Saturday, July 29

America has given to the world a precious jewel.

It has shown that a government whose concerns are purely secular and which leaves to the individual conscience of its citizenry all obligations that relate to God is the one which is actually the most friendly to religion.

It is a precious jewel that we have. We should guard it well.

- Leo Pfeffer, 1910-1993, jurist

Hat tip to Public Christian.


From Salon: The "hiding among civilians" myth.

An American journalist reporting from Lebanon says that unlike most insurgents, including Hamas and the PLO, Hezbollah fighters stay as far away from civilians as they can and keep very mum about their status lest they be betrayed by collaborators. The better-disciplined Hezbollah fighters prefer to move the civilian population out of areas where they fight.

Hezbollah, he says, is the second largest employer in Lebanon; additional tens of thousands of people belong to the political wing or are beholden to Hezbollah social services. He poses the question: does "supporting" Hezbollah make them fair targets for Israeli bombs?

Well, Bush's answer would clearly be "yes." He has made no bones about it since 911, stressing that if you are not "against" the terrorists you are with them.

So the analysts talking on cable news about Hezbollah "hiding within the civilian population" clearly have spent little time if any in the south Lebanon war zone and don't know what they're talking about. Hezbollah doesn't trust the civilian population and has worked very hard to evacuate as much of it as possible from the battlefield. And this is why they fight so well -- with no one to spy on them, they have lots of chances to take the Israel Defense Forces by surprise, as they have by continuing to fire rockets and punish every Israeli ground incursion.

And the civilians? They see themselves as targeted regardless of their affiliation. They are enraged at Israel and at the United States, the only two countries on earth not calling for an immediate cease-fire. Lebanese of all persuasions think the United States and Israel believe that Lebanese lives are cheaper than Israeli ones. And many are now saying that they want to fight.

Clearly, Israel cannot accept the shelling of its people or towns. Hezbollah's practice of packing their rockets with ballbearings to inflict maximum human damage is despicable. And Lebanon is such a small nation that no "buffer zone" would be large enough to protect Israel from the range of missiles Hezbollah is believed to have in its armory. Hezbollah MUST be disarmed. But by its systematic devastation of the Lebanese infrastructure and incessant bombing of civilian areas, Israel is creating more recruiting opportunities for Islamist terrorists every day, just as the U.S. has been doing in Iraq. What is to be done? Where are the Carter- and Clinton-era diplomats and foreign policy experts who have influence in that region? Are there no cooler and wiser heads that can offer a solution?

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I have not written about the Andrea Yates trial or verdict. As the mother of five myself, the case has been painful for me to contemplate.

But I have thought about it. And this week a number of people have asked for my opinion. I've found it interesting to note THEIR opinions as well.

Andrea Yates was a desperately mentally ill woman. That is not debatable. She sought help numerous times. That also is not in question. She was, by all accounts, a good and decent woman, a biddable wife and devoted mother who, captive to her psychosis, killed her children to save them. Sending her to prison would not be justice. She will likely spend most of, if not all, the rest of her life in a mental institution. I suspect from hearing and reading accounts of her character and personality, that, if she were to be healed of her mental problems, facing the fact of her actions would drive her insane again or torture her unmercifully. I don't think it's a woolly-headed knee-jerk response to feel the deepest compassion for this woman even while being broken-hearted about what her children must have experienced. It's at times like these that I'm grateful I have an unshakable faith in a good God who has dried their tears and welcomed into his home.

I have, however, serious questions about the criminally negligent complicity of her totally sane husband, who knowing she had serious problems, nevertheless left his children in her care.

That's what I've told people. And interestingly, not one mother has disagreed with me.

I've heard some really ugly comments on wingnut talk radio about the case, almost all from men. One caller was a woman who explained that she too had suffered from postpartum psychosis (Andrea was a diagnosed schizophrenic as well) and whose husband had removed the children from her care and committed her to a mental institution, which, she said, had saved both her life and her children's. Male callers seemed less than sympathetic.

One professional journalist I heard who was present for both trials and interviewed on the radio attributed the conflict between the verdicts to the difference in the makeup of the juries, as if any 12 people chosen at random might have judged differently. If that's true, thank God this was the jury Andrea received.

Here's a good summation of the jury's sentiments. I echo them wholeheartedly.



Digby has nailed it: Under George W. Bush, we have "an administration that sees sustained violence as the only way to achieve lasting peace." It's another way of saying, "To save the village, we have to destroy it." Is the the neocon-fogged Dumbya suggesting that the only way to achieve, as Condi called it, "a new Middle East" to wipe it clean of human beings (excepting, of course, Israelis) and repopulate it with snowflake babies?

Nah. Even Bush isn't that dumb. After all, who'd be left to adopt them?

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Rosa Brooks' "Four Lessons to Make Us Safer." Subtitled, "What Bush could do to create a more secure world for our children and grandchildren."

If only we had a president who reads. And thinks. And could lead.

Friday, July 28


Lord, I despise this guy. And the Senate is going to validate his recess appointment?

He was chosen by the Bush administration to offend the mores and upset the structure of the institution he once described as a rightful lapdog of the United States -- "The United States makes the U.N. work when it wants to work." He once famously said the U.N.'s New York headquarters could lose 10 floors without disruption. More than 30 of Bolton's fellow ambassadors recently complained to the New York Times about his confrontational tactics and his flouting of diplomatic conventions. They did not criticize his policies as much as the arrogance of his ways. "He's lost me as an ally now," confided one ambassador, who was identified as having close ties to the Bush administration.
For years he has been causing trouble with his aggressive style and committed aversion to international law or compromise. When it comes to Bolton, what you see is what you get.



Wow. I've heard direct-mail king conservative political consultant Richard Viguerie (called by some "the author of Ronald Reagan's victories") lash out on Hardball against Bush and what he calls "big government Republicans," but here it is without Tweety's overtalking in all its glory. Hooray, he's disgusted with Bush, DeLay, Giuliani? Ha! He still wants Republicans to prevail, and he has some very Rovian instincts. But there's something to be learned about the opposition from his remarks -- if only Democrats could exploit those learnings!

Republicans never win national elections unless the elections are nationalized, when the country is focused on a national agenda. Tip O’Neill famously said, ‘All elections are local.’ That’s a Democrat saying. Democrats like elections to be local. Democrats are a deliverer of services. They pave the roads, they make sure that your social security checks arrive on time. Not so Republicans.

Can we get a big Amen! to that? Isn't he just making the point that Democrats are better at GOVERNING than Republicans?

Partisanship is fine. I would hope that as long as we have disagreements we should be disagreeing, we should talk about it. It’s the demonization of people that is a problem, but partisanship is very healthy, that’s America.... We weren’t partisan in the 50s, 60s, and 70s and that’s when Democrats controlled everything.

So in other words, if Dems would unite and BE partisan and call out the Rethugs on every stupid appointment, every vile self-serving law, every piece of pork-barrel-padding legislation, every bit of pandering to Big Business, every step to diminish our civil liberties and subvert the Constitution, we'd win more elections.

The idea that Giuliani is a serious candidate for a Republican nomination is not a serious idea. It would destroy the Republican Party. He’s a serial adulterer, he doesn’t agree with Republicans on virtually anything... He doesn’t agree with the Republicans on the second amendment.

Giuliani is NOT a serious candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. But the very fact that he's the vaunted darling of the Sean Hannitys who purport to be champions of "moral/family values" issues and excoriate Bill Clinton for his sexual misadventures, should be heralded by Dems as prima facie evidence of conservative/Rethuglican hypocrisy.

McCain is interesting. He’s a serious candidate. McCain is like a political broken clock. He’s right a couple of times now and then. Right on spending primarily, and right on other issues. But he has a real problem with conservatives because conservatives don’t see him as a conservative.

McCain's appeal to independents and some conservative-leaning Democrats is more dangerous than his appeal to Republicans. If he CAN win the Republican nomination, he could be a dangerous opponent. We have to make sure that never happens. Kevin Drum reminds us of Mr. Straight Talk's vulnerabilities. Let's use them NOW to defuse that "maverick" image that has so much appeal to the media and fenceline voters.

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National Journal has an interesting essay about the assault on the U.S. intellectual tradition. It examines the early American adaptation of the Age of Enlightenment through the current challengers to scientific discovery, namely, ideologues and the big money crowd. At times it tries too hard to balance criticism of both the left and right political wings, although it makes some valid, though painful, points about lefties like me. Taken as a whole, however, it's well worth reading.

Thursday, July 27


Heard Sean Hannity going off on KOS this afternoon. He started by blasting Jon Tester (D), president of the Montana Senate, who currently leads incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns (R) in the polls for the U.S. Senate race. This, in a state that gave George W. Bush a 20-point victory in the 2004 presidential race! Must be making Rethuglicans shiver in fear. But Tester's big offense, according to Sean, is that his campaign site has a link to Kos. Well, I couldn't find it, so it isn't obvious if it's there, but I wasn't going to spend a lot of time searching for it.

To paraphrase Hannity: See (as Dubya would say), Tester is just characteristic of these traitorous Democrats who are almost all (exempting Joe Lieberman, of course) embracing the treasonous Kos! Why, the Weekly Standard has an expose of Kos's terrible anti-Israel position.

The WS article acknowledges that the splash page of KOS has been bare of positioning on the current Middle East crisis -- "Perhaps sensing that this issue could highlight just how far removed the Kos community is from the American mainstream, Moulitsas and his other front-page bloggers have opted to ignore Israel's war. Combined, the half dozen front-pagers have written exactly one post on the subject. And that post, authored by Moulitsas, simply declared that he wouldn't write anything further on the subject." (Don't you love how they read Markos' mind?) But INSIDE THE DIARIES the real, insidious anti-Israel, anti-American sentiments of the Kossacks are revealed. The article goes on to quote the comments and diarists' essays most likely to inflame the indignation of those who believe there is no right to criticize Israel or its actions.

Now understand, I find some of those commentaries to be distinctly contrary to my own sentiments. But no-one suggests (other than opportunistic Rethuglicans and their right-wing media advocates) that they are representative of Democratic Party positions or even of the larger progressive movement. But that's exactly what Sean Hannity suggested, no, INSISTED, in the rant I heard. Forget the fact that not one approached the suggestive calls to violence evident in so many conservative blogs.

Sean ended his rant by characterizing the liberal blogging community as determined to destroy Joe Lieberman (one of Sean's favorite guests) in favor of "Ted" Lamont (Sean's clearly spoken misstatement or deliberate distortion), who he named as the favorite of George Soros and Michael Moore. (I'm so tired of the right-wing demonizing of Soros and Moore, who isn't even a Democrat.)

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Media Matters has started a petition urging the media to stop giving a platform to hatemongers like Ann Coulter, who I heard promoed on Hardball tonight as saying that Bill Clinton is a "latent homosexual."

Unbelievable. Now she's accepted as not only an expert on politics and religion, but on psychology as well. This pandering to ratings (i.e., corporate profits) over truth, justice and The American Way has got to stop. Bring back the days (and integrity) of Walter Cronkite, Bill Moyers and Huntley and Brinkley!


Oh, man. We're all going to die. The neocons are determined to attack Iran.

According to Joseph Cirincione, an arms expert and the author of Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Threats, "The neoconservatives are now hoping to use the Israeli-Lebanon conflict as the trigger to launch a U.S. war against Syria, Iran or both."

But the Bush administration's hostility toward Iran is not simply an outgrowth of the current crisis. War with Iran has been in the works for the past five years, shaped in almost complete secrecy by a small group of senior Pentagon officials attached to the Office of Special Plans. The man who created the OSP was Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy. A former Middle East specialist on the National Security Council in the Reagan administration, Feith had long urged Israel to secure its borders in the Middle East by attacking Iraq and Iran. After Bush's election, Feith went to work to make that vision a reality, putting together a team of neoconservative hawks determined to drive the U.S. to attack Tehran. Before Bush had been in office a year, Feith's team had arranged a covert meeting in Rome with a group of Iranians to discuss their clandestine help.
Indeed, since Bush was re-elected to a second term, he has made no secret of his desire to see Tehran fall. In a victory speech of sorts on Inauguration Day in January 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney warned bluntly that Iran was "right at the top" of the administration's list of "trouble spots"—and that Israel "might well decide to act first" by attacking Iran. The Israelis, Cheney added in an obvious swipe at moderates in the State Department, would "let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterward."

Over the past six months, the administration has adopted almost all of the hard-line stance advocated by the war cabal in the Pentagon. In May, Bush's ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, appeared before AIPAC's annual conference and warned that Iran "must be made aware that if it continues down the path of international isolation, there will be tangible and painful consequences." To back up the tough talk, the State Department is spending $66 million to promote political change inside Iran—funding the same kind of dissident groups that helped drive the U.S. to war in Iraq. "We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared.

In addition, the State Department recently beefed up its Iran Desk from two people to ten, hired more Farsi speakers and set up eight intelligence units in foreign countries to focus on Iran. The administration's National Security Strategy—the official policy document that sets out U.S. strategic priorities—now calls Iran the "single country" that most threatens U.S. interests.

The shift in official policy has thrilled former members of the cabal. To them, the war in Lebanon represents the final step in their plan to turn Iran into the next Iraq. Ledeen, writing in the National Review on July 13th, could hardly restrain himself. "Faster, please," he urged the White House, arguing that the war should now be taken over by the U.S. military and expanded across the entire region. "The only way we are going to win this war is to bring down those regimes in Tehran and Damascus, and they are not going to fall as a result of fighting between their terrorist proxies in Gaza and Lebanon on the one hand, and Israel on the other. Only the United States can accomplish it," he concluded. "There is no other way."


My best friend is a Jew, I have two daughters who are converts to Judaism, and I'm a Southern Baptist, a denomination that embraces Israel to the extent that when a child I thought Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were my ancestors. But making sense out of the current Middle East crisis, as well as the decades-old hostilities in that region, is not as simple as just echoing the knee-jerk American total support of Israeli policies and actions.

Two American Jews, Eric Alterman and Matt Yglesias, speak my sentiments and thoughts very well.

Eric Alterman explains why he writes so little about the Middle East conflict:

No one ever listens. The thing about the Middle East is that nobody ever changes their mind about anything. They don’t listen. They just wait as long as they can before interrupting and then scream at one another.
Countries often go to war to solve problems because, while it doesn’t solve the problem they were facing, it does solve their political problem. But war is rarely an effective, or morally valid means to address issues that are not ones of national survival, and armies are not good at fighting popularly supported guerrilla insurgencies. Rather they feed them, much like bullets and Japanese movie monsters. This Israeli attack is nowhere near as counterproductive, dishonestly defended, incompetently conducted-and hence, morally indefensible as America’s invasion of Iraq. But it does look to be an extremely bad idea, both morally and pragmatically, nevertheless. And nothing in life is as wrong as killing and dying for no good reason.

He links to this remarkably sensible column by Matt Yglesias.

Israel's current war in Lebanon is strategically blinkered and morally obtuse. The idea that the United States or American Jews like me should support it out of friendship is akin to the notion that a real friend would lend a car to a drunk buddy after the bartender confiscates his keys. I understand why the Israeli government and public think this war is a good idea, but they're simply mistaken.

Moral obtuseness is this case follows directly from strategic foolishness. Much -- too much -- ink and hypertext has been spilled on the question of "proportionate response," which leads only to the blind alley of debating arcane points of just war theory. The more basic point is this: War is a terrible thing. Waging it is a terrible thing to do, but sometimes a necessary thing. A misguided, counterproductive action, however, can never be necessary. A foolish war is never a just one.

One can tell simply by the extreme speed with which the Israeli operation in Lebanon was launched -- with no interval for threats, diplomacy, preparation, or negotiations -- that little if any thought was put into the merits of this venture. Already, one hears word from Israel's camp that the IDF itself deems talk of "crushing" Hezbollah as little more than bluster. Eighteen years of previous warfare did not render southern Lebanon terrorist-free, and Israel now seems to have reached a consensus that past efforts to actually occupy and administer portions of Lebanon were disastrous. Israel's Hezbollah problem is not, fundamentally, one amenable to forcible resolution.
Nothing threatens American interests more in the long run than actions which push the Islamic world's masses into the arms of the extremists. That is precisely the main effect of this incursion.

Israel and its friends abroad need to face reality -- the problem that needs solving is the Palestinian problem. Were Israel's conflict with the Palestinians resolved, other challenges like Hezbollah would soon melt away. The idea of firing rockets into Israeli towns would appear absurd. Iran and Syria would have nothing to gain from supporting groups that behaved in that manner. Arab public opinion would no longer applaud the firing of rockets at random into Israeli cities.


Wednesday, July 26

Am I crazy, or do the Democrats seem to be much more favorable in their statements about Israel in this Middle East crisis than the Republicans, aside from Bush and his administration?


It was disgusting this afternoon driving home and listening to two of the most despicable characters in media/politics, Sean Hannity and Dick Morris, discussing the current crisis in the Middle East as a political opportunity for Rethuglicans. It's Sean's opinion that an ongoing war is a boon for Republican chances in the midterm elections since, as he said (to the best of my memory) that when you think homeland or national security, you think "Republican." Dick went on to explain that the fact that Iraq has descended into a gen-yew-ine civil war is a plus for the U.S. since it pits Shia against Sunni and relieves our troops of some element of danger.

So. A reasonable extrapolation of Hannity's remarks was that he'd love to see more people killed in the Middle East (hey, in the words of Robbie the Waiter in Dirty Dancing -- who was enamored of the writings of Ayn Rand -- "Some people count, some don't." Who cares about Arabs dying? They don't count.) if it enhances Republican chances of holding onto majorities in the Senate and House, Sean's all for it.

As for the Dick, he's patently untroubled by what Bush hath wrought in Iraq, much less its implications for the larger Middle East. He lives in the moment, man! And since U.S. troop fatalities and injuries have developed into a distinctly unfavorable dynamic for the Bush/Cheney agenda, it's GOOD that the nation we invaded on the pretext (among so many others!) that we would establish a pro-Israel, anti-terrorist democracy, has descended into open sectarian warfare since that MIGHT diminish U.S. casualties, thus (in his mind) diminishing the unfavorable images of our troops suffering and dying (hurting Rethuglican electorals).

These people are just stomach-churning. These aren't human lives at stake, they're just pawns in a cosmic chess game.

Tuesday, July 25


Now here's the kind of thinking I like. Mike Dukakis and Dan Mitchell argue that raising the minimum wage would be a better deterrent to illegal immigration than the other solutions presently offered, because U.S. citizens would accept jobs, no matter how humble, that enable them to earn a living wage as opposed to slave-labor-wage-jobs that currently only appeal to third-world denizens.

Now here's the thing that they didn't quite say. By raising the minimum wage the onus is put on employers instead of taxpayers. The costs of a multi-billion-dollar border wall construction would fall on taxpayers. The costs of raising the minimum wage would fall, appropriately, upon business. Why should millions of taxpayers subsidize cheap labor costs for employers? Don't Republicans famously favor "personal responsibility"? Isn't one of the sacred conservative principles to oppose governmental subsidies?

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Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) was just on Hardball and his comments about the Iraq war prompted me to play on the familiar gay refrain, "We're here, we're queer, get used to it" to produce a new battle cry for the Republicans/pro-Iraq-war contingent: "We're there, so's Blair, get used to it."

Maybe I should have said, "no excuse for it" or "we're bemused by it."


Monday, July 24


So there's a conflict among conservatives? Andrew Sullivan opines:

So, suddenly, the neoconservatives found themselves in the position of having fought a war to construct a democratic polity in Iraq ... only for that polity to join Iran and Syria in condemning democratic Israel. The circle closed, and the irony was airtight.

Sully also says:

"Conservatives who believe in limited government and balanced budgets have long since abandoned the Bush administration over its massive spending and contempt for any checks on presidential prerogatives.

"Conservatives who cherish individual liberty have lost faith in an administration that has wire-tapped Americans without warrants, tortured military prisoners and violated the ancient Anglo-American principle of due process and the rule of law.

"Conservatives who believe in political moderation and secularism have long abandoned a Republican party controlled by religious fanatics.

"Now, more conservatives are rebelling against neocon over-reach and fanaticism in foreign policy as well. They want to fight Islamist terror -- but prudently, carefully and with attention to past failures and new nuances.

"A new front has indeed opened up in this war: and it's a battle for the soul of Anglo-American conservatism. I have a feeling that, as the race for the Republican nomination remains wide open, that debate has only just begun."

Well, my company leadership is populated with many "conservatives," and since I'm the token progressive/Democrat, they often seek me out for political discussions. Yes, they echo many or all of Sully's sentiments, but without exception so far, they still intend to vote straight Republican. It's as if, despite their reservations and criticisms of this administration, they so viscerally fear Democratic leadership they don't see any recourse to the Bush/neocon agenda except for a revolution among the Republican Party. The Democrats don't present any viable alternative to them. So despite their views and fears, they will stick with the devil they know.



The irony of it all! Bill Clinton is campaigning for Joe Lieberman.

This is the man who, among the Democratic Party, most vilified The Big Dog over the Monica Lewinsky issue. To watch, as I just did, Clinton noting that Lieberman was the first Senator outside Arkansas to endorse Bill for his presidential run, and embracing "Bush's favorite Democrat," was on the surface inexplicable. Some I have heard on cable news TV have speculated that Clinton has made a deal with Lieberman that if he helps Joe it will obligate Lieberman to support a presidential run by Hillary, and suggesting that Joe and Hil have taken the same stance on the Iraqi issue. That's nonsense -- Hillary at least has been openly critical of Bush's prosecution of the Iraq war, which Joe has not.

But Clinton's speech was mostly about how he was a much better president than George W. Bush, that Bush has messed up the economy, etc. But Clinton has said he will support the Democratic nominee for Connecticut Senator. He could easily make the same speech (with some minor revisions) about Ned Lamont.

Let's hope he gets that opportunity.