Monday, July 31, 2006

Why Bomb UN observers?

On the list serve of a leading left-wing economist, the questiion was asked "why bomb UN observers?" Lots of speculation insued very little of it fact-based, and most displaying an anti-Israel animus.

It's actually amazingly simply to find the explanation. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon has a website and issues press releases, which can be found here.

I've excerpted some of the reports which appear below. I've added emphasis (bold + italics) to highlight the portions indicating Hizebollah firing from spots near the UN posts or on UN posts.

This is, as Jeff Weintraub, might put it, intended to be a small, modest contribution to lifting the fog of war and the smoke of bias.

July 20

Hezbollah firing was also reported from the immediate vicinity of the UN positions in Naqoura and Maroun Al Ras areas at the time of the incidents.

July 24

One unarmed UN military observer, a member of the Observer Group Lebanon (OGL), was seriously wounded by small arms fire in the patrol basein the Marun Al Ras area yesterday afternoon. According to preliminary reports, the fire originated from the Hezbollah side during an exchange with the IDF.

July 25

This morning, Hezbollah opened small arms fire at a UNIFIL convoy consisting of two armored personnel carriers (APC) on the road between Kunin and Bint Jubayl. There was some damage to the APCs, but no casualties, and the convoy was obliged to return to Kunin.

July 26

Another UN position of the Ghanaian battalion in the area of Marwahin in the western sector was also directly hit by one mortar round from the Hezbollah side last night. The round did not explode, and there were no casualties or material damage. Another 5 incidents of firing close to UN positions from the Israeli side were reported yesterday. It was also reported that Hezbollah fired from the vicinity of four UN positions at Alma ash Shab, Tibnin, Brashit, and At Tiri.

The number of troops in some Ghanaian battalion positions is somewhat reduced because of the increased safety risk for the troops due to frequent incidents of Hezbollah firing from the vicinity of the positions, and shelling and bombardment close to the positions from the Israeli side.

July 27

Hezbollah firing was also reported from the immediate vicinity of the UN positions in Naqoura and Maroun Al Ras areas at the time of the incidents.

July 28

There were two direct impacts on UNIFIL positions from the Israeli side in the past 24 hours. Eight artillery and mortar rounds impacted inside an Indian battalion position in the area of Hula, causing extensive material damage, but no casualties. One artillery round impacted the parameter wall of the UNIFIL Headquarters in Naqoura. There were five other incidents of firing close to UN positions from the Israeli side. It was also reported that Hezbollah fired from the vicinity of five UN positions at Alma Ash Shab, At Tiri, Bayt Yahoun, Brashit, and Tibnin.

July 29

There were two incidents of firing close to UNIFIL positions from the Israeli side in the area of Marwahin and Deir Mimess in the past 24 hours. At the same time, it was reported that Hezbollah fired from the vicinity of six UN positions at Tibnin (2), At Tiri, Beit Yahoun, and Alma Ash Shab (2). UNIFIL strongly protested all these incidents to the Israeli and Lebanese authorities respectively.

July 30

It was reported that Hezbollah fired rockets from the vicinity of three UN positions in the area of Tibnin, At Tiri and Brashit. They also fired small arms fire from the vicinity of two UN positions in the area of Alma Ash Shab and Al Duhayyra. UNIFIL strongly protested all these incidents to the Israeli and Lebanese authorities.

It was reported that Hezbollah fired rockets from the vicinity of this UNIFIL position prior to the aerial bombardment. Hezbollah also fired small arms fire from the vicinity of the same position. They also fired rockets from the vicinity of two UNIFIL positions in the area of Tibnin and At Tiri in the central sector. There was one more incident of firing from the Israeli side close to UNIFIL position in the area of Mays al Jabal, when 10 tank rounds impacted 100 meters from the UN position. UNIFIL strongly protested all these incidents to the Israeli and Lebanese authorities respectively.

July 31

Two tank rounds from the Israeli side impacted directly on a UNIFIL position in the general area of Hula yesterday afternoon, causing extensive material damage, including the ammunition shelter, but no casualties. One aerial bomb impacted in the vicinity of a UN position in the area of Alma Ash Shab yesterday morning, causing damage to the parameter wall. It was reported
that Hezbollah fired rockets from the vicinity of this UNIFIL position prior to the aerial bombardment. Hezbollah also fired small arms fire from the vicinity of the same position. They also fired rockets from the vicinity of two UNIFIL positions in the area of Tibnin and At Tiri in the central sector.

(My computer has been a little balky today, so it possible I have some of the segments under the wrong date. If anyone catches an error, please let me know.)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

How much damage in Beirut?

A letter to the Wichita Eagle earlier this week complained that there had been previous letters backing Israel and said that all that was needed was to see the pictures of Lebanon on television.

I know the writer. He's a decent guy, which might be too much to say of some other letter writers.

Tonight after work, some errands, book store shopping, and supper at the Church's chicken buffet, I turned on the tube and, not finding any entertainment worth watching I took a look at the cable news stations. Imagine my surprise when I saw Michael Young, editor of the Daily Star being interviewed against a Beirut skyscape. Nary a bomb crater or demolished building in sight.

According to Deborah Gordon, one of Wichita's leading Israel's bashers, Israel is bombing Lebanon back into the stone age.

Some stone age!

From what I've caught of TV news coverage, it has done a very poor job of putting the bombing in proper perspective. I've seen lots of pictures of bombed buildings, but I've not seen a single map of Beirut showing the areas that have been bombed, nor an aerial survey of the city. Admittedly, I'm not a cable news junkie, so I might have missed it.

But Israeli pharmacist Shimon Zachary Klein, who blogs on the Israel-Palestinian conflict has located a very helpful map. (Hat tip: Jeff Weintraub

Klein writes:
The actual damage is only confined to those areas where the Hisbollah terrorist organization is active: command, military, and logistics locations used for weapons transport....
[The media goal seems to be] to convey the idea that the entire city has been destroyed when 99% is untouched.

only Hizbollah command and weapons centers and weapons transport sites have been attacked. [This is] Less than 1% of the entire city.
I've come across reports in recent days that tend to confirm Klein's analysis.
  • In a radio interview retired Canadian General Lewis MacKenzie said that only a 15 block square area of Beirut had been bombed. Now in my hometown of Winfield, Kansas (population 12,000) that would be an enormous area. In New York city, or Beirut, Lebanon, not so huge. (I'll try to track down the link to the interview.)
  • A NPR report noted that the new conflict had put a halt to the building boom in Beirut. Many buildings and areas had still not been rehabbed from the civil war twenty years ago.
  • A CNN reporter has revealed that he and others are able only to visit and photograph what Hezbollah wants them to.
  • J. Michael Kennedy of the LA Times wrote an article which put things in perspective.
Swaths of the southern suburbs are in ruins after 11 days of Israeli attacks. The main road from the south is bombed out and impassable. The main road to Damascus is knocked out. Hotels have emptied. Electric power comes and goes.

But the main shopping street of Hamra in west Beirut was jammed with cars Saturday morning. Stores were open, at least for a few hours -- even clothing shops that sold no clothes.

"Now is not the time to be buying clothes. Now is the time to buy food," said Fouad Naim, manager of the Antonio Baldan men's store. "But some who have been wearing the same thing for the last 10 days have come to get something new. You can smell them when they come in."

The newly built center of the city, with its fashionable shops and banking center, was eerily empty, save for a smattering of people in what few cafes were open. The tourists who made it one of the busiest parts of the city have long since gone, either by sea or overland to Syria or Jordan.

But on the main highway going north up the coast, more stores and restaurants were open, including fast-food standbys such as Hardee's, KFC, Subway and Burger King.

On Saturday afternoon, the road was jammed with cars as it passed the port and headed north, past modern shopping malls and other developments that are a part of the rebuilt Beirut. A turnoff to the right leads to the mountains above. Virtually all of this territory is home to the Christians of Lebanon, who allied themselves with the Israelis during the invasion of the country in 1982.

In Bikfayya, the roads were more crowded than usual, because this is one of the routes to the Syrian border now that the main highway has been knocked out by Israeli jets.

Even with that, the scene was almost pastoral, with a neat town square surrounded by small, well-kept shops. At her fruit and vegetable stand, Lena Bochebel said that the trauma of the city below was a world away.

"Here there is no war, and all people are happy because we all get along," she said. "We're taking care of people. We are all Lebanese people."

She pointed to the street leading off to the right, where the high school was perched on a hill overlooking the valley below. She said the school, the church and the local hotels were filled, many with people who had fled from the south.
Even though, the media may not be doing a stellar job putting the damage into perspective, there is tremendous human suffering in Lebanon and Israel. Please take a look at my previous post on some ways to help. And, then help.

How to help in the Middle East Crisis

Some suggestions for responding to the humanitarian crises in the current Middle East conflict.


The Education International, representing teachers' unions around the world, has issued an urgent action appeal in support of requests for humanitarian assistance from two Lebanese teachers' unions.

LabourStart is assisting by providing a secure online way to donate in your own currency using your credit or debit card. Please give generously today:

MeretzUSA recommends three projects in Israel

The Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma at Herzog Hospital is working with residents of northern Israel to help them cope with the current situation of violence and dislocation. The Center’s trauma psychologists are providing trauma counseling to families in shelters throughout the north, as well as workshops for parents and children who have fled northern Israel and have come to Jerusalem. Plans are underway to use the Trauma Center’s website ( ) both as a “moderated forum” to help Israelis deal with the psychological impact of the current security situation, and as a “chatroom”, so that people can feel together, even if they are stuck in their separate shelters or safe rooms.

The Brit Olam organization’s “Mobile Summer Camp” is helping children in northern Israel who are confined to bomb shelters this summer due to the current fighting. Many community shelters in the north are run-down, and often the children lack adult supervision. Brit Olam volunteers – including post-traumatic stress experts, educators, storytellers, and professional childcare workers – are going to the shelters, talking and playing with the children, entertaining them and bringing food and toys. In the Arab sector, which lacks community bomb shelters, Brit Olam is working with social service divisions in towns and villages, providing packages of food and toys for distribution to individual homes. Brit Olam (, in which many Young Meretz people are active, is a social action partnership of Israelis and Jews around the world, working together to reduce poverty, hardship, and vulnerability in fragile communities and to advance equality of opportunity, freedom, and self-expression.

Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sport: At the request of the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency, Wingate has been housing, feeding and providing summer activities for 200 children from northern Israel – and is seeking to take in 200 more. For general information about Wingate, go to

Should you wish to contribute to any of these projects, please send us a check made out to Meretz USA, noting in the memo section which of the projects you would like to donate to. They will make sure that the full amount of your contribution goes to the purpose so designated.

Checks should be mailed to:
Meretz USA
114 West 26th St., Suite 1002
New York, NY 10001

Friday, July 28, 2006

Dirty Tricks in Kansas GOP Primary

The race to be the Republican to lose to Kathleen Sebelius in the Kansas governor's race is apparently getting dirty. And the culprit appears to be Ken Canfield, who is running as the "Christian" "prolife" and "family values" candidate (to distinguish himself from Jim Barnett who is the "Christian" "prolife" and "family values" candidate who is a doctor and promises to be a part-time Governor).

It seems that a Canfield-aligned group has sent a mailing attacking the Barnett, former GOP Speaker Robin Jennison and incumbent Governor Kathleen Sebelius with some very questionable charges.

The most offensive statment says that Republican primary voters should reject Barnett because he has a gay son.

The blog Kansas Governor's Race 2006 had the story, complete with scans from the mailing. But it was hacked by an apparent Canfield supporter.

The KGR folks have resumed control of the blog and are reconstructing it.

Friday, July 21, 2006

I am profiled

Norm Geras, a British-based academic of the democratic left, has one of the most viewed and most controversial blogs around. Normblog not only has perceptive political commentary, but some great cultural stuff, like polls (e.g. Bob Dylans best-loved songs and the "Momma and Daddy Collection" of country lyrics). Another regular feature is a Friday blogger profile. I have the great honor of being featured this week.

It's a lot of fun to read the profiles especially of bloggers you read. But, for me at least, it was a real challenge to do the profile. Norm sends a list of about fifty entertaining and provactive questions form which he asks you to answer about thirty. Even the questions I decided not to answer caused me to do lots of thinking. In the end, it was a little easier to decide on my favorite movie than on the philosophical proposition I thought it most important to promote or combat.

Norm also does the extra work of adding some relevant links. (Apparently, Norm thinks that George Brett, is not a household word among the cricket-watching fans of his blog.)

Here's my profile.

Stuart Elliott was born in Winfield, Kansas. He moved to New York and worked with Bayard Rustin. Later he moved a little to the 'left'. He works at a US Postal Service facility and is active in his union (American Postal Workers Union). Stuart is webmaster for the Wichita/Hutchinson Labor Federation and a correspondent for LabourStart. He blogs at New Appeal to Reason, which is named after the great American radical newspaper published in Girard, Kansas in the early 20th century.

Why do you blog? > To change the world and express myself.

What has been your best blogging experience? > Being asked to do a normblog profile

What has been your worst blogging experience? > Actually writing my normblog profile.

What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Jump in, write on a regular schedule, but don't feel you have to write daily unless your schedule permits. Make a commitment to write at least ten posts before deciding to do it or not.

What are your favourite blogs? > My favourite labour blogs are the AFL-CIO Now blog, Confined Space and Nathan Newman. I would find it nearly impossible to select only three favourite political blogs.

Who are your intellectual heroes? > Irving Howe and Michael Harrington.

What are you reading at the moment? > Boris Souvarine, Stalin: A Critical Survey of Bolshevism, and Alexander Keyssar, The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States.

Who are your cultural heroes? > Charlie Parker, Bob Wills, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk.

What is the best novel you've ever read? > Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - and not just because I was assigned it three times between 7th and 10th grades. When confronted with a choice between a developing friendship with a runaway slave and fealty to society's racism, Huck makes a fateful decision: 'I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself, "All right, then, I'll GO to hell."'

What is your favourite movie? > Chinatown or Fargo.

What is your favourite song? > B.B. King, 'How Blue Can You Get'.

Who is your favourite composer? > Duke Ellington.

Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Detente and the first neocon foreign policy project of the 1970s and 1980s. In the last year, I've come to a much more positive view of John Brown after reading David Reynolds' biography.

Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Michael Harrington, Toward a Democratic Left, which I read in the 10th or 11th grade. It showed me that there was a way to be radical without being crazy.

Who are your political heroes? > A. Philip Randolph (organizer of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, both Marches on Washington, etc), George Orwell, Frank Walsh, Caroline Lowe.

If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > I would make the number of seats in the Senate proportional to population.

What would you do with the UN? > Reform it, not abolish it.

Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > Either is possible. Barbarism or global social democracy.

What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Be wary of anyone who pretends to have all the answers.

Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > No.

What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Empathy.

In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > Like most people, probably in far more circumstances than I would admit. To save a life and to avoid needlessly hurting feelings are two instances.

Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > Yes, I detest racists, bigots and hypocrites, and disdain postmodernists and cultural relativists.

What is your favourite proverb? > 'Anything worth doing is worth doing half-way.'

Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Kansas City.

What would your ideal holiday be? > A jazz or blues festival.

What do you like doing in your spare time? > Playing my guitar or doing computer graphics.

What is your most treasured possession? > My great grandfather's civil war army discharge papers. He came from Canada to serve in the Union Army, was discharged in Texas, became a citizen, and settled in Kansas. And a coffee table made by my father.

If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? > Since my parents almost named me 'Rockwell', I've generally been satisfied with my name.

What talent would you most like to have? > Not so much a talent, but an ability - colour vision. I am red-green colour blind.

Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Matt Groening.

Who are your sporting heroes? > George Brett.

Which basketball team do you support? > Kansas University Jayhawks.

How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I would quit my job and become a political philanthropist.

If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > My father, who died when I was five, and my two younger brothers.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Wichita Sit-ins Recognized by NAACP

Sit-ins at lunch counters are a well-known part of the civil rights movement. There is a an important part of that story is almost unknown.

During the 1940s, CORE, the Congress on Racial Equality, an organization of socialists, pacificists, and others, used sit-ins to desegregate a number of restaurants in the Chicago area. Almost two decades later, sit-ins by Negro students in Nashville, Tennessee, and then to hundreds of communities across the South caught the nation's attention and helped intensify the modern civil rights movement.

But, the first student sit-ins of the modern civil rights movement took place, not in Nashville, not in Greensboro, North Carolina, but in Wichita, Kansas and Oklahoma City.

Today the national NAACP is recognizing those pioneers.

Christina Woods writes about it in the Wichita Eagle

It was 48 years ago today that Ron Walters and other members of the local NAACP Youth chapter sat down inside Dockum Drugstore in downtown Wichita.
By silently sitting to demand service, the youths, ages 15 to 22, were protesting the discriminatory practice that pushed black people outside to eat while white people dined inside.
Less than four weeks later, the business agreed on Aug. 11, 1958, to desegregate all nine of its Wichita locations.
Wichita's sit-in story is largely unknown outside of Wichita, even though it sparked sit-ins by the NAACP youth chapter in Oklahoma City.
But much of that anonymity should change today.
The National NAACP is officially recognizing Wichita's sit-in as the first youth-led lunch counter sit-in that brought about widespread changes.
Walters and a representative from the Oklahoma sit-in, Clara Luper, will accept the honor tonight during the organization's annual convention in Washington D.C.
"They're going to be recognized as the youth councils that led some of the first protests," said John C. White, the NAACP's national spokesman.
The Eagle also has a very nice multimedia feature on the sit-ins.

After looking at the multimedia stuff, I thought, "gee, the Eagle should have reprinted some of their articles and photos from the period. Woods explains why they didn't.
The Eagle carried just one article on the local demonstration. No photos were published.
"Those stories never got in," said Mary Cooley Gardner, a former Eagle columnist and reporter from 1957 to 1961.
Staff was instructed not to write articles that would upset the downtown business community.
For more about the Wichita sit-ins and civil rights movement, read Gretchen Cassel Eick's Dissent in Wichita.

"Disproportionality" in Perspective

Most people acknowledge that Israel had a right to react militarily to armed attacks by Hezbollah from Lebanese territory. But it is said that Israel's response is "disproportionate. "

Becuase of diplomatic concerns and "oil," some criticism is necessary. But this has led to some confusion. Some simple-minded people think "proportionality" means that acting in self-defense, a nation can respond only on a tit for tat basis. To this way of thinking, if the enemy kills one of your soldiers, killing two in response is disproportionate. This is, of course, nonsense. The proportionality requirement is that military actions "should remain strictly proportional to the objective desired." (Source)

I'm not going to attempt that analysis today, instead I'd like to focus on a slightly different question.

Is the number of deaths in the current conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon disproportionate?

For the moment, let's leave aside places like Darfur and the Congo, Bosnia and Chechneya and look at deaths in conflicts in the Middle East not involving Israel and two cases of persecution of Muslims in China and Bulgaria. This is by no mean a comprehensive list

Middle East Casualties

Lebanese Civil War 1958 4000 killed

Lebanese Civil War 1975-1976 44,000 killed

"deaths may have approached 44,000, with about 180,000 wounded; many thousands of others were displaced or left homeless, or had migrated. Much of the once-magnificent city of Beirut was reduced to rubble and the town divided into Muslim and Christian sectors, separated by the so-called Green Line."

Algerian Civil War 1993-1998 70,000 civilians killed

"the Armed Islamic Group, was believed largely responsible for the series of village massacres that characterized the war. About 70,000 civilians were butchered (1993-98) in surprise raids throughout the country, especially in places where members of civil defense groups were believed by the militants to be located."

Black September PLO vs. Jordan 1970-1971 3,500 killed

Druze Revolt 1924-1927 9, 000 killed

4000 French, 5000 Druze

"News of the Druze rebellion spread throughout Syria and ignited revolts in Aleppo and Damascus among Syrian nationalists, who pleaded with Atrash to attack the Syrian capital. In October the Druzes invaded the Damascus region; nationalist leaders led their own demonstrations; and the French began systematic bombardment of the city, resulting in the death of 5,000 Syrians. The rebellion collapsed by the end of the year, and reluctant order replaced open revolt."

Syrian Baath Vs. Muslim Brotherhood 1980-1982 20,000-50,000 killed

"The armed conflict between the Muslim Brethren and the regime culminated in full-scale insurrection in Aleppo in 1980 and in Hamah in February 1982. The government responded to the Hamah revolt with brutal force, crushing the rebellion by killing between 10,000 and 25,000 civilians and leveling large parts of the city...

"In February 1982, the Muslim Brotherhood ambushed government forces who were searching for dissidents in Hamah. Several thousand Syrian troops, supported by armor and artillery, moved into the city and crushed the insurgents during two weeks of bloodshed. When the fighting was over, perhaps as many as 10,000 to 25,000 people lay dead, including an estimated 1,000 soldiers.

Turkey Vs. The Kurds 15,000 killed

"...between 1982 and 1995 some 15,000 people were killed, the great majority of whom were Kurdish civilians. Dozens of villages were destroyed and many of the inhabitants driven from their homes. Turkish forces also attacked PKK bases in Iraq, first from the air and then with ground forces; in an operation in late 1992 about 20,000 Turkish troops entered the safe havens, and in 1995 some 35,000 were employed in a similar campaign..."

Bulgaria vs. Turkish Minority 1984-1985 500-1,500 killed

"500 to 1,500 people were killed when they resisted assimilation measures, and thousands of others went to labor camps or were forcibly resettled."

Armenian Genocide 1915-1917 600,000-2,000,000 killed

"In the early stages of World War I, in 1915 Russian armies advanced on Turkey from the north and the British attempted an invasion from the Mediterranean. Citing the threat of internal rebellion, the Ottoman government ordered large-scale roundups, deportations, and systematic torture and murder of Armenians beginning in the spring of 1915. Estimates vary from 600,000 to 2 million deaths out of the prewar population of about 3 million Armenians. By 1917 fewer than 200,000 Armenians remained in Turkey."

China: Shadian Incident 1975 5,000 killed

“....the Chinese army used artillery to crush a Muslim uprising in the village of Shadian in Yunnan, killing as many as 5,000 people."

Source: James Miles, The Legacy of Tiananmen: China in Disarray. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press,1997. p. 180.

UPDATE (Aug) 2, 2006

Turkey: Kurdish (PKK) Conflict 1984-2006 37,000 killed

More than 37,000 people have been killed 1984 since the PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, took up arms to fight for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast.

Source: AFP: Turkish President Signs Controversial Law, July 17, 2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Poor Pay More

A new study from the Brookings Institute shows that the poor in 13 major cities in the US tend to pay substantially more for the same consumer services.

By taking out higher-interest mortgages, shopping at rent-to-own furniture stores, using check-cashing businesses instead of banks and buying groceries at convenience stores, the nation’s working poor households pay much more than moderate- and high-income households for life’s essentials…

The report — “From Poverty, Opportunity: Putting the Market to Work for Lower-Income Families” — calls on government officials to create laws to curb services that gouge low-income consumers, and it proposes reproducing fledgling programs the authors found across the country.

The report finds that:

Reducing the costs of living for lower income families by just one percent would add up to over $6.5 billion in new spending power for these families. This would enable lower and modest-income families to save for, and invest in, incoming-growing assets, like homes and retirement savings, or to pay for critical expenses for their children, like education and health care.

To download the report go here.

Support Perscuted Gay Iranians

From Doug Ireland


A reminder: Tomorrow (Wednesday, July 19) is the International Day of Action Iran_noose_16 Against Homophobic Persecution in Iran, called on the first anniversary of the public hanging of two teenagers, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, for homosexuality.

There will be vigils and demonstrations on July 19 in 25 cities around the world -- including 10 in the U.S.

Three Views of Middle East Crisis

David Hirsch

Since before it even existed, Israel has been engaged in two wars with its neighbours. One is a just war, waged by Palestinian Arabs for freedom - which became a demand for Palestinian national independence; the other is a genocidal war that aims to end Jewish life in the Middle East.

The job of the left is to insist on the reality of this distinction and to stand against those who recognise the reality of only one or other of these two separate wars.

we must keep fighting against those who think that the only real war is an Israeli war of survival, as we keep fighting against those who think that the only real war is against the Israeli oppressor. The left has to think differently, and it has to create a different reality. We have to know which side we are on. We're on the side of the Palestinian struggle for independence and we're on the side of the Israeli struggle against the jihadists (not to mention the Palestinian, Iranian, Syrian, Egyptian and Lebanese struggle against the jihadists, as well as the trade union, socialist, democratic, lesbian and gay, feminist and secular struggles against them).

Eric Lee
No socialist group in Britain is saying what needs to be said today about the crisis in the Middle East. All the groups on the organised Left are busy denouncing Israel for its "aggression" against Gaza and Lebanon. Many are expressing their solidarity with the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples. None are saying that Israel needs and deserves the support of the Left.

But that is exactly what they should be saying.

Israel is under attack -- unprovoked, brutal attack. Attack by forces such as Hamas and Hizbollah with which socialists have nothing in common.

And Israel is responding in the way that any state, even a state with a workers' government, even an ideal socialist state, would respond. It is hitting back with all the firepower at its disposal, but doing so in a way to minimize civilian casualties. That is why it decided to flatten Hamas' foreign ministry building at 2:00 in the morning, when it was unoccupied. Or used targetted aerial bombardment to create craters in the runways of Beirut airport, rather than bombing terminals crammed with people. (Either way, they would have shut down the airport -- but they chose a way that saved innocent lives.)

Jo Ann Mort

As the well-respected Israeli journalist Avi Shavit recently wrote in Haaretz, the experiment of unilateral disengagement succeeded in confirming both that a majority of Israelis desire to end the occupation and that the republic is capable of acting on that majorities’ desire; but for the Palestinians and other Muslim populations in the area, the disengagement failed. “It strengthened the extremists among them, and weakened the moderates,” wrote Shavit. “It bolstered the ethos of an armed struggle, and brought Hamas to power; it undermined Israel's deterrence, and prompted Hezbollah to attack.” There are still voices of moderation in the region -- but they are not as moderate as Israel would like, nor as moderate as they once were. And they are in unlikely places.

Just as the situation in Gaza was escalating, many Palestinians were voicing support for a joint document, negotiated between factions of prisoners representing Hamas and Fatah, calling for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, set by the pre-1967 borders. The Fatah leader involved in the proposal is Marwan Barghouti, who was sentenced to five life terms for his role in the 2nd Intifada. These days, his name is on the tongues of many politicians, observers, and journalists, Israeli and Palestinian alike. There is hope that he may be someone with the capability to control the street while opening a political horizon for the Palestinians. Many are suggesting that the most useful prisoner exchange Israel could make would be one that frees Barghouti. One Palestinian businessman, close to the Fatah faction around Barghouti, told me that he thought the reason that actors in Syria -- and now Lebanon and perhaps Iran -- currently felt emboldened to strike was precisely because of the complete political vacuum in the Palestinian territories.

The dream of peace achieved unilaterally is clearly dead. Israel -- with international support -- must seek out voices in the region with which to engage, even ones that can’t quite accurately be described as “moderate,” and that discomfort Israelis. After all, an escalation of the current situation in the absence of such engagement -- with Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, and Iran all involved in the mix -- offers an array of possible scenarios that are considerably worse than discomforting.

Monday, July 17, 2006

NAACP Honors John Brown

Harper's Ferry was the site of the second annual meeting of the Niagra Movement, the predecessor to the NAACP. In 1932, the NAACP attempted to place a plaque honoring Brown at a College in Harper's Ferry, but they were rebuffed. This year the NAACP honored Brown during a trip to West Virginia during their convention.

Here's the very moving speech by Julian Bond.

We are here today because this place and the martyrs who died here are inextricably tied to the NAACP and the unending struggle for freedom. There is an unbroken line leading from this place until today – a line and lineage we are come to commemorate and honor so that future generations will never forget.

John Brown’s biographer David S. Reynolds argues that no other white person, including President Lincoln, has been so widely admired among American blacks as John Brown.

One of our founders, Dr. W. E. B. DuBois wrote of Brown as "the man who of all Americans has perhaps become nearest to touching the real souls of black folk. John Brown worked not simply for black men – he worked with them; he was a companion of their daily life, knew their faults and virtues, and felt, as few white Americans have felt, the bitter tragedy of their lot."

Friday, July 14, 2006

Lop-sided Growth

Ezra Klein on the TAPPED blog riffs on Paul Krugman's look at the peculiar nature of the Bush recovery.

FOREHEAD GROWTH. Paul Krugman returns to the economics beat with an invaluable look at how our economy is growing:

Here’s what happened in 2004. The U.S. economy grew 4.2 percent, a very good number. Yet last August the Census Bureau reported that real median family income — the purchasing power of the typical family — actually fell. Meanwhile, poverty increased, as did the number of Americans without health insurance. So where did the growth go?

The answer comes from the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, whose long-term estimates of income equality have become the gold standard for research on this topic, and who have recently updated their estimates to include 2004. They show that even if you exclude capital gains from a rising stock market, in 2004 the real income of the richest 1 percent of Americans surged by almost 12.5 percent. Meanwhile, the average real income of the bottom 99 percent of the population rose only 1.5 percent. In other words, a relative handful of people received most of the benefits of growth.

We should probably talk this one out for a moment. Growth is almost a misleading word for this phenomenon: When we think of growth, we imagine what happens to us during adolescence -- we get bigger. But imagine if all the growth happened in your forehead. Limbs, torso, weight -- all the exact same. But your forehead was now six inches long. Would you be excited about that change? Would you celebrate your newfound height? Would you categorize that as normal "growth"?

Woody Guthrie

This is a photo from the 2005 Woody Guthrie Festival in Okemah, Oklahoma.

Essentially every American who has listened to the radio, or gone to summer camp, knows Woody Guthrie's “This Land is Your Land.”Public television’s “American Masters” series was devoted to Woody Guthrie this week. Wichita’s KPTS (Channel 8) aired the program this Wednesday July 11. I was only able to catch bits and pieces , but I was able to tape the program for close viewing later on.

And if you want a more contemporary take on Woody visit Woody's hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma sometime during annual Woody Guthrie Free Folk Music Festival. (July 12-16 this year.) With one exception everything about the festival is free. The exception is a Wednesday night fundraiser. This year features Arlo Guthrie's 40th Anniversary Alice's Restaurant Massacree Tour. Every event Thursday through Saturday is free. The musicians perform for free, but they are no amateurs. And don't let the July heat keep you away. Morning and afternoon sessions are held in the legendary Crystal Theater and the Brick Street Cafe in downtown Okemah.

I was able to go last year on Saturday and found it most enjoyable and I'm far from being a folk music fanatic. To top things off, I bought a raffle ticket and won a Taylor guitar.

If you’d like to know more about Woody, there’s a very nice article by Rob Collins from the Oklahoma Gazette or biographies by Joe Klein (Woody Guthrie: A Life) and Ed Cray (Ramblin’ Man). Two good sources for Woody CDs are Smithsonian Folkways and the Woody Guthrie Foundation.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Jack Krebs Responds to ID Smear Campaign

Red State Rabble. one of the two or three best blogs focusing on the wacky Kansas Board of Education and their attacks on the science of evolution has a statement that merits being posted in toto.

Jack Krebs, the president of Kansas Citizens for Science, has responded to a smear campaign against supporters of science education launched by John Calvert of the ID Network. Here's what Krebs had to say at the open forum session of the Kansas State Board of Education meeting in Topeka this morning:

Last month, the day after I spoke here, I was told that Kathy Martin handed out an article entitled “The Truth of Science and of Revelation” from the Catholic magazine “Columbia.”

I would like to thank Mrs. Martin for distributing this article, because it supports a major point that we at Kansas Citizens for Science believe: that there is not a conflict between accepting the theory of evolution and believing in God.

Here is what the article says about Catholic doctrine:

“Believing that God designed the world doesn’t mean you have to reject Darwinism or any other scientific explanation… The Church has always taught that natural processes and the laws that govern them are themselves part of God’s design. … It is quite acceptable to say that evolution by natural selection is the way God did it.”

However, the Intelligent Design advocates claim that one cannot accept both evolution and God. Currently, John Calvert is distributing a pamphlet entitled “Character Assassination and Denigration of Theism.” In it, he says that Kansas Citizens for Science has been a “tool” used to “promote a materialist world view that seeks to demean the idea of creation, … effectively promoting non-theistic religions and world views over traditional theistic views.”

This is categorically false. Kansas Citizens for Science does not promote any particular religious view. We do not promote materialism, nor do we promote non-theistic over theistic religions.

Board members of KCFS include an evangelical Christian, a Presbyterian minister, mainstream Protestants and Catholics, Unitarians, agnostics and atheists. Science can and does accommodate all those religious beliefs, and more. We believe that science is a limited form of knowledge, and that many essential matters of morals, values and spiritual belief fall outside the realm of science.

Calling us materialists and atheists just because we support mainstream evolutionary theory is a blatant falsehood, and we object to being characterized as such.

John Calvert has been instrumental in developing and promoting your science standards. Therefore, I want to go on public record here, in front of you, in asking that Calvert quit making these false accusations that those of us who accept modern science and evolutionary theory can’t also accept God. Many tens of thousands of religious Kansans are being painted as “tools of atheism” by these accusations, and they have a right to be insulted.

Kansas Citizens for Science firmly believes that science, as the “activity of seeking natural explanations about what we observe in the world around us,” is both the best way of learning about the physical world and is fully compatible with a wide diversity of religious beliefs, including traditional Christian beliefs about God.

Things I learned from Bill O'Reilly This Week

From just listening for less than one-hour on Monday and Tuesday.

"Christianity isn't a religions."

(Monday: It's a philosophy so it's okay for government buildings or war memorials to prominently display a cross. According to Bill, Catholicism, Presbyterianism, etc. are religions.)

"The New York Times isn't a newspaper"


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Making the Case for US Grant

Nathan Newman

In 1854, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison led a crowd celebrating Independence Day by burning the Constitution, denouncing it as "A Convenant With Death and an Agreement with Hell." His worthy point was that the founding fathers of the nation had make a mockery of their own words with the stain of slavery and deserved scorn for the constitutional product of their labors.

So as we celebrate the founding of our nation, maybe we should think more about the true founding of a nation with the Civil War where all men were to be "truly created equal" and the President who worked to make it so. No not Lincoln-- who didn't live to finish the job--but the General, Ulysses Grant, who won the Civil War and went on to be the President who would oversee the ratification of the 15th Amendment and enactment of the civil rights enforcement laws that -- after the interregnum of disuse under Jim Crow -- to this day are a backbone of civil rights in this nation.

It is odd that when liberals list the greatest Presidents, Grant rarely makes the list. Roosevelt of course is a worthy option, Kennedy gets the charisma-addict vote and Lincoln deserves respectable mention.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Myth of a "Censored" Jungle

In 2003 See Sharp Press, a small Tucson publisher came out with what was billed as "the Uncensored Version" of Upton Sinclair classic The Jungle. The only problem is that the claims appear to have been overblown. Historian Christopher Phelps discusses the issues in great depth on the History New Network.

Is it any wonder that reviewers have found it impossible to resist the romance of a forgotten, authentic, suppressed version of The Jungle? Library Journal, in classifying the See Sharp edition as “essential,” deplores the novel’s “butchering” and claims “Sinclair later wanted to reinsert the expurgated material for a full-length version but that never came to fruition” (April 15, 2003). The People’s Weekly World, newspaper of the Communist Party USA, states, “If you have never read The Jungle, don’t waste your time on the 1906 censored version. Go right to the original, now available, at a reasonable price, and feel and experience the real message that Upton Sinclair so deeply desired to convey to his readers” (May 29, 2004).

Just one problem: none of the sensational claims made on behalf of the See Sharp edition is true. The Jungle was not censored. Sinclair did not revise the text to meet the coercive demands of a commercial publisher. He never wanted the 1905 serial version to become the standard edition. And the novel, as eventually published in book form, has a political message that is perfectly clear.

Phelps discusses the history of The Jungle in great depth and makes a most convincing case.

Before the Phelps posted his essay on HNN, Earl Lee defended the See Sharp edition from earlier criticisms from Phelps and others. But it seems to doesn't he doesn't really have much of case when he argues that The Jungle was "censored." Now, it is possible that the serialized version originally published in The Appeal to Reason in 1905--the basis for the See Sharp edition, is artistically superior, as Lee contends, but that's a different argument. Maybe the "original" version is the version that Sinclair should have preferred, but he didn't.

As Phelps notes there is value in having the 1905 version available. Moreover, See Sharp Press has made some important historical and current books available to the public. And, from reading the intro material to the See Sharp edition, it think it is easy to understand why that "censored" story resonated with Lee and Kathy DeGrave who prepared the edition.

Some Fourth Thoughts

Rich Shenkman, an editor at History News Network, points out that flag worship is a relatively recent development and not a measure of real patriotism.

No doubt the founders would be pleased to see that the flag is respected today. But they would not understand it being worshiped. Worship of the flag is strictly a modern development. A hundred years or so ago only a few self-appointed flag defenders conceived of it as a sacred object. Schools were not required to fly the flag until 1890. Americans did not begin pledging allegiance to the flag until 1892. They did not begin saluting the flag until around the Spanish-American War in 1898. Flag Day was not nationally observed until 1916. The flag code, prescribing the proper way to treat a flag and dispose of it, was not approved by Congress until 1942 and did not become part of federal law until 1976. The interesting thing is not that the rituals of flag worship go back only as far as the late nineteenth century but that Americans think they go back further. We have become so used to the idea that the flag is a sacred object that we cannot imagine a time when it was not considered one. However, there was a time when patriotism needed no such artificial braces. During the Revolution, when men were fighting and dying on the battlefield to establish a new nation, saluting the flag would have been regarded as an empty gesture. The thing to do was to go out and join the fighting. That was patriotism.
Frederick Douglass: What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?

Fellow-citizens, I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad; it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing and a byword to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your union. It fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement; the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice....

Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country.... While drawing encouragement from the "Declaration of Independence," the great principles it contains and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age.
Rock historian Greil Marcus

It doesn't matter that, well, yes, of course, on the fourth of July, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was presented, everyone understood that all men meant men, not women; whites, not blacks; Christians, not Jews or Hindi or heathen; decent people, not Sodomites. The idea that "all men are created equal" was not a "self-evident truth," Sen. John Pettit said on the floor of the Senate in 1853: it was "a self-evident lie." It was in the midst of the debates over the Kansas-Nebraska Act; Pettit was arguing for voiding the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and opening the territories to slavery. It was a debate: "The great declaration cost our forefathers too dear," Sen. Benjamin Franklin Wade of Ohio replied to Pettit, "to be so lightly thrown away by their children."

Abraham Lincoln read these debates from his oblivion in Springfield, Ill.; he was a 44-year-old lawyer who had served one term in Congress before being turned out of office. Pettit's words and the words against him brought Lincoln back to the world. Soon he was speaking as if the Declaration of Independence contained all the words the nation ever needed to hear -- and in a certain sense, it didn't matter that Lincoln did not believe that, once men and women left the hand of their creator, they were equal on earth. "Pettit called the Declaration of Independence a lie," Lincoln said in Peoria in 1854, answering a speech by Stephen Douglas. "If it had been said in old Independence Hall 78 years ago, the doorkeeper would have thrown him into the street." That might have been a fairy tale; the Declaration of Independence itself might be a fairy tale, but not one that can be given an ending, happy or not. The charge in the Declaration was boundless; no limits placed upon it hold.