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Showing posts from December, 2008

Last day of the year: contemplating American Exceptionalism

I have learned quite graphically over the past two days that differences of opinion over Israel and the Palestinians are--if possible--more polarizing than differences over abortion rights or gay marriage. There appears to be a sort of absolute moral calculus involved in contemplating that confict that eliminates all possibility of reasonable discourse between otherwise rational people. So be it. Strangely enough, this got me to thinking about another moral absolute for many, many of my fellow citizens: the idea that the United States and her citizens represent something unique among all the nations and peoples of the world, a beacon of freedom, a nation given a special mission by God to spread democracy and human freedom around the world.... A city on a hill.... The greatest country God gave any people... Manifest destiny.... They hate us for our freedom.... As far as I know (and most authorities agree with me), the term American Exceptionalism was coined by the Frenchman,

Does criticism of Israel equate to support for Hamas?

In 1943 the German Army discovered a mass grave of Polish officers, executed by the Soviet NKVD (forerunner of the KGB) after the partition of Poland in 1939. Sensing a gigantic propaganda opportunity, the Nazis invited in the international press, to say, Look, what a mass-murdering bastard Stalin is! Of course, by that time, 80% of all the Jews who would die in the Holocaust were already dead. Did the fact that the Third Reich had committed genocide absolve the Soviet Union of mass murder? Another case: during the final round of the Seminole Wars in the early 1830s, the United States Army managed to defeat the elusive Seminoles under Tecumsah by simply burning their crops and continuing operations through the summer in order to prevent them from planting any more. As Seminole children began starving, the leaders--including Tecumsah--found themselves forced to parley. Tecumsah was eventually executed by the US Army in a bizarre set of circumstances. Our justification for tacti

A just cause operates in daylight, right?

Now, stung by an unusually bad reception for its Gaza attacks in online media, the Israeli Defense Force has decided to go into the spin business itself : Across the world, mainstream journalists are expressing increasing disquiet at the way the Israeli government is trying to manage international coverage of its war on the Gaza Strip. Journalists have been barred not just from the strip itself, but the government is now prohibiting journalists from going to parts of Israel near the Gaza Strip.... The Israeli military has therefore announced that online media and the blogosphere are another warzone for the military to manage. To that end, the military is launching its own Youtube channel to bring the viewing public footage of “precision bombing operations” in the strip. In ensuring that the only footage of their military operation is provided directly from them, the Israeli military is another step closer to completely managing public perception of the ongoing attacks. The military

President-elect Obama's silence on the Gaza killings should not be a surprise...

.... even though people didn't want to hear what he was saying during his campaign, or examine the Muslim world's responses to his appointment of Rahm Emmanuel as Chief of Staff. Waiting to see the steel in his spine.... [An aside for Hube and others who take a pro-Israel stance here: read the second link and find out just how carefully Barack Obama tried to have it both ways--once before an Arab group and then before AIPAC. Exactly who does the man support, and what does he really know about the situation?}

Will President Obama nix the US Army's new domestic mission?

I'd write a post breaking the news that the Pentagon (read SecDef Gates of both the current and soon-to-be administrations) is looking more an more seriously at employing American soldiers under Federal control in domestic law enforcement, peace-keeping, and disaster-relief rolls, like my friends at or Delawareliberal , except.... That I first posted on the issue almost exactly three months ago, and followed it up several days ago . The steady erosion of posse comitatus restrictions on national military forces has been under way since the 1980s, primarily through the vehicles of the war on drugs and the war on brown people without papers . It's a done deal. The 3rd Infantry Division is not only being assigned the duty under Northcom, it's being expanded into the Army's largest division (at 25,000 troops with five brigades) to handle the task. So the question to ask now is, "What is President Obama going to do about it?" Does he support t

New Labour Attempts To Export Its Police State

I lived almost five years in the UK, and during that time, I got to watch what happens to a relatively free Western society when the Nanny State crosses the line over into a police state. And make no mistake, New Labour's Britain is undoubtedly a police state these days. When I lived there, I watched as prison and/or draconian fines became a standard punishment for even the most minor of "crimes." Buy the wrong class of ticket for a train? Fine and prison. Use a garden hose during a "water shortage" (caused by leaky pipes in a country where most of the year is rainy and overcast)? Fine and prison. Demonstrate within one mile of Parliament? Fine and prison. (This law was passed after ruling party MPs got tired of seeing angry anti-war demonstrators out of their windows on their way to work). Incidentally, this law means that most of Central London, including Trafalgar Square, is now off-limits for political speech and demonstrations. The outrage over

The limits of philosophy meet the realities of the melt-down

Two arguments from individuals in the blogosphere whom I respect deserve legitimate answers: First, from Waldo (because I believe he posted it first) Greer is a small town in a pretty prosperous part of the Upstate [South Carolina]. Yet the number of people in need is growing. The support from the private sector is decreasing as the economic pinch gets worse. What's the free market solution? Where are those billions that went to faith-based initiatives? Point of clarification: Waldo is, as usual, tilting at the specific windmill of the SC GOP, but the question is one that Libertarians need to answer as well. Second, from Dana at Delaware Watch [I could pick any number of posts here, Dana, but I'm using this one as representative]: Here's an outcome of the recession that people will enjoy who never saw a welfare program they liked [Followed by an extensive clip of States citing budgetary shortfalls to cut Medicaid benefits; you can read it there; I'm not citin

The beliefs of Rick Warren (before he revised them)...

... for which you will have to go here to find the PDF shot of the Saddleback FAQ page before Warren had it revised after Barack Obama's invitation. (Go here if you'd like to see how Saddleback has sanitized this page.) Here's a selection: On Jews: Of course, today there are not as great a number of Jewish believers in Jesus as we would expect. If they are God’s chosen people, why aren’t more choosing faith in him? The Bible tells us in Romans 11 that there will be a day when this will change – a day when there will be a great revival of faith in God through Jesus among the Jewish people. Obviously, this is a day that we, as believers in Christ, want to pray for! On dinosaurs: The Bible tells in Genesis 1 that God made the world in seven days, and that he made all of the animals on the fifth day and the sixth day. All of the animals were created at the same time, so they all walked the earth at the same time. I know that the pictures we all grew up with in the mo

Eric Dondero labels all who oppose Iraqi War as Nazis or Stalinists...

...although he does it on the comments page , rather than have the fortitude to do so in a post: Actually Stefan, IMHO, being Anti-Iraq War, is not just "extremely Leftwing," but v ery close to Nazi or Stalinist Authoritarian . If you oppose the War in Iraq, you are essentially saying "I support Saddam Hussein, and wish he was still President of Iraq." Recall Hussein was a Hitler worshipper, even knelt down 4 times a day in his Uncle's hut, to a large portrait of the Nazi leader, with candles around him. So, being Anti-War in Iraq, is not so much "extremist," more Hitler-like. I mention this because Eric likes to drop by here and call people names when they don't agree with him, like when he's running outrageous, manufactured stories about WMDs found in Iraq (the Tuwaitha yellowcake that Dubya himself handed back to the Iraqi security forces as no threat [we'd known about it since 1991]), support for the racist Sonny Landham as th

Gaza killings raise the question of "change" in Obama administration foreign policy

Now that over 287 Palestinians have been killed and over 700 wounded in the latest round of Israeli rocket attacks on Gaza, world reactions are starting to pour in : Russia was one of the first to respond, with a foreign ministry spokesman calling for an immediate halt to attacks by both forces. The European Union likewise called for a return to the cease-fire, saying there was “no military solution in Gaza” and urging Israel to allow the resumption of humanitarian aid. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said it was “an unimaginable and unacceptable act,” while the Jordanian government is pressuring the Arab League to unite in favor of an immediate end to the attacks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is reportedly in talks with the King of Saudi Arabia about the situation as well. As Gaza’s hospitals filled with dead and wounded, Egypt has opened the Rafah border crossing to allow ambulances to bring in the wounded. Virtually alone in refusing to criticize the killings wa

Considering The Genesis Of Anti-Religious Hostility

Have a read over Obama's new buddy Rick Warren's fawning praise of Nigerian Anglican Bishop Peter Akinola : On April 30, 2006, pastor Rick Warren wrote an op-ed, for Time Magazine, which lavished praise on Akinola, likening the cleric to Nelson Mandela: "Akinola personifies the epochal change in the Christian church, namely that the leadership, influence, growth and center of gravity in Christianity is shifting from the northern hemisphere to the southern. New African, Asian and Latin American church leaders like Akinola, 61, are bright, biblical, courageous and willing to point out the inconsistencies, weaknesses and theological drift in Western churches." "...Akinola has the strength of a lion, useful in confronting Third World fundamentalism and First World relativism." "...I believe he, like Mandela, is a man of peace and his leadership is a model for Christians around the world." Then, consider what Akinola hath wrought in Nigeria: Pete

Libertarian National Committee Deathwatch Part 2

Imagine if Rob Power, Outright Libertarians' popular chair, had been put in place as the LNC's communications director. Imagine if, in every press release on behalf of the LNC, he referred to Ron Paul supporters as "Paultards." And imagine if, after being contacted and asked to stop -- by a large number of paying members -- he refused. Pretty amazing, huh? What if I told you that a similar situation happened at the LNC for most of last year and into this year? Former communications director (and Bob Barr recruiter/supporter) Stephen Gordon did the equivalent to Outright Libertarians for most of last year. Last year, we had two very simple requests of the LNC -- a press release on Freedom To Marry Week slamming government marriage licensing, and the use of the word "LGBT" in place of "homosexual" (which has a pejorative connotation to many LGBT people). Gordon refused both requests, and actively fought the simple language request. And then-L

Isn't it great when you can actually watching crap rolling down the slippery slope?

... as in the new internet censorship scheme in Australia? I don't think, after this post from Thoughts on Freedom , that you can legitimately call it filtering any more: The Federal Government’s unspeakable internet filtering plan just got a whole lot scarier: THE Federal Government’s controversial internet censorship scheme may extend to filter more online traffic than was first thought, Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy revealed today. In a post on his department’s blog, Senator Conroy today said technology that could filter data sent directly between computers would be tested as part of the upcoming live filtering trial. “Technology that filters peer-to-peer and BitTorrent traffic does exist and it is anticipated that the effectiveness of this will be tested in the live pilot trial,” Senator Conroy said. Oh good. Because stateful inspection of every peer to peer connection in Australia is sure to go off without a hitch. When the government first came out with the filt

I know where the WMDs are ...

... and who's most ready to use them. That would be Pakistan , of course, with an estimated 60-120 nukes of up to 35 KT throw weight, and India , with an estimated 45-100 warheads deliverable by ballistic missles, cruise missiles, and/or nuclear submarine-launched missiles. Latest reports have Pakistan moving troops away from the Afghani border toward India, and the Indian Air Force probing for gaps in the Paki radar net. In case anybody has missed this, here's the abstract of a 2007 study published in New Scientist regarding a limited nuclear exchange between the two countries: A nuclear war between India and Pakistan could cause one billion people to starve to death around the world, and hundreds of millions more to die from disease and conflicts over food.... Earlier studies have suggested that such a conflict would throw five million tonnes of black soot into the atmosphere, triggering a reduction of 1.25°C in the average temperature at the earth's surface for se

Libertarian National Committee Deathwatch Part 1

As the LNC continues to lurch towards collapse, with the latest news of mass layoffs at HQ, I've decided to begin tracking those things leading the national party to irrelevance, even as state and local parties gain power. As news, rumors and rhetoric break out, I shall chronicle them in this ongoing series at Delaware Libertarian. Organizations approaching failure have a number of characteristics. One of the most striking is renunciation of their purpose and effort to reinvent themselves as a "me-too" provider of services in the marketplace. In this, the LNC has been on a collision course with destiny for a while now. Recently, for example, it hired Republican Party web site developer TerraEclipse to redesign the LNC web site . Terra created a web site very similar to those of the clients it brags most about -- far-right Republican conservatives like Tom McClintock and BJ Lawson. A quick look at the web site they built for the LNC is instructive. The tagline o

Taking Up Steve's Challenge: Part 2 (A Day Late)

Now, some unsolicited advice for unbelievers: 1) Stop being so sanctimonious. So a lack of belief constitutes "common sense" for many of us, including you. Common sense is, by definition, common. Your decision to reject religious belief doesn't make you extraordinarily intelligent, gifted, or really all that unique, especially these days. Stop pretending you're a font of intellect that all others should drink copiously from. 2) Drop the absolutism about the evils of all belief. Religious beliefs are diverse, as are the outcomes of them. For every Jim Jones or Catholic pedophilia scandal, there's a Quaker meeting opposing the war or a congregation distributing food to the needy. While anti-common-sense attitudes and beliefs are *often* found in the political and outreach efforts of religious groups, they are not *always* found. Smearing every religious group as equivalent and identical is as stupid as some religionists' insistence to destroy the indi

An early Happy New Year ... parsing the Washington Post on American military intereventionism

Reading between the paragraphs is a fun exercise, but I think that people too often don't have the resources to do it. So, for fun, when I read this WaPo article by Ann Scott Tyson at , I thought I'd give it a try. After all, the devil is in the details, and--far too often-- people who take the time to read the papers and journals think they are getting the whole story : The Army needs to add at least 30,000 active-duty soldiers to its ranks to fulfill its responsibilities around the world without becoming stretched dangerously thin, senior Army officials warn. Its responsibilities around the world? This is code for maintaining our foreign network of over 750 military bases in other nations, which provide the logistical framework to be able to project American troops unilaterally into virtually any region on the planet. "You can't do what we've been tasked to do with the number of people we have," Undersecretary of the Army Nelson Ford s

Even though the sodium content is wa-a-a-a-y too high....

... go out this week and buy some Campbell's Soup , even if all you do is donate it to the Delaware Food Bank . I'm not sufficient an authority figure for you? Follow the first link.

Challenges aside, I am a believer....

.... although the what I believe is something that sometimes sets my priest's teeth on edge. Still, it is an important day for family and friends, especially in these times, even if you don't subscribe to the Incarnation. I am with my family in Virginia, now, and the presents have mostly been opened. My wife and grandson are taking a Christmas swim. To all my friends, both meatspace and virtual, I'd like to send all the best for you and yours. I particularly want send my prayers to Dominique and her family, to Donviti and his, and to Brian Shields as well. All are struggling with their own tragedies or hard times, and yet all continue to reach out to others. I am sure the next year will be one of ups, downs, and struggles with practicality, ideology, the economy, and all our own personal agendas. But if you stop here, even occasionally, I wish you well, even if you come by only to poke a stick into the bars. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Feliz Navidad, Happy Kw

Taking Up Steve's Challenge: Part 1

Steve's post on the role of religious discourse in public life is an interesting one. As a "nonbeliever" myself, I'm going to offer up some advice to believers and nonbelievers alike. In Part 1, I'll address believers. In Part 2, I'll address nonbelievers. And yes, as you'd expect, I apportion blame to both sides. So, without ado, my advice to believers: 1) Stop being so sanctimonious. Many of the most intolerable religious advocates are, frankly, snobs. They carry themselves as though they have done no wrong, and are God's agents upon earth -- here to pass judgment on others, comment on the most intimate aspects of their lives, and to enforce the will of the almighty. Here's the reality -- you're human just like everyone else, the "holy book" you thump has lots of admonitions against you as well, and supernatural beings don't need the "help" of mere mortals to enforce their "laws." 2) Nonbelievers o

Exactly what do we need NATO for?

Having nominated as Secretary of Stat e a woman who believes (as did Dubya before her) that NATO should continue to expand into the former Soviet republics , it is unlikely that President Barack Obama will rethink the US involvement in that organization. Which is, as Douglas Bandow points out at AWC , is unfortunate: America and Europe should continue to cooperate on issues of shared interest. But it is time for Washington to turn European security over to Europe. In 1948 the world was in the midst of the Cold War. War-ravaged Europe remained an economic laggard vulnerable to communist subversion, democratic left-wing movements, and Soviet pressure. Joseph Stalin may never have contemplated an invasion of the West, but a U.S.-led alliance became the obvious means to, in Lord Hastings Ismay’s immortal words, keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down... By the 1980s, NATO’s justification had grown threadbare. The sclerotic Soviet empire was still evil, but total