“He who pushes our faces in the dirt must be confronted, even if that means sacrificing our lives and shedding blood.” ...
On the way to a funeral on May 10 for one of the young Sunni men killed during the battles, mourners walked in a procession while chanting, “Shiites are the enemies of God.”
As the pallbearers approached a store owned by a Shiite man, some mourners rushed in and urged the man to close it out of respect. He refused, and the mourners began smashing his windows with rocks and chairs. Enraged, the man got his AK-47 assault rifle and began firing into the crowd, killing two mourners and wounding others.
As terrified mourners ran from the scene, the funeral procession turned into a sectarian riot, with Sunnis angrily destroying every store owned by Shiites in the neighborhood.
Get your programs here --you can't tell the players without a scorecard.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
"Trying to distinguish between a personal God and a more cosmic force, Einstein described himself as an “agnostic” and “not an atheist,” which he associated with the same intolerance as religious fanatics. “They are creatures who — in their grudge against the traditional ‘opium for the people’ — cannot bear the music of the spheres.”
The problem of God, he said, “is too vast for our limited minds.”"
[Einstein] wrote that “the word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.”
As for his fellow Jews, he said that Judaism, like all other religions, was “an incarnation of the most childish superstitions.”
He claimed a deep affinity with the Jewish people, he said, but “as far as my experience goes they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.”
Shabbat shalom, Albert.
Friday, May 16, 2008
"When asked to respond to McCain's charge about Ahmadinejad, one of Obama's senior advisers simply forwarded a comment by Defense Secretary Robert Gates from today's Washington Post. 'We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage,' said Gates, 'and then sit down and talk with them. If there is going to be a discussion, then they need something, too. We can't go to a discussion and be completely the demander, with them not feeling that they need anything from us.'"
Posted Thursday, May 15, 2008 1:52 PM by Christopher Beam
John McCain’s speech on his vision for America [has] one nugget of genuine inspiration:
'My administration will set a new standard for transparency and accountability. I will hold weekly press conferences. I will regularly brief the American people on the progress our policies have made and the setbacks we have encountered. When we make errors, I will confess them readily, and explain what we intend to do to correct them. I will ask Congress to grant me the privilege of coming before both houses to take questions, and address criticism, much the same as the Prime Minister of Great Britain appears regularly before the House of Commons.'"
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I have a mixed, and not particularly admiring, opinion of Glenn Greenwald on Salon. I often find him guilty of simplistic, stereotypic characterizations of more complex realities; rarely do I learn much new (or hear much surprising) from his column, even when we share adversaries.
Here is a response to his recent piece on Israel and the American Jewish community, as well as to some of the commentators on his column:
I am a strong "friend of Israel" who also strongly supports Obama for the Presidency.
The long-term safety and flourishing of Israel is, for me, a significant issue, but one among others. Most American Jews have long favored a progressive domestic agenda, including civil liberties and civil rights, religious freedom and separation of church and state, a strong social safety net--policies compatible with Jewish tradition (and, perhaps not incidentally, compatible with the success Jews have achieved in American life), and strongly reflected in the prophetic tradition of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Senator Obama is excellent on these issues, and offers the best prospect of advancing them in American life after years of political division.
Anyone knowledgable about Israeli life understands the vigorous, lively debate about politics and policy that is a constant feature of Israeli discourse. There is an Israeli right wing, to be sure, but its views capture the support of only a minority of Israelis (or of Israeli Jews). The tendency of some American supporters of Israel (often self-appointed, or appointed by virtue of their financial status rrather than any representational legitimacy) to insist on American support of Likud/right-wing (or American neoconservative) opinions misrepresents the center of gravity in both Israel and the American Jewish community. Many of us believe in the necessity of a strong American role in encouraging steps toward a peaceful two state solution, not least to cut through the clog of domestic Israeli (and Palestinian) political cultures.
In precisely that sense, a President Obama is likely to prove a far better, and more far-sighted "friend of Israel" than has been President Bush, or would likely be a President McCain.
Jews with knowledge, or personal memories, of the world's willingness to tolerate Hitler's "final solution" are rightly apprehensive of potential threats, such as that now posed by Iran, to the security of Israel and of Jews everywhere. It does not follow that an unremittingly bellicose and aggressive response from an American leader is necessarily the wisest policy. Once again, a President Obama may prove more adroit in meeting this challenge to both American and Israeli interests, and in recreating international respect for America's good offices on the international scene.
We would all be better off with less stereotyping and a broader, as well as better informed, discussion of these issues.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Sunday, May 11, 2008
BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Fierce clashes broke out on Sunday in the mountains east of Beirut between supporters of the Western-backed government and followers of Hezbollah, the militant group backed by Iran. ...
Ah, the pleasures of a Middle-Eastern multinational state. Surely an excellent model for a unitary Israel/Palestine.
Especially since the virtually all-Muslim Sunni/Shi'a/Kurdish communities are doing so well in democratic Iraq.
"...Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, said on CNN that this was “one more clear example of a person that’s out of his depth when it comes to being the leader of the free world.”"He should certainly know about being out of one's depth...
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent who has endorsed Mr. McCain, assailed Mr. Obama for reacting in what he called an “undeserved and somewhat intemperate” way after Mr. McCain pointed out repeatedly that a Hamas spokesman had said he would welcome Obama’s election.
“The fact that a spokesman for Hamas has said he would welcome the election of Senator Obama really does raise the question of why,” Mr. Lieberman said on CNN. Hamas, he contended, is a proxy of Iran.
Mr. McCain had said that “I think it’s very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States,” referring to Mr. Obama, and added, “I think that people should understand that I would be Hamas’s worst nightmare.”
Whatever else one might say about Hamas, or Al Qaida, or Osama, they do not appear to be stupid. One can fairly presume, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that the policies pursued by GWB since 9/11, with more of the same promised by McCain, have contributed more to recruiting terrorists for them than recruits (or friends) for the US military. It would seem likely to me that they would be capable of calculating the impact of their "endorsement" of a US political figure in an American election. The only folks incapable of seeing through that are, as P.T. Barnum might have suggested, a segment of the American voting public. To which one might add, right wing talk show hosts and such far-seeing politicians as suck-up Joe Lieberman.
"With Mr. Obama appearing ever more likely to face off against Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee, Mr. McCain’s surrogates took to the Sunday morning news programs to level some of their toughest attacks. Mitt Romney, who lost his fight with Mr. McCain for the Republican nomination but now strongly backs him, said Mr. Obama was “clearly out of his depth.”"
So would Mitt Romney recognize depth if he sank in it?
There us one guy who could be mortally wounded by a paper cut.
Friday, May 9, 2008
On Tuesday, a group of retired nuns in South Bend, Indiana were turned away from a polling place by sisters from their own convent because, at 80 and 90 years of age, they no longer have the photo ID’s required by an Indiana law recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The story has received a lot of attention but the truth is, the problem with our elections isn’t voter fraud. It’s the barriers that have been erected to the ballot box, both intentionally and unintentionally, like deception and intimidation, under-trained poll workers, defective voter registration systems, and breakdowns in election machinery. It’s time for Congress to get serious about fair elections – and get to work.
Tell your members of congress to address the real problems with our democracy by supporting The Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act, and the Caging Prohibition Act.
"Ms. Huffington, the liberal blogger, said she had heard Mr. McCain say at a Los Angeles dinner party shortly after the 2000 election that he had not voted for the president he has now publicly embraced in his own quest for the White House. The McCain campaign swiftly quashed the account and said Ms. Huffington had a book to promote and would make anything up.
“She’s a flake and a poser and an attention-seeking diva,” Mark Salter, one of Mr. McCain’s closest aides, told The Washington Post."
All of that is likely true, but it does not itself constitute much of a denial.
Of course, McCain could have been lying to the Hollywood folks at the party.
So like much in politics, the question resolves to, "Was he lying then, or is he lying now?"
One wouldn't want to exclude prematurely the possibility of both.
"Over many years, Western Liberals and Leftists have not had great success at foreign policy. Their strength lies at home, and many of them probably believe that the best foreign policy is a democratic and egalitarian domestic policy. I wish that my friends in Israel could be good liberals and leftists in this old fashioned way. I wish that they could focus their energies over the next decades on reducing the inequalities of Israeli society, improving the quality of state education, separating religion and politics, addressing the rift between Israeli Jews and Arabs, facing up to environmental problems. Surely some of them will work on these and other internal issues some of the time, and so they should. But the hard truth is that the major challenge facing Israel at 60 won't be solved even by the best imaginable domestic policy.
The major challenge, as everyone knows, has to do with war and peace—but also, more specifically, given Hezbollah rocketry in the summer of 2006 and the daily rocketing of Sderot, it has to do with physical security. Israel is immensely strong and immensely vulnerable, and that combination is very hard to think about." ...
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
"John Holdridge, director of the A.C.L.U. Capital Punishment Project, which provided representation for Mr. Jones, said the successful appeals showed that the problem with the death penalty was not the method of execution — the issue ruled on by the Supreme Court last month — but instead “poor people getting lousy lawyers.”
“All these states are gearing up to start executing people again, and nobody seems to be concerned about these systemic problems,” Mr. Holdridge said."
"For most Israelis, Jewish identity is central to the nation, the reason they are proud to live here, the link they feel with history. But Israeli Arabs, including the most successfully integrated ones, say a new identity must be found for the country’s long-term survival."
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
...The panel, the House Judiciary subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights and civil liberties, took the action at a hearing on Tuesday. During the session, law professors called for a full investigation by Congress or by an independent commission of the adoption of the harsh techniques.
Philippe Sands, a British law professor and author of a new book on the approval of coercive interrogation by high-level American military officials, “Torture Team,” said that if no such inquiry took place in the United States, foreign prosecutors might seek to charge American officials with authorizing torture. He said two foreign prosecutors, whom he did not name, had asked him for the materials on which his book is based.
“If the U.S. doesn’t address this, other countries will,” Mr. Sands said....
...The leader also inspires followers. How's this for civilized political discourse? 'She makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy,' said one of her endorsers, Governor Michael F. Easley. I thought we Democrats don't talk like that any more. Or another revealing citation, this one from a labor leader also endorsing Hillary, praising her 'testicular fortitude.' My God, and I had just about stopped using the word 'seminal.'
This degradation of discourse and behavior is part and parcel of her attempt at appearing like what she thinks of as common. Is this the learning she envisions in 'It Takes a Village'? It certainly isn't what she called eons ago 'the politics of meaning.'...
Does Clinton really think that Obama is unpatriotic or racist or divisive? If so, she should say that directly and let him defend himself against the charge. But we all know that is not her personal belief; Wright is just another loaded code word or phrase, like 'welfare queen.' Clinton is using him to divide; to gain political advantage among white Democrats, even at the expense of offending or turning off many African-Americans, one of the Democratic Party's most loyal blocs of voters.
Clinton's husband did the same thing in 1993, when he unceremoniously dumped Lani Guinier after nominating her to be assistant attorney general for civil rights. Guinier was attacked by right-wing Republicans as a 'quota queen' because of some things she had written about voting rights that were intended to move us beyond racial politics and force coalition-building among voters based on shared interests, not race....
More important, however, nothing that Wright has said has anything to do with whether Obama should be president. The fact that Clinton has so aggressively exploited Wright in her campaign is only a reflection of her unfitness to be a president who unites us.
Even if she were nominated by the Democrats and elected president, her personal triumph would have been at the cost of four more years of political and likely racial divisiveness. That seems too high a price to pay, for the Democrats or the country.
(James E. Coleman Jr. is a professor at Duke University's law school.)
Monday, May 5, 2008
...The secret of Zionism—the resilience of Zionism—is its ideological agility. Zionism has been driven by… ideas that are inconsistent with each other. So Zionism has been and remains a balancing act.
First I'd like to give you the concept. If there was rigidity in Zionism, there would be no way Zionism could survive the tremendous turmoil of the last sixty or seventy years. But these ideas are not in a hierarchy with each other--they are on a platform, they have equal footing and in every window of time there is a realignment of these ideas to meet the challenges of the day with new priorities.
What are these ideas? First there is the commitment to a special place on the face of this Earth—the land of Israel, the cradle of our civilization. The second big idea was about security for Jews. The third was about the well being of Jews. Not necessarily about wealth but more about economic independence, economic self determination. Then it was a whole nexus of ideas about humanism, liberalism, democracy. The Zionist movement since its inception has been democratic to a fault. That is still reflected and projected into the Knesset, which is a highly ineffective body.
It was about leadership among the family of nations—tikkun olam—repairing the world. It was about being light unto the nations, and the quest to create a model society. It has been about the Jewish character of the state of Israel—which means its language, its national day of rest, the Shabbat, its national holidays. This is the only place on the face of this earth where Jews experience being a majority. We assume full responsibility. This is a radically different existence than being a minority—as economically and politically powerful as a minority can be. Here we take care of sewage, we're responsible for security.
"David Grossman, like most of Israel’s leftists, sees binationalism as simultaneously utopian and dismissive of Jewish feelings. “You know, binationalism doesn’t work in so many places in the world,” he said. “You see it in Belgium now. And they expect, with this really hateful combination of Jews and Arabs, that it will succeed here? It’s so wrong. Part of the cure for the historical distortions of both peoples is that they need a place of their own with defined borders. We have to heal separately. I’m a little suspicious of these people who would experiment on us with binationalism.”
Reality, he said, has made a Jewish state necessary. “Since the world has failed to defend Jewish existence, there is a need for a place for the Jews to implement their culture and their values and their language and their history, a place in which to recover.”"
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Jon Stewart recently played a tape from the Nixon White House in which Billy Graham talks in the oval office about how he has friends who are Jewish, but he knows in his heart that they are undermining America. This is crazy; this is wrong -- white preachers are given leeway in politics that others aren't.
Which means it is all about race, isn't it? Wright's offensive opinions and inflammatory appearances are judged differently. He doesn't fire a shot in anger, put a noose around anyone's neck, call for insurrection, or plant a bomb in a church with children in Sunday school. What he does is to speak his mind in a language and style that unsettle some people, and says some things so outlandish and ill-advised that he finally leaves Obama no choice but to end their friendship. We are often exposed us to the corroding acid of the politics of personal destruction, but I've never seen anything like this ? this wrenching break between pastor and parishioner before our very eyes. Both men no doubt will carry the grief to their graves. All the rest of us should hang our heads in shame for letting it come to this in America, where the gluttony of the non-stop media grinder consumes us all and prevents an honest conversation on race. It is the price we are paying for failing to heed the great historian Jacob Burckhardt, who said "beware the terrible simplifiers".
Saturday, May 3, 2008
..."Everyone who uses his brain knows that Socialism, is a way out [of the worldwide depression,]" Orwell writes. "It would at least ensure our getting enough to eat, even if it deprived us of everything else. Indeed, from one point of view, Socialism is such an elementary common sense that I am sometimes amazed that it has not established itself already." And yet, he adds, "the average thinking person nowadays is merely not a Socialist, he is actively hostile to Socialism. … Socialism … has about it something inherently distasteful—something that drives away the very people who ought to be flocking it its support."
One key to the movement's lack of popularity, Orwell argues, is its supporters. "As with the Christian religion," he writes, "the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents." Then he wheels out the heavy rhetorical artillery. The typical socialist, according to Orwell, "is either a youthful snob-Bolshevik who in five years time will quite probably have made a wealthy marriage and been converted to Roman Catholicism, or, still more typically, a prim little man with a white-collar job, usually a secret teetotaler, and often with vegetarian leanings … with a social position he has no intention of forfeiting. … One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words 'Socialism' and 'Communism' draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, 'Nature Cure' quack, pacifist and feminist in England." (Think "organic food lover," "militant nonsmoker," and "environmentalist with a private jet" for a more contemporary list.)...
Friday, May 2, 2008
"On Tuesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran told reporters during a trip to New Delhi, the Indian capital, that he believed that neither Mrs. Clinton nor Senator Barack Obama, the other Democratic presidential candidate, had a chance of winning the election.
“Do you think a black candidate would be allowed to be president in the U.S.?” he asked, the semiofficial Mehr News Agency reported. “We don’t think Mr. Obama will be allowed to become the U.S. president.”"
"They saved for four years in hopes of one day getting a computer and, at the end, needed a loan from his sister to make it possible.
Amanda...will not be using the computer to surf the Internet, which is still not available for most Cubans.
'We don't have Internet. We don't have a telephone,' Fresnedo said."
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, said Thursday that its first-quarter net income rose 17 percent, boosted by surging oil prices.
But even as it posted the second-most profitable quarter in its history, Exxon’s earnings managed to disappoint investors... Shares closed down $3.37, to $89.70, on a day the Dow industrial average rose 189.87 points. ...
The University of Florida has launched a privacy investigation, looking for students and faculty members who may have leaked confidential information about a controversial admissions decision.
UF's Privacy Office is questioning members of UF's Medical Selection Committee and also searching through student and faculty e-mail for evidence of illegal disclosures of private student information, according to officials. ...The investigation launched by UF is in part the result of stories that ran in The Sun in April, discussing the admission of a student who did not have the support of the committee that traditionally handles admissions decisions.
The student, Benjamin Mendelsohn, did not have basic qualifications, having never taken the Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT, according to three members of the selection committee and two other sources close to the situation.
Mendelsohn is the son of a major Republican fundraiser, and a prior application he sent to UF's medical school contained letters of recommendation from Gov. Charlie Crist and Sen. President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie.
Dr. Bruce Kone, dean of UF's College of Medicine, says he overruled the committee because the student was 'exceptional.'
[AJW: That the student, and the circumstances, are "exceptional" goes without saying in circumstances like these. The more interesting question is the respect in which they are exceptional. And launching a blunderbuss investigation of everyone's email is a sure recipe for notoriety and humiliation of the institution and its "quite exceptional" dean. Or maybe everyone in Florida is utterly without shame on such matters?]
And from an April 10 story, same journalist and newspaper:
Dr. Lewis Baxter, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience in the college, has called on Machen to allow for the Faculty Senate to conduct an independent review of Mendelsohn's credentials to determine how he stacked up against other applicants.
In response to an e-mail from Baxter requesting an independent Faculty Senate inquiry, [UF President] Machen said he was satisfied with the student's credentials and hoped his own assessment would "suffice."
Absent an independent vetting, however, Baxter says he's not satisfied that UF can assure the public that Kone didn't play favorites with a student whose family is politically connected.
"Like Sen. Joe McCarthy, Dean Kone won't show the evidence; he just asserts he has it, and demands others accept his assertion," Baxter wrote in an e-mail.
"This whole thing stinks like a rotten fish, and the university just can't afford this," added Baxter, who completed his undergraduate degree at Yale University and his medical degree at UF. "We just can't appear this way."
Baxter added that he was disappointed his colleagues haven't spoken out publicly about the issue.
"The faculty here, some of them could care less, and a lot of them are just scared," he said.
Several faculty members who contacted The Sun said they feared what might happen to their careers if they were publicly critical of the dean's actions. As evidenced by his Friday e-mail, Kone has openly criticized those with whom he disagrees - even [President] Machen's own staff.