Monday, June 29, 2009
She was beautiful and her heart was generous.
"... and, when she shall die, take her and cut her out in little stars, and she will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun."--William Shakespeare
Sunday, June 28, 2009
We've also, for many years, listened to the trashing of certain regions of this country as liberal anti-God, anti-American, anti-Family Values, and anti-[insert whatever else you choose here]. These regions have traditionally been identified as the elite east and left coasts and some Great Lakes states, where the Family Values crowd claims all sorts of nefarious, anti-family behaviors flourish.
Now comes reality and the dismantling of all that hogwash, all that self-important, chest-thumping, holier-than-thou, self-righteousness. And that reality comes in the form of facts, data that destroy the false perception that somehow the Bible Belt and other parts of the Family Values country otherwise identified as "flyover country" are the keepers of what America is all about.
We all know that personal morality and individual failures on that issue cross party lines. No political party is immune from individuals who are less--much, much less--than perfect. Of course, one would not have noticed this during the Clinton years. The moral posturing, recriminations, rancor and incessant hammering away at Mr. Clinton's personal failings--especially by some men who were engaging in those very same behaviors--were monumentally hypocritical. Governor Sanford of South Carolina was among those Congressmen who denigrated and piously criticized Mr. Clinton's moral failings.
"Never spit in the wind; it'll come back and hit you in the face." --Nonna
The GOP has lost all claims to be the party of superior moral values. Their members have feet of clay just like every other human being, and their religious practices, apparently, do not protect them from temptations.
The 2009 Statistical Abstract U.S. Census Bureau report also destroys the idea that the Bible Belt states are morally superior to the more liberal coastal and Great Lake states. Here are the data:
The 10 states with the highest divorce rates:
The 10 states with the lowest divorce rates:
If you want to keep your marriage together, your chances are better if you live in New England rather than the Bible Belt--yes, New England, where 5 out of the 6 states allow same-sex marriage.
The 10 states with highest teenage birth rates:
The 10 states with the lowest teenage birth rates:
The 10 states with the highest subscription to online pornography sites:
The 10 states with the lowest subscription to online pornography sites:
The Moral Majority and Family Values crowd need to be quiet and think about the abuse they have heaped on the East Coast Liberals. Take a look at those stats and understand that Family Values are practiced most sincerely in the liberal Northeast, whereas The Bible Belt needs to engage in some self-reflection before it claims moral superiority over any other region in America.
"Facts are stubborn things." --John Adams
Friday, June 26, 2009
We're sorry for his children and his family. Condolences to them all.
He was an entertainer--yes, I know, a worldwide entertainer. But that's it folks.
We're getting into Princess Diana hysteria here, and it is annoying. There is no reason for this incessant coverage of Jackson, except to keep people watching for what? Everyone on the planet knows his life's story: his abusive childhood, his strange behaviors, his weird plastic surgeries, his weird marriages, his trial, his whole messy, operatic life.
Someone told me today that if Jackson's life had been lived by an ordinary person, that person would either be in jail or an asylum. Maybe.
The point is, he was an entertainer.
Enough of this.
CABLE NEWS STATIONS!--there are serious issues this country is facing. Michael Jackson's untimely death is not one of them.
Get a grip and act like adults instead of maudlin, self-absorbed teeny boppers.
We're sorry he's dead. He was too young. He was very, very talented.
Now can we get on with our lives?
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Internet postings on June 2 and 3 proclaimed “outrage” over the June 2, 2009, handgun decision by Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook and Judges Richard Posner and William Bauer, of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, further stating, among other things: “Let me be the first to say this plainly: These Judges deserve to be killed.” The postings included photographs, phone numbers, work address and room numbers of these judges, along with a photo of the building in which they work and a map of its location.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
John McCain: "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran." Where were these freedom-loving rightwingers when McCain suggested that light-hearted little joke? Did they think is was a riot for him to suggest that we deal with Iran and the people who are now marching in the streets by bombing them back to the Stone Age?
The rightwingers' concern for the oppressed, freedom loving Iranians is duly noted--especially for its rank hypocrisy.
And this from Bush former man in Iran, courtesy of Greg Sargent:
The Plum LineGreg Sargent's blog
Bush’s Man In Iran Lauds Obama’s Handling Of Iran Crisis
John McCain and other Republicans and conservatives have been hammering away at Obama’s handling of the Iran crisis, saying that it has been insufficiently aggressive. This morning, McCain demanded that Obama “condemn the sham, corrupt election,” in order to “make sure that the world knows that America leads.”
But guess who is praising Obama’s approach and saying Obama’s right to refrain from McCainian chest-thumping: George W. Bush’s top negotiator with Iran, Ambassador Nicholas Burns.
In an interview today with NPR, Burns praised Obama’s handling of the crisis, and said that a more aggressive response would actually play into the hands of President Ahmadinejad.
“President Ahmadinejad would like nothing better than to see a very aggressive series of statements by the United States that would try to put the U.S. in the center of this,” Burns said.
“And I think President Obama is avoiding that quite rightly.”
“This is not a dispute for the U.S. to be the center of,” Burns said at another point. “It’s up to
Iranians to decide who Iran’s future leaders will be. He said he respects Iran’s sovereignty. I think it was important to do that.”
Burns said that Obama was right to refrain from throwing the U.S.’s weight around while giving props to reformers. He praised Obama for being “low-key” while saying he’s concerned about the plight of reformers and inspired by them, which Burns called a “balancing act.” Audio here.
It’s worth recalling that this is, in a sense, a replay of the 2008 election. McCain repeatedly suggested that Obama couldn’t be trusted to respond to bad actors or crises with aggressive enough displays of American force and will-power. Obama responded that chest-thumping could sometimes prove less productive than a lighter diplomatic touch. On this one, at least, Obama has the support of Bush’s Man in Iran.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Sunday, June 21st 2009, 7:21 PM
Her shocking and quick death in the arms of her howling father was captured on closeup video, posted to Facebook and came to life on computer screens across the globe.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Thank you to all who have come here to encourage and support me. But as I said in the comment section below, I do not wish to talk about the person or the blog involved ever again. The reason is evident: the more we talk about the person and his blog, the more enraged he and his followers become, and the invective, accusations, and threats increase. This has to stop.
I am, therefore, asking you all not to mention or even refer to this person here on my blog; and by this prohibition, I hope to end the drama that should never have begun.
I will keep the sign up as a reminder.
For anyone else who is subjected to this sort of harassment, complete silence in the matter and permanently blocking the person from commenting on your blog is the only way to stop the nonsense.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Limbaugh is up to his old--very old and very predictable--racist rants again, suggesting in his newest snort against Judge Sotomayor that she, and members of an Hispanic organization she belongs to, are just a bunch of housemaids--stereotyping at its racist worst.
Between his anti-Black, anti-Parkinson's disease, anti-children, anti-woman, anti-US success, and now anti-Latina rants, he's really putting a losing face on the GOP and any hope that the Latino vote will feel welcomed in the GOP's ever-shrinking tent.
From "LATINA," an online magazine:
During his radio show this week, Rush Limbaugh once again attacked Judge Sonia Sotomayor.
This time he lashed out at her for being a member of the Belizean Grove, a private organization of female professionals, saying, "I think I'm going to send Sotomayor and her club a bunch of vacuum cleaners to help them clean up after their meetings."
He's saying all Latinas are maids and cleaning ladies. Hysterical, right?
In documents provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sotomayor openly wrote of her membership in the group, saying, "I am a member of the Belizean Grove, a private organization of female professionals from the profit, nonprofit and social sectors. The organization does not invidiously discriminate on the basis of sex. Men are involved in its activities—they participate in trips, host events and speak at functions—but to the best of my knowledge, a man has never asked to be considered for membership."
Limbaugh’s argument is that the Code of Judicial Conduct bars judges from belonging to any organization that practices discrimination based on race, sex, religion, or national origin. But it is obvious from Sotomayor’s upfront admission that the Belizean Grove does not discriminate on any of those issues.
We're getting sick of writing about Rush Limbaugh and his racist tirades. If David Letterman can be taken to task for making a joke about Sarah Palin's daughter, why is it that Limbaugh is able to so freely and consistently spew this kind of vitriol?
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage spoke earlier this week at the Missouri Boys State, an event that was held on the campus of the University of Central Missouri. During the question and answer period, Armitage was asked about President Obama’s “softer force when dealing with other nations.” “Mr. Obama is in some ways presenting a much better face to the world. I wouldn’t call it a soft face, I’d call it a smart face,” Armitage replied. He then took a subtle dig at President Bush.
ARMITAGE: I think he’s using both our soft and hard power in a more intelligent way. [...] I think he’s using our power more intelligently. And using all the tools in our kit box now, in our tool box. Mr. Bush just used sanctions and force. And I think this gives us a better opportunity to prevail. What is soft power? It’s the ability to attract. You want to persuade, you want to attract them. Hard power is coercive. Well, force them to do something. If you can attract people I think it’s always better. It seems to last longer.
Earlier in the discussion, Armitage said he disagrees with Vice President Cheney’s criticism of the Obama administration adding that he should “pipe down.” “I think it’s unseemly,” Armitage said. Later, referring to Colin Powell’s criticism of Republican Party, Armitage said that Powell is just trying to get the GOP to stop acting “like a bunch of knuckleheads.”And Henry Kissinger adds this [for what it's worth]:
In an interview with CNN yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) criticized President Obama’s approach to the turmoil in Iran, saying that he shouldn’t be concerned about being seen as “meddling” in Iran’s affairs. But on Fox News last night, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, noting that he was a McCain supporter, said that he thinks “the president has handled this well”:
KISSINGER: Well, you know, I was a McCain supporter and — but I think the president has handled this well. Anything that the United States says that puts us totally behind one of the contenders, behind Mousavi, would be a handicap for that person. And I think it’s the proper position to take that the people of Iran have to make that decision.
Of course, we have to state our fundamental convictions of freedom of speech, free elections, and I don’t see how President Obama could say less than he has, and even that is considered
intolerable meddling. He has, after all, carefully stayed away from saying things that seem to support one side or the other. And I think it was the right thing to do because public support for the opposition would only be used by the — by Ahmadinejad — if I can ever learn his name properly — against Mousavi.
h/t Think Progress
Did he ask Mr. Moussavi himself if this interference would help his cause? Has he gone to Iran recently to see what the Iranian people want America to do? Does he explain why it is a good foreign policy idea to interfere in a sovereign country's elections? Just because we've done so in the past--to disastersous results--doesn't mean we should continue making that mistake.
This suggestion is coming from the guy who sang that idiotic "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" ditty while on the campaing trail last summer.
You can't get any more reckless than that. I guess McCain feels the need to inject himself in this very tricky matter so that it appears that the GOP is giving the situation thoughtful consideration. Instead he comes off sounding like a rash and thoughtless buffoon.
America chose correctly when it chose Mr. Obama.
John McCain told FOX News that he didn't think President Obama was doing enough to show his support for fair elections in Iran and civil rights for Iranians after a presidential election there that "everybody knows" was corrupt.
Sen. McCain, Obama's Republican challenger in the 2008 election, suggested Wednesday in an interview with FOX News that Obama wasn't standing up for American principles.
"I'm disappointed, it is an American principle ever since our founding that we are dedicated to the principle that all are created equal and the fact is they have the right to free elections and to select their leadership," McCain said.
[John McCain forgets a speech by Founding Father, George Washington, where he warned that we should not involve America in foreign entanglements. There's nothing in the Constitution that compels the US to meddle in other countries' elections. He also is apparently unaware of how Iran's political system works. The Ayatollahs are in charge of the country. Iran is a theocracy. The will of the people doesn't count, only the will of God. I thank Darwin that McCain is NOT the president, because he seems appallingly uninformed on this.]
But Iranian leaders have accused the United States of "intolerable" meddling in its internal affairs after the country's disputed election late last week led to allegations of fraud, street protests and a government crackdown on news outlets and Web communications.
Mr. Obama said Tuesday he shared the world's "deep concerns about the election" but asserted that it was "not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling."
And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that it is up to Iranians to choose their own leader, though she didn't cast judgment on the validity of the outcome, in which incumbent President Mamoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner.
"The people of Iran reserve the right to have their voices heard and their voices counted," Clinton said. "The result of any election should be the will of the people."
McCain argued that treading softly isn't the right approach.
[Well thank you for your concern, Sen. McCain, now you can go back to the Senate and serenade your peers with "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran."]
Roger Cohen writing in today's NYTimes:
In greater numbers than ever before, Iranians had bought in to the sliver of democracy offered by an autocratic system whose ultimate loyalty is to the will of God rather than the will of the people. Almost 40 million voted. Now, their votes flouted, many have crossed over from reluctant acquiescence to the Islamic Republic into opposition. That’s a fundamental shift.
The Islamic Republic has lost legitimacy. It is fissured. It will not be the same again. It has always played on the ambiguity of its nature, a theocracy where people vote. For a whole new generation, there’s no longer room for ambiguity. [...]
The core issue is whether, given the dimension of protests, internal and international, Khamenei will come to view Ahmadinejad as a liability. In Moussavi he has a credible vehicle for a reform of the regime that serves to preserve it — an acceptable compromise to most Iranians.
Shiism is a malleable branch of Islam. The supreme leader can find the means to reverse course. He is an arbiter beholden to the safeguarding of the Islamic Republic. Arbitration now requires bringing God and the people into a different, more sustainable balance.
My friend over at IE has some links for what people can do to support the Iranian people.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Sunday, June 14, 2009
What is this fury about? In his scant 145 days in office, the new president has not remotely matched the Bush record in deficit creation. Nor has he repealed the right to bear arms or exacerbated the wars he inherited. He has tried more than his predecessor ever did to reach across the aisle. But none of that seems to matter. A sizable minority of Americans is irrationally fearful of the fast-moving generational, cultural and racial turnover Obama embodies — indeed, of the 21st century itself. That minority is now getting angrier in inverse relationship to his popularity with the vast majority of the country. Change can be frightening and traumatic, especially if it’s not change you can believe in.
We don’t know whether the tiny subset of domestic terrorists in this crowd is egged on by political or media demagogues — though we do tend to assume that foreign jihadists respond like Pavlov’s dogs to the words of their most fanatical leaders and polemicists. But well before the latest murderers struck — well before another “antigovernment” Obama hater went on a cop-killing rampage in Pittsburgh in April — there have been indications that this rage could spiral out of control.
This was evident during the campaign, when hotheads greeted Obama’s name with “Treason!” and “Terrorist!” at G.O.P. rallies. At first the McCain-Palin campaign fed the anger with accusations that Obama was “palling around with terrorists.” But later John McCain thought better of it and defended his opponent’s honor to a town-hall participant who vented her fears of the Democrats’ “Arab” candidate. Although two neo-Nazi skinheads were arrested in an assassination plot against Obama two weeks before Election Day, the fever broke after McCain exercised leadership.
That honeymoon, if it was one, is over. Conservatives have legitimate ideological beefs with Obama, rightly expressed in sharp language. But the invective in some quarters has unmistakably amped up. The writer Camille Paglia, a political independent and confessed talk-radio fan, detected a shift toward paranoia in the air waves by mid-May. When “the tone darkens toward a rhetoric of purgation and annihilation,” she observed in Salon, “there is reason for alarm.” She cited a “joke” repeated by a Rush Limbaugh fill-in host, a talk-radio jock from Dallas of all places, about how “any U.S. soldier” who found himself with only two bullets in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Osama bin Laden would use both shots to assassinate Pelosi and then strangle Reid and bin Laden.
This homicide-saturated vituperation is endemic among mini-Limbaughs. Glenn Beck has dipped into O’Reilly’s Holocaust analogies to liken Obama’s policy on stem-cell research to the eugenics that led to “the final solution” and the quest for “a master race.” After James von Brunn’s rampage at the Holocaust museum, Beck rushed onto Fox News to describe the Obama-hating killer as a “lone gunman nutjob.” Yet in the same show Beck also said von Brunn was a symptom that “the pot in America is boiling,” as if Beck himself were not the boiling pot cheering the kettle on.
But hyperbole from the usual suspects in the entertainment arena of TV and radio is not the whole story. What’s startling is the spillover of this poison into the conservative political establishment. Saul Anuzis, a former Michigan G.O.P. chairman who ran for the party’s national chairmanship this year, seriously suggested in April that Republicans should stop calling Obama a socialist because “it no longer has the negative connotation it had 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago.” Anuzis pushed “fascism” instead, because “everybody still thinks that’s a bad thing.” He didn’t seem to grasp that “fascism” is nonsensical as a description of the Obama administration or that there might be a risk in slurring a president with a word that most find “bad” because it evokes a mass-murderer like Hitler.
Obama’s Cairo address, meanwhile, prompted over-the-top accusations reminiscent of those campaign rally cries of “Treason!” It was a prominent former Reagan defense official, Frank Gaffney, not some fringe crackpot, who accused Obama in The Washington Times of engaging “in the most consequential bait-and-switch since Adolf Hitler duped Neville Chamberlain.” He claimed that the president — a lifelong Christian — “may still be” a Muslim and is aligned with “the dangerous global movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood.” Gaffney linked Obama by innuendo with Islamic “charities” that “have been convicted of providing material support for terrorism.”
If this isn’t a handy rationalization for another lone nutjob to take the law into his own hands against a supposed terrorism supporter, what is? Any such nutjob can easily grab a weapon. Gun enthusiasts have been on a shopping spree since the election, with some areas of our country reporting percentage sales increases in the mid-to-high double digits, recession be damned.
...Last week it was business as usual, as Republican leaders nattered ad infinitum over the juvenile rivalry of Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich at the party’s big Washington fund-raiser. Few if any mentioned, let alone questioned, the ominous script delivered by the actor Jon Voight with the G.O.P. imprimatur at that same event. Voight’s devout wish was to “bring an end to this false prophet Obama.”
This kind of rhetoric, with its pseudo-Scriptural call to action, is toxic. It is getting louder each day of the Obama presidency. No one, not even Fox News viewers, can say they weren’t warned.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Exhibit A for the mainstreaming of right-wing extremism is Fox News’s new star, Glenn Beck. Here we have a network where, like it or not, millions of Americans get their news — and it gives daily airtime to a commentator who, among other things, warned viewers that the Federal Emergency Management Agency might be building concentration camps as part of the Obama administration’s “totalitarian” agenda (although he eventually conceded that nothing of the kind was happening).
But let’s not neglect the print news media. In the Bush years, The Washington Times became an important media player because it was widely regarded as the Bush administration’s house organ. Earlier this week, the newspaper saw fit to run an opinion piece declaring that President Obama “not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one himself,” and that in any case he has “aligned himself” with the radical Muslim Brotherhood.
And then there’s Rush Limbaugh. His rants today aren’t very different from his rants in 1993. But he occupies a different position in the scheme of things. Remember, during the Bush years Mr. Limbaugh became very much a political insider. Indeed, according to a recent Gallup survey, 10 percent of Republicans now consider him the “main person who speaks for the Republican Party today,” putting him in a three-way tie with Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich. So when Mr. Limbaugh peddles conspiracy theories — suggesting, for example, that fears over swine flu were being hyped “to get people to respond to government orders” — that’s a case of the conservative media establishment joining hands with the lunatic fringe.
It’s not surprising, then, that politicians are doing the same thing. The R.N.C. says that “the Democratic Party is dedicated to restructuring American society along socialist ideals.” And when Jon Voight, the actor, told the audience at a Republican fund-raiser this week that the president is a “false prophet” and that “we and we alone are the right frame of mind to free this nation from this Obama oppression,” Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, thanked him, saying that he “really enjoyed” the remarks.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Please go read today's most excellent post by (O)CT(O)PUS on the shocking number of rightwing domestic terrorist groups in this country.
Secretary Nepolitano was forced to apologize for warning about the terrorist killing that occured in Washington DC yesterday and the terrorist killing that occured in Kansas last week.
More domestic terrorism here.
Napolitano was prescient in putting out the warning, and those who demanded an apology are now shown to have been bullies or woefully out of touch with the reality of terrorism and rightwing terrorist groups in America.
Also from Think Progress:
Though some conservatives have concluded that the recent string of right-wing violence has “vindicated” the DHS report, many others agree with Peters. Michelle Malkin, who led the charge against the DHS report, approvingly linked to a milblogger that called Smith and Herridge “pathetic” for reconsidering the report. Malkin’s Hot Air colleague, Ed Morrissey, defends the criticism of the report by claiming that it didn’t “mention anti-semitism at all.”
Go read The Swash Zone.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
She's learned nothing since she helped McCain lose the presidential election. And I'm pretty sure she'll continue to learn nothing as she pursues her hilarious dream of becoming the next POTUS.
"We’re borrowing more to spend more ... it defies any sensible economic policy that any of us ever learned through college," Palin tells Hannity."We’re borrowing from China, and we consider that now we own 60 percent of General Motors – or the U.S. government does … But who is the U.S. government becoming more indebted to? It’s China. So that leads you to have to ask who is really going to own our car industry than in America."
"It’s expanding at such a large degree that if Americans aren’t paying attention, unfortunately our country could evolve into something that we do not even recognize," Palin says.
"Socialism?" Hannity interjects helpfully.
"Well, that is where we are headed," Palin quips. "That is where we have to be blunt enough and candid enough and honest enough with Americans to let them know that if we keep going down these roads… nationalizing many of our services, our projects, our businesses, yes that is where we would head. And that is why Americans have to be paying attention."
What garbled and muddled thinking.
Newt Gingrich is appalled that Mr. Obama would reach out to the world:
Gingrich used his speech to again mock Obama’s recent speech in Egypt, saying — to loud applause — that he resented the President’s diplomatic outreach to the rest of the world:
Let me be clear. I am not a citizen of the world! I think the entire concept is intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous. There is no world sovereignty. There is no world system of law. There is, in fact, no circumstance under which I would like to be a citizen of North Korea, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Cuba or Russia. I am a citizen of the United States of America, and the rest of this speech is about the United States of America!
In a 1982 speech to the U.N. General Assembly, President Reagan said, "I speak today as both a citizen of the United States and of the world."
And Frank Gaffney is seriously nuts:
Frank Gaffney on Obama: "The man now happy to have his Islamic-rooted middle name featured prominently has engaged in the most consequential bait-and-switch since Adolf Hitler duped Neville Chamberlain over Czechoslovakia at Munich."
He's apparently too naive or too stupid to understand presidential politics and should try to spend more time in the adult world rather than in the sandbox he appears to occupy.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Don't Dismiss Obama's role in Lebanese Elections
by Max Bergmann
This has been tossed around on the internets today and I think it is very much an open question. There was a wide expectation that Hezbollah was going to win the parliamentary elections, instead the more pro-western March 14th movement was victorious. The AP framed the elections as "the first major political test in the Middle East since President Barack Obama called last week for a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims." So presumably Obama passed the test - but is this right? Could Obama's speech have had such an impact that it contributed to a March 14th victory? In short, while there are plenty of reasons to be very cautious injumping to that conclusion given Lebanon's politics, Obama's impact definitely shouldn't be dismissed by observers either.
Many Lebanese experts have dismissed the impact of the speech pointing to a variety of domestic reasons. Lebanon political expert Dr. Omri Nir told the Jersualem Post that
"I didn't see an impact of the speech [from Cairo] on the elections campaign," he added. Nir attributed the unexpected outcome to internal politics among Lebanon's Maronite Christians. Lebanese citizens usually cast their vote based on the people running and not according to party lines, he explained.
Christopher Dickey at Time also makes the useful point that "The fact is, Lebanese politics are uniquely treacherous... when elections take place, that old adage, 'all politics is local,' comes into play at every level and in very particular ways."
But although many Lebanese political experts dismiss the impact of Obama, sometimes issue-area experts are so immersed in their area that they really can't see the forest from the trees.
The fact is that atmospheric changes in political environments matter and are often really hard to detect at the time.
One thing I found bizarre about the literature on democratic transitions was how most of the theories were on the causes were focused almost exclusively on specific internal developments and largely neglected outside factors, such as the international movements or events. For instance, concerning Spain's transition most theories focus on internal dymaics and often totally ignore the demonstration effect of having a successful democratic club in the European Community next door. While each of the southern European transitions happened as a result of their own internal political dynamics, it wasn't a coincidence that Spain, Greece, and Pourtugal all transitioned at the same time. Additionally, it is not a coincidence that there are often particular years at which revolutionary change happens suddenly - such as 1989 and 1848. Each successive revolution in those years evolved due to its own particular circumstances - but the demonstration effect contributed to the snowball of change that occured.
Now what happened in Lebanon was no revolution. We are talking about a small shift in the electorate. But just as the atmosphere of 1989 or 1848 created an impetus for change, the same principles apply to 2009 - albeit on a much much smaller scale. President Obama's efforts beginning with his inaugural address, continued with his overtures to Iran, his engagement in the peace process, leveling with Israel on settlements, his speech in Cairo, and the nature of his story and background - may not be revolutionary - but they have no doubt changed the climate of American engagement with the region.
It would follow thent that if Bush's approach and his policies had a negative impact in this regard, then dramatically changing the tone and approach would surely have to have some impact. For instance, under Bush, it was clear that American support for a particular candidate or party was likely a death blow in the Middle East. So the fact that the side that the Obama administration was clearly pulling for did better than expected - or at least wasn't hurt by that stance - would seem to suggest that there was some impact, since Obama's speech was last week, Biden did go to Beirut, and Ray Lahood was there today. Therefore, former Cheney advisor David Wurmser deserves to have a significant amount of egg on his face after tell the WsJ before the election that
"The Lebanon vote could mark a major strategic shift for the region...Iran could increasingly be viewed as pre-eminent, while U.S. influence wanes."
Instead, the vote, at the very least demonstrates that Obama's approach is a vast improvement over the Bush administration. The Telegraph quotes, Rami Khouri, of the American University of Beirut,
"This was the first real victory by pro-American groups in the ideological battle that has defined this region in the last 10 years. Every time the US tried to help somebody in the region, it hurt them and they lost." A 25-year old software designer from West Beirut, said: "It was 'you are either with us or against us' before and both sides had this attitude. Now it is something in the middle with Obama and I think there is more freedom there."
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Friday, June 5, 2009
They wanted to roll out this campaign to coincide with the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, which date would actually be on Sunday, June 7, 2009, but they are holding the start of this campaign on Saturday, June 6, instead, the day Dr. Tiller's family will hold services for him and bury him.
On June 7th, the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that gave married people the right to use contraception, the American Life League, along with Pro-Life Wisconsin and Pharmacists for Life International Associate groups want you to join them in protesting in front of facilities that distribute birth control products. The national day against contraception, Protest the Pill Day '08: The Pill Kills Babies, was started to convince the American people of a simple and imaginative idea: attempting to prevent abortion is abortion too.
The campaign basically says that birth control pills kill babies (yes, seriously) and that pro-choice groups and health care centers like Planned Parenthood are only touting birth control to make lots and lots of money.
I'm actually kind of relieved by this campaign, because at least the anti-choice movement is showing its true colors. For so long, they've been trying to claim that it's all about "saving babies" by ending abortion, when their true agenda was simply to end women's control over their own reproductive future. They want to make birth control illegal. They don't even think married people should use it. And, of course, they're willing to push that agenda even if it means lying to women. You need to look no further than the campaign's talking points to spot the bullshit. Here are a couple of my favorites:
The birth control pill does not reduce the number of abortions. The only difference is that you are killing the baby earlier.
[T]he pill and other contraceptives can stop a tiny child's implantation in his/her mother's womb because the pill irritates the lining of the uterus so that the tiny baby boy or baby girl*cannot attach to the lining of the uterus and the newly formed human person is aborted and dies. This is called a chemical abortion.
* Embryos are genotypically boy or girl from the time of conception, ie. the chromosomes they inherit make them either XX-a girl or XY-a boy. However they do not start to differentiate into sexes until about 6 weeks of gestation. The gonads and tubes are undifferentiated at first and could become either male or female. So there is no differentiated tiny baby boy or tiny baby girl just before implantation--when the morning after pill is used.
When using a birth control pill, there is no fertilization involved, so there is no blastocyst and there is no murder.
These people are lunatics.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I am proud of President Obama and the courage he showed in speaking the truth.
Michael S. Roth, Historian and President, Wesleyan University (Ct.):
The Cairo Address will be seen as one of the great speeches by an American president on foreign soil. He spoke with conviction as someone with roots in the Islamic world, with the faith of a Christian, and with the commitment of an American leader devoted to equality, freedom and democracy. He said things his audience probably did not want to hear (on Israel, for example), and thus he did not pander. But he also said things that showed that his intelligence is informed by history as well as empathy (on Palestinians, for example). It was respectful of cultural differences, but firm in support of core principles of human rights.“If we see this conflict only from one side or the other, President Obama said, “then we will be blind to the truth.” His speech was a masterful presentation of the multi-dimensional relationship of America and Islam. Perhaps it will enable us all to see more of the truth going forward.
Malika Saada Saar, Executive Director, Rebecca Project for Human Rights:
A new children of Abraham politics
At the point that the planes hit the twin towers, and in the Bush years that followed, a language of provincialism, fear, and supremacy dominated our politics. President Obama’s speech ushered in a new children of Abraham politics—the need to recognize our inevitable intersectionality as Christians, Jews and Muslims. In his ability to hold all parts of his own varied, nuanced identity, President Obama invited the children of Abraham to recognize our shared humanity and begin a new process of dialogue and diplomacy from that place. It was an A+ speech that only a leader of multiple backgrounds, who adeptly speaks in many tongues, could effectively deliver.The Cairo Address will be seen as one of the great speeches by an American president on foreign soil. He spoke with conviction as someone with roots in the Islamic world, with the faith of a Christian, and with the commitment of an American leader devoted to equality, freedom and democracy. He said things his audience probably did not want to hear (on Israel, for example), and thus he did not pander. But he also said things that showed that his intelligence is informed by history as well as empathy (on Palestinians, for example). It was respectful of cultural differences, but firm in support of core principles of human rights.“If we see this conflict only from one side or the other, President Obama said, “then we will be blind to the truth.” His speech was a masterful presentation of the multi-dimensional relationship of America and Islam. Perhaps it will enable us all to see more of the truth going forward.
Diane Ravitch, Historian of education, NYU and Brookings:
A terrific speech that worked on many levels
First, he showed the necessary respect and deference to his hosts, even quoting from the Koran with a certain amount of ease. Second, he spoke to his American audience, not apologizing too much for America's role in the world. I was glad that he spoke about women's equality before this audience, though I fear it will fall on closed ears. I wish he had been more outspoken about the closing of girls' schools by the Taliban; I wish he had even mentioned the Taliban and their violent program to prevent girls from getting any education. I was somewhat surprised that he drew even a tenuous analogy between the blatant denial of women's rights in Muslim countries and "the struggle for women's equality" in the United States. But there were so many excellent points that he made so very well. His denunciation of violent extremism, which many Muslim nations have been unwilling to denounce. His rebuke to those who deny the existence of the Holocaust. His reminder that 9/11 was perpetrated by Muslim extremists, an implicit reminder that it was not the work of the U.S. government or the Israelis.
William Jelani Cobb, Professor of History, Spelman College:
This may well be the most important foreign policy speech of the post Cold War era. I would give it an A. There were any number of statements which individually could have been taken as significant. In its sum total it was quite remarkable. We know the structural hallmarks of an Obama speech by this point -- the balance of poetry and policy, making use of his unique biography as an advantage, offering the panoramic view of a complex problem, arguing that we have been mired in false dichotomies in approaching the problem and then offering common sense, pragmatic, non-ideological alternatives spiced with just enough idealism to spark the imagination of young people. For all that, this may have been the most brilliant iteration of that approach. On its most basic level, his speech made it that much more difficult for the caricatured view of this country to persist. You saw him hit that theme repeatedly -- the references to the role of Islam in American history and the number and prosperity of Muslims in the US. The statement "There is a mosque in every state in our union," his support for Muslim charitable giving for instance, the reference to Rep. Keith Ellison being sworn in using Jefferson's Quran. The same is the case with his argument that the US policy of democracy promotion is a human rights initiative, not an imperial one. Ditto the cultural touches -- beginning the speech with the greeting "A Salaam Alaikum."
Julian E. Zelizer, Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton:
The speech was very strong
President Obama reached out to everyone and challenged everyone as well. The point was to call for a new beginning, rejecting long-held beliefs and biases that have prevented progress and peace. While respecting the power of history and warning that change will be slow, President Obama called for new relations between the U.S. and Muslims while criticizing key aspects of Muslim society (from the treatment of women to the use of violence) to change so that improved relations will be possible. He criticized Americans for negative stereotypes of Islam but added that “America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. He stressed that he will use economic assistance and not just military might to create more stability in the region. The speech established a framework for how President Obama will think about this challenge in the coming years. Now though the real challenge begins. In the past, U.S. presidents have often learned that that the devil really is in the details when dealing with the Middle East.
James Carafano, Heritage Foundation, Defense and Homeland Security:
Green Light to Iran?President's words on Iran seem more like a "green light" to their nuclear program than the start of serious negotiations-and completely contradictory with the statement that we don't want "an ams race in the Middle East."Hope is not a strategy but it seems White House counter-proliferation strategy is to cut our missile defense programs and nuclear weapons inventories and "hope" we don't have a new arms race age.
Read the rest of the reviews here:
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
The entire speech is here.
When you read this speech, you come away with the knowledge that this woman is highly intelligent, thoughtful, wise, empathetic, and would make a great Supreme Court Justice.
"In our private conversations, Judge Cedarbaum has pointed out to me that seminal decisions in race and sex discrimination cases have come from Supreme Courts composed exclusively of white males. I agree that this is significant but I also choose to emphasize that the people who argued those cases before the Supreme Court which changed the legal landscape ultimately were largely people of color and women. I recall that Justice Thurgood Marshall, Judge Connie Baker Motley, the first black woman appointed to the federal bench, and others of the NAACP argued Brown v. Board of Education. Similarly, Justice Ginsburg, with other women attorneys, was instrumental in advocating and convincing the Court that equality of work required equality in terms and conditions of employment.
Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.
Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society.
Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.
However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.
I also hope that by raising the question today of what difference having more Latinos and Latinas on the bench will make will start your own evaluation. For people of color and women lawyers, what does and should being an ethnic minority mean in your lawyering? For men lawyers, what areas in your experiences and attitudes do you need to work on to make you capable of reaching those great moments of enlightenment which other men in different circumstances have been able to reach. For all of us, how do change the facts that in every task force study of gender and race bias in the courts, women and people of color, lawyers and judges alike, report in significantly higher percentages than white men that their gender and race has shaped their careers, from hiring, retention to promotion and that a statistically significant number of women and minority lawyers and judges, both alike, have experienced bias in the courtroom?
Each day on the bench I learn something new about the judicial process and about being a professional Latina woman in a world that sometimes looks at me with suspicion. I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that I reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me requires. I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations. I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.
There is always a danger embedded in relative morality, but since judging is a series of choices that we must make, that I am forced to make, I hope that I can make them by informing myself on the questions I must not avoid asking and continuously pondering. We, I mean all of us in this room, must continue individually and in voices united in organizations that have supported this conference, to think about these questions and to figure out how we go about creating the opportunity for there to be more women and people of color on the bench so we can finally have statistically significant numbers to measure the differences we will and are making.
I am delighted to have been here tonight and extend once again my deepest gratitude to all of you for listening and letting me share my reflections on being a Latina voice on the bench. Thank you."