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.