Thursday, December 30, 2004

No Surprise

Ramsey Clark to Defend Sadam

Ian Williams, UN correspondent for The Nation, skewered Clark in an article for Salon, "The War Criminals Best Friend."

In fact, many of these political anomalies make sense in light of his role as the figurehead for the International Action Center, which in turn is the front for the Workers World Party. Between them they write his letters and briefs. Respected by some on the left for their ability to bring out people for demonstrations, they are reviled by many for bringing the left into disrepute.

The Workers World Party split from the Socialist Workers Party many decades ago in support of the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, and it has remained true to its origins. Oddball Trotskyists morphed to Stalinoids, its members have since then supported the Chinese government over Tiananmen Square -- and of course see the current incumbents in Belgrade and Baghdad as staunch anti-imperialists. By appearing on their behalf, the former attorney general allows their views a vicarious respectability that they could never dream of otherwise. Associates take some small comfort from the WWP's hold on Clark -- it means that he no longer carries water for the equally oddball Lyndon LaRouche, with whom he flirted in the '80s.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Strange Politics of Christmas

Christmas has bene politicized as never before by the Christian right. Christian Morek in the New York Times noted that Christmas With the Kranks, which garnered, at best, lukewarm reviews; borrowed page from campaign undertaken by Mel Gibson for The Passion of the Christ. The studiobuilt its ad campaign almost entirely on endorsements from religous broadcasters and family advocates. Pat Robertson's "700 Club" took a leading role in promoting the film.

One can understand evangelical Christians promoting Gibson's movie, notwithstanding its sadism, anti-Semitic undertones, and Catholic emphasis on the suffering rahter than the risen Christ. But what in heaven's name are evangelicals doing promoting Christmas with the Cranks.

Roger Ebert, secularist, nails the problem with the Cranks

Christmas, some of my older readers may recall, was once a religious holiday. Not in this movie. Not a single crucifix, not a single creche, not a single mention of the J-name. It's not that I want "Christmas With the Kranks" to get all religious, but that I think it's secular as a copout, to avoid any implication of religious intolerance. No matter what your beliefs or lack of them, you can celebrate Christmas in this neighborhood, because it's not about beliefs, it's about a shopping season

So distant are the spiritual origins of the holiday, indeed, that on Christmas Eve one of the guests at the Kranks' big party is the local priest (Tom Poston), who hangs around gratefully with a benevolent smile. You don't have to be raised Catholic to know that priests do not have time off on Christmas Eve. Why isn't he preparing for midnight mass? Apparently because no one in the Kranks' neighborhood is going to attend -- they're too busy falling off ladders while stringing decorations on rooftops.

There is, however, one supernatural creature in the movie, and I hope I'm not giving away any secrets by revealing that it is Santa Claus. The beauty of this approach is that Santa is a non-sectarian saint, a supernatural being who exists free of theology. Frosty, on the other hand, is apparently only a snowman.

There is about as much real religion in the promotion campaign for the Cranks as there is in Ralph Reed's lobbying scam for Indian casinos.

Andrew Silow-Carroll hits the target in his blog and in a column in the New Jersey Jewish Week
we don’t make policy in order to protect the numerous and the self-confident, but the outnumbered and vulnerable.

The prosecutors of the current “put our Christ back in your Christmas” campaign know this. And because they represent a majority religion and a wildly self-confident ideology, they know that the only way to get traction is to present themselves as victims of a force even greater than themselves. The call it “secularism” and “commercialization” and “liberal judges run amok.” And they’ve whipped up a media frenzy about the death of Christmas.
His column adds this bit of profound trivia
What Krauthammer and others might call “political correctness,” my own rich religious tradition calls derech eretz. It’s the idea that if you can avoid making a fellow human feel isolated or alienated, without sacrificing any of your own deeply held beliefs or principles, then you probably should.
Bruce Prescott refutes some myths about the "persecution" Christmas in Mustang, Oklahoma, on his Mainstream Baptist blog.
We need to dispel the myth that Christ was expelled from the public school Christmas program in Mustang, Oklahoma. The children sang "Silent Night" which repeats twice that "Christ, the Savior is born" and repeats twice "Jesus, Lord at his birth."

Frankly, those are affirmations that I hold, but it is not the mission of public schools to teach children the doctrines of the Christian faith. It is the responsibility of the churches to be teaching the articles of faith. Mustang has more than twenty churches. The Christians there need to focus on providing religious education in their churches rather than expecting the public schools to do it for them.

2. We need to dispel the myth that Christians are being persecuted in our public schools. Most of the instances I hear about Christians being persecuted are really examples about Christians no longer being permitted to dominated the stage and school or takeover the public square.

In Mustang, people are complaining because their children could not stage a dramatic visual climax to a play that was designed to give dramatic emphasis to one faith -- the Christian religion.

If public schools are going to talk about religion, they need to see that each faith gets faith and equal treatment. They cannot give token mention of minority faiths while providing catechisms and Sunday School lessons for the majority faith.

3. The First Amendment was designed to protect the rights of minorities.

Our constitution does not permit the government or its agencies, and public schools are agencies of the government, to elevate one faith above another or treat people of minority faith as though they were second-class citizens.

4. We need to practice the Golden Rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Some statement of the Golden Rule, either positively or negatively, is common to all faiths. It is not a controversial value. If everybody would practice it, we could put an end to about 90% of these church-state cases.

I'm a Baptist preacher. I am a "born again" evangelical Christian, but it is high time that evangelical Christians start practicing the Golden Rule and living our faith instead of trying to make a show of it and forcing everyone else to play a role in our show.

Ten Greatest Rock Songs

Another poll by Norm Geras, this time asking for our 10 greatest rock-pop songs of all time. And now he's nudging us to send in our lists.

Norm writes that

I won't be including country music (or jazz, blues etc.), but I will count up your submissions, whatever they are. You want Tammy or Dolly, Ella or Billie or Louis? You got it. You're free to define your own boundaries. Your songs may be either singles or tracks off albums. However, here's one restriction. I'm asking for versions or renditions - not just titles. So for example, if you were going for 'Mr Tambourine Man', you would need to specify whether it's a version by Bob Dylan, by The Byrds, or whoever.
It might be easier to come up with the list of the 10 best rock and pop songs left off Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.

I've always thought that one measure of a great song is how many bands cover it. It's one thing when a song is covered by Top Forty bands, but then there are songs like "Hey Joe" which were recorded by many artists and were never huge sellers.

One problem with a list of this sort is more thinking doesn't produce more clarity about the ten greatest, it just adds more to the list to be eliminated. I've even stated listening to the "classic rock" station on the radio.

The real problem, though, no one is going to look at your list and just say "those are really cool songs." They are also going to form judgments of your politics, philosophy, worldview.

I'm emulating Norm and excluding blues songs. I've also excluded I also decided to leave out the Beatles and Rolling Stones. I'm sure they'll get enough votes.

Here's my list (First number is from my list of the first 25 songs that made my nominee list, before looking at RS's list. Number in parenthesis is where the song is listed in the RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time)

1. Green Onions Booker T and the MGs (181)
2. Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You–Aretha Franklin (186)
3. Mustang Sally–Wilson Pickett (434)
4. Ode to Billy Joe–Bobby Gentry (412)
5. Moondance-Van Morrison (226)
11. Proud Mary–Credence Clearwater Revival (155)
12. Eight Miles High Byrds (150)
13. Subterranean Homesick Blues Bob Dylan (332)
15. What’d I Say Ray Charles (10)
20. The Weight–The Band (41)

Almost all of these fall into a narrow time range. But this list has more or less coalesced. When I come up with another candidate, I simply can't come up with one to drop. So this is what I'm going with.

Close calls: 6. Purple Haze–Jimi Hendrix 7. She’s About a Mover Sir Douglas Quintet
8. Rescue Me Fontella Bass 9. 96 Tears Question Mark and the Mysterians
10. Sunshine of My Love’ Cream 14. Devil with a Blue Dress Mitch Ryder 16. Black Magic Woman Santana 17. Honky Tonk Bill Doggett 18, Knock on Wood–Eddie Floyd
19. Whiter Shade of Pale–Procul Harum (57) 21. Gimme Some Lovin’–Spencer Davis
22. Take Me Back to Tulsa–Bob Wills 23. Route 66-Nat King Cole 24. The Letter Box Tops
25, Hideaway Freddie King (These are songs that came to mind before consulting the RS list, browing my CDs, listening to 'classic rock' radio, etc.)

Still more close calls; “Rocket 88" Jackie Brentson “Susie Q” Dale Hawkins “Over, Under, Sideways, Down” The Yardbirds “Killing Floor” Electric Flag “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys " Traffic “Tell It Like It Is’ Aaron Neville “Smoking Gun” Robert Cray “Groovin’” Rascals “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” Big Joe Turner "Won't Get Fooled Again" The Who "Whipping Post" Allman Brothers

Send your list to

If this exercise makes you want to replace some vinyl check out Rhino records. Another company preserving great music from the rock era is Wounded Bird Records.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Open Letter from the Palestinian Peace Coalition

Open letter from the Palestinian Peace Coalition

The Palestinian Peace Coalition took the initiative last week to collect signatures of various Palestinian national and political figures and representatives of civil society groups on a statement that outlines the demands of the Palestinian public at large from the new Palestinian president who will be elected on 9 Janaury, 2005. By Saturday evening, the number of the signatories reached came up to 600 and the process of collecting further signatures will continue to ensure that the largest sectors of the Palestinian society are involved in designing their future by means of outlining their demands for the new Palestinian president.

The initiative to collect the signatures stemmed from the need to engage the maximum number of Palestinians in the current political debate ahead of the presidential elections in order to make sure that the public knows how important its contribution on the Election Day is in designing the future of the Palestinian people for years to come.

Among the signatories are incumbent and former ministers in the Palestinian National Authority, members of various PLO institutions such as the Palestinian National, Council, the Palestinian Central Council and the Palestinian Legislative Council, in addition to leaders and prominent members of various political parties, university presidents and lecturers, journalists, writers, artists, businessmen and financiers. Among others, the signatories include Yasser Abed Rabbo (member of the PLO Executive Committee and head of the PPC/ GI), Dr. Hanan Ashrawi (PLC member), Mahmoud Darwish (a prominent Palestinian poet), Dr. Nabil Kassis (President of Birzeit University), Qaddoura Fares (PNA State Minister), Dr. Iyad Sarraj (human rights activist), and leading Palestinian businessmen and financiers such as Zahi Khoury, Munib Al Masri and Hasib Sabbagh.

Read the entire letter.

MiddleEast Web Comments

Some notable aspects of this letter
  • Rejection of interim solutions (the 1974 PLO position which advocated establishing a Palestinian state on any liberated territory in order to better wage the war to destroy the 'Zionist entity.' Reiterated as recently as December 2003 by Fateh, the largest faction in the PLO.--Stuart)
  • "Right of Return" for refugees is not mentioned directly
  • Yasser Abed Rabbo, who signed the Geneva accord, also signed this letter, but this letter rejects the idea that Israel can keep settlement blocs.
  • and internationally-condemned changes on the ground that the Israeli occupation has accumulated in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jewish settlements and the Segregation Wall. "
  • Indirect condemnation of violence:"While we stress on our legitimate right to confront the occupation, we call for the restoration of the popular and public components of the Palestinian uprising and demand the cessation of all actions that would minimize the support and solidarity with our struggle or de-legitimize our national liberation struggle."
  • Sari Nusseibeh and some other prominent moderate Palestinians did not sign this letter]

  • Palestinian Peace Coalition
    : “Making Peace Our Horizon”
    Geneva Initiative: “Peace is Possible”
    Attareek Periodical: "Toward Independence & Peace” (in Arabic)
    PPC Newletter Dec 2004
    Attareek Periodical: "Toward Independence & Peace” (in Arabic) a bimonthly magazine published with Al Ayyam daily newspaper in Ramallah. which is described this way in the PPC newsletter
    From its first issue, Attareek aimed at promoting the following:
    * To enhance the realistic political culture and the culture of peace and coexistence on the basis of the Palestinian peace program, twostates for two peoples as presented in the Geneva Initiative.
    * To enhance secular and democratic values in the Palestinian society.
    * To raise Palestinian public awareness of Attareek Magazine international culture and ideologies with deeply rooted human and democratic content.
    * To re-consider values of enlightenment and tolerance against values of obscurantism and religious fundamentalism in the Palestinian society, mainly among the youths.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Rubbish from the IHT on Palestinian Textbooks

If you have a Ph. D. after your name, manifest a fashionable anti-Sharon and anti-Bush stance, and mention a few obscure reports from a few obscure think tanks, there is a good chance you will be able to print absolute non-sense in The International Herald Tribune.

Take a look Roger Avenstrup's December 18 column in the International Herald Tribune “Palestinian textbooks: Where is all that 'incitement '?”

It has been eagerly cited in anti-Zionists blogs and websites. And will be read by many more. Few who read the Avesntrup's opinion piece will bother to check out the sources he cites.

According to Avenstrup each and every analysis of Palestinian textbooks by research institutes have given them a clean bill of health In reality, the studies of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information have been quite critical. The 2004 report, for instance, says of the Palestinian textbooks “... it is not difficult to come to the understanding that the main political theme imparted to the students is that Israel should not exist and that is essentially the Palestinian goal. Assuming that this is not the political message that the Palestinian Authority adheres to, there is a need to make real revisions and amendments in the Palestinian text books.”

Avenstrup is, of course, free to disagree with the conclusions on the IPCRI. Instead he blatantly misrepresents their studies.

The beginning paragraphs of Avestrup's ITH piece .

Palestinian textbooks contain incitement to hatred of Israel, right? Both President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton have said so. Zionist groups constantly lobby European foreign ministries to stop support for Palestinian textbooks on that basis, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon affirmed it at a recent Likud party meeting.

Detailed analyses of the textbooks have been done by research institutes. The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem commissioned studies from the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), and in Europe the Georg Eckert Institute facilitated research. Research papers have also been published in international fora such as the Hebrew University's Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, the Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture, and presented at the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

At the political level, a U.S. Senate subcommittee on Palestinian education and the Political Committee of the European Parliament have both held hearings on the matter. No country's textbooks have been subjected to as much close scrutiny as the Palestinian.

The findings? It turns out that the original allegations were based on Egyptian or Jordanian textbooks and incorrect translations. Time and again, independently of each other, researchers find no incitement to hatred in the Palestinian textbooks.
Now compare Avestrup with the 2004 IPCRI report which states
International and Israeli reports on Palestinian text books claim that the Palestinian educational system is one of the primary evidences of a lack of Palestinian political will to make real peace with Israel. The failure of the Palestinian text books to address issues such as recognizing the existence of Israel explicitly automatically raises these questions found in the various reports. It should be mentioned, that in our view, some of the reports and some of the motivation for writing the reports were part of the anti-Palestinian propaganda campaign waged by various right-wing Israeli and pro-Israeli groups, nevertheless, the substantive critiques with quotations and hard evidence cannot and should not be ignored by the Palestinian Authority as a mere anti-Palestinian propaganda campaign.
“Substantive critiques with quotations and hard evidence” that doesn't sound to me like something to be dismissed as mere "allegations," but then I don't have a Ph. D. and am not an international educational consultant.

Here’s the 2004 report on how Palestinian textbooks treat the concept of Jihad.
By not placing Jihad in the broader context and leaving it as it is currently
dealt with in the Palestinian text books, one cannot but come to the conclusion that the Palestinian Authority is encouraging Jihad in the narrow sense of the Holy War against Israel and against Jews as well as against Christians.
So according to Avenstrup “encouraging Jihad–Holy War against Israel and Jews and well as against Christians” is not incitement to violence. In fact, he recommends that the Palestinian textbooks be adopted in Afghanistan.

This is what the 2004 Report said about the Palestinian textbooks treatment of martyrdom
The same can be said for the concept of martyrdom. It is not completely clear and evident from some Palestinian text books that there is rejection of support for suicide bombers. In fact, some of the texts could lead the reader to have real admiration for those who become suicide bombers and kill Israelis.
Avestrup writes
The IPCRI 2003 report states that the overall orientation of the curriculum is peaceful and does not incite to hatred or violence against Israel and the Jews,
True, but out of context and incomplete. The 2003 report also stated
the textbooks fail to extend these principles and concepts to include Jews and to the State of Israel. In addition, and although the curriculum provides the opportunity for students to recognize and respect beliefs and practices of “others,” the concept of the “other,” in most cases, is limited to Christians.

Generally speaking, coverage and presentation of history and historical facts is characterized as being selective. In addition one notices some elements and dimensions of imbalance and bias in the presentation of some ancient, recent and
modern historical events that transpired in the region.
The IPCRI report on 4th and 9th Grade Textbooks states
There are no direct instances that reflect a denial of Jewish connection to the Holy Land and the holy places in it However, the terms and passages used to describe some historical events are sometimes offensive in nature and could be construed as reflecting hatred of and discrimination against Jews and Judaism. Moreover, when Judaism (and Christianity are mentioned), the references reflect the holy and religious nature of the ancient Jewish traditions and not of their modern-day representation as the religion of Israel as well as Christianity as the religion of some Israeli and some Palestinian citizens
Gershon Baskin, co-director of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, said in an interview on CNN
I know that educators in Palestinian and people in the education department writing the textbooks wanted to write Israel, wanted to write different text under the maps, but they were told by the highest level politicians in Palestinian that that was not acceptable.
The recommendations of the IPCRI
The Palestinian text books have confused messages and it is not difficult to come to the understanding that the main political theme imparted to the students is that Israel should not exist and that is essentially the Palestinian goal. Assuming that this is not the political message that the Palestinian Authority adheres to, there is a need to make real revisions and amendments in the Palestinian text books. If this assumption is correct, then the recommendations in this paper provide some solid suggestions of what could be done immediately by the Palestinian Ministry of Education to rectify the confusion and to strengthen the position of the Ministry and of the entire Palestinian Authority in the eyes of the international community.
Here are some of the recommendations of the ICPRI
We recommend that the Palestinian Authority appoint a national advisory committee on Palestinian text books empowered to review the text books taking into account the critiques that have been raised over the past years. We further recommend that this committee meet with local and international experts, including Israelis and those who have written the reports on Palestinian text books. We recommend that this committee complete its work within 60 days and that its recommendations be presented to the public.

the Palestinian Authority could strengthen that recognition statement by adding “recognizing Israel as the State of the Jewish People”, this could be an important step towards rebuilding a peace process that could lead towards real reconciliation and would then find its expression within Palestinian text books as well.

• The Palestinian Authority has the ability to make difficult decisions regarding the need to readdress the primary issues of concern within the text books.

• The adoption of the suggested revisions in this report in the Palestinian Authority text books could make a significant contribution towards peace making by increasing the legitimacy for peace making amongst the Palestinian public.
While I share the general orientation of the IPCRI, it should be pointed out that they state quite clearly that they are operating on the assumption that the Palestinian leadership is commited to a two-state solution.

If you visit the website of one of the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief. you will find a pop-up with this message "The HRI/Oslo Coalition FOROB project concluded in 2000, therefore these pages are no longer updated on a regular basis."

IPCRI 2003 Report
IPCRI Report on 4th an9th Grade Textbooks
IPCRI 2004 Report
IPCRI 2004 Report on Israeli Textbooks

Critics of the Palestinian textbooks include
Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace
EU Funding
Critics of the critics
Norman Brown

Friday, December 17, 2004

Thnk Before You Drink

Water that is. Ian Williams takes on the bottled water fad.

bottled water is more of a commercial success, and increasing numbers of people are buying it in larger and larger quantities, even though benefits are equally illusory. All sorts of greenish individuals stock up on bottles of water rather than going to their kitchen sink and drinking the much cheaper generic alternative.

Do they ever stop to think of the damage they cause to the environment?

A trip to the kitchen to fill up on pure, cheap, low energy water will save the planet – and your bank balance.

Palestinian Activists Adopt Neo-Nazi View of Jews

Anti-Israel activists are openly adopting the peculiar position of Christian Identity, white supremacist and Neo-Nazis that modern Jews are not the Hebrews of the Bible.

One example is Sam Hamod in Counterpunch

most of those Ashkenazim Jews who were born and raised in America, such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Feith, are not even Jews genetically because they are descended from Slavic tribes known as the Khazars who converted to Judaism and whose native language was Slavic and whose first language in America has been English, as was the case of Robert Novak. I am not saying all Ashkenazim are not Jews, but the way some of them behave is certainly not in the way Moses brought Judaism from God through the Torah. One has but to look at the haters and war-mongers in the Bush circle of influence and this is evident; no God would want them to be associated with his name. ...

An excellent and accurate source for this history is Arthur Koestler (himself an Ashkenazi), THE THIRTEENTH TRIBE. The ADL and others have attacked, and continue attacking this book, but scholars know of its truth. The book is difficult to find, but one may find it with tenacity. This is not a condemnation of Ashkenazis and their intent to convert to Judaism, but it does mean they have enough genetic DNA in them not to have the same feelings about Judaism and life in the Middle East as do the Sephardic genetic Jews.
The Sephardic genetic Jews Hamod seems to be saying are willing to accept dhimmi status, unlike those nasty Ashkenazis who demand equality.

Columbia University professor Joseph Massad advances the crackpot idea in a column in Al-Ahram
In keeping with the Protestant Reformation's abduction of the Hebrew bible into its new religion and its positing of modern European Jews as direct descendants of the ancient Hebrews, post- Enlightenment haters of Jews began to identify Jews as "Semites" on account of their alleged ancestors having spoken Hebrew.
Why is someone who pushes such outlandish ideas even being considered for tenure at Columbia? (For a futher critique of Massad's column see this from Across the Bay.)

The most prominent advocate of this viewpoint is Yale University Professor Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, the leader of the Al-awda Right of Return and a leader in the pro-Palestinian movement. His recent book Sharing the Land of Cannan   argues that Azhenazis are Khazars not Jews and have no claim to a state in the Middle East. I think it can be shown that Qumsiyeh seriously and systematically mis-represents the evidence even when he writes in his area of academic expertise, which is biology. When he writes on history and politics, it is almost hilarious. About the only reason he supplies to back the myth of Arab and Muslim tolerance is that his father told him how nice everyone got along before the Zionists came.

In case you're wondering, what Qumsiyeh means by "sharing" is that there should be no Jewish state.

Update 12/18

Chip Berlet, one of the best informed and most astute right-watchers shared this background in a paragraph from Right-Wing Populism in America (Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons
New York: Guilford Publications, 2000)

Bankers, Reds, Jews, and Satan

The main antisemitic subtext of McCarthyism was enforcing obedience among Jews, who were suspected of having dual loyalties. At the same time, there was a sector of the Right that linked anticommunism with more open and nasty forms of antisemitism.
John Beaty’s 1951 book The Iron Curtain over America is an example. The false and fantastic thesis of the book concerns the descendants of the Khazars, whose tiny ruling oligarchy centuries ago converted to Judaism and then dispersed across Europe.[i] According to Beaty and other authors, the Asiatic racial descendants of the Khazars founded and controlled the Russian Communist Party as a step toward destroying western Christian civilization. A related and equally false corollary is that many Jews in the United States are descendants of the Khazars and thus likely candidates for enlistment by foreign Khazarite Jewish communists as subversives and spies.[ii]

[i] For a thorough debunking of the Khazar myth and its relationship to antisemitism, see Barkun, Religion and the Racist Right, pp. 136–142.
[ii] Beaty, Iron Curtain over America, especially pp. 37–43.
ANOTHER UPDATE. Noontide Press the publishing house of notorious anti-Semite Willis Carto. says this in its description of Beaty's book
The extraordinarily well-informed and courageous Beaty was one of the first Americans to breach the Iron Curtain of silence guarding the Holocaust hoax and the Middle East mess.
I find it quite interesting that these false and pernicious ideas of Khazar not Hebrews, holocaust denial, and anti-Israel go together and have gone together for decades.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Sharpton Exposed

Wayne Barret "On a New High, Sharpton Hits a New Low" Village Voice December 7, 2004

Sharpton's is a saga of hypocrisy more than hanky-panky. It is the tale of how he helped engineer the demise of his mentor, Jesse Jackson, who had an affair with the executive director of his nonprofit organization and showered her with benefits, even while Sharpton was sending every signal to those around him that he was doing the same

The Harris saga is not just a question of sex; it's a window into the dysfunction of Sharpton's universe. NAN's domain name was purchased in September 2003 and no one's ever talked to the company that bought it; they just stopped posting. The Voice sent a donor up to the 125th Street office in December 2003 to make a $25 contribution and the check was never cashed. Sharpton's campaign owes $479,050.72, having stiffed many vendors and staffers, most of them black, just as he and NAN have stiffed everyone from travel agencies to limo companies to the firm that had the title on a $46,880 SUV Sharpton leased from Gidron. The Federal Election Commission even wants its $100,000 in public matching funds back because Sharpton has refused to comply with a subpoena for detailed campaign records. The subpoena involves the over-the-limit expenses billed to Sharpton's credit card to cover Marjorie and Eddie Harris's travel.

The recidivist reinventor has survived so many sordid episodes—from his days as a confidential FBI informant to the defamation finding against him in the Tawana Brawley case to his suspicious ties this year with a top GOP dirty-tricks operative—that he appears impervious to revelation. He's entertainment. His core, it's said, will never waver. But he's operating now at a higher level and the larger he gets, the more vulnerable to fact he may become. His sidekicks are now whispering secrets about his wife the way they used to about Jackson. This time, he may have gone too far, and not even his magic tongue will keep him on that life-giving screen.

Also check out the companion piece "What Al Did to Jesse" and Doug Ireland's commentary on his blog.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Moderates win KS Senate Posts

Lawrence Journal World

So-called moderate Republicans in the Kansas Senate won the top leadership races, but after three hours of balloting and numerous ties, it was apparent the GOP caucus was deeply split.

"It's obvious with all the tie votes, we need to improve more than ever the need to work together as a caucus," said Sen. Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, who was elected Senate president.

In the House, conservative leaders were unchallenged in their re-election bids.

Playing Politics with Marriage

Scott Rothchild reported in the Novemeber 29 Lawrence Journal World

Timing may be everything in a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Ministers leading the charge for the amendment want the proposal on the ballot April 5, the same time voters go to the polls in city and school board elections.

"It's a hot issue now and it's on people's minds," said the Rev. Terry Fox, senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita.

But some conservative legislators are asking the ministers to hold their fire and sign onto a plan to put the measure on the November 2006 ballot.

"My personal opinion would be you would want it on the ballot when most people would go to the polls, and that would be during the next general election," said House Majority Leader Clay Aurand, a Republican from Courtland.

Aurand's reasoning has raised the suspicions of some Democrats. They theorize conservative politicians want the amendment on the ballot at the same time Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, will be up for re-election, because it will bring more conservative Republican voters to the polls.

"I think some may see it as a way to hurt the governor," said House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, a Democrat from Greensburg.

McKinney, who supports a same-sex marriage ban, said, "If it's not political, let's put it on the ballot in April."

The amendment is just the start. Conservatives plan to push a "covenant marriage" bill, which would allow couples to marry under rules that would make divorce more difficult. The bill is modeled on Lousiana even though only 1-2% of couples exercise the option. And, of course, there is nothing in present law which prevents pastors or churches from using more exacting criteria before agreeing to marry a couple.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

AL-Queda in Wichita

A big controversy was ignited when Tulsa Police Chief Dave Been was reported as saying that there are were Al-Queda cells in Wichita and Tulsa. Been backtracked the next day.

Nabil Seyam leader of the Islamic Society of Wichita protested that the chief had insulted all Wichita Muslims.

"We have 5,000 Muslims in Wichita, and each one is humiliated by these comments," Seyam said. "He apologized to Chief Williams, but he needs to apologize to me and our community, or we're taking it to his City Council."
It's hard to see how every Wichita Muslim is humiliated by the possibility of a Al-Queda cell. Been. to be sure spoke carelessly, but he didn't attribute extreme veiws to the entire Muslim community. Should Christians feel insulted if it is reported that there is a Christian Identity or Aryan Nation cell operating in Wichita. I think not.

In fact, the possibility of jihadist, even Al-Queda cells, in Wichita (or Tulsa) is not so absured.
"...1993, when a Palestinian immigrant named Eyad Ismoil drove a truck filled with explosives into the World Trade Center's underground parking garage. Ismoil had entered the United States on a student visa in 1989 and attended Wichita State University for three semesters before dropping out to live and work---illegally---in Texas for the next two years. When the details of Ismoil's history emerged in 1994, the Department of Justice put together an inter-agency task force to take a hard look at the foreign-student visa program."
--Nicholas Confessore. "Borderline Insanity" Washington Monthly May 2002

Moreover, Islamist organizations held national convention in Kansas City and Oklahoma City within the last decade. There is at least some possibility that Muslims from the area were present at one or both events.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Reismann profiled

Daniel Radosh has an illuminating profile of anti-pornography zealot Judith Reisman in Tne New Yorker.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Anti-Semitism Peddled in Malayisa

Keith Andrew Bettinger in Asia Times:

KUALA LUMPUR - In casual conversations about geopolitics here, it is common to hear charges that Israel controls US foreign policy or that Jews run the world (one of these more virulent indictments came from former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who stated just before stepping down last year that "Jews rule the world by proxy").

This is a truth that "everyone knows" and is a common view around the world. The problem with this "truth" is that the evidence to back it up is sketchy at best, relying on questionable facts and a selective interpretation of events and information. There is a vacuum of conclusive data, and corroboration can't be found in the mainstream media. But an emerging trend suggests that US and European extremist groups are recognizing demand among Southeast Asian Muslims for anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism and are moving to adjust their message to spread the broader message of anti-Semitism.

One clear instance of this is the recent visit to Malaysia of American "journalist" Michael Collins Piper, a writer and editor for the American Free Press. Piper addressed several groups, including the Bar Council of Malaysia, on a trip that also included a stop in Japan. Piper's talks ostensibly were about the hidden motivations for US foreign policy, but some basic research reveals that Piper's musings are characteristic of an effort by anti-Semites and white supremacists to repackage themselves as "alternative media voices" claiming to tackle stories the mainstream media in the US won't touch.

Bettinger reports that
A recent trip through a bookstore at Kuala Lumpur's central train station revealed a treasure trove of anti-Semitic literature, including two versions of Henry Ford's The International Jew, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and The New International Jew. There were also numerous titles in Malay. I asked the manager about the books, and he said they can't keep them on the shelves. "This one [The International Jew], we must sell 50 a day. We have already had to reorder three times."
And its not limited to Malaysia
Publications such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and The International Jew contributed to the zeitgeist from which the Holocaust sprang. People believed what they read. Now these works are finding readers in Malaysia. The same thing is happening throughout the world, it seems. Universal disapproval of Israeli foreign policy is fueling a resurgence of anti-Jewish sentiment.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Networks Censor Religious Ad

CBS and NBC, and others have refused to air a commercial from the United Church of Christ.

CLEVELAND -- The CBS and NBC television networks are refusing to run a 30-second television ad from the United Church of Christ because its all-inclusive welcome has been deemed "too controversial."

The ad, part of the denomination's new, broad identity campaign set to begin airing nationwide on Dec. 1, states that -- like Jesus -- the United Church of Christ seeks to welcome all people, regardless of ability, age, race, economic circumstance or sexual orientation.

According to a written explanation from CBS, the United Church of Christ is being denied network access because its ad implies acceptance of gay and lesbian couples -- among other minority constituencies -- and is, therefore, too "controversial."

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations," reads an explanation from CBS, "and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks."

Similarly, a rejection by NBC declared the spot "too controversial."

News release from the UCC. You can view the ad here.

Tom Frank on The Great Divide

Tom Frank has some interesting things to say in the New York Times Book Review where he essays four recent books on American Politics.

He doesn't think much of the much advertised The Great Divide: Metro Vs. Retro

Here the goal is to blend together two of the worst big ideas of recent years -- the new economy fantasy of the 1990's and the red/blue thesis of the last few years -- into a universal narrative that can simultaneously direct the electoral strategy of the Democratic Party and inform future scholarship. The essential cleavage in American life, the authors argue, is not between left and right or business class and working class; instead, it is a regional matter, a cultural divide between the states, polarized and unbridgeable....

a Rosetta stone to decipher and to win over America. ''The Great Divide'' furnishes them with demographic, poll-based vindication for the strategy they have been pursuing all along: forget the focus on class conflict that defined the party in the old days, and rebrand the Democrats as the voice of enlightened industry versus dirty industry; of sensitive, artistic billionaires versus loathsome, racist billionaires.

In the half of the book making this argument there is an error or misstatement or indefensible historical interpretation on nearly every page ... Some of these can be dismissed as the fault of the authors, of course, but most are intrinsic to the argument itself, to the impossible demands of tracing a cultural cleavage that seems to give Democrats an edge and that simultaneously denies the significance of social class.
Frank does approve of Ohio Congressman Sherrod Brown's Myths of Free Trade which
describes the role that the false religion of unregulated free trade has had in reopening the class divide, and also what we might do about it. For him the word ''elite'' refers not to someone who likes books, but to the industry lobbyists whose planes clogged National Airport and whose gifts inundated Capitol Hill during the debate over Nafta. Brown could easily have taken the anti-intellectual route to populism since, as he points out, virtually the entire pundit class, regardless of party, routinely supports free-trade agreements (and just as routinely depicts opponents as ''selling out the poor'' or Luddites). The real battle he lays out is not between salt-of-the-earth folks and effete know-it-alls, or between tolerant Metro and screeching Retro: it is between all of us and the corporate power that today bombards labor and environment from the ideological heights of free trade.

The Hidden Cost of Those Wal-mart Bargains

Before you buy a "made in China" bargain at Wal-mart or other stores thia holiday season, read this from the LA Times
On Sunday, a gas explosion swept through Chenjiashan mine here in Shaanxi province, about 450 miles southwest of Beijing. This morning, the official New China News Agency confirmed that 103 miners who were trapped as deep as five miles underground were dead, including Zhao's 32-year-old husband, Ding Aituan.

With 63 confirmed dead earlier, the toll of 166 made this China's worst mining disaster in four years.

The country's economy is booming. But much of that prosperity is being built on the backs of millions like Ding. Behind the seemingly endless supply of consumer goods arriving on Western shelves at two-for-one prices are people struggling on survival wages under bleak conditions to produce the cheap energy Chinese factories need.

China, which produces 35% of the world's coal, accounts for 80% of coal mining fatalities, according to government figures — 4,153 deaths were reported in the first nine months of 2004. Experts say corruption, poor oversight and the fact that it's often cheaper to pay off a death claim than invest in safety equipment contribute to the country's dubious record.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

True Story of Frankie and Johnny

Morning Edition had a great story on November 24, 2004

"Frankie and Johnny" is a classic American ballad about a woman who shoots her lover for cheating. It's based on a true story and has been rewritten by countless writers and recorded by dozens of performers. Novelist Cecil Brown wrote an essay about the song for the new book The Rose and the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad.
Listen here

Reed has also writeen Stagolee Shot Billy, about another 1890 St. Louis killing turned into song. The website has a very nice sampling of Stagolee songs.

From the site's description:
How the legend grew is a story in itself, and Brown tracks it through variants of the song "Stack Lee"--from early ragtime versions of the '20s, to Mississippi John Hurt's rendition in the '30s, to John Lomax's 1940s prison versions, to interpretations by Lloyd Price, James Brown, and Wilson Pickett, right up to the hip-hop renderings of the '90s. Drawing upon the works of James Baldwin, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison, Brown describes the powerful influence of a legend bigger than literature, one whose transformation reflects changing views of black musical forms, and African Americans' altered attitudes toward black male identity, gender, and police brutality. This book takes you to the heart of America, into the soul and circumstances of a legend that has conveyed a painful and elusive truth about our culture.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Tale of Two Libel Suits--Make That Three

The liberal blogsphere is all aflutter about a letter from MEMRI to Juan Cole threatening a libel suit. (Here are the comments that upset MEMRI.)

Almost simultaneously, comes news of another libel threat in a column from David Frum

Two weeks ago, the National Post and I were served with a notice of libel by the Canadian branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations, or CAIR. The Post and I are not alone. Over the past year, CAIR's Canadian and U.S. branches have served similar libel notices on half a dozen other individuals and organizations in the United States and Canada. Each case has its own particular facts, yet they are linked by a common theme: That we defendants have accused CAIR (in the words of the notice served on me) of being "an unscrupulous, Islamist, extremist sympathetic group in Canada supporting terrorism."
It also turns out that Professor Cole has himself threatened legal action against his web critics.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Textbook disclaimer stickers

Good stuff.

Brownback goes after pornography

In the current climate of "moral values" triumphalism, it is probably too much to expect the media to give critical attention the blatant showboating and promotion of pseudoscience in last week's Senate hearings on "the science [sic] of pornography addiction."

As this article in Reason details, the Congress has demonstrated a demagogic contempt for scientific investigations of sexuality.

According to a report in the Wichita Eagle:

Some of his middle-age male friends limit their time alone in hotel rooms to avoid the temptation of graphic pay-per-view movies, Brownback said.
Hmm, would those middle -age friends be his Congressional room-mates in the townhouse subsidzied by a strange religious cult, his fellow Republican members, his staffers?

MSNBC carried an AP report
Comparing pornography to heroin, researchers are calling on Congress to finance studies on “porn addiction” and launch a public health campaign about its dangers.

Internet pornography is corrupting children and hooking adults into an addiction that threatens their jobs and families, a panel of anti-porn advocates told a hearing organized Thursday by Senator Sam Brownback, chairman of the Commerce subcommittee on science.

Mary Anne Layden, co-director of a sexual trauma program at the University of Pennsylvania, said pornography’s effect on the brain mirrors addiction to heroin or crack cocaine.
Actually what Layden said is
Research indicates that even non-sex addicts will show brain reactions on PET scans while viewing pornography similar to cocaine addicts looking at images of people taking cacaine.
And, maybe, brain scans while viewing pictures of food would be similar as well.

There was also some just plain sloppy reporting. The AP wrote, "She [Layden] told of one patient, a business executive, who arrived at his office at 9 a.m. each day, logged onto Internet porn sites, and didn’t log off until 5 p.m." In fact, Layden's written testimony presents this as a hypothetical definition, not as an actual case.

The lead witness for Brownback's hearing was Judith Reisman who presented a truly fantastic version of brian psychology.

Thanks to the latest advances in neuroscience, we now know that pornographic visual images imprint and alter the brain, triggering an instant, involuntary, but lasting, biochemical memory trail, arguably, subverting the First Amendment by overriding the cognitive speech process. This is true of so-called “soft-core” and “hard-core” pornography. And once new neurochemical pathways are established they are difficult or impossible to delete.

Pornographic images also cause secretion of the body’s “fight or flight” sex hormones. This triggers excitatory transmitters and produces non-rational, involuntary reactions; intense arousal states that overlap sexual lust--now with fear, shame, and/or hostility and violence. Media erotic fantasies become deeply imbedded, commonly coarsening, confusing, motivating and addicting many of those exposed. (See “the Violence Pyramid” at Pornography triggers myriad kinds of internal, natural drugs that mimic the “high” from a street drug. Addiction to pornography is addiction to what I dub erototoxins -- mind-altering drugs produced by the viewer’s own brain.

How does this ‘brain sabotage’ occur? Brain scientists tell us that “in 3/10 of a second a visual image passes from the eye through the brain, and whether or not one wants to, the brain is structurally changed and memories are created – we literally ‘grow new brain’ with each visual experience.
Here's an example of the Reisman's crackpot views
Action Item: Repeal all “sexual orientation” and “hate crime” bills as predator protection legislation. Under California’s AB 1785, et al., children who commit “hate” by resisting sexual orientations such as sadism, masochism, homosexuality, voyeurism, etc., may be retrained by State sex authorities. On the evidence, credentialed State sex trainers proselytize schoolchildren via an anti-Judeo-Christian, pansexual religious cult, violating separation of Church and State.

Child Malnutrition Crisis In Iraq

Why it's hard to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis according to this report in the Washington Post.

Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the United States led an invasion of the country 20 months ago, according to surveys by the United Nations, aid agencies and the interim Iraqi government.

After the rate of acute malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily declined to 4 percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7 percent this year, according to a study conducted by Iraq's Health Ministry in cooperation with Norway's Institute for Applied International Studies and the U.N. Development Program. The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from "wasting," a condition characterized by chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein.

"These figures clearly indicate the downward trend," said Alexander Malyavin, a child health specialist with the UNICEF mission to Iraq.

The surveys suggest the silent human cost being paid across a country convulsed by instability and mismanagement. While attacks by insurgents have grown more violent and more frequent, deteriorating basic services take lives that many Iraqis said they had expected to improve under American stewardship.

Iraq's child malnutrition rate now roughly equals that of Burundi, a central African nation torn by more than a decade of war. It is far higher than rates in Uganda and Haiti.
The nutrition surveys indicated that conditions are worst in Iraq's largely poor, overwhelmingly Shiite Muslim south, an area alternately subject to neglect and persecution during Hussein's rule. But doctors say malnutrition occurs wherever water is dirty, parents are poor and mothers have not been taught how to avoid disease.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Iraq and morality

Juan Cole makes some controversial but very valid points.

The Marines at Fallujah are operating in accordance with a UNSC Resolution and have all the legitimacy in international law that flows from that. The Allawi government asked them to undertake this Fallujah mission.

To compare them to the murderous thugs who kidnapped CARE worker Margaret Hassan, held her hostage, terrified her, and then killed her is frankly monstrous. The multinational forces are soldiers fighting a war in which they are targetting combatants and sometimes accidentally killing innocents. The hostage-takers are terrorists deliberately killing innocents. It is simply not the same thing.

Now, I don't like the timing of the Fallujah mission. I don't like all the mistakes made along the way, which produced this operation. I don't like its tactics. I don't like the way it put so many civilians in harm's way. I don't like the violations of international law (targetting the hospital, turning away the Red Crescent, killing wounded and disarmed combatants), etc. I protest the latter. I don't know enough about military affairs to offer an alternative on the former issues, and don't mind admitting my technical ignorance. You can't do everything.

But the basic idea of attacking the guerrillas holding up in that city is not in and of itself criminal or irresponsible. A significant proportion of the absolutely horrible car bombings that have killed hundreds and thousands of innocent Iraqis, especially Shiites, were planned and executed from Fallujah. There were serious and heavily armed forces in Fallujah planning out ways of killing hundreds to prevent elections from being held in January. These are mass murderers, serial murderers. If they were fighting only to defend Fallujah, that would be one thing; even the Marines would respect them for that. They aren't, or at least, a significant proportion of them aren't. They are killing civilians elsewhere in order to throw Iraq into chaos and avoid the enfranchisement of the Kurds and Shiites.

Some of my readers still want good guys and bad guys, white hats and black hats. That's not the way the world is. It is often grey, and very bleak.
Gary Wills reviews Michael Walzer's Arguing About War in the New York Review of Books and gives a thorough discussion of Walzer's views on Iraq, the subject of five essays in the book.
3. Post bellum. "Surely occupying powers are morally bound to think seriously about what they are going to do in someone else's country. That moral test we have obviously failed to meet." "A just occupation costs money; it does not make money." Admittedly, war always has its peripheral scavengers, its opportunistic camp followers.

In the Iraqi case, however, President Bush and his advisers seem committed to profiteering at the center. They claim to be bringing democracy to Iraq, and we all have to hope that they succeed. But with much greater speed and effectiveness, they have brought to Iraq the crony capitalism that now prevails in Washington....

The distribution of contracts to politically connected American companies is a scandal.... An international agency of proven impartiality would be best [in awarding contracts], but even American regulators, under congressional mandate, would be an improvement over no regulators at all.

On the other hand, Walzer says, a conquering nation is responsible for the chaos it has introduced into a conquered nation, and cannot leave when it suits the conqueror's convenience. That would be adding a crowning injustice to all the prior injustices.

Walzer made very good arguments against the justice of the war's commencement, conduct, and conclusion. But he was no more successful in his opposition than was the Vatican. So are his arguments as useless as those of the tradition? I hope not. We are not exempted from pressing moral claims even by defeat, and he supplies us with better moral claims than we have experienced in the past. Besides, his arguments over war go to many other concerns with democracy in the centralized modern state

Maria Schneider and Artist Share

Maria Schneider, the genius jazz arranger and composer, was interviewed by KMUW's Barry Gaston Friday night. Gaston does a a five-night a week 7-9 jazz program for the Wichita State University PBS station. On Fridays he does an extra hour which 2-3 times a month features an interview with a leading jazz artist.

The music was interesting as always, but I was especially fascinated by the new model for using the web to support creative artistry.

Her first CD was self-financed and eventually leased to the European Enja label. It cost here $25,000 to make and she lost thousands of dollars. The second was financed by Enja, but hasn't yet made her any money. Her latest CD, Concert in the Garden, cost $100,000 to make.

What Schneider has done is to use Artist Share which desctibes itself as " an innovative new business model for creative artists. ArtistShare completely empowers artists in ways that they could only imagine just a few short years ago. Through ArtistShare artists are able to develop a strong and loyal fan base world wide. Finance their projects through their fan bases and in the end, own the rights to all of their work."

You can order the Schnieder's new CD for $16.95 ( MPG downloads even cheaper), but if you want to really support this great artist you could sign up to be a Composer Participant for $81.95.

This offer now includes the limited edition 'Concert in the Garden' CD. Composer 'Plus' Participants receive exclusive access to score samples for each piece, sound clips from rehearsals, my own personal comments about the pieces, recording, mixing and editing phases of the record. Much information has been posted and there's more to come.

You receive streaming access to the series of four Hunter College discussions which occurred February thru June 2004.

You also receive exclusive access to a streamed discussion and in depth analysis of the music from my CD Evanescence. All Composer 'Plus' participants receive downloadable mp3 files for each track on Evanescence.

This offer is geared towards professional and aspiring composers, players, conductors, etc. however I am sure it will be an interesting experience for any music fan as well.

The Composer 'Plus' participant is a 'participant listed offer'. Each member (or any name of their choice) will be credited on the final project page as helping to make this project possible.

Jim Hall, Danillo Perez, and Trey Anastasio are other artists who are using Art Share.

Please take a look at Maria Schneider's website. If you're not a fan already, I predict you will be. And you'll probably become an admirer of Artist Share, as well.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Two Paths for the Democrats

I've just come across a very interesting blog by Arkansas State University political science professor Russell Fox. He touches on many of the themes raised by Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas.

Here's a starting point. Fox discusses an essay by Tim Burke outlinging two possible paths to return the Democratic Party to power.

One of the paths Tim describes is his own preferred one: a "soft libertarianism" which will be able to pull in the "South Park Republicans" and other small government-types that sympathize with what might be called social liberalism. (Belle Waring is an enthusiast for this route too.) The other path is mine: a "communalist-socialist" left that accepts--even embraces--the religiousity of the rural South and Midwest so as to bring the working class back around to (or at least, remove moral barriers from them giving a good listen to) egalitarian politics.

Read what Fox has to say here.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Bush Order Purge of CIA

Newsday reports

The White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President George W. Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to knowledgeable sources.

"The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House," said a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to both the agency and to the White House. "Goss was given instructions ... to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president's agenda."

A very cool site

It sure has the sizzle, but wheter it has the steak I'm not sure.

10 x 10

Every hour, 10x10 scans the RSS feeds of several leading international news sources, and performs an elaborate process of weighted linguistic analysis on the text contained in their top news stories. After this process, conclusions are automatically drawn about the hour's most important words. The top 100 words are chosen, along with 100 corresponding images, culled from the source news stories. At the end of each day, month, and year, 10x10 looks back through its archives to conclude the top 100 words for the given time period. In this way, a constantly evolving record of our world is formed, based on prominent world events, without any human input.

I noticed a few cases where the stories didn't link up with the pictures, which I think they are supposed to. Regardless, take a look.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Thank Liberals

"If your workplace is safe; if your children go to school rather than being forced into labor; if you are paid a living wage, including overtime; if you enjoy a 40-hour week and you are allowed to join a union to protect your rights -- you can thank liberals. If your food is not poisoned and your water is drinkable -- you can thank liberals. If your parents are eligible for Medicare and Social Security, so they can grow old in dignity without bankrupting your family -- you can thank liberals. If our rivers are getting cleaner and our air isn't black with pollution; if our wilderness is protected and our countryside is still green -- you can thank liberals. If people of all races can share the same public facilities; if everyone has the right to vote; if couples fall in love and marry regardless of race; if we have finally begun to transcend a segregated society -- you can thank liberals. Progressive innovations like those and so many others were achieved by long, difficult struggles against entrenched power. What defined conservatism, and conservatives, was their opposition to every one of those advances …"

—Joe Conason, Salon

Friday, November 12, 2004

Controvery about Norweigan Kristallnacht Demo

Jan Haugland (Secular Blasphemy) has written this very disturbing report:

Are Norway's anti-racists anti-Semities or did a anti-immigrant group try to disrupt a march memorializing the anniversary of Kristallnacht.

Norwegian anti-racists yesterday were marking the 66th Kristallnacht anniversary, in memory of the brutal beginning of official Nazi-Germany's genocidal murder of Europe's jews.

In our capital Oslo, the organisation SOS Rasisme refused Jews to participate in the march because they carried jewish symbols and Israeli flags.

Yes, you read that right.

The "anti-racist" organisation insists it did the right thing despite widespread criticism, including from Norway's Justice Minister Odd Einar Dørum (Liberals) and Progress Party leader Carl I. Hagen.

Technically, it was the police that refused people carrying jewish symbols from participating. The police has come in for criticism, too, but argue they could not guarantee the security of jews among the leftist "anti-racists." Which probably says a lot.

The Kristallnacht in Norway is widely used by organisations protesting Israel's war against Palestinian terrorism, and frequent comparisons of the murder of 6 million jews with Israel's acts of self-defence are totally unchecked in Norway's press.
The Simon Weinthal Center is a statement protesting the exclusion.

But quite a different picture emerges from the SOS Rasisme. Here is a letter they addressed to the SWC.
Dear Sirs,

We have registered that you have made a complaint to the Norway Embassy in Washington because of the police action to stop a handful people with Israeli flags.

The norwegian TV2 news made a very wrong story of this incident. The Star of David and other jewish symbols were of course allowed in the procession, actually there was a Star of David in the poster for the demonstration.

The committee had settled on not to take up the Israel/ Palestine- conflict in the procession. No banners either against or in support of for example the security barrierr where wanted. We fear that the day would be teared away from the historical role and the many issues of antisemittism and racism in Norway of today.

"Det mosaiske trossamfunn" (DMT), the Jewish Community of Oslo, has also excluded two of the people the police stopped. Some of the others in the group, where even not jewish, they wanted to promote a very small ultra-right-wing political party in Norway.

In a press release from the DMT, they say:
"På bakgrunn av at NIS og organisasjonens ledelse på årsdagen for Krystallnatten valgte å gå i samarbeid med aktører som DMT på det sterkeste tar avstand fra, valgte styret den 9. november å ekskludere Erez Uriely og Rachel Suissa fra Det mosaiske trossamfund med øyeblikklig virkning."

A quick translation is:
"In the light of that 'NIS' and the leadership of the organisation on the anniversary of the Kristallnacht chose to cooperate with actors that DMT strongly oppose, the board chose to exclude Erez Uriely and Rachel Suissa from the Jewish Community with immediate action."

With anti-racistic regards,

Trond Thorbjørnsen
Still, if I am reading between the lines correctly then SOS-R barred Israeli flags from their demonstration.

More on the controversy from Øyvind Strømmen on the Bjorn Staerk blog.

Misunderstanding Arafat

The Nation makes is real howler in its editorial on the death of Yassir Arafat. They write

it was Arafat who led the PLO, in the face of fierce internal resistance, into adopting the two-state solution in the mid-1970s. But his conciliatory peace offering at the UN General Assembly in 1974, and numerous subsequent peace feelers, were met with persistent rebuffs from Israel and the United States.
That this mistake is a common element of anti-Israel propoganda is no excuse. What the PLO adopted in 1974 was not a two-state solution. It was a stage solution in which the PLO committed itself to establishing a state in any part of liberated Palestine in order to continue to wage for the total destruction of Israel.

The MideastWeb has a sample of statements by Arafat and other PLO leaders

The plan foresees] "At first a small state, and with the help of Allah, it will be made large, and expand to the east, west, north and south. I am interested in the liberation of Palestine, step by step."

Abu Iyad (Salah Khalaf) interviewed in Al Anba [Kuwait] Dec. 18, 1988.

The struggle will continue until all of Palestine is liberated."

Yasser Arafat, radio address, November 1995.

"Within five years we will have 6 to 7 million Arabs living on the West Bank and in Jerusalem....If the Jews can import all kinds of Ethiopians, Russians, Uzbekians, and Ukrainians as Jews, we can import all
kinds of Arabs...We plan to eliminate the state of Israel and establish a Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion. Jews will not want to live among Arabs. I have no use for Jews....We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem."

Yasser Arafat, Stockholm, 30 January, 1996, cited in Washington Times, March 3, 1996, by Cal Thomas. This quote has been disputed.

"Since the decision of the Palestinian National Council at its 12th meeting in 1974, the PLO has adopted the political solution of establishing a National Authority over any territory from which the occupation withdraws."

Yasser Arafat, quoted in Al Ayyam, January 1, 1998.

"The Oslo accord was a prelude to the Palestinian Authority, and the Palestinian Authority will be a prelude to the Palestinian state which, in its turn, will be a prelude to the liberation of the entire Palestinian land."

Abdul Asis Shaheen, PNA Minister of Supply, i Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on 4 January 1998

As far as the persistent rebuffs from the Israel and United States, this is another bit of political myth. For instance, in the late 1970s, the Carter administration wanted to initiate Middle East peace talks and asked Arafat to accept UN Resolution 242, with the PLO to add a statement insisting on Palestinian national rights and self-determination. They picked Edward Said to be the intermediary. Arafats reponse, "Edward, I want you to tell [Secretary of State Cyrus] Vance that we're not interested."

Here a couple of commentaries worth reading:

Ami Isseroof of MidEast Web

Yosi Beillen architecht of the Oslo Accords and leader of Israel's Yachad (Social Demoratic) Party.

Jonathon Edelstein

Arafat died a leader who betrayed his people's trust in the most profound way possible, and he died a humiliating death, lingering in a Paris hospital while his wife and colleagues fought over his financial and political legacy. In the end, however, the manner of his death may have been a partial atonement for the damage he has done to the Palestinian nation. Had he died in an Israeli attack, or had he died suddenly under circumstances where his succession could not be arranged, the region might have gone up in flames. As it is, he died under the eyes of French doctors who could certify that the cause of his death was natural, and his week in limbo provided time for his burial place to be negotiated and an orderly succession arranged. The chances of building something from the ruins are, if not great, at least somewhat better than they would have been had Arafat died at the Muqata.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Liberal Christians on the Values Vote

An interesing article by Alan Cooperman in the Washington Post on the reaction of liberal Christian leaders to the Bush re-election.

...the moral values held by most Americans are much broader than the handful of issues emphasized by religious conservatives in the 2004 presidential campaign.

Battling the notion that "values voters" swept President Bush to victory because of opposition to gay marriage and abortion, three liberal groups released a post-election poll in which 33 percent of voters said the nation's most urgent moral problem was "greed and materialism" and 31 percent said it was "poverty and economic justice." Sixteen percent cited abortion, and 12 percent named same-sex marriage.

One problem is that the Christian right has been much more effective in reaching voters. The poll showed that twice as many voters had heard from the Christian right as from the Christian right. (71 percent vs. 38 percent).

Jim Wallis of Sojourners suggested that moderate and liberal religious activists need to rethink how some issues, expecially abotion, are approached. That's a point I've made here on The New Appeal to Reason. I'll have something more to say in a day or so.

Tom Perriello of Res Publica said "progressives need to embrace the deep moral critique that people are looking for and make that case on poverty and Iraq, and not just try to talk more about God or outpace the Republicans on gay marriage or abortion."

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Tom Frank Watch

A very nice profile of Tom Frank in the Washington Post.

Keith Gessen reviews Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? in the Fall Dissent. It's not available on-line yet, but worth reading. Click the link and subsribe to the leading journal of America's democratic left.

Ronald Brownstein in The American Prospect says that Frank's book is "a smart and trenchant contribution to the liberal argument, and a fun read as well." But he has some words of criticism, as well.

Keillor, like Frank, seems mystified that anyone who folds his own laundry would vote Republican. But the days of a political alignment defined solely, or even predominantly, by class are gone. Many Americans, on both sides of the income divide, don’t consider it a “derangement” to express their cultural values at least as much as their economic interests in their vote. Overall, Frank and Keillor have written books of grace, empathy, and insight. But in assuming that Democrats can only win by resurrecting the politics of Franklin Roosevelt and Hubert Humphrey, they are steering through the rearview mirror.

The left and abortion

Michael Berube, who usually posts on his own blog, raises some interesting points about abortion and progressive politics in a post on The American Street.

I do not believe that American politics can shift significantly to the left if we are constantly up against 35-45 percent of the electorate that will sign on with anyone– even genuine Messianic madmen (examples on request!)– who oppose abortion. In other words, the sooner progressives begin spreading the word that you can be a “moral person” who “respects life” but supports first-trimester abortions on health and social welfare grounds, the better. How to go about this?
What strikes me is that Berube is writing about first trimester abortions, while many of the recent abortion battles in the U.S. have been about third trimester abortion. I'm not an expert on European laws on abortion, but a quick web search seems to indicate that at least some of European coutnries have restrictions such as waiting periods, mandatory counseling, and the like that would be anathema to much of the pro-choice community.

What if progressives took a more nuanced, less absolute position on abortion? Or were open to a variety of views?

Questions worth asking I think.

Brownback and Iraq

Kendrick Blackwood writing in KC's The Pitch has written an excellent expose of Kansas Senator Sam Brownback's role in creating the Iraq debacle. What a shame that it appears so late in the electoral season and in a weekly community paper rather in Knight-Ridder's KC Star or Wichita Eagle.

In short, Brownback didn't just support Bush's disastrous policy, he helped create it.

"When the definitive history of the current Iraq war is finally written," John Dizard pointed out in a May 4 Salon piece, "wealthy exile Ahmad Chalabi will be among those judged most responsible for the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein."

Although Kansans tend not to bring it up, it was Brownback who provided Chalabi much of his access to Washington.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Khmer Rogue Turns to Christianity and Exploitation

Jason Burke's report "Khmer Rouge embraces Jesus" in The Guardian has garnered lots of attention.

The Khmer Rouge followed a harsh brand of communism, killing nearly two million people in their bid to return Cambodia to Year Zero. Now they have a new faith: evangelical Christianity.

Hundreds of former fighters have been baptised in the past year. The Khmer Rouge's mountain stronghold, the town of Pailin in south-west Cambodia, has four churches, all with pastors and growing congregations. At least 2,000 of those who followed Pol Pot, the guerrillas' former leader who died six years ago, now worship Jesus.

I found these details near the end to be more interesting.

Several Khmer Rouge leaders live in villas in Pailin, profiting from large farms, logging of hardwood forests and gem mining.

Most[Khmer Rogue] veterans now eke out a living as landless labourers on the estates of their former political chiefs. They live in flimsy shacks and work 15-hour days. With no government or international aid, local amenities are scarce. There is one dilapidated health clinic for 30,000 people.

Phony Defenders of Academic Freedom

Juan Cole, a respected expert on Iraq and Shi'ism, writes on his blog

Those who care anything for freedom of speech and academic integrity should please rise to the defense of Professor Joseph Massad at Columbia University. A concerted campaign has been gotten up against him by the American Likud, aimed at getting him fired.

We don't fire professors in the United States for their views when we are in our right minds.
Only thing is that the site Prof Cole links to is also campaign for an academic boycott of Israel. An "academic boycott" button is prominently displayed at the top of the page. There is no way in which it can be missed. The site belongs to Mona Baker who has removed Israeli scholars from the editorial boards of The Translator and Translation Studies.

Moreover, the issue with Professor Massad is not so much whether he should be fired, but whether he should be granted tenure. The controversy has heated up because of a film which interviews students who reported bias in Massad's classes.

From what I have seen of Massad public writings, he is an anti-Israel ideologue.

The letter defending Massad states Massad "has courageously written in Arabic and in English against anti-Semitism and anti-Semites."

In reality, Massad's essay on anti-Semitism attacks Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Derrida, Pierre Bourdieu, Etienne Balibar, and Slavoj Zizek for being too sympathetic to the victims of the Holocaust. Accroding to Massad, there is no such thing as Arab anti-Semitism (it's just a myth of and Zionism is European racism.

The only anti-Semitism which Massad seems to denounce is-- Zionism! Believe it or not this is what he writes.
Zionism's anti-Semitic project of destroying Jewish cultures and languages in the diaspora in the interest of an invented Hebrew that none of them spoke, and in the interest of evicting them from Europe and transporting them to an Asian land to which they had never been, is never examined by these intellectuals. Nor do they ever examine the ideological and practical collusion between Zionism and anti- Semitism since the inception of the movement.
According to Massad, the only way to support Palestinian national rights is by denouncing the racist roots of the Israeli state.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

A Better Electoral College Map

From Prof. Sam Wang of Princeton

See his analysis of polls and the election here.

There is an interactive java-script map on Wang's website.

More Questions About Bush's 1970s

Knight-Ridder "began asking questions more than two months ago about Bush's service at P.U.L.L. as part of an effort to fill in the facts about his early adulthood." Here are some paragraphs from their story.

HOUSTON - President Bush often has cited his work in 1973 with a now-defunct inner-city program for troubled teens as the source for his belief in "compassionate conservatism."

"I realized then that a society can change and must change one person at a time ..." Bush said in a video shown at the 2000 Republican National Convention about his tenure at P.U.L.L., the Professional United Leadership League, whose executive director, John White, had played tight end for the Houston Oilers in the early 1960s.

But former associates of White, who died in 1988, have disputed in recent interviews much of Bush's version of his time at the program.

"I was working full time for an inner-city poverty program known as Project P.U.L.L.," Bush said in his 1999 autobiography, "A Charge to Keep." "My friend John White ... asked me to come help him run the program. ... I was intrigued by John's offer. ... Now I had a chance to help people."

But White's administrative assistant and others associated with P.U.L.L., speaking on the record for the first time, say Bush was not helping to run the program and White had not asked Bush to come aboard. Instead, the associates said, White told them he agreed to take Bush on as a favor to Bush's father, who was honorary co-chairman of the program at the time, and Bush was unpaid. They say White told them Bush had gotten into some kind of trouble but White never gave them specifics.

"We didn't know what kind of trouble he'd been in, only that he'd done something that required him to put in the time," said Althia Turner, White's administrative assistant.

"John said he was doing a favor for George's father because an arrangement had to be made for the son to be there," said Willie Frazier, also a former player for the Houston Oilers and a P.U.L.L. summer volunteer in 1973.

It will be interesting to see if Knight-Ridder has more revelations and if other media follow up.

Survey Finds Republicans More Likely to Respond to Phone Polls

From via Daily Kos

The survey found while likely voters, both Republican and Democrat, reported receiving an equal number of polling calls, Republicans are 25 percent more likely than Democrats to have responded to at least one poll. The difference was just as pronounced for polls related to the national election where Republicans were more than 23 percent more likely to have responded to a poll call.

Some of the difference may be attributed to the survey findings showing that Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to indicate they screen their calls (44 percent and 27 percent respectively).

The survey also uncovered another factor working against pollsters. Democrats with cellular phone services, who also have a traditional landline, are 46 percent more likely (35 percent and 24 percent respectively) than Republicans to say they answer "most" of their incoming calls at home using their cell phones.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Che's Grandson: Fidel Is a Tyrant

Marc Cooper has this:

There’s a fascinating story coming of Mexico ...about the dissident grandson of Che Guevara – Canek Sanchez Guevara. He’s published an open letter from Mexico denouncing Fidel Castro as an “aged tyrant” and as “messianic” leader who persecutes trade unionists and poets alike.

Some background:

I first met Che’s grandson – Canek Sanchez- in Havana in 1991. I was at an afternoon party on the patio of a Cuban friend of mine, a former counter-intelligence officer who had morphed into a writer. Canek, then about 18, showed up agitated and angered and accompanied by the son of another good friend.

The two young men breathlessly told us adults of something awful that had just happened. Canek and his pal had put together a rock band and had just opened their first gig at a nearby Casa De Cultura – a municipal performance space. No sooner had they started playing but a squad of Cuban cops had burst in and chased everyone out, lobbing a tear gas canister or two. Seemed like the state wasn’t too pleased by such a gathering of "hippies."
A few of Canek Sanchez's thoughts
“The Cuban Revolution died some years ago: it had to be killed off by those who act in its name to make sure it didn’t turn against them; it was institutionalized and smothered by its own bureaucracy, by corruption, nepotism and the rigidity of the much-celebrated Cuban ‘revolutionary’ state.”

“All of my criticism of Fidel Castro come from his walking away from the ideals of liberty, from his betrayal of his own people and his frightening zeal to place the interests of the state above those of his people.”

“Let’s be honest, a young rebel like Fidel Castro in today’s Cuba wouldn’t be sent into exile. He’s be shot.”