What's All This Then?
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
BUSH SHOULD ACCEPT AHMADINEJAD’S DEBATE CHALLENGE
I’m disappointed that the president has once again given his knee jerk "not interested" response to the latest offer from an "axis of evil" member to engage in dialog instead of confrontation. First it was Saddam Hussein with a massive, multi- volume response to our demand that he remove or surrender his weapons of mass destruction. Dismissed out of hand - even before the binding had been completed! Then Mahmoud Ahmadinejad writes Mr. Bush an eighteen page letter, asking for a response - and once again his answer is "not interested." In fact, it appears that Mr. Bush didn’t even read it, since the news reports speak of him being briefed on its contents.
Now both Ahmadinejad and Bush have done it again. The Iranian nut has challenged the president to a debate and the challenge has been dismissed as a "diversion." What a pity. Living as he does in the sixth or seventh century, what Ahmadinejad has proposed is an old fashioned ritual from those times to resolve a conflict between nations - or tribes. Your greatest warrior against our greatest warrior. Mano a mano. Weapons decided by mutual agreement. (Or a coin toss). Winner take all. War over.
Of course that may not have been Ahmadinejad’s intention - that the loser would back off of whatever it was that was bugging the opposition. He’s not about to declare that Iran is abandoning all atomic research if Bush wipes the floor with him. But then he doesn’t expect to lose in a verbal battle with Bush and his Bushisms - especially if the President throws in a few Rummyspeak phrases. But no matter what would happen in such a "debate" - both sides would declare themselves "winners" - so why not let it happen?
What would be the upside for Ahmadinejad if such a thing were to happen? He’d be on the same stage - on an equal footing with the leader of the world’s infidels - and thus he’d be representing the world’s true believers. For Bush there’s be no personal upside. He’d be lowering himself to appear on the same screen with the Iranian nut. But there could be a general upside to getting this guy to reveal what he, his country and his culture is all about - to those in the west who perhaps don’t fully understand it - at the same time holding up a mirror to millions of Muslims that might make them think about their own culture.
I wouldn’t suggest that Mr. Bush enter into a debate with Ahmadinejad without appropriate ammunition - but it is available - even though it’s from a source that requires me to hold my nose as I recommend it.
Dennis Prager is a conservative radio talk show host with whom I can agree on almost no topic. But he has written a piece inspired by the insipid "non-interview" that Mike Wallace conducted with the Iranian three weeks ago and which you can find on various Internet sites . It’s a series of questions that Mike Wallace should have asked, with which - on this one rare occasion - I totally agree.
So picture a split screen - with Mr. Bush wearing his grim face - punctuated by only an occasional misplaced grin - zeroing in on the Iranian president with these zingers:
And no matter what he answers, continue with the rest of the questions - as if he hadn’t said anything at all. Just like an American presidential debate.
Assuming that that Ahmadinejad’s interpreter doesn’t change the Prager questions into softball lobs - or, interpreting them correctly, doesn’t get dragged off to the chopping block before the debate is over - there should be no question about the outcome. Free world 10. Nuthouse world zero. Game, set and match.
But even if it didn’t come out that way, think what Jon Stewart could do with it. Material for a year. Maybe two.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIANS NEED TO LOOK INWARD BEFORE THEY BLAME EACH OTHER
It was refreshing to read the story in yesterday’s ynetnews about a Hamas spokesman who, in an op-ed piece in a Palestinian newspaper, actually placed some measure of blame on Palestinians for conditions in Gaza.
To me, it provides a measure of hope that free speech might yet overcome the madness that Hamas represents. The author - admittedly a member of Hamas, has done something like this in the past. For example, I found the following in a copy of the Middle East Quarterly, September, 1999, Volume V1 Number 3. I reproduce it here rather than provide a link because you’d have to search through page after page to find the paragraph ;
The Palestinian press is one of the freest, and it publishes more newsworthy stories than almost any other in the Arab world. At times, it even outspokenly criticizes the PA, something that often puts journalists in harm's way. In 1996 the editor of Al-Quds, Mahir al-‘Alami, was jailed for refusing to publish a story about Arafat on the front-page. The Hamas weekly Ar-Risala has been shut down and reopened by the PA several times—most recently in April 1999. Its editor-in-chief, Ghazi Hamad, was jailed in May 1999 for publishing a story about a Palestinian, Ayman al-Amasi, allegedly tortured to death in a PA prison. (What happened to him is not exactly clear, though it appears he was killed in captivity.)
Just about the same time that Ghazi Hamad was urging Palestinians to look inward for the causes of their troubles, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, was authorizing an inquiry into the conduct of the recent war with Hezbollah. It’s not the independent state commission that many have called for, but with pressure growing on Olmert, that may yet come about.
Certainly all parties in the Middle East conflict need to look inward, but as a supporter of Israel, I believe that country - as the region’s sole democracy - has a greater need to examine its policies and actions - which at times are puzzling beyond belief to this distant observer. For example, all too often we hear of vehicles being attacked by Israeli aircraft that turn out to be non-belligerent and of no danger to Israeli military or citizens. The most recent was an attack on a Reuters armored car, wounding five people. The Israeli explanation was that it was near a combat zone, that it was moving "suspiciously" and that they didn’t see any clear press markings on the vehicle.
Well, you take a look at the picture. How much clearer would it need to be for an Israeli pilot to recognize it for what it is? Aren’t they supposed to be among the best trained pilots in the world?
If the rules of engagement are so loose as to allow pilots to aim missiles at anything they perceive as being "suspicious" - then they badly need to re-examine their rules of engagement. Unless the vehicle is engaged in an attack or there is iron clad evidence that it is an instrument of terrorism about to engage in a terrorist attack - sending a missile in its direction is, in my view, criminally reckless - and deserving of the condemnation that follows such incidents.
I am equally disturbed at a different kind of incident, described at length in this Haaretz article. You need to read it It’s the story of a Palestinian born and raised in Jerusalem who traveled abroad and came back and who one day was told by Israeli authorities that he was no longer a resident. He then asked to become a resident of the Palestinian Authority and live on the west bank - and that request was turned down.
I can understand the reluctance of Israel to allow people calling themselves "Palestinians" to pour back from other countries into either Israel or the occupied (Israel says " disputed") territories, but the laws under which Hayan Ju'beh almost became a man without a country, are something that I have a hard time understanding or approving.
Finally, as long as I’m being critical of Israel today, here is another reason that they’re our ally and we support them. It’s because they’re so much like us. Here, courtesy of Mideast On Target, are the perfect examples.
President Moshe Katzav is being investigated by the police for a sex scandal where it appears he was having relations with two secretaries and was being blackmailed by one of them. A polygraph test given to one secretary concludes she is telling the truth. It appears they were coerced. There are accusations of influence peddling as well. The Knesset can impeach him for behavior unbecoming of his office (it need not be a "crime") or he can resign. Katzav insists he is completely innocent and everything is a fabrication. The episode is a disgrace to all and he should resign earlier rather than later in order to save the honor of the presidency.
Over the years, some people have suggested that Israel should be our 51st State. In some ways, I guess they already are.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
ELVIRA WON’T YOU PLEASE GO HOME?
Normally I sympathize with illegal aliens from Mexico who have been here a long time - then get caught and sent back. I would normally sympathize because if they’re working steadily, there’s obviously a need for their services and it’s a shame that they couldn’t come to this country legally without having to wait an unconscionable number of years.
But I have little or no sympathy for Elvira Arellano, who is defying a deportation order by hiding in a church and claiming "sanctuary." Elvira is a repeat offender, having been sent back to Mexico once before, only to sneak across the border again. Her illegal status was once again discovered in 2002 during an immigration sweep at O’Hare Airport, where she was working with a fake social security number. Because she is a single mother with a son who has medical problems, she’s been granted three stays of deportation - but her son is doing better and the authorities are now trying to execute the order.
During those stays - going on four years since she was re-arrested - she’s become an "activist" on behalf of other illegals awaiting deportation. Her illegal status being out in the open, she had no need to continue to hide and work with using fake documents. Instead, she began to claim "rights" that she and those like her did not have and to which she was not entitled.
Because her son was born here, she is now looking for sympathy based on the immorality of a law that presents people like her with the horrible choice of either abandoning her son or succumbing to him - an American citizen - being kicked out of his own country. It makes for a sympathetic picture - except that I find her more arrogant than sympathetic.
Up to now, she has been allowed to stay here because Dick Durbin and other Illinois officials went to bat on her behalf. But now, even the liberal Durbin has backed off - probably realizing that if he persists in battling on her behalf, thousands of others in the same situation will conclude that they’re entitled to the same consideration - especially if they too have kids who are American citizens.
And that citizenship is really the only thing that Elvira and fellow illegals who are parents of citizens have going for them in a quasi-legal manner. And it’s probably a situation that we should seriously consider changing. The business of conferring automatic citizenship on anyone born on US soil. This is not a universal right and there are many countries that do not award citizenship just because a child is born within its borders. That used to be the case with our close ally, the United Kingdom, but since 1983 they have adopted a more realistic policy of requiring that at least one parent be a British subject or that the parents are permanent, legal residents.
Think of what it means to confer citizenship on someone because of the accident of their birth - or perhaps because of the deliberate planning of their place of birth. Madelaine Allbright and Henry Kissinger could both be Secretaries of State - as indeed they were, but neither could ever have become president. - Allbright having been born in Czechoslovakia and Kissinger in Germany. But there could one day be a President Saul Arellano because he qualifies as a native born US citizen - whether or not his mother is both an illegal alien and - at the moment - a fugitive from justice.
There is something very wrong here. I doubt that the framers of the Constitution had someone like Elvira or any other foreign national visitor to the United States, legal or illegal in mind, when they determined who was entitled to US citizenship. A pregnant woman on vacation from any part of the world, could give birth while she’s here and her offspring has that automatic and precious citizenship. How many people may have come here deliberately to accomplish just that purpose and does anyone try to stop them even when the intent is obvious?
In Elvira’s case, the very fact that she has chosen to become an activist, appealing to everyone in sight to support her "cause" - makes it all the more imperative that she be given no more consideration than other, non-activist illegals, and sent back to Mexico as soon as possible. There is no question that the problem of millions of illegal aliens in the United States can’t be solved by rounding them all up and deporting them to the countries from which they came. There’s no way in the world that they can all be found - nor do we have the manpower or the funding to accomplish such a Herculean task. But when one is found and the case results in the kind of massive publicity generated by Elvira - not treating her according to existing immigration laws would make a mockery of any efforts to come to grips with any problems that may exist with those laws.
The church housing and protecting Elvira is doing nothing noble - nor are the clergy and various other "do gooders" supporting her "right" to stay here helping whatever cause she purports to represent. She needs to surrender to the authorities, return to Mexico and continue her efforts to become a legal US resident from there as millions of other foreign born US citizens have done for decades. She could take Saul with her or leave him here as a ward of the state. And consider herself lucky that we have such an easy way for anyone to be a US citizen and that - for the moment at least - the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States, remains intact.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
THEY RANT AND RAVE ON THE LEFT TOO
Liberal talk show hosts are always talking about "Republican talking points" - as though they don’t have any of their own. I have no specific knowledge of a liberal version of a Carl Rove sending out e-mail memos to left leaning radio talk show hosts - although it wouldn’t be in the least bit a time consuming task considering the paucity such individuals on the airwaves. But you have to wonder why practically all of them picked up on the "Paris Hilton Benefit Act" phrase, which authors Michael J. Graetz and Ian Shapiro use to describe the repeal of estate tax in their book on that subject. Maybe it’s just because she’s such an easy target to pounce on and it is a neat phrase - the other version of which is the "Paris Hilton Tax Cut."
But whether or not liberal talk show hosts have organized talking points sent to them, for sure they have their own version of RWRAR’s. (Right wing ranters and ravers for those who haven’t been here before).
Over last week-end and the week-end before, I heard a couple of Air America Hosts that we don’t get during the week on the local daytimer station that carries some Air America programs and other liberal hosts. One was "Lionel" - I suppose he thinks of himself as sufficiently famous to go by only one name. Can’t you just imagine a Las Vegas billboard with "Frank" - "Liza" - "Sammy" and Lionel??? I suppose it would have just about the same effect if you included his full name - which is Michael LeBron. There are numerous links to sites that purport to say something about the man - but I haven’t included them because I didn’t find any descriptions that I would recognize. I find him neither "refreshing" nor "humorous." If you’re interested, just go to google and type in Lionel Show.
The Lionel show that I heard was about the 9/11 tragedy and Lionel’s unequivocal assertion that it was not a terrorist attack - or at the very least, much more than a terrorist attack. Using the same kind of language than the conspiracy theorists have used about the events of that day - the World Trade Center buildings wired to explode from within - Air Force ordered to "stand down" - missile hitting the Pentagon etc., he berated callers who tried to question his nonsensical theories. Those who accepted what most people understood happened on that day were "dangerous" because they didn’t think or question.
It was interesting that he chose that word to insult callers. The 9/11 conspiracy theory has a lot of believers and a great many more who may not buy into a conspiracy but believe there was something more than four hijacked planes. These people may be delusional - or not. But I doubt that they’re dangerous. "Lionel" - on the other hand - depending on the size and make up of his audience - may well be dangerous. There are people who tend to believe that if something is said on the radio, it must have some validity. Rush Limbaugh’s audience tunes him in daily to have their strange beliefs validated - and no matter what outright lies he tells - his followers are likely to believe - and pass the misinformation on.
I’m not saying that Lionel has the power of persuasion of a Limbaugh - just that he is as irresponsible a LWRAR (Left Wing Ranter and Raver) as Limbaugh is RWRAR!!
The other "liberal" host that I heard over last week end was Mike Malloy, who I think has totally lost his marbles. He is a left wing version of Michael Savage, who is about as disgusting a broadcaster as I have ever heard. Malloy likes to refer to the Bushes as the "Bush Crime Family." There is no crime which he would not be willing to accuse the President, his family members and his advisors of committing. And last week-end he came up with a doozy.
Judge Anna Diggs Taylor had ruled that the NSA wire tapping program is not only a violation of the law but is unconstitutional. Malloy was overjoyed at the ruling. It was stopping the "Bush Crime Family" in its tracks. But it wasn’t getting the glaring headlines it should have been getting - and in depth follow up stories. Why? Another story had pushed Judge Taylor’s ruling off of the front pages and the nightly news leads. The ten year old JonBenet Ramsey murder case and the confession of John Mark Karr.
Ands Malloy’s reaction to all of this? A question. How did Rove do it? How did that son-of-a-bitch Carl Rove arrange for the JonBenet story to push the NSA ruling off the front page? I kid you not. According to Malloy, Rove - by himself or through an intermediary, was somehow able to reach over to Thailand and persuade Karr to confess to the murder so that it would overwhelm the NSA story and push it onto the back burner while the justice department flunkies ran into a friendlier court to get a stay on the ruling while they wait to get it overturned.
Rove would have made promises to the troubled young man to convince him that no harm would come to him and that he’d be richly rewarded. All of this in the twisted mind of Mike Malloy - whose mental hand wringing you could almost feel as he agonized over what this evil Rove person had done and the lengths to which he would go to achieve his evil political gains.
So I guess we have crazies working both sides of America’s microphones - even though there are far more working from the right side than from the left. Keep it up guys and gals - and you’ll guarantee that they (the advanced and civilized aliens) will never come.
I’ve found a way to hang on to my sanity while my eyes and ears are exposed to the madness of the world. I’ve put a link to The Universe on my desktop - and I play it at least once every day, waiting joyfully for the last lines.
"And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space - ‘cos there’s bugger all down here on earth."
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
A DIFFERENT VIEW OF IRAN
I was surprised last week to see one cable news station after another using clips of Mike Wallace’s "interview" with Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad . I put the word "interview" in quotes because this has to be one of the worst efforts by the aging reporter. Maybe it’s time for him to hang up his roving microphone. Ahmadinejad was in complete charge of the meeting, using it to portray himself as a reasonable man who only wanted peaceful relations with the rest of the world.
According to our president of course, Ahmadinejad is a monster, heading up one third of the infamous "axis of evil" - a sponsor of world wide terrorism.
Certainly you would expect Jews to feel that way. The condemnations of Iran by Israeli officials during and following the Israeli/Hezbollah war couldn’t have been more strident. But not all Jews feel the same about Iran. Certainly not Maurice Motamed - a Jew who has one of the world’s loneliest jobs. He’s a member of the Iranian parliament!!
Read his and the story of his fellow Jews - and while you may not disagree with what Mr. Bush says about Iran being a sponsor of terrorist groups and the danger presented by them acquiring an atomic weapon - perhaps you will at least come away with a broader view of that nation than the President’s narrowly focused view.
And of Jimmy Carter
While I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is any kind of friend to the Jews of the world or to the Jews of Iran - despite his promise to do something dramatic to prove he is not anti-Jewish - neither is our former President Jimmy Carter.
Joining with the anti-Semites of the world, he called the Israeli response to the Hezbollah attack, an "unjustified attack upon Lebanon," and that Israel didn’t have "any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon." And he repeated the usual anti-Israel mantra about "10,000 prisoners in Israel jails." That’s it. No reference or proof as to the numbers and who these "prisoners" are and what terms they are serving for what crimes. Just the 10,000 mantra. Implying that that was a justification for any terrorist group to kill and abduct Israeli military personnel.
I wouldn’t call Carter a "national disgrace" - as my namesake Craig R. Smith does in World Net Daily - but I would call him a closet anti-Semite - and perhaps it’s only proper that his comments appeared in a major German daily - Der Spiegel!!
Speaking of Anti-Semites
Why do they hate us so much? A question asked and brilliantly pondered by Yair Lapid on Israpundit - with equally brilliant comments by readers. This should be must reading for all anti-Semites as well as for reasonable people who wonder about anti-Semitism. You might learn something through reading this stuff. I believe I did.
The Jews of England
A few days ago I was making some comparisons between the Jewish and Muslim populations of England, pointing out that Jews don’t make unreasonable demands of their government - being more "English" than their Muslim counterparts.
Not that Jews didn’t have reasons to complain. How would you like it of a King said you have to leave your country and never come back - as Edward 1 said to the Jews of England in 1290? It was 366 years before they were allowed to come back again - and next month, the 350th anniversary of that event will be celebrated with a day long festival in London’s Trafalger Square.
Post War Self Assessment in Israel
As long as I’m talking about Jews today, here’s something that I think we could learn from Israeli Jews. The dust has hardly settled on the cease fire agreement between Israel and Hezbollah - and indeed, the way it’s going, it may not hold much longer - with a lot of talk and not much action when it comes to the central point of the UN resolution - the disarming of all non-government militias - but the internal criticism of the way the government conducted this war is already flowing hot and heavy. Reservists have marched to Ehud Olmert’s office to demand an official inquiry - and the government has already said that one will take place - and it may be a state commission of inquiry, similar to ones held in the past over military failures.
At times, Israel’s democracy has looked like a debating society for inmates of a nut house , with it’s multiple parties and crazy voting system which can result in a political party or "list" being represented by a single member in the Knesset. It’s why there’s almost a constant struggle to form and hold a government together. Since no party has a majority on its own, deals have to be made between parties with disparate interests.
But it does make for the most wide open form of democracy. Debates in our Senate or House look like Sunday School outings compared to the wild arguments that often pass for debate in the Knesset. But it’s the kind of no holds barred democracy that allows for a national inquiry to be undertaken on the heels of five weeks of military clashes. Could you imagine the Bush administration appointing a national bipartisan commission to examine our invasion of Iraq - 30 or 60 or 90 days after our troops crossed the border from Kuwait?
A lot of people question our unwavering support of Israel. There are plenty of reasons why we give it our support - and I wont try to go into them here. But one of the reasons has to be because it is a democracy. A crazy one maybe - but of all the crazy forms of government in the Middle East - a crazy democracy has to stand out as the one kind of nation we can identify with and look upon as a true ally. Remember what Churchill said about democracy. It’s the worst form of government - except for all those others that have been tried.
Read "those other crazy systems in the Middle East."
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
STARTLING NEWS FROM THE BUSH PRESS CONFERENCE. SADDAM DID NOT ORDER 9/11!!
A few nights ago, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough devoted his "Scarborough Country" program to the question of whether or not George W Bush was an idiot!! His guest panelists - Lawrence O’Donnell and conservative columnist John Fund were careful not to give a straightforward and emphatic "yes" to the question. Unlike someone like Linda Ronstadt, they would have something to lose by making that kind of blatant accusation against a sitting president, even if they believed it to be true. But one got the sense that even Fund, who did his best to defend the president’s intellect, would have been less likely to do so in private.
Just as - in a private meeting - Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott - called Bush "just a cowboy with his Stetson on" - and the Bush administration’s Iraq policy "crap" - but denied it when the comments became public.
Needless to say, I came to the conclusion a long time ago that Bush was an idiot. Not necessarily unintelligent, but an idiot nonetheless. A "decider" who makes a decision and no matter how glaringly obvious it becomes that it is a wrong decision, sticks to it like a stubborn child who will not ‘fess up to his misbehavior. Somewhat akin to a definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
The Iraq disaster is the crowning glory of his idiocy - and at his press conference yesterday he concluded the coronation ceremony by completing the 360 degrees of his story telling about that misadventure. When asked what the Iraqi invasion had to do with 9/11, he said "nothing." After years of trying to convince us that there was indeed a powerful connection and that Iraq was a hotbed of terrorism and that we are "fighting them there so we won’t have to fight them here, " he finally admitted that there was no connection between 9/11 and old WMD Saddam Hussein. It boggles the mind.
For more days than we were involved in World War Two, the Iraq aspect of the "war on terror" has been like the old joke about a man on his hands and knees searching for something under a lamppost. A lady passing by asks if she can help. The guy says " yes, I'm looking for my car keys," pointing towards his car in about a half a block away. The lady gets down on her knees to help and asks him "Where exactly did you lose the keys?" The guy says, "Over there by the car." "Then why are you looking over here" she asks? And the guy says "because the light's better here."
But having become bogged down in what to all intents and purposes is now an Iraq civil war, Mr. Bush is adding to the idiocy by saying that as long as he is the president, we will stay in Iraq and "complete the mission" - though no reporter ever seems to want to ask - just what is our "mission." But even though the question isn’t asked, he now answers it with reason number (you pick the figure) for why we’re there. So that the Iraqi people can "achieve their objectives and dreams." That plus the new "fear mantra" that if we leave "they" will follow us here.
If they do, we’ll just have to hope that they stop off in England on the way over, where quiet, efficient secret service and police work is utilized in place of bombast to stop terrorists in their tracks. And where there may be a presidential lap dog in charge of the country - but at least one who nobody thinks of as being an idiot.
Friday, August 18, 2006
MY ADVICE ON HOW ENGLAND SHOULD TREAT MUSLIMS
Closing off the week on the subject that I find hard to get out of my mind - Muslim terrorists in the United Kingdom.
In the Chicago Tribune this morning, a report by foreign correspondent Tom Hundley, more or less emphasizes and repeats what I wrote here on July 21, 2005. It’s unusual for me to include the same link two days in a row, but the relevance is compelling.
England is in big trouble. It can get away with any foreign policy that may upset its Jewish population. Even though the Jews of England go back for centuries - their birth rate is low and they haven’t poured in from other countries in recent decades. There are only some 300,000 English Jews. They don’t make unreasonable demands of their government and the government doesn’t kowtow to them. If they disagree with the UK policy toward Israel, they do it through the legitimate means available to them in a free democratic society. They write to newspapers. They complain to their representatives. They run for office. Until recently, the head of the Conservative party and the "shadow" Prime Minister was Michael Howard. Had the Conservatives won the last election while he was still in that position, England would have had a Jewish Prime Minister.
The Muslim population is a different story. About 1,700,000 strong and growing, its British roots are recent - as are the problems they brought with them and the unfortunate way the British authorities have dealt with them up to now. I don’t need to repeat them. Just click on the link above.
It may be too late for the British Government to take back the country that has disappeared under a tsunami of change. I’m not alone in my feeling of despair. Here’s another British ex-patriot asking "What Has Happened to My Beloved Britain?" And I’m sure you can find similar feelings being expressed all over the Internet if you want to look.
"Engaging" with the Muslim community , in my opinion, is not the answer to the problems that community has brought to the country. I think that British Muslims should be treated the same way as any other citizens. Those who incite violence or break any other laws should be prosecuted. I don’t believe that it would be discriminatory to let the Muslim community know that the foreign policy of the United Kingdom cannot in any way be subservient to the religious beliefs of any of its citizens. Those citizens can express their disagreements in any legitimate way they like. Such is the nature of democracy. But when they resort to the violence of 7/7/05 and to the violent plans to cause mass murder over the Atlantic that has just been stopped in its tracks - and so called "ordinary" British subjects of the Muslim faith assert that it is the result of their country’s foreign policy viz a viz Muslim countries - it may be time to invite them to become citizens of and reside in those countries.
I know that sounds harsh and bigoted, but the problem has to be deal with on a practical level and has to begin with eliminating any argument about the fact that almost all acts of terrorism are committed by Muslims - Timothy McVeigh notwithstanding - and that Muslims traveling to, from or through any western country, particularly England, which has had an open door policy for too many years - need to be singled out for special attention. Columnist Kathleen Parker had it just right the other day in her "Do Profile - Don’t Tell" column. The only thing that I would add would be to have trained people at all airports and seaports to impose the same kind of test on all passengers as the Israelis do. Maybe to have Israelis train screeners in their methods. Right now, I would imagine that El Al is the world’s safest airline. For sure I would feel safer flying El Al than United or American.
The last couple of times I was in England, traveling through both Gatwick and Heathrow, the only questioning to which I was subjected was regarding my luggage. Had it been out of my sight? Had anyone asked me to carry anything for them? No questions about why I was traveling, where I was going, who I was traveling with etc. I was patted down at both airports, but had I wanted to smuggle something deadly aboard, I am sure I could have done so.
I would imagine the screening is a little more elaborate now, but I know I would feel a lot safer if I see young males wearing turbans and carrying Korans in sweaty hands, being put through a more rigorous screening process if they are in line for the same plane I’m catching. They don’t have to announce that they’ll be doing this sort of profiling. Just do it and don’t tell- as Kathleen Parker suggests.
My final suggestion for tacking the problem would be to tighten the restrictions on the flow of immigrants from Muslim countries. Thirty Eight years ago, British politician Enoch Powell created a stir when he suggested that Britain’s lax policy of allowing thousands of immigrants into the country would change the face of the nation. He was talking more about race than religion and he was accused of being a racist - but as many people are now saying, his predictions have come true.
It may be politically incorrect to advocate closing off the influx of Moslems to Britain’s tiny island, but I’m sure a majority of my former countrymen would agree that they’d rather be safe than politically correct.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
AS THE BRITS ARE DISCOVERING - THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS "FIGHTING THEM THERE SO WE DON’T HAVE TO FIGHT THEM HERE."
In my last post, I was talking about terrorists and asking why they hate us so much - particularly terrorists who are born and g row up in a democratic western country - such as the group of young English men and women arrested in the plot to down multiple airliners over the Atlantic ocean.
The other night, Christiane Amanpour, filling in for Larry King and broadcasting from London, was asking that question of someone whose name I don’t recall but who was presented as some kind of expert. It was his opinion that what motivated these terrorists in waiting was the suffering and indignities heaped upon their people by the western powers - by the United States and the United Kingdom. And the "their" people that he was talking about were fellow Muslims. And remember that one or more of the twenty four suspects had only recently converted to the Islamic faith.
So what are the British dealing with in this case? Seemingly, a case of divided loyalties with loyalty to their co-religionists winning out over loyalty to their country and to their fellow citizens.
This isn’t anything particularly new for English born terrorists. I wrote about it at least three times last year. On July 13, 2005, on July 21, 2005 - and indirectly - on November 3, 2005.
In a somewhat different way, it’s a challenge that we in the United States are more familiar with than the Brits. We are and always have been a nation of immigrants. We fought two wars against Germany and no doubt Americans of German descent were put in the difficult position of fulfilling their duties as a citizen to fight against the land of their ancestors - maybe of their parents. It was probably easier during the second world war, but even then I imagine there were many German Americans who felt themselves being torn in opposite directions.
But in England , the divided loyalty seems to have little to do with national ancestry. We and the Brits didn’t invade Pakistan, nor are we inflicting hardships or indignities upon Pakistani citizens. But apparently, these terrorists in waiting are able to identify with Muslims anywhere and everywhere - in Iraq, in Iran, in the Palestinian territories - and believe that they are their fellow "citizens" - and the country of their birth, the "enemy."
I try to understand this phenomenon by asking myself how American Jews would feel if our relationship with Israel was turned on its head and they were our enemies - even a target for military action? Although Israel is a special situation, unlike any other on earth - there is only one Jewish state - would Jewish-American servicemen find it difficult to go to war against Israel ? Would Jewish Americans commit acts of terror against fellow American citizens? I can’t imagine such a thing for a single minute, but it becomes just a little easier to understand the British terrorists if you try in some way to put yourself in a comparative pair of shoes.
On the other hand, when we went to war against Germany and Italy, our soldiers of German and Italian descent were fighting enemies that may well have shared the same religion - Catholics or any variety of Protestant, but that was never the source of any divided loyalty. By the same token, the Muslim population of the world is in excess of a billion. If Indonesia declared war on the United Kingdom - if they came over and dropped bombs on London - what would cause British subjects of Pakistani descent to decide that the Indonesians were their "fellow citizens’ and their fellow Englishmen "the enemy?"
The only conclusion one can reach is that Islam is the only world religion that commands loyalty to its precepts over loyalty to one’s country and to one’s fellow citizens. I am sure there are hundreds of thousands of Britain’s Muslim population - now in excess of one and a half million - who think of themselves as loyal citizens - and indeed it was the fact that one of them "dropped a dime" that led to the arrest of their fellow, disloyal Muslims. Nonetheless, logic dictates that it is to the Muslim population of any country that we will need to look for the foreseeable future to seek out and uncover plans of terrorists attacks. And as the British have discovered, we will need to be as vigilant close to home as we are in far off places.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
NO SOLUTION FOR TERRORISM IN THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT
In most science fiction stories, far away planets are inhabited by a single race of people, all speaking the same language - and more often than not, ruled by a wise council of elders. Not all of course. There are stories about planets that in some ways mirror the divisions of our earth - but for the most part, science fiction writers think in logical terms and visualize the inhabitants of a planet as I’ve described it. For sure they all speak English - or one of Earth’s languages. It depends in which country the stories are being read or where re-runs of one of the Star Trek series is being televised.
We of course are unlike those fictional planets - and nothing could emphasize that condition more than the news from London about the discovery of a plot to blow up a slew of planes en route from that city to the United States. Kudos to Scotland Yard for their work in cracking the case, to Pakistan for whatever help they provided and whoever first called attention to "strange behavior" of some of the plotters. Let’s hope future such plots, which I’m sure are being hatched as I type, will be similarly uncovered before they result in horrendous loss of life.
Yesterday, I wrote about people trying to use this particular piece of news for political advantage - which contributes absolutely nothing to our need to be more vigilant in protecting ourselves against the crazed actions of crazed individuals. Today, my thoughts are on something more philosophical and far more important.
As with previous events of this nature, the same questions are being asked. Who are these crazies? ? Why do they hate us so much - so much that they’re willing to die in the act of killing a bunch of us? There are answers all over the place - and I guess you can take your pick. President Bush says that they are Islamofascists - even though in this case, most were British born citizens who seemingly led ordinary lives - most of them young and some only recent converts to Islam. But in a lead editorial, on August 11, 2006, the Chicago Tribune’s response to the that question was "what difference does it make?"
Maybe they’re right, terrorists are terrorists - but the question underlying all the who’s and why’s is of course - what can we do about it? When will it ever end? Will we have to go to war with the Moslem world ? Will the Moslem nations go to war against us? Would the outcome of such wars solve the problem of living in a world dominated by fear of terrorism?
I don’t know the answers to those questions - but as for the last one, I have to say that I don’t think so. I think the problem is one that cannot be solved by and in the world as we know it. The problem - the ultimate problem as I see it, is that we are not like one of those fictional worlds of science fiction - more or less one people with one language, one set of ethics, one set of laws, one understanding of right and wrong. We are the mirror image of the people of Genesis who built the Tower of Babel - scattered across the face of the earth and made unable to understand each other’s languages.
Not only language of course, but culture, history and that bugaboo of mankind - religion. It’s as though we are the products of many planets - thrown together on this earth of ours to make do as best we can. And so far, our "best" is about as far from being good enough as it can possibly be. We are like gangs of inmates in a mad house - each in different sections with its own rules and its own gang leaders. On June 20, 2006, I speculated, only half in jest, that indeed our origins could be traced to an original colony of insane humanoids, dumped here by superior being from far off planets eons ago.
So what is the answer to our dilemma? Of all possible solutions, the one that makes the most sense is to have this world move in the direction of those fictional worlds of outer space. To become more alike than un-alike. To have our similarities far outweigh our differences. To have some kind of world order. World Government. World courts. Sharing of the world’s assets. In this country, the thought of "world order" is anathema - particularly to those to the right of the political spectrum. But as long as we remain a world of more than 190 nations with different kinds of governments, speaking more than 30 languages and practicing more than 30 religions, our differences will continue to be the basic source of conflict that creates the madmen who are the purveyors of terror.
The kind of changes that need to happen are not going to happen in my lifetime - or that of my grandchildren - and who knows - we may blow ourselves to smithereens before we ever reach sufficient maturity to be a world of peace and equality. What may happen in my lifetime and that of my grandchildren, is what Newt Gingrich and others say is already here - World War Three. It will solve nothing - but there are leaders of some of the world’s nations who do not believe it can be avoided and it is likely to become a self fulfilling prophecy.
Sorry to sound so pessimistic about the future of mankind to anyone reading these words. If you can convince me that I’m wrong, I’d be more than happy to hear from you - while I’m still here.
9.20 a.m. August 16, 2006 - no matter what date and time you read below…
I forgot to conclude my comments above with this little audio-video gem- totally relevant to the subject matter.
Monday, August 14, 2006
WAR ON TERROR. REPUBLICAN POLITICS AS USUAL
Can anyone still doubt that the "war on terror" is being used by the Republicans and the one identified "Republocrat" as a political weapon? Was there any difference between what Cheney and Lieberman said following his loss to Ned Lamont last week? Cheney said the Lamont victory "would encourage Al-Qaida types who want to break the will of the American people." Lieberman said that Lamont’s call for a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq would be looked on as a victory by the people who were planning those airline attacks and would embolden them!! As if crazed terrorists pay attention to our political debate at home and act accordingly.
How stupid do the Republicans think we - the American voters are? The answer has to be very stupid, otherwise they wouldn’t keep harping on this same ridiculous theme. They think we’ll keep falling for the same crap and keep electing them because they’ll do a better job of "protecting" us than those "cut and run" Democrats!! Sure. I hear that Tom DeLay is planning to put on a uniform and hook up with O.J. Simpson to hunt for terrorists lurking on the nation’s golf courses.
And now of course, Bush and everyone else in the Bush administration is jumping all over the foiled British plot as an example of what? That there are still nutty terrorists out to do harm to us in the west and that if it had been the Democrats in power, those British terrorists would have succeeded? And doesn’t this latest foiled plot show how right we are to be fighting all those terrorists in Iraq?
It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry. If we can believe news stories about the communications that went on between the United States and British authorities before the arrests were made, it shows how politics trumps competence when it comes to dealing with the issue of terrorism. The British secret service had been monitoring their group of home grown terrorists closely for months, waiting for their plans to take the kind of shape that would later hold up in a court of law. Getting passports. Booking flights. And acquiring the ingredients to make the explosives that they needed to blow up ten planes over the Atlantic. The Brits thought that the terrorists were close, but they wanted to watch them until they had iron clad evidence. Some news stories say that they moved in on the group after an arrest was made in Pakistan, fearing that this might tip them off. But there’s also a story that it was the Bush administration that wanted them arrested now - and if that’s true , obviously the US prevailed over the UK, providing more proof for many that Tony Blair is little more than a lap dog for Bush and needs to step aside a lot earlier than planned.
But the thing that makes me want to laugh or cry more than anything else is that the Bush administration is trying to tie this foiled plot to its version of the "war on terror" and specifically to the disaster that is Iraq - in the face of the best possible proof that one could wish for that you don’t fight crazed individual terrorists and terrorist cells with major military action - but with police and secret service work. Just think of how much that kind of anti-terrorism activity could have been financed by the billions spent on Iraq. It’s enough to make you sick.
By the way, what odds do you think there are for Joe Lieberman to address the Republican convention in 2008? Maybe even as the keynote speaker?
Of course there are terrorists who can only be fought using military means. That’s when the terrorists are on your border and armed with deadly rockets and sworn to destroy you and wipe your country off the face of the earth. They don’t care if their evil intent results in great destruction to the country that houses them and allows them to function as a state within a state. Their mission is the greater good - and besides, any resistance by the hated enemy will be condemned by the world as a "disproportionate" response. You see, they know that history is on their side. Whenever these people resist, the world draws back in horror and cries "disproportionate" - "over reaction!!"
You don’t think so? Take a look. And look closely at the date.
It's not really the New York Times of that date - just the way the paper might have read if today's editors had been in charge 63 years ago. But it does represent a compilation of the thinking of that time.
And just think. If there had been a different world reaction then, there might not have been a modern state of Israel now!!!
Thursday, August 10, 2006
"LIEBERMAN. PARTY OF ONE!"
With Apologies to "Seinfeld"
It was painful to watch and listen to Joe Lieberman rationalize his decision to ignore the results of the Connecticut Democratic primary and run in November as an independent - or a "petitioning Democrat" whatever that is supposed to mean. It was painful to listen to him explain how the vote didn’t represent the will of "main stream" Americans - presumably meaning that only those who voted for him were "main stream." It was painful to listen to him explain how the Lamont vote represented such a small percentage of Connecticut voters while ignoring his own, even smaller percentage.
It was painful to hear someone who asks that his entire record be considered by voters and not his recent support of the President - and at the same complain about the absence of non-partisanship in Washington - and use that as an excuse for running as an independent.
But most of all it was painful to hear him talk about his decision to run as pursuing a "mission." Who and what does that remind you of? Does the name Ralph Nader come to mind along with the 2,000 election? Here was also a man so enamored with his own sense of rectitude that he didn't care if his candidacy might hand the election to the worst possible candidate - which of course it did - and the nation has been suffering for it ever since.
Now we have Joe Lieberman talking about the evils of partisanship as the reason he will choose to ignore the voters who have told him he is not their candidate - insulting each and every one of them in his post loss statements - and preaching the need for non-partisanship at a moment in history when partisanship is needed as never before to regain the reigns of government from the ultra- partisan, rubber stamp, duty abdicating Republican Congress.
Joe Lieberman might win in a three way race, but it is just as likely that he will split the Democratic vote and allow the Republican to win - and perhaps tip the scales against the Democratic chances of regaining the Senate.
That he is willing to take that chance tells me that despite all of his rationalizations and spinning - this is more about Joe Lieberman than about the voters of Connecticut and the country at large. I think the answer can be found in what he calls the campaign for his independent bid. "Connecticut for Lieberman" instead of "Lieberman for Connecticut."
I don’t exactly concur with the views expressed here or here, but my respect for the Junior Senator from Connecticut has dropped by more percentage points than he lost to Ned Lamont.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
MEL GIBSON - IN VINO VERITAS
It doesn’t surprise me that friends are coming to the defense of Mel Gibson, nor does it surprise me that a Jewish couple, Devlin and Tom Sherak, is insisting that he isn’t anti-Semitic. How could he be they ask, when he’s friendly with us?? The only answer I can think of to that question is that the Sheraks must be living their lives in a bubble.
Here’s a flash for the Sheraks and other Jews who may think as they do. An anti-Semite can be friendly - even close to a Jew or a Jewish couple and be no less anti-Semitic. That’s because the anti-Semite separates out the "good Jews" that he’s friendly with - from "The Jews."
There are people who are culturally anti-Semitic without being proactive haters. They are that way because they grew up in a society where anti-Semitism - overt or covert - was a part of the culture - and that applies to much of the western world. If they were Catholic, they of course knew of the "perfidious Jews." It’s no longer part of Good Friday prayers - but it’s done it’s job.. But they didn’t need to be Catholic to become ingrained with all of the anti-Semitic mythology that has been part of western culture for generations - even if not enough of it rubbed off on them to become proactive anti-Semites.
Mel Gibson is the other kind. He learned to hate Jews at his father’s knee. Remember, when asked about Hutton Gibson’s virulent anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, he said that his father never lied to him. No, he probably didn’t. He probably made it clear that he hated Jews - that in his opinion, Jews were the devil incarnate. And it sunk in. And it’s there with his portrayal of Jews in his fictional movie about the death of Jesus.
But Mel Gibson is also a well traveled man, a competent businessman and an actor. He couldn’t have traveled as far in his career if he had worn his anti-Semitism openly on his sleeve. And so it wasn’t that strange for him to acquire friends who happen to be Jewish.
In anti-Semitic circles, a talented Jew or a contributing Jew or a business savvy Jew is tolerated - perhaps even given the feeling of acceptance and friendship - but let something go terribly wrong in some way and he soon becomes "That Goddamned Jew."
I one lived next door to an interfaith couple in the days when my home was a tiny English basement apartment. He was Jewish. She was Christian. I can’t remember which branch - but it’s not important. They got to arguing - I forget about what - but it was loud - and carried very easily from their apartment to ours. It finally got to the point where they broke up and the marriage ended - but not before she had called him a "Goddamned Jew." Now it’s possible that she might have used that expression deliberately to inflict hurt - but she also told him that "You Jews are all alike" - which sounded more like repressed anti-Semitism coming to the surface.
I guess what I’m saying is, if someone with anti-Semitic feelings and beliefs lurking behind a thin veneer of understanding and tolerance can marry a Jew, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to discover that an anti-Semite has Jewish friends who refuse to believe that he’s anti-Semitic.
That anti-Semitism still abounds is without question. It’s been on the rise in Europe for years. And now anti-Israel expression has become a convenient substitute for anti-Semitism. It doesn’t sound as bad to say "those Goddamned Israelis" as it does "those Goddamned Jews." We hear lots of people say that being critical of Israel doesn’t necessarily make one an anti-Semite - and it is of course very true. Israelis themselves can be and are highly critical of their government - and you certainly couldn’t call an Israeli Jew an anti-Semite. But make no mistake about it - when some people complain about Israel’s actions or about "all the foreign aid" we give to Israel - they’re really talking about "the Jews." Just as when the Air France plane flying from Israel to Paris was hijacked by Palestinian and German terrorists and taken to Entebbe in Uganda - it was the hundred or so Jews who were held hostage when the rest of the passengers were let go. Not just Israelis - but Jews!!
I suppose Gibson could change. There are stories about Nazis who became anti-Nazis and racial bigots who became advocates of racial equality. But as of now, the Gibson who is being defended by friends has revealed himself in no uncertain terms for what he is. A died in the wool anti-Semite.
In Vino Veritas!!
Monday, August 07, 2006
GOODBYE JOE - YOU GOTTA GO - OH ME OH MY OH
I have a thought about Joe Lieberman and what may be the thing that will sink him in tomorrow’s Democratic primary in Connecticut.
I can’t get inside Joe’s head, so I can’t tell when and why he came to his conclusions about the Iraq adventure, but I have a sneaking hunch it might have had something to do with his ambition to become the Democratic candidate for the White House - and that before and during the primaries for that job, he wanted to separate himself from the rest of the candidates. And what better way to do that than to insist that Iraq and the world would be much better off without Saddam Hussein in power - and that anyone who didn’t agree with that stance didn’t understand the world and/or is out of touch with reality. Certainly as a way to put him way out ahead of Kerry on the subject and to belittle the views of Dean, Clark, Kucinich and Sharpton.
On the other hand, he might be sincere in his belief that invading Iraq was a brilliant idea and that any criticism of the war is indeed undermining the authority of the President of the United States and is pretty close to being treasonous. Either way, this time tomorrow, Joe Lieberman will be on his way to being an ex-Senator.
Armchair "Experts" Tell Us Why Israel Really Went to War
First it was Mike Papantonio with guest Wayne Madsen on "Ring of Fire" a week ago Sunday - and then Juan Cole the other day guesting on the Thom Hartman show. Both telling us that what is going on in the Middle East was something planned by Israel in collusion with the United States. Israeli military came here and cooked up the who scenario to invade Lebanon and wipe out Hezbollah. The Hezbollah attack just gave them a good excuse to launch this "planned" event.
There’s just a couple of things that I find wrong with this scenario. First that it isn’t in bold headlines on our leading newspapers across the country. They do have investigative reporters you know. Second that it isn’t in bold headlines in Israeli newspapers which for the most part have been highly critical of the way this war is being conducted - and particularly the lack of readiness of reserves that are being called up and pressed into service. Third - there has been no word of this grand plan from Israeli pundits and newsletter writers who have intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the Israeli cabinet and the IDF and have been writing and warning about Hezbollah for years. Some of them are currently in uniform and involved in the battle. But then how could they know as much as Wayne Madsen and Juan Cole? They’re on the spot. Far too close to what’s going on to understand what’s going on.
If this was a "planned" attack by Israel, then all of the country’s top military brass should be fired immediately. What kind of a "plan" is it to launch an air attack that couldn’t possibly reach the portable rocket fire power of Hezbollah, hidden in houses and garages and in tunnels and bunkers? If there was such a "plan" - the military brass should be fired on that basis alone.
But the story of a US/Israel planned attack sounds less plausible when you listen closely to one of the story tellers talk about Hezbollah. Juan Cole, talking to Thom Hartman on his radio show, insisted that Hezbollah had only a handful of dangerous rockets. Most of what they had were those relatively harmless Katusha rockets that can only travel three or four miles!!
Tell that to Israelis living ten, twenty, thirty, forty and fifty miles south of the Israeli/Lebanese border, hiding in their shelters day after day after day as those "handful" of dangerous rockets rains down on them!! What else would you have us believe Professor Cole? Based on your vast knowledge of the Middle East and secret war plans.
A New Definition of Arrogance
"My Goodness." That was the initial response of Donald Rumsfeld appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to Hillary Clinton’s prepared statement about the failures of our Iraq policy, ending with this comment and question ;
Because of the Administration's strategic blunders, and frankly the record of incompetence in executing, you are presiding over a failed policy. Given your track record, Secretary Rumsfeld, why should we believe your assurances now?"My Goodness." Or - "I can’t believe you would challenge me in this manner." Or "Who do you think you are, questioning my competence?" It isn’t there yet, but I predict those words will appear as a Wikipedia entry as being synonymous with and a definition of unadulterated arrogance - and shortly thereafter will appear, hyphenated, in dictionaries world wide with that same definition.
Remember, this was after Rumsfeld had refused to appear before the committee, claiming to be too busy, so he was there with great reluctance and his arrogance meter was probably running at high gear.
He gave a lengthy response to all that Clinton had alleged and to her question - and you can find it all on line if you’re interested - her statement and his. But none of it is important. Just him revealing to the world the extent of his arrogance - and by extension that of the entire administration. He and they will never admit a mistake or an error in judgment - and this man, perhaps the worst secretary of defense in history, will go to his grave believing that he is some kind of genius and that anyone who questions his handling of the Iraqi debacle simply doesn’t understand the situation.
"My Goodness" Arrogant. Dismissive. And one can only hope his epitaph if the balance of power changes in November and the pressure to dump him becomes too unbearable for even Dubya to resist. One can only hope.
Friday, August 04, 2006
WHY THEY HATE ISRAEL
Victor Davis Hanson, with whom I frequently disagree - but with whom, along with some other conservative columnists and pundits, I find myself in agreement with over the current Middle East crisis, has an interesting offering in today’s Chicago Tribune. His analysis is that the Muslim countries blame the west - and particularly the United Sates for their own state of misery and lack of accomplishment and that Israel and its accomplishments, is the nearest "bogeyman" on which they can vent their hatred.
It’s an interesting theory and brings to mind the reaction a few years ago to the French Ambassador to England’s assertion that Israel was a "shitty little country."
The following has been around for quite a while. I don’t know it’s origins nor can I vouch for the accuracy of everything it asserts, but I think it’s all verifiable if you want to take the trouble to do the research.
A SHITTY LITTLE COUNTRY?
The Middle East has been growing date palms for centuries. The average tree is about 18-20 feet tall and yields about 38 pounds of dates a year. Israeli date trees are now yielding 400 pounds/year and are short enough to be harvested from the ground or a short ladder.What have any of the other countries in the Mid-East contributed to the world other than hatred, intolerance and oppression of their own people - especially women??
AND THE FRENCH AMBASSADOR IN ENGLAND SAYS :
"ISRAEL IS NOTHING BUT A SHITTY LITTLE COUNTRY"
Thursday, August 03, 2006
CRITIQUING "PROGRESSIVE" RADIO
I’m giving the Israeli/Hezbollah conflict a rest for a while. - at least for today. It’s just too frustrating to try to make any sense out of what is going on. Instead, I’ll post a brief comment on just one news item about the conflict that grabbed my attention. Today it’s that of a Human Rights Watch report which says that the deaths at Qana were more like 28 - not 50 or 60. There’s also commentary all over the Internet about the whole thing being staged by Hezbollah - and even that smaller number is being disputed. But Human Rights Watch isn’t being kind to Israel. It also says that many Israeli air strikes appear to be against targets without military significance. So I pose the question to Human Rights Watch or anyone else who would like to chime in with their words of wisdom. Where are the Hezbollah? Where are the "military" targets? Human Rights Watch seems to know where they’re not. Perhaps they know where they are!
Now I’m probably going to contradict myself because today I want to comment on a topic that I haven’t touched in more than a year - liberal radio broadcasting and in particular Air America Radio. And the contradiction will come because, among other thins, I’m not too happy about the way so called progressive talk show hosts are handling the Israeli/Hezbollah conflict. I find it disappointing and just a tad ironic that so called liberal broadcasters are having a hard time being solidly behind Israel - as opposed to the overwhelming support from conservative talkers.
Way back on October 15, 2003, before Air America hit the airwaves, I predicted it would fail. My reasoning is there in my post of that day if you’d care to click on it. On April 16, 2004 I backed off a little bit. I said then that I thought it was quite listenable but I was critical of what I perceived to be their business plan. And then on April 20, 2005, I repeated my criticism of their business plan - and as far as I can recall, these are the only three times I’ve devoted an entire blog posting to the subject of "progressive" radio. This will be the fourth - other than my opening paragraph on the Human Rights Watch comments.
I listen to a local station that carries Air America and some syndicated liberal hosts. I don’t listen to every program and I don’t listen all day, but I listen to as much as I can - and as much as I can stand. It isn’t bad - but it’s a long way from being good - and I’m going to be critical of what I think is bad.
The early morning host, Rachel Maddow - is as articulate a broadcaster as you would want. She’s a good interviewer and never wanders all over the place trying to find a question to ask. It’s obvious that she listens to her guests and bounces off of what they have to say. She has a tough time competing against local broadcasting, because people are more comfortable with a local connection - and she can sound a bit hyper from time to time, but overall I would give her a B plus. One criticism I have is her annoying (to me) giggling at anything Kent Jones - her sidekick - says. He’s not that funny.
Jerry Springer is an intelligent man who quite often conducts a talk show that makes for good listening. He just as often drives me nuts and I can’t count the number of times I have turned him off in disgust. Particularly when I’m in the car in the morning and he affects me in that way, I will punch in Laura Ingraham on a local right wing station. She’s not as vitriolic as Ann Coulter and is frequently talking about something of topical interest while Jerry is being annoying.
Here are a few specifics. The use of phrases such as "I understand what you’re saying" or "I agree with you but" are like forks on a plate when I’m listening to Springer. People can call with the most ridiculous statements and Jerry will listen and then, more often than not, tell them that he "understands" their nonsense before he tries to refute it. He will suffer fools. He’ll let then jabber on and on without interrupting or - as he should do - cutting them off. This morning someone called who wanted to compare the birth of Israel with that of the United States. "People came," he said, speaking of emigrants to Israel - "liked what they saw and set up shop!!" That was just the guy’s opening line and he went on from there, speaking uninterrupted for two or three minutes. Not only did he not cut this fool off and move on to another caller - but when the guy paused for breath, Springer, stammering and stuttering, tried to respond to him. "Liked what they saw and set up shop!!" And Springer let him go on from there!!
On other occasions, I have punched into his show and he’s talking about the dangers of smoking or mother/daughter problems or sex education - doing a poor imitation of PBS - while the conservative shows he’s up against are talking about politics or Iraq or Israel.
But don’t get me wrong. I don’t dislike Jerry. He means well, poor fellow.
Al Franken is supposed to be the anchor performer in the Air America Radio line up. Al may be a fair to middling comedy writer and performer but talk radio is not his forte. He is about as bad an interviewer as I’ve heard. One of these days, I’ll dig out my trusty stop watch and try to time the cumulative minutes of er, ah,uh., you know, that is, um um, lemme ask, er, er, er that occur in a single broadcast. I wouldn’t say that they’d match the amount of time used up by actual words - but they would make a sizable chunk.
The Franken show is practically all interviews - most of them with a cast of regular guests. He doesn’t take calls from the audience. I guess he thinks its amusing, but he has musical themes that introduce some of his regulars - a couple of which he sings to introduce them. He may think it’s amusing. I think it’s juvenile and irritating. Much of what passes for interviewing for Franken is to make statements that he tries to get the guest to agree with. The good "interviews" are where he just lets articulate regulars vent. Tom Oliphant is a good example of someone worth listening to when Al gets out of the way and lets him talk.
Maybe the most annoying thing about the Franken show is the frequent appearance of his "resident dittohead" - a high school friend who is a Limbaugh devotee. The "feature" consists of playing some of Limbaugh’s more ridiculous comments that his old friend defends as not at all ridiculous while Franken tries to convince him that it is. . The whole bit is ridiculous and a waste of valuable air time.
Randi Rhodes is carried by my local station from 5 to 9 p.m. so I only get to listen to the first 10 to 20 minutes of her show on the way home after picking up my wife from work. When I get home, I don’t turn her on. I want to check on the news - CNN or some other television station. And in the winter I don’t get to listen to her at all. The local Air America Outlet is a daytimer with a weak signal and by five in the winter months , the signal is being drowned out by other stations.
I’ve seen Randi on television shows jousting with conservative broadcasters and she more than holds her own. And she doesn’t sound crazy. I wish I could say the same for her radio show - or at least her daily opening harangue. I think the best way that I can describe it is that it is often incoherent. I can listen for five minutes or so and then ask my wife - what the hell is she talking about? Perhaps part of the problem is that Randi doesn’t finish sentences. Sometimes not even words. You have to try to follow the sounds and the inflections to make sense of what’s she’s trying to say. And her daily assault on anything that the President does or says is just plain juvenile. One can dislike Mr. Bush and think he’s incompetent - which indeed is my opinion of him - but to go out of your way to be derisive about the most innocuous comments that the man might have made that day or the day before, is reaching for the gutter where Randi insists all the right wing talk show monsters wallow all day.
One final critique - not of an Air America team member but someone who’s on a lot of Air America stations - and that’s Ed Schultz - who promotes himself as America’s leading progressive talk show host. Ed is one who says he supports the Israeli position in the conflict with Hezbollah, but he doesn’t sound like someone who is well grounded in the history of the region when he tries to argue with callers who disagree with his support - particularly when they make outlandishly untruthful assertions that he doesn’t answer or correct.
My major criticism of Schultz is his obsession with himself and his role as the premier "progressive" talk show host in the country. Again and again he tells the story of how "they" said "it" wouldn’t work and how he has defied the odds and is now on maybe 80 or 90 stations. We don’t know for sure because his web site doesn’t list the stations that carry his show - just a way to find out which stations may be carrying it in your state. In Kansas for instance - you can find one station, broadcasting out of Lawrence.
In addition to his frequent reminders to his audience that "they" were wrong about the viability of progressive talk radio - he occasionally vents his disgust at the ownership and personal philosophies of radio stations that won’t carry him or that drop him when there is a change in format or when local pressure is brought to bear by people who disagree with him. It’s unusual. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a broadcaster complain about his personal difficulty in finding stations to carry his show. It rubs me the wrong way.
There’ll be more critical comments on more "progressive" broadcasters and on Air America down the road - but all in a spirit of friendliness. And when I come back to criticise them, I’ll still be one of their regular listeners. I’ve listened to the "other side" - and there’s no comparison when it comes to truth, tolerance and common sense. The RWRAR’s just don’t have it.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
IT’S (still) A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD
I do want to get away from recording observations about the crisis in the Middle East and on to other events and news of the day, but it’s difficult to get this horrible state of affairs out of my mind and off these pages. I have no great words of wisdom to apply to the problem - and even if I did, no one would pay any attention. The madness that gripped the region decades go hasn’t let up one iota and shows no signs of changing now, now matter how often Condoleezza Rice and Ehud Olmert say that there must be a solution that doesn’t return to the status quo ante. Condy seems to be in love with that phrase. Wants us all to know that she can quote Latin as well as play the piano.
Of course there are solutions for sane people. On his radio show this morning, Jerry Springer came up with some kind of an idea for creating a Palestinian state , after which the objectors would have nothing to object about other than their objection to the very idea of a State of Israel!! Such brilliant thinking. I’m sure he means well - just as I did when I posted my "Ideal Two State Solution" back in October, 2003. People involved in The People’s Voice - a peace movement in Israel - liked my general ideas - but even they wanted to inject complications - see their letter to me which I reproduced in my comments of October 28, 2003.
The current military campaign to "destroy" Hezbollah is doomed to failure. Israel can bomb Lebanon back to the nineteenth century and it won’t produce any solution to the basic problem - which is madness - the madness of the Islamic crazies. People who should know better keep coming back to resolving the Israeli "occupation" of "Palestinian territories" as the key to bringing peace to the region. It’s nonsense of course - as witness the wonderful peace that existed before there was any such occupation.
The most that Israel can hope for on its northern border is an improvement over what existed before this latest blow up - which was an uneasy sort of truce - just low level back and forth pot shots across the border. Maybe some way can be found to make it better by forcing Hezbollah to move far enough away so that Israeli towns and kibbutzim will be out of range of the their arsenal of rockets. But to get them to disband and disarm and for this to lead to peace - to the longed for "new" Middle East? Good luck to that dream.
Much as I think Bush is as incompetent a President as I have known in my lifetime - along with a bevy of equally incompetent cabinet members and advisors - he and they are right about one thing That there is a far greater problem to be solved than the current fighting between Israel and Hezbollah. Or between Israel and Palestinians. What they may not understand - or perhaps not want to understand, is that the problem is far greater than a nation of nuts wanting to develop atomic weapons or giving aid and comfort to terrorists. It’s a problem of their crazed beliefs - which is a mirror image of some of our crazed beliefs - the only major difference being that they want their crazed beliefs to be the only ones tolerated in the world - whereas - for the moment a least - we’re content with our knowledge that their beliefs are "wrong" and ours are "right." And I say "at the moment" because I’m sure there are people here who believe that Christianity should rule the world and would like to see some form of modern "Crusade" to bring about that end.
It’s been a while since I wrote anything of substance about religion - which of course is what I’m talking about - and it’s probably time to vent again - maybe in the next few days or weeks. Not today. The subject of any and all religions being at the root of so much of the word’s miseries is a little too much to tackle while the immediate problem of daily death and destruction in Lebanon and Israel commands all of our attention.
Maybe just one example of religious madness - a domestic one. Our non-bigoted Jew hater, Mel Gibson who is now looking for guidance from a forgiving Jew.
An example of the madness of the world of religion. Here’s a man who professes to be deeply religious. He believes in a deity. He believes in a deity that "sent" a representative of its omniscience down to earth in the form of a human being - and he worships the memory and image of that representative of omniscience with the same fervor that he worships the sender. That "representative" - as we all know, is reputed to have been a Jewish preacher named Jesus, who lived and preached in Israel some two thousand years ago. . He is reputed to have been true to his Jewish faith. Yet Mr. Gibson, along with countless millions of bigots from the past and of the present, see nothing illogical about hating members of the faith that Jesus practiced - at the same time professing love and admiration of the man himself - their hate of course based on the illogic that "they" - his fellow Jews - killed him. But they also embrace the concept that his death was foreordained - was indeed part of a grand plan of the omniscient one. That Jesus was destined to die in the manner in which he expired as atonement for the sins of man. So if Gibson or his fellow bigots actually believe that "the Jews" - or the Romans - or a passing band of gypsies - were responsible for the death of the one they worship - they were helping to fulfill his destiny - and you would think that they would be revered for that - not persecuted. But then we’re talking about religion - not logic.
Of course the Muslims who hate Jews and want them all killed come at their bigotry from a different angle, proving that the death of a deity is not a requirement for the birth and sustenance of irrational hatred. Just insanity.