But, even if he's right that the two options are Christianity and atheism -- they're not, but let's play along -- how is it that Christianity promotes freedom and liberty while atheism does not? If anything, the reverse is true. While this is a generalization, I admit, Christianity has long been the enemy of freedom and liberty, as is it today with the theocratic fundamentalist Christianity that is so politically powerful in the U.S. If you really want to be free, do away with Christianity (and religion generally). Actually, just oppose the sort of Christianity Fleming seems to want to govern American society, a Christianity that seeks to impose a moral code that is decidedly against freedom, including the freedom not to be that sort of Christian and to believe in other gods, or none at all. The alternative to such Christianity is not necessarily atheism, which can, I admit, be absolutist, but the removal of religion from the public sphere and the freedom to believe what we want to believe in private.

4) Like so many on the right, Fleming doesn't know the Constitution, or what America is all about, or at least distorts it to suit his theocratic agenda. Is America a Christian nation? In terms of sheer numbers, Christianity may be the largest religion in the U.S., but no, it isn't. Last time I checked, the Constitution, that document of which conservatives are supposedly so enamored, what with all their high-falutin' talk about the original intent of the Framers, does not establish a state religion and does not endorse one religion over any other. Isn't that supposedly what America is all about, founded in direct contrast to Europe, the Old World, where countries, as well as sub-national states, imposed state religions on oppressed peoples, usually some form of Christianity or other, and a long and bloody history driven largely by religious belief and religious hatred had dominated the entire continent, pushing so many to find freedom in the New World across the ocean?

5) It is not just incredibly ignorant but disturbingly dangerous to paint American politics as the battlefield of a civilizational clash, whether between Christians and Muslims or between Christians and atheists. It is a gross misrepresentation, of course, but also an invitation to extremism and possibly violence. We have seen, many times, how the far-right fringe, now increasingly the conservative mainstream, responds when incited like this, and it can get ugly. Those like Fleming who push this sort of propaganda are largely responsible for it -- and must be held accountable.

6) John Fleming is an idiot. And, clearly, a worthy CRD.

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"Saturday night, when the event is done, the Lincoln Memorial will still be the place where King gave one of the most memorable speeches of the 20th century. People who came to the rally in search of answers will still be looking. And Glenn Beck will still be a legend in his own mind." -- Eugene Robinson, in a must-read piece, on Glenn Beck's "all about me" rally in D.C. tomorrow.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Targeting Muslims, inciting violence

Conservative fearmongers and hatemongers, including Newt and Sarah and all you Fox News propagandists, this, along with other such incidents, is at your feet:

In the latest in a spate of anti-Muslim incidents over the last two days, an intoxicated man entered a mosque in Queens on Wednesday evening and proceeded to urinate on prayer rugs, New York police officials said.

The man, identified as Omar Rivera, reportedly shouted anti-Muslim epithets and called worshippers who had gathered for evening prayer "terrorists." One witness told the New York Post the man was "very clearly intoxicated" and had a beer bottle in his hand at the time.

"He stuck up his middle finger and cursed at everyone," Mustapha Sadouki, who was at the mosque at the time, said. "He calls us terrorists, yet he comes into our mosque and terrorizes other people."

This, and worse, is what happens when you target Muslims, insinuating, or even outright declaring, that they're all a bunch of America-hating terrorists (including American Muslims who love America), that anyone who would attend a mosque or community center, near Ground Zero or elsewhere, must be a jihadist of some sort. You are stoking fear and inciting violence, and we will only see more of this as you continue to pollute the airwaves, and the air itself, with your relentless bigotry.

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Big Brother's keeper

By Capt. Fogg

Tiger Woods named his Yacht "Privacy." It's obvious why he was seeking it, but we assume incorrectly that we have any right to privacy in these days of The Patriot Act and the mass marketing of fear.

Monitoring our phone calls, reading our e-mails -- that's old hat. Forcing us to produce birth certificates and citizenship papers for any cop who decides your car is weaving even if your ancestors have lived in Arizona for 15,000 years -- coming soon to a Confederate state near you.

But wait, there's more.

Law Enforcement agencies are now adding vans equipped with side scan x-ray units that can inspect the contents of your car as well as the contents of your jockey shorts if you're walking down the sidewalk. Probable cause, my ass -- and yours.

Government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go according to Time magazine. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals -- the one Fox insists is so Liberaliberaliberal -- tells us we don't have a right to privacy if our cars are parked in our driveways. Search warrant? Don't make me laugh; they don't have to show you no stinking search warrant, at least not in the nine Western states under its jurisdiction, not to install the device or to use it to see who you visit or even how fast you drive . We have no reasonable expectation that the government isn't tracking our movements even if we pay cash at the gas station and at toll booths and don't use a cell phone. We're fools if we do.

Sound like a libertarian, don't I? I'm not and I'm not because I am not blaming this on a straw man government, I'm blaming it on you. I'm blaming it on us. We voted for the people who are doing this, we supported the Patriot act, we wallow in the fear mongering the retailing of idiot rage that "justified" it. We fall for their distractions, their distortions and we bark and growl like Pavlov's dogs. When they push our buttons, we push their buttons on the voting machines.

Sure, the Ninth Circuit is liberaliberaliberal, when they insist you can't use your religious beliefs to stop people from marrying, but they're not are they? They're not when they argue that your home is their castle as is your car, your mailbox and your telephone, and by pretending we're conservative we vote for the people who appoint them to take our freedom and make us thank them for their trouble.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Democracy denied: David Broder, John McCain, and the delusional politics of difference-splitting centrism

It takes a certain kind of masochism to get through the smug, centrism-über-alles drivel David Broder churns out at the WaPo column after unbearable column, and it takes that masochism to the nth degree actually to like it.

And yet sometimes, you just can't look away, which is what happened to me when I read the typically Broderish headline to his latest, published today, "John McCain, your country is calling."

Is it? Someone tell the country. It might not be amused.

In this column, as so often previously, in print and on TV, Broder celebrates what he sees as McCain's admirable above-the-frayness, his unique statesmanship at a time and in a place where, apparently, such statesmanship is sorely lacking. In other words, he props up the McCain-as-maverick myth that McCain himself cultivated so carefully, a myth has occasionally matched reality, as when McCain has broken the orthodox Republican line to work with Democrats (as on campaign finance reform, way back when) or to challenge Republican orthodoxy itself (as when he ran against Dubya in '00, doing remarkably well until the establishment crushed him, he lost, pouted for a couple of years, flirting with the Democrats, and then came running home to mama, embracing Dubya in '04 and never really looking back).

"I did not begrudge him the $20 million he spent to win Tuesday's primary, or whatever amount it was," Broder writes. "Nor was I bothered by the doctrinal compromises the senator made to convince Arizona voters that he was, in fact, a conservative." No, Dean Broder? Not bothered at all that this one-time quasi-independent mavericky pseudo-statesman and ardent and bipartisan proponent of removing the cancer of money from politics, scared of losing to the red-meat conservative J.D. Hayworth, basically blew the lid off the bank and ran as far to the right as he could, joining the ideological fringe that is now the mainstream of the Republican Party, as when he turned his back on immigration reform and a sensible approach to the issue of undocumented immigration by pandering to the nativist, racist GOP base in a state, Arizona, that has passed draconian anti-immigrant legislation? Really? McCain didn't "respond forcefully" to Hayworth's challenge, he just signed on to the current far-right Republican line. (Back in Spring '08, by the way, in a column slamming Hillary and Obama and calling their primary contest "The Democrats' Worst Nightmare," Broder praised McCain as "the rare exception who is not assumed to be willing to sacrifice personal credibility to prevail in any contest." He was wrong then and he's even more wrong now.)

McCain was never really the maverick he claimed to be and that the establishment media, of which Broder is a beacon, reported ad nauseam that he was. He was always a solid conservative and loyal Republican, save for that brief post-2000 flirtation, feelings hurt after the Bushies played dirty and smeared him without mercy, with the Democrats. Sure, he could have run with Kerry in '04, and perhaps he should have, but, with an eye on '08, he didn't, remaining comfortably ensconced where politically he had always been. And, sure, the right has long looked upon him with suspicion, neocon crushes excepted, and there wasn't much enthusiasm for him in '08 until he picked Palin, to his eternal discredit (and let us not forget that Broder has a mad crush on Palin), but that doesn't mean he's the sort of leader America needs or even much of a leader at all.

"The last thing the Senate needs is a loudmouth ex-radio talk show host like Hayworth. What it does need badly is adult leadership, and it's now incumbent on McCain to demonstrate that he is prepared to fulfill this role for both his party and his country." I agree with Broder that the Senate doesn't need Hayworth, who is, admittedly, far worse than McCain has ever been, but McCain has shown no willingness to be a leader with Obama in the White House, despite initial post-election suggestions that he might just fill that role.

"That reputation [for independence] is his ticket to influence, and a precious gift he can bestow on others, Republican or Democrat, who are willing to join him as a dysfunctional Senate prepares to struggle with a challenging agenda both domestic and foreign." Yes, but he has effectively destroyed that reputation with a sordid, fear-based campaign just to win the Republican nomination in Arizona, and it just doesn't seem that much influence remains. Sure, Democrats would love his vote, and it would be great if he could pull over the likes of Lindsey Graham, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins, three Senate Republicans who aren't quite as extreme as the rest, to vote with Obama on key issues, but he's had that opportunity already and he didn't take it. Where was he on health-care reform? Or climate change? Or immigration? Just because he's beaten Hayworth and will likely win re-election in November, does that now free him, as Broder suggests, to return to what he supposedly once was? Even if he really was once that, and even if he had the desire to lead, he'd likely be an ineffectual leader without many, if any, followers. He may once have commanded influence, and millions may have voted for him, but you're living in a past that never was if you think the future is McCain's to rule.

Broder, as usual, is wallowing in delusion, promoting a Beltway worldview of triumphant centrism that hardly resonates anywhere in America, however much Americans themselves may express frustration with the way Washington works. "One of the conspicuous failings in the past few years has been the absence of a second party making principled decisions on when to support and when to oppose the president. McCain has the best opportunity -- and the best credentials -- to restore this." No, what has happened is that one half of America's two-party system is descending ever further into madness. Even Capitol Hill Republicans, a bit more sane than the conservative base, have chosen the path of all-out opposition and obstructionism to anything and everything Democrats, with control of the White House and solid majorities in both houses of Congress, want to do. Against this, perhaps the dominant political development of our time, McCain would hve no chance of success even if he wanted to break free.

One big problem, though, is that Broder is not alone. He is not so much an independent thinker as the voice of a specifically inside-the-Beltway approach to politics. Unlike, say, the various pro-Republican mouthpieces at Fox News or The Wall Street Journal, Broder doesn't really stand for anything concrete, nor does he have a distinct policy agenda. What he and many of his Beltway brethren promote instead is the politics of difference-splitting. This is what their centrism is all about. In this case, one assumes, Obama would lead the left, McCain would lead the right, and the synthesis of this friendly thesis-antithesis would be the desired outcome, one that fed up Americans would celebrate. Of course, this too is utterly delusional. Washington doesn't work that way, or at least not anymore, and, in a world in which Republicans are trying to block everything they can and in which you need a supermajority in the Senate to get anything done, any such constructive "mutual respect" between Obama and McCain, assuming McCain is interested in working constructively with Democrats (we know Obama is more than willing to work constructively with Republicans, as he keeps showing even as he snubs his own liberal-progressive base), would likely go nowhere.

And, too, what of this very dynamic? Is the center between Obama and McCain really what Americans want and what would be best for the country? Given how far conservatives have successfully moved the American political spectrum to the right over the past few decades, this "center," as the Broder-oriented media see it, is already pretty far to the right. It's more of a center-right that leans Republican and tilts further to the right with additional conservative manipulation of the establishment media. Would the Broder approach have brought us health-care reform? Surely not, because McCain, along with Graham, Snowe, and Collins, were all against it, towing the GOP party line. Let us not forget, though Broder seems not to care, that Obama won the White House decisively against McCain and that Democrats have relatively enormous majorities in both the Senate and the House. Isn't that the true reflection, or as true as can be in a democracy governed by money, media, and corporate special interests, of the popular will, and shouldn't Democrats be able to govern effectively without having to secure 60 votes in the Senate? Why should they have to pander to McCain, why should they even need McCain, as Broder suggests, given the overwhelming electoral results of '06 and '08?

But Broder apparently cares not for the popular will, nor for majoritarian rule. What drives him is that smug center-right centrism that allows him to feel superior and above it all while feeding, whether he intends to or not, the conservative narratives that allow what has become a far-right party to block effective governance and the sort of meaningful leadership and change America needs. Perhaps it's wrong to expect more from the Beltway media establishment -- it certainly is from Broder himself -- but American democracy is undeniably being denied by this appallingly misguided approach to politics.

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Gay Mehlman

A prominent Bushie Republican has come out of the closet:

Ken Mehlman, President Bush's campaign manager in 2004 and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, has told family and associates that he is gay.

Mehlman arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently, he said in an interview. He agreed to answer a reporter's questions, he said, because, now in private life, he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage and anticipated that questions would arise about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California's ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8.


Privately, in off-the-record conversations with this reporter over the years, Mehlman voiced support for civil unions and told of how, in private discussions with senior Republican officials, he beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage.

Well, good for him. I really do hope he's now "a happier and better person." But wouldn't it have been nice if he'd been a public advocate for gay rights while he was a significant public figure?

But of course he's a Republican, and being a Republican means being anti-gay, and it says something about his party (and about the American right generally) that he couldn't come out while he was a public figure and that he had to hide his views behind the ramparts of bigotry that surround the GOP.

Mehlman claims that he just recently realized he's gay, which is hard to believe. It's far more likely that he had to keep his secrets completely secret during his public life in politics. One wonders how he managed to get by without the freedom to be true to himself and with the need to play along with a party that objects strenuously to what is obviously a central component of his selfhood.

"It's something I wish I had done years ago," he says. Fine, but did he have no self-respect at all? Or am I just underestimating how hard it is for anyone, Republican or otherwise, to come out? I'm happy for him, but call me a skeptic.

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By Carl
This is not a surprise to people who have spent any time at all over the past eight years listening to even the mildest gossip about Republicans. During the 2006 pedophilia/men's bathroom scandals of the GOP, Mehlman was talked about fairly frequently. I suspect there were several bloggers who really wanted to out him. I also suspect that his own personal stance (no pun intended) on gay issues probably saved his bacon from embarrassment.
Ken Mehlman came out last night, and vowed to defeat Proposition 8 in California. This takes a lot more courage than we suspect, but not as much courage as he'd like us to believe.
The interesting thing to note here is how many high profile Republicans have engaged in the battle against Prop 8: Ted Olson, former Solicitor General for Dumbya and on the short list for the SCOTUS during those years is one of the lead attorneys in the fight. And now, Ken Mehlman, who probably has a fairly robust and wealthy Rolodex.
(side note: in this age of Blackberries and iPhones, does anyone even HAVE a Rolodex anymore?)
Back to courage. Undoubtedly, Mehlman could have gone into retirement quietly. His legacy, re-electing the most unpopular President in history, would have been safe. He chose not to do that. Grudgingly, I tip my hat to him. It's important to appreciate when someone does the right thing for the right reasons. Hell, from Republicans, I'd applaud doing the right thing for the wrong reasons! Half right from the right is alright by me. 
He shows courage in this fight by outting himself at a time when the monster he's helped create and nurture, the right wing wacknutcase Teabaggers, has reared its ugly head and released a full-throated yawp across the landscape. While I'm convinced the Teabaggers are a one-off phenomenon, they have altered the political landscape of the Republican party, making it dangerous for anyone of any moderate tendencies, much less a minority like blacks or gays. I anticipate Mehlman will be excoriated by many, defended by some, but forever held at arm's length.
He really has no one to blame but himself. If he's going to show true courage, it is incumbent upon him to "refudiate" the Palinistas and speak up and speak out about the hate he has engendered. 
It may be two years too late for Mehlman to demonstrate the kind of political and personal courage to alter the river of hate that flows through his party. If in 2008 he had made this revelation, if in 2008 he had come out and opposed the anti-homosexual measures that his party was taking to drive the fear vote in the hinterlands, that would have been courage. It would have been courage to stand up in 2008 against Prop 8, back when it could have been prevented in the first place. 
Perhaps he believed it couldn't happen here. Perhaps he believed that California would never in a million years pass a hate crime masquerading as legislation. That's a plausible position to take, but still...the possibility always exists. In the day and age of stridency that Mehlman himself has helped foment, true courage would have been to acknowledge your own failures.   
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Last of the Mohicansteins

For nearly 2000 years, Jews lived along side their Arab and Muslim neighbors (peacefully and not-so-peacefully) in Yemen - a small, significant and volatile country in the Southwestern corner of the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen was the only country on the Peninsula with a sizable Jewish population. Sadly another country will join the ranks of cultural pure, as the last hundred or so Jews living in Sana'a (the capital) will pull up their stakes and move to Israel in the next few months.

This of course will go mostly unnoticed in the US, as almost all Middle Eastern countries are viewed as impoverished, radical-filled societies, unworthy of our attention. Besides we have our own cultural cleansing to witness.

A one time Yemen had a thriving Jewish community, mostly of Sephardic descent. Jews were prominent leaders and merchants in the country during the 4th and 5th centuries. As late as the early 1900's, nearly 100,000 Jews lived among the dominant Muslim society. The Jews of Yemen spoke Arabic - and many considered themselves Arabic Jews. Yemenis claimed they were proud of the Jewish culture in their country - but were against Zionism (a familiar excuse throughout the Middle East). After the creation of Israel in 1948, life changed dramatically. Tens of thousands were flown out of the country by the US to Israel, Europe and America. The wave of emigration came just after the 1967 war, and finally around 1,200 Jews fled in 1990. With Yemen increasingly becoming hostile to Americans and non-Muslims, refugee groups raised the needed funds to resettle the remaining in Israel.

Their departure closes another window on tolerance, understanding and peace.

The countries of the Middle East - from Morocco to Iran - used to be the home to hundreds of thousands of Jews. This is what is left of those communities:

Saudi Arabia

At one time there used to be a considerable Jewish community in the land that is now known as Saudi Arabia. Before the ascension of Islam, most of the Jews of Arabia lived near Medina in the 6th and 7th centuries. Today there are no known Jewish Saudi citizens. Saudi Arabia is a strict theocracy and does not permit public worship of any religion other than Islam. As guardians of the holy Muslim shrines, the Saudis do not permit any non-Muslims to enter Mecca, but Jews from other countries have lived and worked in the kingdom. It is not a simple process for Jews to enter Saudi Arabia, but there is no out-and-out ban.

United Arab Emirates

As a virulent anti-Zionist, anti-Israel country, the UAE does not have an organized or even visible Jewish community. Like Saudi Arabia, the UAE probably has no Jewish citizens, but does have guest workers and long-term businessmen (in Dubai) that are Jewish. There is some record history of Jewish settlers and traders in the current borders of the UAE. The UAE has made some outreach to Israel and Jewish organizations.


Jews lived in Oman for many centuries. As late as the 1800's, the city of Muscat had a Jewish presence. While Oman did not outwardly discriminate - the few Jews living there migrated to other countries before 1900. Today there are no known Omani Jews.


There is no known Jewish community in Qatar. While the country is a theocracy that bans public display of any religion other than Islam, personal bibles and home prayer is tolerated. Qatar was the home of the US military during the invasion of Iraq. Jewish soldiers were permitted to pray, have services and receive kosher food.


Before 1914, there were around 200 Jews, mostly from Iraq, living in what is present-day Kuwait. They were traders and also known to make alcohol for the native Muslims. To blend in with the locals, many would cover their head with a traditional Fez. During the 1920's, all the Jews living in Kuwait went back to Iraq. Today there are none.


Bahrain an island nation the size of New York City, has a Jewish community that numbers around 50. During the 1930s and 40s, there were approximately 1,500 Jews living in Bahrain, mainly from Iraq. Many of the retail shops in the downtown business district were run by Jews, who would close for Shabbas. After Israel was created, riots broke out on the island. Many Bahraini Arabs hid their Jewish neighbors. Most of the Jews in Bahrain fled to England in the early 50's. Bahrain is the only country on the Arabian peninsula with a synagogue.


Much of present-day Jordan was part of the land of Israel in Biblical times. Three of the 12 tribes of Israel lived in Jordan. The lands around the Jordan River fell under various Empires, always with some sort of Jewish presence. The Ottoman Empire ruled over Palestine (which incorporated modern day Israel and Jordan) for 400 hundred years until 1917. At the close of WWI, the British were awarded the Mandate of Palestine (which is split into Palestine and Transjordan in 1921). The Balfour Declaration in 1917 endorsed the idea of a Jewish homeland in the Mandate. When the Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan were created in 1947, there was a sizable Jewish community on the West Bank. Jordan seized that territory in the 1948 war and expelled the Jews. Jews living in Jordan were excluded as citizens. While Jordan and Israel have signed a peace treaty, tensions are high. There is no Jewish community in Jordan


Jews have lived in Syria for centuries. Damascus was a center of Jewish culture during Roman times. When the Jews in Spain were expelled in 1492, many settled in Syria. In 1948 there were 30-40,000 Jews living in Syria. Conditions became harsh after the formation of Israel, with severe restrictions on emigration. Many escaped. In 1992, the Syrian government began to grant exit visas to the Jews - as long as they didn't go to Israel. Thousands left for Europe and the US. Today, there are over 40,000 Syrians Jews in New York, there are less than 200 in Syria. The Ben Zeruyah Synagogue in Aleppo was in operation for over 1,600 years - today it is deserted.


Lebanon was home to one of the oldest Jewish communities. In 1948 there were 25,000 Jews in the country. After the 1948 war, Jews from Iraq and Syria fled to Lebanon. However, after the 1958 Civil war, many began to flee to Canada, France and Israel. By 1967, the Lebanese Jewish community had dwindled to 1,000. Today there are less than 700 Jews, many living among the Christians and Druze.


The plight of the Jews in Iraq is one of the most tragic in all of the Middle East. The Jews of Iraq were one of the world's oldest and most historic communities. Baghdad was the center of Jewish culture and learning for thousands of years. During the Babylonia period, the Jewish community thrived and was economically strong. The rise of Islam and the Mongol Invasions led to a decline. Fortunes changed during the Ottoman Empire, but over time the tight grip of the Turks led to a deteriorating situation for the Jews. In 1900, 25% of Baghdad's population was Jewish.

Jews played a critical role in the formation of the Iraqi nation. They helped develop the postal system and judicial process. Things changed as Nazi propaganda began to filter in after 1933. In 1934, many Jews were dismissed from their jobs in the public sector and quotas were set in colleges. A pogrom broke out in 1941, killing 200 Jews.

In 1948, there were nearly 150,000 Jews in Iraq. After the war with Israel, businesses were boycotted and oppression became the norm. Emigration to Israel was forbidden. The underground began to smuggle out Iraqi Jews. From 1950 to 1951, over 120,000 Jews fled to Israel via Cyprus. In 1969, 9 Jews were hanged after being accused of spying for Israel. Most of the remaining fled by 1971. In 2003, just as the US invaded Iraq, there were 100 Jews in the country. The new constitution in 2004 does not include Jews as a minority group. Some people estimate there are less than 25 Jews in Iraq today.

Other Arab countries:

Algeria: In 1948, there were 140,000, today there are none
Egypt: In 1948, there were 80,000, today there are less than 100
Libya: In 1948 there were 40,000 Jews, today there are none.
Morocco: In 1948 there were 275,000 Jews, today there are less than 7,000
Tunisia: In 1948 there were 100,000, today there are around 1,000

All told there were well over 750,000 Jews living in Arab countries before the creation of Israel. Today there are just under 10,000 - with 90% of that tally living in Morocco. Turkey and Iran still have sizable communities.

The lack of diversity in many of these nations........

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Just how crazy is Sharron Angle? (7)

Joe McCarthy crazy. Here's Greg Sargent with the details:

On a radio interview conducted on the day she announced her Senate run in 2009, Sharron Angle clearly and unequivocally agreed with an interviewer who asserted flatly that there are "domestic enemies" and "homegrown enemies" in the "walls of the Senate and the Congress."

In a separate post, he quotes Harry Reid's justifiably angry response:

Sharron Angle's rhetoric is irresponsible and over the top. Let me be very clear. While I may have some differences of opinion with my Republican colleagues in the Senate, I have never questioned their patriotism. For Sharron Angle to agree that any of them -- Republican or Democrat -- is an enemy of the state is not only an insult to every United States Senator, it's a disgrace to our country. If she is going to use such rhetoric, she has an obligation to name names and explain to the American people exactly who she thinks is a domestic enemy.

Needless to say, Reid has a lot of material to work with, though, as Sargent notes, he generally avoids any direct criticism himself, leaving it to his supporters. But this, a direct attack on Congress -- and specifically on Reid and his Democratic colleagues (because it's not like Angle was calling any Republicans "enemies" of the state) -- required a direct response from Reid himself.

Of course, Angle either doesn't know what she's talking about, just nodding like a puppet, or really does think that some in Congress -- it's not clear, but likely those more progressive members of Congress who object to the far-right-fringe conservative ideology that is now at the heart of the Republican Party -- are basically traitors working to undermine "our system," as far-right-fringe radio host Bill Manders put it to her.

This is crazy, yes, but also cowardly, and Reid is quite right that she should name names and be held accountable for making such an outrageous claim. But this is how conservatives work -- these days, at least. Without much to stand for in any positive way, other then the failed economic policies of the past, theocracy at home, and warmongering abroad, they resort to the politics of us and them, feeding the culture of fear and hatred with partisan divisiveness and scapegoating of the Other, undermining the "system" and the American way by acting and speaking with un-American zealotry.

Angle is just one of them, crazy and stupid, and she needs to be called out on it.

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Treading water in Sri Lanka

by Peter Henne

Last week, a commission began investigating the final phase of a horrendous decades-long civil war. This war, which ended last year, caused tens of thousands of deaths, prompted military interventions from a regional power, drew in a transnational diaspora, and spawned numerous refugees. The war's aftermath presents significant implications for the international community concerning counterinsurgency, terrorism and refugee flows. Unfortunately, it occurred in Sri Lanka, a country that receives negligible, if any, attention in US media or political discussions. If the international community were to focus on this crisis, however, diplomatic pressure to address the grievances driving the conflict combined with reconstruction aid could yield tremendous benefits.

Tensions between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils in Sri Lanka began after independence from Great Britain. The colonial government empowered the Tamils at the expense of the Sinhalese, which generated a great amount of resentment. Contention between the groups erupted into a civil war in the 1980s that continued until recently; the primary combatant on the Tamil side was the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a terrorist group characterized by destructive attacks and a pioneering use of suicide bombings. Indian forces intervened in the late 1980s, but their troops did little to stabilize the country. After almost two decades of abortive peace agreements, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa launched an all-out offensive against the LTTE, with Sri Lanka's civilians caught in the middle.

The turmoil continued after the war ended. President Rajapaksa easily won re-election in January 2010. Yet, his opponent -- General Sarath Fonseka -- was recently convicted by a military court, an event some see as politically-motivated; Rajapaksa also attacked the UN over its attempts to investigate government actions during the war and set up his own commission, which many believe will be inadequate. And Tamils have expressed concerns over continuing government activities in Tamil-populated areas and perceived threats to their demographic and cultural integrity.

The situation in Sri Lanka resembles a swimmer treading water, neither sinking nor rising. There are several reasons why we should care about this, beyond altruistic concerns. First is what it says about counterinsurgency tactics. The Sri Lankan government defeated the LTTE through brute force, rather than a restrained civilian-centric strategy. This in part shows the inherent tragedy of war, as "good guys" are often hard to find and conflict rarely ends in a satisfying and morally-sound manner. As I have said before, this presents unwelcome lessons for US efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Namely, is it possible to put down an insurgency without resorting to the Sri Lankan government's tactics? Is the best we can hope for a low-level equilibrium? These are questions, not answers. If international silence over the Sri Lankan civil war continues, this could indicate tacit agreement that the government's rough tactics were acceptable, or at the least unavoidable.

Second, the Sri Lanka crisis speaks to worries over both terrorism and refugees. While the worldwide Tamil diaspora for the most part rejected the LTTE's brutal tactics, the group likely gained some support from Tamils abroad. Also, many Tamils fled the country during the fighting, including a ship-borne group that recently reached Canada. Canadian officials want to ensure the safety of the refugees, but also worry about terrorist entry into the country. International inaction could both allow LTTE cells to continue operation -- possibly serving as a model for other transnational terrorist networks -- and lead to the denial of asylum to legitimate refugees.

This treading of water is also apparent in US attention to the crisis. President Obama called on the Sri Lankan government to protect its civilians in May of 2009, and a November 2009 Congressional resolution expressed similar concerns. But there has been little beyond that.

With all the international and domestic problems we are facing, and a mid-term election looming, can we really expect US leaders to devote resources to this crisis? Probably not. That being said, of the various international concerns out there, this one may be relatively easy to address. Major combat is over, so it would not require military intervention in an ongoing war. And despite some problems, Sri Lanka is a democracy, so the United States would not be required to partner with a regime of dubious integrity. Diplomatic pressure and the threat of economic sanctions combined with aid for combat-affected areas could push the Sri Lankan government to accept the UN mission while providing help in recovering from the war.

Achieving a just resolution to this war, and repairing war-ravaged areas of Sri Lanka, would help the Sri Lankan people and provide a beneficial model for other cases of conflict resolution. Inaction, however, will produce a perpetuation of the tragic status quo in which the international community looks on as untold numbers of civilians die.

(Previously posted at
The Huffington Post)

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"Last week I was in a cab when the sun officially set at 7:47 pm. My cab driver promptly broke out food for his iftar, and volunteered to me that he was Muslim that he could finally break his fast . Then he offered to share his food with me. It never occurred to me to stab him. I must not be watching enough Fox News." -- Gawker comment by doctorzizmore in reaction to the "are you Muslim" hate crime, cabby stabbing in NYC.

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What the fight over Park51, the planned Muslim community center near Ground Zero, is really all about

We really are in the dog days of summer.

Americans, apparently with nothing better to worry about, are still clashing heatedly over Park51, the planned Muslim community center (note: it's not really a mosque) near (note: not at) Ground Zero. I wrote about it before I went away on vacation a couple of weeks ago, my co-bloggers addressed it during my absence, and here I am writing about it upon my return. It's the story that just won't go away -- and understandably so, perhaps, as it has all the easy-to-digest and easy-to-regurgitate elements needed to keep the media interested and eager to feed it, including the language of the culture wars and the simplistic, self-serving conservative-spun narrative of us versus them, good versus evil, "America" (the distorted idea of America according to current conservative ideology) versus Islam(ism).

I don't need to rehash the clash here, and I probably don't need to restate my position on it. But let's go back to August 4 for a moment, when I responded to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's brilliant speech in support of the community center:

The conservatives attacking the "Ground Zero mosque" -- which is neither at Ground Zero nor a mosque -- do not honour those who died on 9/11, nor the Constitution, nor America itself. Rather, they spew bigotry, anti-Muslim bigotry, and seek to divide the country into "us" and "them," in so doing playing right into the hands of those who question America's commitment to its long-held values, proving America's enemies right. And in opposing the construction of the community center, these conservatives are proving to be a lot like al Qaeda and bin Laden, intolerant religious extremists who reject religious conciliation and understanding.

America should be better than that, and better than its enemies, and Michael Bloomberg clearly wants it to be. Ground Zero will remain what it has become, sacred ground, no matter what surrounds it, but the Islamic cultural center will be proof that America actually lives up to its values and principles -- to freedom -- even in the face of uncompromising adversity.

Nothing has changed -- other than the conservative attacks, which have gotten uglier, nastier, and stupider -- and I stand by that today.


Bloomberg has continued to champion the community center, putting in the larger context of what this is all about. As he put it yesterday:

But if we say that a mosque and community center should not be built near the perimeter of the World Trade Center site, we would compromise our commitment to fighting terror with freedom.

We would undercut the values and principles that so many heroes died protecting. We would feed the false impressions that some Americans have about Muslims. We would send a signal around the world that Muslim Americans may be equal in the eyes of the law, but separate in the eyes of their countrymen. And we would hand a valuable propaganda tool to terrorist recruiters, who spread the fallacy that America is at war with Islam.

Islam did not attack the World Trade Center -- Al-Qaeda did. To implicate all of Islam for the actions of a few who twisted a great religion is unfair and un-American. Today we are not at war with Islam -- we are at war with Al-Qaeda and other extremists who hate freedom.

A stirring speech, and a stirring articulation of what America should be fighting for.


Let me be clear about something, though. While I applaud the Cordoba Initiative's efforts to bridge the divide between Islam and the West, as well as to "[seek] to actively promote engagement through a myriad of programs, by reinforcing similarities and addressing differences," as it states on its website, it's not like I think Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the head of Cordoba (which is closely involved with Park51), is such a wonderful guy. As Christopher Hitchens noted at Slate on Monday, Cordoba "full of euphemisms about Islamic jihad and Islamic theocracy." That might be overstating it somewhat -- Rauf is closer to Fox News (as Jon Stewart has pointed out in some fantastic reporting recently) than to jihadism or theocracy -- but it's fair to say, I think, that Rauf's record is not without its troubling points. (Fox News is gleefully reporting Rauf's remarks made at a 2005 conference in Australia that "[w]e tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than Al Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims." But Rauf obviously wasn't excusing al Qaeda, he was just pointing out an undeniable fact, one that Americans, who generally have no idea what the world thinks of them, and why, would apparently rather ignore.)

As a liberal, I agree with Hitchens that tolerance must be a two-way street. Rauf, Cordoba, and Park51 ought to be tolerated, not least in a country that claims to value liberty and diversity, but there must also be tolerance by Muslims as well. And, yes, tolerance is sorely lacking in some quarters of the Muslim world, including among some American Muslims. (But, then, it is also sorely lacking in many, many quarters of American society, including among conservatives, as this clash has highlighted.) So while I object to the efforts to stop the community center, I also object to efforts, whether by Muslims or non-Muslims, to restrict liberty generally. America should be welcoming of Muslims and Islam, but, in America, Muslims and Islam also need to play by America's rules.

That applies, say, to Christian fundamentalists as well. I abhor Islamic theocracy, but I also abhor Christian or any other kind of theocracy. Liberals, after all, must be vigorous in the defence of liberty and must not let tolerance subvert freedom. There is nothing wrong with not tolerating theocracy and jihadism.


But let us not go too far the other way either. What we must strive for, even as we promote and defend liberty, is balance. The question comes down to what ought to be tolerated.

It would be one thing, obviously, if Rauf were setting up a terrorist training facility at Park51. That would be acceptable neither close to Ground Zero nor anywhere else. But he isn't. He's involved with setting up a community center that "will be dedicated to pluralism, service, arts and culture, education and empowerment, appreciation for our city and a deep respect for our planet. Park51 will join New York to the world, offering a welcoming community center with multiple points of entry," one that "[u]phold[s] respect for the diversity of expression and ideas between all people." And the project is hardly disrespectful of the victims of 9/11: "[T]here won't be any views of the Ground Zero memorial from the building. To honor those killed on September 11th, we have planned for a public memorial within our future facility as well as reflection space open to all.

But of course the demented conservative worldview has no place for such things, so inflamed is it with fear, hatred, and loathing. Which means the clash isn't over, not with Republicans hoping to cash in politically on a manufactured controversy like this come November, not with conservatives seething with rage and spewing propaganda, and not with the media more than happy to play into conservatives' hands by keeping the story alive.

The fight for liberty and diversity, for the very heart of what it means to be American, must continue, even as the un-American ideas and activities of conservatives spin further and further to the extreme.

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Why "Libertarians" Are Wrong

By Carl
Exhibit A: Michigan added to list of states facing salmonella-related egg recall
Say what you will about government intrusion into our lives, at least government is accountable to the people, to some degree.
Here we have a case of a corporation, accountable to no one-- not law, not public shareholders (assuming it's like most nearly every other corporation and has its voting power secured in the hands of the board of directors)-- except for the government and its regulations and inspectors, willfully and negligently introducing toxic bacteria into our food supply.
Over one half billion eggs. Admittedly, when compared to the total number of eggs in circulation annually (80 billion) it seems like small ova, but consider that right now, of that 80 billion, only 7 billion are in circulation, and suddenly a half billion seems like a staggering number. 
Here is where "libertarians" like Beck and his moronic ilk have it wrong: it's the lesser of two evils to have government in our lives a little in order to avoid having business in our lives a lot. When you look back over the history of governance in this country, we've tried to be more sensitive to the needs of corporations than to the needs of citizens, and have gradually realized that we needed a better balance. 
I'm convinced we're not there, not even close, yet. Companies who compete in the economy cut corners. That's a fact. They justify cutting corners by analyzing the risks to the general public and determining whether those risks and the concommitant injuries and damage are worth the potential price they'd pay. 
We're not just talking about manufacturers or farmers. Our entire economy has been destabilized by a bunch of thick-headed yahoos who decided it was OK to risk the entire housing base in order to make a small (as compared to the losses now) profit off the backs of the poor and middle classes. 
If the government unfairly takes away one of my basic rights, I have recourse, not only to the courts, but to my elected officials and to the media, and those government agencies and officials can either be shamed into compliance or removed by either administrative fiat or the votes of the people. 
Who impeaches GM for foisting the Hummer on us? BP for smearing out beaches with oil and killing entire fishing communities? Goldman Sachs for essentially evicting millions of Americans? The list is literally endless.
And that's with a government with oversight and regulatory capacity, as toothless and ineffective as it was for the eight years under Bush! Imagine what we would be facing in a world without even that veil of security?
Corporations cannot be thrown in jail. They can be fined, but those fines rarely amount to anything more than a quarter or two of profits. They cannot be indicted and forced to stand trial. 
Yet, they have been given the same basic civil rights as you or I (with some exclusions. No corporation is ever going to win a Fourteenth Amendment claim.) They have protected speech. They can finance political campaigns. They can be protected from unlawful searches and seizures. And so on. 
But hey, you folks keep on thinking that Obama et al are socialists hell bent on destroying the Constitution. We know who the true enemy of freedom is. 
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I voted

By Mustang Bobby.

I did my duty as a citizen. I stopped off on the way home and voted in the Florida primary today.

The driveway to the polling place was lined with signs, people waving signs, and candidates handing out literature. When I parked, one of the candidates ran up to me with his flier and said, "I'd appreciate your vote." The flier told me this particular candidate had been endorsed by Jeb Bush. I think I actually recoiled. He went on, "I've never been in politics before," as if that was a selling point. I replied, "I wouldn't go to a doctor who had never practiced on a patient," and went in to vote.

The place was practically empty, and filling out the ballot -- using a pen to fill in the little bubbles -- was pretty easy. I did not vote in the races where I'd never heard of the candidates, and read with interest the ballot measures.

When I handed in my ballot to have it scanned, I saw that the counting machines had totaled 435 ballots since 7:00 a.m. It was now 5:17 p.m. so that's a little more than 43 voters per hour. I asked the poll watcher, "Is that a lot?" He replied, "I don't know." "Has it been busy?" "For me."

This election doesn't seem to be incredibly inspiring. But then, in some countries people have given up house, home, family, jobs, and even sacrificed fortune and risked their lives to do something that took me two blocks out of the way on the drive home and required as little effort as a trip to the store. It would have been just as easy to drive home; no big deal. But I did something that actually will count, and that's more than all the blather from the talking heads, the demonstrations by the people in funny hats, and all the threats of Armageddon from a man who owes his job to people who did what I did today, and who can just as easily vote him out of office. And that's why it is so important.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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American blood on American Soil

By Capt. Fogg

Well maybe not blood - it was only some bits of stucco and brick, but you know. . .

President Barack Obama is "gambling with Human lives" says Texas Governor Rick Perry. I'm afraid he's not talking about any of our current foreign wars, and anyway, gambling with military lives is worth the patriotic fervor we need to keep the proles supporting Republicans.

He's not talking about the death cult that executes prisoners without much apparent concern for evidence of innocence. He's not talking about tossing out mining or oil drilling safety rules as "communism." He's talking about a stray bullet coming harmlessly across the border into El Paso from Juarez and hitting a wall, shedding American brick dust on American soil. It's happened once or twice before with no harm done to anyone, but it's Obama's fault according to the hysterical hyperbole of Rick because -- well just because.

Human Lives are being endangered because Obama is president and the failure of previous administrations to stem corruption in a country not our own is not worth discussing lest it place blame upon white shoulders, or heaven forfend; Texas gubernatorial shoulders and take all the fun out of our national game of "pin the blame on Obama." Yes, says Rick, we should amass troops on the border but to what effect he doesn't tell us. The drug lords we finance with our drug policies aren't going to notice or care. Perhaps they could form as a wall of human flesh to stop the spent bullet that strays over the border every few years? Or perhaps he'd like to invade Juarez, Tijuana and Nogales. After all we haven't stolen any property from Mexico for years and we really need another illegal invasion, don't we? We'd be protecting Amer4ican lives and we'd be welcomed as liberators and it would pay for itself and there are credible rumors of enchiladas of Mass Destruction. Remember the stray bullet! Never forget! wave more flags! Unhinged we stand!

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"The only way to get offended by the community center is to fully buy into the clash of civilizations rhetoric and believe that terrorists didn’t attack us on 9/11, but Islam did." -- John Cole, with the bottom line on the Park51 saga.

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Tea Time

By Carl
Well, today is "put up or shut up" on the Republican political landscape. If the Teabaggers want to be taken seriously as a political force in America, they are going to have to prove they are more than an angry mob who can intimidate and cower people into paying attention to them.
Three primaries hold the key to this: Florida, Arizona, and Alaska. Based on the last two, you can understand why today is bigger than any other race so far this year.
If the Teabaggers cannot sweep Alaska and Arizona, or at the very least make them competitive, they're doomed. Period. End of discussion. They must show the strength to defeat John McCain, the de facto standard bearer of the GOP in the 2008 Presidential election. They must show that Sarah Palin's home state is behind her and vote down incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski, daughter of the previous incumbent Frank. Fail to do either of these, and the Teabaggers are pretty much toast. Sarah Palin's credibility will have gone by the boards in Alaska, and a victory by John McCain will show that, when push comes to shove, the Teabaggers are nothing but little cowards talking a brave game.
McCain is running against nutbag J. D. Hayworth, former sports reporter and current unindicted criminal. Hayworth has a history of pulling off upsets...he beat a Congresswoman who held the endorsement of none other than Arizona icon Barry Goldwater, which should tell you how big a nutbag Hayworth is, if he can out nutbag Goldwater... and is benefitting from an anti-incumbent sentiment more than from his personal "charm" or his positions. Recent polls suggest that McCain will win easily.
Murkowski's Alaska opponent, Joe Miller, benefits from two things: an easier name to spell and Sarah Palin's endorsement. Not much else. Murkowski is far ahead in the polls.
Florida holds intrigue for different reasons. Altho the Teabaggers have endorsed a candidate, Rick Scott, a self-financed businessman over current Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. McCollum has made up an awful lot of ground in a nasty fight that has crippled, perhaps fatally, the Florida GOP, to hold a nine point lead in recent polls. He was down by double digits at one time. Overshadowing all this is the spectre of former Republican and current Florida governor Bill Crist, who actually looks smart for having left the party and for choosing not to run for re-election but trading up for the Senate seat.
So...a little sugar in your tea?
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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