Randy's Corner Deli Library

30 April 2006

Speaking to Power

Speaking to Power
Nathan Abrams assesses the changing fortunes of Commentary magazine
Nathan Abrams Spring 2006 - Number 201



Commentary magazine was launched in 1945 by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the oldest and most conservative Jewish-defence organization in the United States. In sponsoring Commentary, the AJC aimed ‘to meet the need for a journal of significant thought and opinion on Jewish affairs and contemporary issues’.

Commentary’s first Editor, Elliot E. Cohen, was a Southern-born Jew who had gone to Yale and had previously edited the celebrated Menorah Journal. Under Cohen, Commentary was a general and authoritative journal of the highest quality that was lively and relevant to the basic and most pressing issues on the national and international scene and that reached a wide, if numerically small, audience. It covered matters of universal interest but also those of specifically Jewish concern, in a non-Zionist intellectual, broad-based Reform Jewish contemporary tone. Commentary discovered, published and nurtured novelists, poets, critics, journalists, politicians and thinkers. Names such as Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, James Baldwin, Bernard Malamud, Hannah Arendt, Norman Mailer, Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, Daniel Bell, Dwight Macdonald, Lionel Trilling, Delmore Schwartz, Sidney Hook, Irving Howe, Leslie Fiedler and many more appeared on its pages. Cohen was a literary ‘godfather’ to such intellectuals, nurturing their nascent talents and encouraging them to publish in a Jewish magazine for the first time. It is doubtful that, without his influence, they would have even considered doing such a thing.

Uniquely for an institutionally funded Jewish journal in the 1940s, Cohen was granted editorial freedom. Although the philosophy of the Committee was to be implicit in the magazine’s contents

The sponsorship of Commentary by the Committee is in line with its general program to enlighten and clarify public opinion on problems of Jewish concern, to fight bigotry and protect human rights, and to promote Jewish cultural interest and creative achievement in America,
it was not intended to be a house organ, since

The opinions and views expressed by Commentary’s contributors and editors are their own, and do not necessarily express the Committee’s viewpoint or position.

It was intended to be non-partisan with regard to Jewish community politics and neither factional nor parochial in its approach, but broad and far-ranging. ‘With a perspicacity rare in voluntary organizations, Jewish or otherwise,’ wrote Norman Podhoretz, Cohen’s successor as Editor of Commentary,

the AJC understood that unless the editor of the new magazine were given a free hand and protected from any pressures to conform to the Committee’s own line, the result would be a pretentious house organ and nothing more.

And one which no one would read. The AJC had no intention of ‘doing anything that would parochialize the journal’ or limit its appeal. It never explicitly intended the magazine to function as a public relations journal, or as a forum for its philosophies. (‘Its pages will be hospitable to diverse points of view and belief.’)

This meant that the AJC concerned itself only with Commentary’s budget but generally did not interfere with the contents of the magazine. The journal has been seen as an exceptional enterprise in this respect, as no other organization has so generously sponsored a publication and then left it to operate independently.

Yet the term ‘editorial freedom’ belies the exact nature of the relationship between the magazine and the AJC: Cohen was carefully selected as Editor because of his views, which were in line with the AJC’s, and he regularly attended and contributed to AJC staff meetings, at which its position was spelled out. Furthermore, when Cohen did cross the line, as in 1949 with his publication of Isaac Rosenfeld’s Freudian interpretation of the kashrut laws, ‘Adam and Eve on Delancey Street’, the AJC intervened and issued a public reprimand.

Cohen guided Commentary from a small, unknown periodical in 1945 into a significant journal of opinion and influence. He established its main concerns and made Commentary the leading organ of liberal anti-Communist opinion in America during the late 1940s and 1950s. So much so, in fact, that Irving Kristol modeled Encounter magazine on Commentary. Cohen had set the precedent of an intellectual and Jewish magazine that spoke to power for the first time: it was read by successive presidents from Truman to Eisenhower. However, Cohen died in 1959 by committing suicide. His death left a gaping hole in the journalistic world and a vacuum at the magazine that had to be filled.

Cohen’s designated successor was the precocious Norman Podhoretz, who had begun writing for the magazine in 1953 and been Deputy Editor from late 1955 to 1957. When he took over in 1960, he set about remaking the journal in his own image. Where Cohen only hinted at the possibilities of an influential policy magazine, it was Podhoretz who took the hint and turned it into a full-blown reality. Thus it became an indispensable journal, a crucible in which neo-conservative arguments, especially on foreign policy, were honed. Commentary was the womb in which neo-conservatism was conceived and gestated. It became the hub of a neo-conservative imperium.

It was at Commentary that Podhoretz learned many of the elements that would form his neo-conservatism: staunch anti-Stalinism and liberal anti-Communism, pro-Americanism, pro-New Dealism, pluralism and secularism, iconoclasm, anti-Jewish Establishmentism, and, perhaps above all, confidence, because Commentary exemplified confidence and gave the young Podhoretz assurance. These provided the props for the neo-conservative model. Commentary took on Podhoretz’s outlook. Its history was tightly bound up with the personality of its Editor.
During the 1960s, Podhoretz claimed he had transformed Commentary into a focal point for the emergent radicalism of the decade, a magazine that questioned many of the shibboleths of the 1950s. While he did publish new voices such as Staughton Lynd and Paul Goodman who spoke to the New Left generation of that decade, he did not change the fundamentals of the journal except in one key respect: he turned it into a source of anti-liberal and anti-black conservatism, which was consolidated as the decade progressed.

The events of the 1960s provided the backdrop for the neo-conservatism that emerged in the 1970s as a direct consequence of Podhoretz’s war against the New Left and the counterculture – which he collectively dubbed ‘The Movement’. Ironically, given that Podhoretz went to some lengths to distance his magazine from that of Elliot Cohen, Podhoretz recycled ideas from the 1950s and returned Commentary to a position almost identical to that which it had occupied when he took over in 1960.

Under Podhoretz, Commentary created and courted controversy. In 1963, he published his now infamous essay, ‘My Negro Problem – And Ours’, a painfully honest exposé of the author’s feelings about blacks (based on his childhood experiences in integrated Brooklyn), which spawned a host of replies accusing him of racism. Homophobia was a constant drumbeat in the magazine from the 1970s onwards. Podhoretz’s wife Midge Decter lambasted Gore Vidal, identifying him as a chief purveyor of America’s moral corruption. Enraged by their homophobic attacks, Vidal shot back, penning an essay, entitled ‘The Empire Lovers Strike Back’, in the 22 March 1986 issue of The Nation. In the essay, Vidal similarly singled out Podhoretz and Decter as an ‘Israeli fifth column’ and Zionist ‘propagandists’. As a ‘retaliatory strike’, Podhoretz devoted the lead essay of the November 1986 Commentary to a response. In ‘The Hate That Dare Not Speak its Name’, he called Vidal’s essay ‘the most blatantly anti-Semitic outburst to have appeared in a respectable American periodical since World War II’. He continued: ‘His every word drips with contempt and hatred, and underlying it all is a strong note of menace.’
In doing all this, Podhoretz produced a magazine that spoke to power and became highly influential. Its success was measured in high-profile appointments to government following articles in the magazine, including Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeane Kirkpatrick as US ambassadors to the United Nations. When Moynihan rose to attack the infamous ‘Zionism is racism’ resolution, many believe they heard Podhoretz’s words in his speech. Commentary’s high-point came during the first Reagan administration when, it was said, Kirkpatrick’s 1979 Commentary article, ‘Dictatorships and Double Standards’, established Reagan’s human rights policy – which eventually led to the Iran-Contra affair, in which Podhoretz’s son-in-law, Elliot Abrams (another Reagan appointee), was a key player.

More recently, Commentary played a vital part in both neo-conservatism and the moulding of Bush’s post- September 11 agenda. The Bush administration found a ready-made response to the attacks on the World Trade Center in the sort of proposals that had been refined in Commentary more than ten years before. The magazine evoked a new category of threats: radical Arab nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism, as well as their sponsors such as Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Syria. It focussed on the need to confront the new transnational enemy from the east, what Charles Krauthammer called the ‘global intifada’. As far back as 1989, Commentary argued that the terrorist threat posed by a radical, vengeful interpretation of Islam was the most urgent and ominous security threat and called for an immediate, intensified and global confrontation. It warned of the threat Islamic militant fundamentalists posed to Western values, as signaled by the Salman Rushdie affair. It pointed out that Mohammed Aidid’s successful defiance of the United States in Somalia in 1993 might be only a small taste of things to come. And, following the bombing of the World Trade Center in February 1993, it characterized Islamic fundamentalism as the clearest present danger and ominously predicted that, as the ‘fundamentalist struggle continues’, the ‘kind of vitriol [they preach] against America’ and the ‘systemic preaching of hatred eventually will produce violence’. Even more darkly prophetic was its observation: ‘Manhattan’s own nightmare could recur . . . ’, for

[the] World Trade Center bombing suggests[,] the conduct even of those fundamentalists who were once American allies and clients cannot be predicted, even in the short term.

Woodrow Wilson’s ideal of making the world safe for democracy found much support and space
in Commentary, which revived Wilsonianism in the mid-1970s long before others did so. In the wake of the Cold War, Commentary sought to ensure that the United States continued to play the part of a world power and remained involved overseas. It was part of a group of academics, intellectuals and commentators who styled themselves ‘democratic internationalists’, who emphasized the necessity of American leadership in a newly unipolar world to create the conditions for peace and security through the defence and advance of democracy, and who were sceptical of international organizations and institutions. They saw the post-Cold War task of the United States as to defend democratic allies and to resist aggression by fanatical states, promoting democratic transitions where possible and supporting democratic consolidation elsewhere. After the first Gulf War, in particular, Commentary pushed the United States to encourage liberalization and democratization in the Middle East in order to prevent the rise of another Saddam. It called for a refashioned crusade for democracy in which America would be globally active.

This remains a key theme. As Podhoretz writes in his contribution to a symposium on ‘Defending and Advancing Freedom’ in the November 2005 issue:
To his credit, President Bush has not made the most serious mistake of all, which would be to lose his nerve. His steely determination to stay the course, notwithstanding the baying of the press and the Democrats (forgive the redundancy), is giving Iraqis the breathing room they need to build political and security institutions that might be able to survive a drawdown (though not a total pullout) of US forces.

We’re finally on the right course in Iraq, though it has taken a while to get there. I am not so sure we’re on any course at all in dealing with the looming threat of the Iranian and North Korean nuclear-weapons programs. In both cases, the administration has so far been satisfied with toothless multilateral diplomacy that has merely bought time for atomic assembly lines to ramp up. There are no easy answers here, and military action is not a terribly palatable option.
But why hasn’t the US done more to try to bring about peaceful regime change? The President has talked eloquently about the ‘non-negotiable demands of human dignity’. I wish he had done more to promote those demands in the two remaining members of the ‘axis of evil’.

Yet, in his thirst for success, Podhoretz destroyed the magazine that Cohen had created. He may have achieved a higher circulation, a greater profile and more influence than Cohen would have, but he did so at the exorbitant price of sacrificing Commentary’s quality and critical intellectual independence. He compromised and dropped the magazine’s long-held standards that had originated under Cohen. The principles of serious journalism, policy and scholarship were abandoned, as Commentary became a spokes-journal for the Right. It was now something quite different from what it was originally conceived to be (and originally was), transformed from a journal of cultural and political life to a policy platform for increasingly strident and rigid conservative policymakers and would-be policymakers. This was clearly indicated by the AJC distancing itself further and further from the magazine, paying less and less attention to it, and ultimately setting up rivals to provide the sort of cultural and Jewish ideas that it had originally wanted to see in Commentary.

Since Podhoretz had enlisted the magazine in a conservative campaign, this cause, the holy war, had simply overridden more objective judgements of quality. Where the contradictory elements of the 1960s had led to the magazine’s highest ever readership, the drastic narrowing of focus into un-debated dogma accelerated its decline. Podhoretz could have sprinkled in articles from different points of view, but this would simply have undermined the crusade, especially if the pieces were really good. So it was a choice of priorities, and the political cause became the dominant imperative. Just as Cohen had purged the magazine of any writers who could not contribute to the hardline anti-Communist/pro-American stance of the late 1940s, so Podhoretz refused to publish anyone who wavered from his line. He felt sure he could develop first-rate writers who would pursue this point of view. But eventually the truth was clear: only substandard, mediocre writers were reliable enough to stick to the Commentary line. The magazine was unintentionally scuttled as the best writers were replaced by the most reliable writers, even if they were second- or third-rate. The perceptive pieces and serious argument of an earlier era were discarded and replaced with those written in anger.

There was a sense of extremism that ran through all Commentary’s more political and social pieces. Its energies were reduced to attacks on feminists, antisemites, Leftists, multiculturalists, environmentalists and anti-Zionists. Homosexuality was described as a ‘perversion or even a mental illness’, with warnings about a new wave of young boys being ‘encouraged and seduced’ into homosexuality because ‘feminism’ had made ‘young girls more formidably intimidating’.
Nowhere was there any chastening influence to soften this hard-line homophobia. Debate was excised as dissenting views disappeared from Commentary’s pages. It didn’t help that the tone was self-congratulatory and self-important and that Podhoretz cultivated anger in his writers.

Podhoretz himself had a tone of preaching, self-righteous rabbinic insinuation, as if pontificating from the pulpit. The magazine offered an insufficient variety of style, as if all written by the same hand. In 1981, Podhoretz had written of how the universities and the media were ‘mired in yesterday’s conventional wisdom’, having become
the repository of discredited ideas and shopworn attitudes, a kind of shrine at which the cultists of a dying religion gather to genuflect, chanting mindless invocations they imagine arise out of reason to a moribund god they still believe incarnates the living truth.

His magazine had now come to fit that description. Podhoretz suffered from what he himself had diagnosed in 1967 as ‘the intellectual rigidity to which the human mind is prone in politics’. The unprecedented attention and success of the Reaganites belied the stark poverty of Commentary’s thought, which became all too clear once Reagan had gone. Post-Reagan, Commentary continued pedalling a neo-Reaganite agenda that no longer seemed relevant because, once the Cold War was over, it had lost its motivating force.

Over the years, Podhoretz had been responsible for driving away many promising contributors, much to the magazine’s and neo-conservatism’s detriment. He closed his magazine to unwelcome guests, even those who had once been his closest comrades. The long list includes Hannah Arendt, Joseph Heller, Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, the Trillings. Podhoretz had severely disabled Commentary. Its circulation figures dropped from a peak of 60,000 in the mid-1960s to 25,000 in 2004.

After a lifetime spent at the magazine, Podhoretz handed the reins over to his protégé and successor, Neal Kozodoy, who took over as Editor-in-Chief in 2005 – thus becoming only its third Editor in the half-century of its existence. There was no major disruption since the Harvard-educated Kozodoy had been at Commentary since 1966 and had been schooled in its catechism. It was a seamless transition, as Podhoretz wrote,

I know from having worked closely with Neal Kozodoy for a very long time now that he feels much as I do about these matters. I also know that, while setting his own distinctive stamp on Commentary as he leads it into what I am certain will be a brilliant new period of its history, he will continue defending the dual heritage by which he too has been formed.
He added, almost as an order, ‘I expect the magazine to continue with the same point of view.’ Podhoretz was very proud of Kozodoy and had dedicated his book The Present Danger (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1980) to him. And, in turn, as his chosen heir, Kozodoy promised faithfully to maintain the Podhoretz tradition. Although Podhoretz retired as Editor-in-Chief, there was not a complete break – he would not let go entirely. He still retained the position of ‘Editor-at-Large’, serving in an advisory capacity, and he still contributes frequently.

On the occasion of Podhoretz’s departure from the magazine, Kozodoy observed, ‘This is a moment of transition for Commentary, a tricky moment.’ It was a statement of masterly euphemism; Podhoretz had left the magazine in a sickly state. He bequeathed Kozodoy the onerous task of breathing life into an ailing journal. Commentary was marginalized. It spoke only for a splinter group. It had even lost and alienated its core Jewish constituency. The years had taken its toll and American Jews were simply not prepared to read a magazine that consistently articulated positions contrary to their own. Podhoretz had singularly failed to break the paradigm whereby the great bulk of American Jews remain liberal Democrats and regard Jewish conservatives as, at best, an eccentric minority. To put it mildly, things weren’t looking too good. Podhoretz admitted that, although Commentary might still exist, it no longer comprised an intellectual focus in the way it once did. It had aged and was suffering from, as one former editor put it, ‘a slight arterial sclerosis’. Some of the names that appeared on the cover 20 years ago are still there on the October 2005 cover: Joshua Muravchik, Hillel Halkin, Jack Wertheimer, James Nuechterlein.

This is indeed a shame for, right or wrong, Cohen had established something that the Anglo-Jewish world had not seen before: an explicitly Jewish journal speaking both to its core constituency and to the wider community at large and achieving an unrivalled authority in doing so. Whether they agreed with it or not, Jews in America and elsewhere picked up copies of the magazine, read them, passed them around, discussed and debated the articles as if it were a secular Talmud. It appeared on the desks of almost everyone of importance both in America and Israel and even made a few guest appearances on film (most notably in Woody Allen’s Bananas and Annie Hall). Not many other magazines can make this boast. But today Commentary is but a shadow or shell of its former self.

Nathan Abrams is a Lecturer in History at the University of Aberdeen. His book Commentary Magazine 1945-1959: ‘A journal of significant thought and opinion’ is published by Vallentine Mitchell.

In The Grip of Gasoline Fever

In the grip of gasoline fever
Cynical politicians engage in a disgraceful panderfest
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER
Washington Post Writers Group

WASHINGTON - If you thought the Dubai port deal marked a record high in Washington cynicism, think again. Nothing can match the spectacle of politicians scrambling for cover during a spike in gasoline prices. And this time, the panderfest has gone all the way to the Oval Office. President Bush has joined the braying congressional hordes by ordering the Energy and Justice departments and the FTC to launch an investigation into possible gasoline price-fixing.
What a disgrace.

Ten years ago (April 29, 1996) as gas prices reached a shocking $1.27 a gallon, President Clinton ordered his Energy and Justice departments to launch investigations to find out why. In my column that week, I offered a wild guess as to why: "Supply is down and demand is up." I offered Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary and Attorney General Janet Reno a $100 bet that their million-dollar probes would do nothing more than confirm my hunch. No takers.
Sure enough, months later these pointless investigations discounted charges of price gouging and attributed the price hike to ... increased demand and decreased supply.

Ten years later, I'll wager again. Here's what the Bush search for price gougers and profiteers will find:

1. Demand is up.
China has come from nowhere to pass Japan as the No. 2 oil consumer in the world. China and India -- together home to eight times the U.S. population -- are industrializing and gobbling huge amounts of energy.

American demand is up. Until the mid-1980s, beginning with the oil shocks in 1973, Americans had changed appliances and cars and habits and achieved astonishing energy conservation. Energy use per dollar of gross domestic product was cut by 30 percent in little over a decade. Oil prices collapsed to about $10 a barrel.

Then amnesia set in, and we became "a country of a million Walter Mittys driving 75 mph in their gas-guzzling Bushwhack-Safari sport-utility roadsters with a moose head on the hood, a country whose crude oil production has dropped 32 percent in the last 25 years but which will not drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for fear of disturbing the mating habits of caribou." I wrote that during the '96 witch hunt for price gougers. Nothing has changed, except that U.S. crude oil production dropped an additional 12.3 percent. Which brings us to:

2. Supply is down.

Start with supply disruptions in Nigeria, decreased production in Iraq and the continuing loss of 5 percent of our national refining capacity because of Katrina and Rita damage. Add to that the mischief of idiotic new regulations. Last year's energy bill mandates arbitrary increases in blended ethanol use that so exceed current ethanol production that it is causing gasoline shortages and therefore huge price spikes.

Why don't we import the missing ethanol? Brazil makes a ton of it and very cheaply. Answer: The Iowa caucuses. Iowa grows corn and chooses presidents. So we have a ridiculously high 54-cent ethanol tariff and ethanol shortages.

Other regulation requires specific gasoline blends for different cities depending on their air quality. Nice idea. But it introduces debilitating rigidities into the gasoline supply system. If Los Angeles runs short, you cannot just move supply in from Denver.

And don't get me started on the missing supply of might-have-been American crude. Arctic and Outer Continental Shelf oil that the politicians kill year after year would have provided us by now with a secure supply cushion in times of tight markets.

In March 2000, gas hit $1.80. Scandalized congressional Republicans shamelessly pushed for repeal of Bill Clinton's whopping 4.3-cent gas tax increase. Now that the president is a Republican, what do you think Senate Democrats are proposing? A 60-day suspension of the federal gas tax. It would cost $6 billion and counteract the only good thing that comes with high gas prices -- the incentive to conserve.

George Shultz once said, "Nothing ever gets settled in this town." But even Shultz, who has seen everything, must marvel at the perfect regularity, the utter predictability, of the bottomless cynicism of Washington in the grip of gasoline fever.

Charles Krauthammer
Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated columnist. Write him c/o Washington Post Writers Group, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20071, or at letters@charleskrauthammer.com.

27 April 2006

Iran Has Bought Long-Range Missiles, Says Israel

Question: What is the purpose of the last line? Israel's agenda? Survival. Answer: What's wrong with that? Nothing.


Iran has bought long-range missiles, says Israel
David Fickling
Thursday April 27, 2006

Iran has obtained missiles from North Korea capable of delivering nuclear payloads to eastern Europe, according to Israel's military intelligence chief.

Major-General Amos Yadlin told a lecture of intelligence officials yesterday that Iran had unloaded BM-25 missiles purchased from North Korea, Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper reported.

The Soviet-manufactured weapon has a range of 1,500 miles, compared with a range of at least 1,250 miles for Iran's longest-range home-produced missile, the Shihab-4.

The BM-25 missiles would pose little threat to western European capitals, although a missile fired from northwestern Iran could potentially reach Istanbul and Kiev.

The news comes as Tehran faces a UN-imposed deadline to suspend its enrichment of uranium. The UN security council ordered Iran to stop enriching uranium by Friday, and the International Atomic Energy Agency is also due to publish a report into Iran's enrichment programme tomorrow.

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, was defiant in advance of the deadline, saying that his country would not give up "one bit" of its nuclear technology.

"The Iranian nation has acquired nuclear fuel production technology. It didn't get assistance from anybody, and nobody can take it back," he told thousands of people in western Iran today.

The US, France and Britain say that steps should be taken to enforce the UN resolution if Iran does not meet the deadline tomorrow, but the security council's other two permanent members, China and Russia, disagree.

Iran announced earlier this month that it had succeeded in enriching uranium to the level required for nuclear power generation.

The same technology can theoretically be used to make nuclear material suitable for use in atomic weapons, although analysts say such a programme could take decades.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is purely for civilian use, but most observers agree that President Ahmadinejad's government is trying to develop nuclear weapons. However, the state of the country's missile technology is considered a big flaw in its nuclear ambitions.

John Swenson-Wright, a North Korea expert at the foreign policy thinktank Chatham House, said that the sale of weapons to Iran would be consistent with North Korea's previous policy on weapons proliferation.

In the mid-1990s Pyongyang is thought to have assisted Pakistan in developing missile technology in return for nuclear centrifuge expertise, and in 2002 US officials intercepted a freighter in the Indian Ocean carrying 15 Scud missiles from North Korea to Yemen.

"It's quite consistent with past North Korean brinksmanship of finding a mechanism to tell the international community, 'We're still here and our interests need to be taken seriously,'" Mr Swenson-Wright said.

The German newspaper Bild reported in February that Iran had purchased 18 disassembled BM-25 missiles from North Korea, quoting a German government intelligence report. It said Tehran planned to extend the missiles' range to 2,200 miles, far enough to reach Berlin, Rome and Brussels.

However, Frank Barnaby, a proliferation expert at the Oxford Research Group, said that Iran was still a long way from posing any nuclear threat to its neighbours.

"I would not want to exaggerate the threat from this, and I think the Israelis have a very understandable agenda by which they do want to exaggerate it," he said.

Here's a Cause Everyone Can Rally 'Round!

ALERT!!!

View this video: http://www.petatv.com/tvpopup/video.asp?video=foie_gras_USA&Player=wm&speed=_med

What, with all that ails the world today: hatred, bigotry, distrust, illness, homelessness, domestic abuse, the Cubs having another losing season, anal retentive people, genocide in Darfur, pederasty on the internet, and the list goes on, I don't think there's another cause other than this that we can all agree on: foie gras is not only a disease as Sir Roger Moore points out in the PETA video located at the above link, but is also a humanitarian (er-duckitarian) disaster and, I think, worthy of a UN resolution condemning this serious breach of the ethical treatment of ducks.

If you are as moved by the video as I am, please take the time to write your congressman to voice your opinion. You can locate your congressman here: http://www.house.gov/. You can locate your Senator here: http://www.senate.gov/

Let them know that, whether they are Democrat or Republican, you are not going to be part of a society that permits the ill treatment of birds for foie gras.

Thanks.

25 April 2006

More Top Brass Blast Rumsfeld

April 25, 2006
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RETIRED US GENERALS
More Top Brass Blast Rumsfeld
By Mark Follman

Two retired generals and an admiral denounce his leadership -- and say he's protected by a handpicked ring of high-ranking yes men.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is absorbing criticism from retired military leaders for the Iraq war.

In mid-April, under fire from a half-dozen retired U.S. generals for broad failures in Iraq, the Bush White House dispatched Donald Rumsfeld to the front lines of the American heartland.

The secretary of defense appeared on talk radio host Rush Limbaugh's nationally syndicated show to fight back against the decorated military commanders who called for his resignation.
"The sharper the criticism comes, sometimes the sharper the defense comes from people who don't agree with the critics," Rumsfeld told Limbaugh during the April 17 interview. He dismissed the barrage of reproach, suggesting that "the same kinds of criticism" had come and gone during all major American wars, from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam. "This, too, will pass," Rumsfeld said.

But the sharp disapproval aired by the retired generals is, by many counts, extraordinary. Among the charges leveled at Rumsfeld was Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton's conclusion that the defense secretary was "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq." Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who led the 1st Infantry Division there, said he "served under a secretary of Defense who didn't understand leadership, who was abusive, who was arrogant, who didn't build a strong team." Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, the former commander of the elite 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq, stressed that culpability for abuses at Abu Ghraib prison leads "directly back to Secretary Rumsfeld."

In interviews with Salon, several retired military commanders said that the unusual revolt against Rumsfeld is both well-founded and increasingly pervasive. From the broad strategic problems in Iraq to Rumsfeld's role in the calamity of sanctioned prisoner abuse, they say the case for his resignation is indisputable, and has the support of many other retired senior officers.

One retired commander suggested that the generals' censure of Rumsfeld is especially important because the defense secretary has achieved unprecedented control over selecting the top brass who surround him at the Pentagon.

"Considering the level at which these generals operated, the things they've been saying are a real indictment," said Brig. Gen. David R. Irvine, an Army Reserve strategic intelligence officer who taught prisoner interrogation and military law for 18 years at the Sixth Army Intelligence School before retiring in 2002. "It's not the responsibility of military commanders to decide when the nation goes to war. But these guys are experts -- some of them have direct experience executing the war plans that Rumsfeld developed. So when they say there are serious problems, I would think that Congress and the White House ought to pay attention."

FOUND IN...
This article has been provided by Salon.com as part of a special agreement with SPIEGEL INTERNATIONAL. In return, our colleagues in San Francisco will publish selected articles from Der Spiegel on their Web site at:Salon.com

"I don't think I've seen anything like it in my 40 years of service," Irvine added. "Over the last several months I've had conversations with dozens of retired flag officers -- one, two, three stars. I have yet to talk to anyone who is a Rumsfeld fan. The level of disapproval is significant."

At Rumsfeld's side during a press conference last week, Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended the man who appointed him. Pace said that the top brass had "multiple opportunities" to express their views, but that final decisions on military matters were Rumsfeld's. "And when a decision's made by the secretary of defense," Pace said, "unless it's illegal or immoral, we go on about doing what we've been told to do."

Others denied there was rising discontent in the ranks, and suggested that it was out of line for the generals to criticize the head of the Pentagon.

Rear Adm. John D. Hutson, the former judge advocate general of the Navy, believes the criticisms of Rumsfeld by the retired generals are not only appropriate, but necessary. "The captain goes down with the ship. He's in charge, and he's held accountable. This is a proper and important military tradition," said Hutson, who retired from service in 2000 and is now the president and dean of Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H. "The lack of accountability up the chain of command has bothered a lot of people for a long time. Frankly, I think this is the gag reflex kicking in. At some point things get bad enough that you have to have a change."

Hutson sees a "spontaneous combustion" behind the firestorm of criticism, rather than a coordinated attack by the generals on Rumsfeld. "A number of leaders seem to be coming to the same conclusions at the same time about how poorly the war is going," he said. "We're allocating precious assets to it that are needed elsewhere, and there is no clear end in sight. In some sense, this is even more fundamental than the torture issue, where a lot of people have had concerns for a long time now. This is about how the whole war is being waged. This war wasn't planned right, and it hasn't been executed right."

Irvine first called for Rumsfeld's resignation two years ago after the ghastly images from Abu Ghraib surfaced. Though much of the retired generals' criticism this month focused on the strategic quagmire in Iraq, he believes prisoner abuse remains at the heart of the battle against Rumsfeld.

"I sense a great deal of distress among senior military officers over what's happened with prisoner treatment," Irvine said. "I believe the abuse is playing a significant part in how these generals are feeling and why they're speaking out. There's an understanding that whatever we're doing at Guantánamo and elsewhere constitutes license for others to do to us when our soldiers are taken prisoner in the future. There's the realization that we've pretty much trashed the high ground along with the Geneva Conventions."

On April 14, Salon revealed that Rumsfeld was personally involved in directing the harsh interrogation of a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay, according to a sworn statement by an Army lieutenant general who investigated prisoner abuse at the U.S. base in Cuba.

Other critics note that the Pentagon has controlled all of the investigations to date into prisoner abuse.

"It's extremely difficult to believe that what happened at Guantánamo and Bagram and Abu Ghraib is all coincidental," said retired Brig. Gen. Jim Cullen, who served as the chief judge (IMA) of the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals. "We need a much more extensive investigation into what went wrong and who at the top was responsible. With Rumsfeld continuing at the top that's not possible."

Cullen, who currently practices law in New York, has provided counsel in a lawsuit against Rumsfeld on behalf of prisoners abused in U.S. custody, and is one of 22 high-level retired military leaders who have urged the Bush administration to ban torture unequivocally.

"Personally, I don't believe the torture memos originated with Rumsfeld, but with Vice President Cheney and his top aides," Cullen
said. "But Rumsfeld was quite willing to carry out those policies with enthusiasm. They were offensive to military culture -- a departure from the rule of law at the very core of military discipline. When you compromise that discipline and permit wrongdoing in the field, you have lost control of your forces, and you have compromised the mission."

The level of disapproval among active-duty commanders is more difficult to gauge. Direct criticism of one's superiors is a punishable offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. And under the current leadership, even dissenting views on strategy or policy can exact a heavy price.

"Everyone knows what happened to Eric Shinseki," said Irvine, referring to the Army general who resigned from the military in 2003 after clashing with Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz over the number of troops needed for Iraq.

There is another reason active-duty commanders may be less likely to dissent these days, according to Irvine. "All of the people currently in positions at the two-, three- and four-star level have been extensively interviewed and handpicked by Rumsfeld. Some people would say there's nothing unusual about that, but I think there is." Historically, Irvine said, the top generals are selected by military promotion boards. "Yes, they are political positions, and the defense secretary has final say in the appointment. But in the past there has been more deference to the boards. I don't know that there has been this level of politicization of the generals' officer corps under any prior administration."

At least for now, the White House has made it clear that Rumsfeld will remain in his post. During an April 18 press conference in the White House Rose Garden, President Bush reminded the nation, "I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."

His tenure has caused some unusual fallout.
"John Batiste is one very impressive commander," said Irvine. "It was particularly striking that he turned down a third star because he no longer wanted to work under Rumsfeld. There are not many guys in that position, and I have great respect for what he did."

Marine Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold, the Pentagon's former top operations officer, said recently that in the run-up to Iraq he raised his objections internally and then retired, in part out of opposition to the war -- and that he regretted the possibility that he hadn't done enough to stop it. His rebuke of Rumsfeld in Time magazine this month flowed in part from his view that "The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood."

Hutson, the former head judge advocate general of the Navy, said he is troubled by the status quo. "I have never seen Rumsfeld demonstrate self-awareness or the ability to admit mistakes," he said. "Unfortunately, I think that means we can expect things to go the same from here, with no end in sight."

"In a way, the response from the White House is understandable," said Irvine. "Iraq is President Bush's war. If the criticism of Rumsfeld is seen as valid, then responsibility for what has happened doesn't stop at Rumsfeld's desk. It goes across the Potomac."

24 April 2006

George Coleman Quartet - Smoke

 Posted by Picasa

14 April 2006

On Good Friday and Lincoln's Assasination

Compare Lincoln's religiosity with the hypocrite who presently occupies the
White House.

The President Who Died for Us

By RICHARD WIGHTMAN FOX
Published: April 14, 2006

Worcester, Mass.
THIS year, Good Friday, the day commemorating Christ's crucifixion, falls on
April 14, as it did in 1865. On that evening, in the balcony box of Ford's
Theater in Washington, John Wilkes Booth fired a handmade .41-caliber
derringer ball into the back of Abraham Lincoln's head.

In the days that followed Lincoln's death, his mourning compatriots rushed
to compare him to Jesus, Moses and George Washington.
Despite the Good Friday coincidence, the Jesus parallel was not an obvious
one for 19th-century Americans to make. The Protestant population, then as
now, included a vigilant evangelical minority who thought that Jesus,
sinless on earth, was defamed every time ordinary sinners presumed to
imitate him. No mere mortal could be put beside Jesus on a moral balance
scale.

But Honest Abe overwhelmed the usual evangelical reticence - by April 1865
the majority of Northerners and Southern blacks took him as no ordinary
person. He had been offering his body and soul all through the war and his
final sacrifice, providentially appointed for Good Friday, showed that God
had surely marked him for sacred service.

At a mass assembly in Manhattan five hours after Lincoln's death, James A.
Garfield - the Ohio congressman who would become the second assassinated
president 16 years later - voiced the common hesitancy, then went on to
claim the analogy: "It may be almost impious to say it, but it does seem
that Lincoln's death parallels that of the Son of God."

Jesus had saved humanity, or at least some portion of it, from eternal
damnation. Lincoln had saved the nation from the civic equivalent of
damnation: the dissolution that had always bedeviled republics. "Jesus
Christ died for the world," said the Rev. C. B. Crane in Hartford. "Abraham
Lincoln died for his country."

The small minority of Jews and Catholics, equally awed by Lincoln's bodily
sacrifice, joined Protestants in hailing the president's uncommon virtues:
forgiveness, mercy, defense of the poor and the oppressed. Catholics joined
Protestants in noting his Christ-like habits of brooding in private and
keeping his own counsel.

Nearly everyone joined in heralding Lincoln's phrase "with malice toward
none, with charity for all," which Christian mourners hailed as the heart of
the Gospel. Those words from his second inaugural address, delivered just
six weeks before his death, turned up on hand-scrawled banners all over the
Union. People mounted them, along with black-bordered flags and photographs
of Lincoln, in the windows of their homes and shops.

Thomas Nast's 1866 painting "President Lincoln Entering Richmond"
(commemorating his surprise stroll into the capital of the Confederacy on
April 4, 1865, shortly after Robert E. Lee's retreat) reinforced the
sentiment: Lincoln shepherded his people just as Jesus did. The president
walked into Richmond before Holy Week the way Jesus rode into Jerusalem
before Passover: humbly, not triumphantly. Both men were enveloped by
exuberant admirers.

Most American Christians turned to the Jesus analogy because they realized
how much they loved Lincoln. They took his loss as personal, often comparing
it to a death in the family. Many felt attached to Lincoln almost as they
felt attached to Jesus. The striving rail-splitter from Illinois and the
simple carpenter from Nazareth resembled them, the people. In contrast,
while still heroic, Washington seemed more distant, even aloof.

Yet calculation as well as veneration entered the campaign to sanctify
Lincoln. Radical Republicans revealed a political reason for comparing
Lincoln to Jesus. Trying to explain why a rational Providence had permitted
Lincoln to die, they decided that the savior of the nation had proved
himself too Christ-like, too softhearted, too "womanly," for the necessarily
punitive job of "reconstructing" the postwar South. God in his wisdom had
put Andrew Johnson in place for the messy task of enacting justice.

Many Protestants also displayed a religious motive for emphasizing the
resemblance between Lincoln and Christ. They made the president a virtual
holy man because they wished retroactively to make him a morally impeccable
and believing Christian. They considered theater-going, a favorite pastime
of the president, as morally dubious; his choice of the stage for recreation
on this day of crucifixion made them sick at heart.
And Lincoln, who after 1862 had spoken repeatedly of his dependence on God
and Providence, had never referred much to Jesus. The barrage of Jesus
comparisons offered a camouflaging aura of piety for a man who had enjoyed
lowbrow, off-color humor as much as play-acting.
Seven score and one years have passed since Good Friday 1865, and Lincoln
has always remained his own man. In his final years, he had set his own
course by balancing a pressing sense of the rule of Providence with a
persistent belief in the power of reason. Still, he can - and should - stand
as historic demonstration that a republican hero's sacrifice for the people
comes very close to Christ's ideals of self-denial and self-giving.

Richard Wightman Fox, the author of "Jesus in America: Personal Savior,
Cultural Hero, National Obsession," is writing a book about the aftermath of
Lincoln's assassination.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/14/opinion/14fox.html?ex=1145160000&en=900225
e2ec073001&ei=5087%0A

Hitler's holocaust plan for Jews in Palestine stopped by Desert Rats'

Hitler's holocaust plan for Jews in Palestine stopped by Desert Rats'
By Allan Hall in Berlin
Published: 14 April 2006

Adolf Hitler made plans to conduct a holocaust of Jews living in Palestine
during the Second World War, according to German historians who have
examined government archives for a new book that examines the extension of
the extermination programme outside of Europe and Russia.

It was the victory of the famed Desert Rats of Britain's Eighth Army at El
Alamein under the leadership of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery that saved
the Jews in Palestine from annihilation. The turning point in the desert war
signalled a reprieve from a planned German invasion of what was then the
British Mandate of Palestine.

If Arabs had joined Nazis in genocide, the map of the Middle East could be
totally different to present day and the historians speculate whether the
state of Israel would ever have been founded if such an unholy alliance had
been achieved.

The Nazis stationed a unit of SS troops in Athens, tasked with following
invading frontline troops in Palestine and then rounding up and murdering
about 500,000 European Jews who had taken refuge there, according to
historians at the University of Stuttgart.
But the unit, answerable to the Afrika Corps under Field Marshal Erwin "The
Desert Fox" Rommel, never deployed.

It was designed to function like the Einsatzgruppen or "action squads" of
the SS that followed the German army into Russia, shooting close to a
million Jews and political enemies before the static killing centres such as
Treblinka and Auschwitz were established in Poland.
Klaus-Michael Mallmann of the University's Ludwigsburg research team and his
assistant Martin Cüppers said they had spent three years studying German
wartime archives, including those at the foreign office in Berlin which had
hitherto remained sealed.

"The Allied defeat of Rommel at the end of 1942 had prevented the extension
of the Holocaust to Palestine," they said. If Rommel had beaten the Allies
in the desert and invaded Egypt, a push into Palestine would have followed
and the unit would have deployed there.

The researchers, whose findings appear in a new book entitled Germans, Jews,
Genocide: The Holocaust as history and the present, said the Athens unit
would follow the blueprint drawn by Nazi units that hunted for Jews in
eastern Europe, massacring them on the spot or shipping them off to death
camps. In Palestine, they say, it would have been more of the former than
the latter due to the greater distances involved.
Mr Mallmann and Mr Cüppers said the Nazis had planned to exploit Arab
friendship for their plans.

"The most important collaborator with the Nazis and an absolute Arab
anti-Semite was Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem," they say in
the book. He was a prime example of how Arabs and Nazis became friends out
of a hatred of Jews.

Al-Husseini had met Adolf Eichmann, Adolf Hitler's chief architect of the
Holocaust, several times to settle details of the slaughter. In the academic
work they draw on documents from the Reich Main Security Office showing
"Einsatzgruppe Egypt" was standing by in Athens and was ready to disembark
for Palestine in the summer of 1942.

The Middle East death squad was to be led by the SS Obersturmbannführer
Walther Rauff.
Rauff was involved in the development of "gassing vans": mobile gas chambers
used to fatally poison Jews, persons with disabilities, and communists, who
were considered by the SS as enemies of the German state.

After escaping from an American internment camp in Italy after capture, he
hid in a number of Italian convents, apparently under the protection of
Bishop Alois Hudel, the notorious German cleric at the Vatican credited with
providing fake papers for high-ranking Nazis to escape to South America.

Franz Stangl, commandant of Treblinka, where a million people were murdered,
was among his "clients." In 1948 he was recruited by Syrian intelligence and
went to Damascus, only to fall out of favour after a coup there a year
later. He settled in Chile, where he fought off extradition proceedings to
stand trial in Germany and died peacefully in 1984. He hinted at plans to
kill the Jews in Palestine in an interview in 1979, in which he was
unrepentant about his wartime "service to my Fatherland".

Adolf Hitler made plans to conduct a holocaust of Jews living in Palestine
during the Second World War, according to German historians who have
examined government archives for a new book that examines the extension of
the extermination programme outside of Europe and Russia.

It was the victory of the famed Desert Rats of Britain's Eighth Army at El
Alamein under the leadership of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery that saved
the Jews in Palestine from annihilation. The turning point in the desert war
signalled a reprieve from a planned German invasion of what was then the
British Mandate of Palestine.

If Arabs had joined Nazis in genocide, the map of the Middle East could be
totally different to present day and the historians speculate whether the
state of Israel would ever have been founded if such an unholy alliance had
been achieved.

The Nazis stationed a unit of SS troops in Athens, tasked with following
invading frontline troops in Palestine and then rounding up and murdering
about 500,000 European Jews who had taken refuge there, according to
historians at the University of Stuttgart.
But the unit, answerable to the Afrika Corps under Field Marshal Erwin "The
Desert Fox" Rommel, never deployed.

It was designed to function like the Einsatzgruppen or "action squads" of
the SS that followed the German army into Russia, shooting close to a
million Jews and political enemies before the static killing centres such as
Treblinka and Auschwitz were established in Poland.
Klaus-Michael Mallmann of the University's Ludwigsburg research team and his
assistant Martin Cüppers said they had spent three years studying German
wartime archives, including those at the foreign office in Berlin which had
hitherto remained sealed.

"The Allied defeat of Rommel at the end of 1942 had prevented the extension
of the Holocaust to Palestine," they said. If Rommel had beaten the Allies
in the desert and invaded Egypt, a push into Palestine would have followed
and the unit would have deployed there.

The researchers, whose findings appear in a new book entitled Germans, Jews,
Genocide: The Holocaust as history and the present, said the Athens unit
would follow the blueprint drawn by Nazi units that hunted for Jews in
eastern Europe, massacring them on the spot or shipping them off to death
camps. In Palestine, they say, it would have been more of the former than
the latter due to the greater distances involved.
Mr Mallmann and Mr Cüppers said the Nazis had planned to exploit Arab
friendship for their plans.

"The most important collaborator with the Nazis and an absolute Arab
anti-Semite was Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem," they say in
the book. He was a prime example of how Arabs and Nazis became friends out
of a hatred of Jews.

Al-Husseini had met Adolf Eichmann, Adolf Hitler's chief architect of the
Holocaust, several times to settle details of the slaughter. In the academic
work they draw on documents from the Reich Main Security Office showing
"Einsatzgruppe Egypt" was standing by in Athens and was ready to disembark
for Palestine in the summer of 1942.

The Middle East death squad was to be led by the SS Obersturmbannführer
Walther Rauff.
Rauff was involved in the development of "gassing vans": mobile gas chambers
used to fatally poison Jews, persons with disabilities, and communists, who
were considered by the SS as enemies of the German state.

After escaping from an American internment camp in Italy after capture, he
hid in a number of Italian convents, apparently under the protection of
Bishop Alois Hudel, the notorious German cleric at the Vatican credited with
providing fake papers for high-ranking Nazis to escape to South America.

Franz Stangl, commandant of Treblinka, where a million people were murdered,
was among his "clients." In 1948 he was recruited by Syrian intelligence and
went to Damascus, only to fall out of favour after a coup there a year
later. He settled in Chile, where he fought off extradition proceedings to
stand trial in Germany and died peacefully in 1984. He hinted at plans to
kill the Jews in Palestine in an interview in 1979, in which he was
unrepentant about his wartime "service to my Fatherland".

http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article357644.ece

10 April 2006

Yes He Would


April 10, 2006
OP-ED COLUMNIST
Yes He Would
By PAUL KRUGMAN

"But he wouldn't do that." That sentiment is what made it possible for
President Bush to stampede America into the Iraq war and to fend off hard
questions about the reasons for that war until after the 2004 election. Many
people just didn't want to believe that an American president would
deliberately mislead the nation on matters of war and peace.

Now people with contacts in the administration and the military warn that
Mr. Bush may be planning another war. The most alarming of the warnings come
from Seymour Hersh, the veteran investigative journalist who broke the Abu
Ghraib scandal. Writing in The New Yorker, Mr. Hersh suggests that
administration officials believe that a bombing campaign could lead to
desirable regime change in Iran - and that they refuse to rule out the use
of tactical nuclear weapons.

"But he wouldn't do that," say people who think they're being sensible.
Given what we now know about the origins of the Iraq war, however,
discounting the possibility that Mr. Bush will start another ill-conceived
and unnecessary war isn't sensible. It's wishful thinking.

As it happens, rumors of a new war coincide with the emergence of evidence
that appears to confirm our worst suspicions about the war we're already in.

First, it's clearer than ever that Mr. Bush, who still claims that war with
Iraq was a last resort, was actually spoiling for a fight. The New York
Times has confirmed the authenticity of a British government memo reporting
on a prewar discussion between Mr. Bush and Tony Blair. In that
conversation, Mr. Bush told Mr. Blair that he was determined to invade Iraq
even if U.N. inspectors came up empty-handed.

Second, it's becoming increasingly clear that Mr. Bush knew that the case he
was presenting for war - a case that depended crucially on visions of
mushroom clouds - rested on suspect evidence. For example, in the 2003 State
of the Union address Mr. Bush cited Iraq's purchase of aluminum tubes as
clear evidence that Saddam was trying to acquire a nuclear arsenal. Yet
Murray Waas of the National Journal reports that Mr. Bush had been warned
that many intelligence analysts disagreed with that assessment.

Was the difference between Mr. Bush's public portrayal of the Iraqi threat
and the actual intelligence he saw large enough to validate claims that he
deliberately misled the nation into war? Karl Rove apparently thought so.
According to Mr. Waas, Mr. Rove "cautioned other White House aides in the
summer of 2003 that Bush's 2004 re-election prospects would be severely
damaged" if the contents of an October 2002

"President's Summary" containing dissents about the significance of the
aluminum tubes became public.
Now there are rumors of plans to attack Iran. Most strategic analysts think
that a bombing campaign would be a disastrous mistake. But that doesn't mean
it won't happen: Mr. Bush ignored similar warnings, including those of his
own father, about the risks involved in invading Iraq.

As Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
recently pointed out, the administration seems to be following exactly the
same script on Iran that it used on Iraq: "The vice president of the United
States gives a major speech focused on the threat from an oil-rich nation in
the Middle East. The U.S. secretary of state tells Congress that the same
nation is our most serious global challenge. The secretary of defense calls
that nation the leading supporter of global terrorism. The president blames
it for attacks on U.S. troops."

Why might Mr. Bush want another war? For one thing, Mr. Bush, whose
presidency is increasingly defined by the quagmire in Iraq, may believe that
he can redeem himself with a new Mission Accomplished moment.

And it's not just Mr. Bush's legacy that's at risk. Current polls suggest
that the Democrats could take one or both houses of Congress this November,
acquiring the ability to launch investigations backed by subpoena power.
This could blow the lid off multiple Bush administration scandals. Political
analysts openly suggest that an attack on Iran offers Mr. Bush a way to head
off this danger, that an appropriately timed military strike could change
the domestic political dynamics.

Does this sound far-fetched? It shouldn't. Given the combination of
recklessness and dishonesty Mr. Bush displayed in launching the Iraq war,
why should we assume that he wouldn't do it again?

06 April 2006

mitch_roots_closeup


mitch_roots_closeup
Originally uploaded by irsslex.
Date: 18/3/06
Root Cellar, Milwaukee, WI

03 April 2006

John and Jerry

Paul Krugman usually has something thoughtful to say. Not over the top,
balanced and very real. To me, this is an accurate assessment of the
de-evolution of John McCain.

RS

OP-ED COLUMNIST
  John and Jerry

PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: April 3, 2006

Well, I'll be damned. At least, that's what the Rev. Jerry Falwell says.
Last month Mr. Falwell issued a statement explaining that, in his view, Jews
can't go to heaven unless they convert to Christianity. And what Mr. Falwell
says matters — maybe not in heaven, but here on earth. After all, he's a
kingmaker in today's Republican Party.

Senator John McCain obviously believes that he can't get the Republican
presidential nomination without Mr. Falwell's approval. During the 2000
campaign, Mr. McCain denounced Mr. Falwell and the Rev. Pat Robertson as
"agents of intolerance." But next month Mr. McCain will be a commencement
speaker at Liberty University, which Mr. Falwell founded.

On "Meet the Press" yesterday, Mr. McCain was asked to explain his apparent
flip-flop. "I believe," he replied, "that the Christian right has a major
role to play in the Republican Party. One reason is because they're so
active and their followers are. And I believe they have a right to be a part
of our party."

So what has happened since the 2000 campaign to convince Mr. McCain that Mr.
Falwell is not, in fact, an agent of intolerance?
Maybe it was Mr. Falwell's TV appearance with Mr. Robertson on Sept. 13,
2001, during which the two religious leaders agreed that the terrorist
attack two days earlier was divine punishment for American immorality. "God
continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us
probably what we deserve," said Mr. Falwell, who also declared, "I really
believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the
gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative
lifestyle, the A.C.L.U., People for the American Way — all of them who have
tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say, 'You
helped this happen.' "

Or maybe it was Mr. Falwell's appearance on "60 Minutes" in October 2002,
when he declared, "I think Muhammad was a terrorist." Muhammad, he said, was
"a violent man" — unlike Mr. Falwell, I guess, who said of terrorists that
we should "blow them all away in the name of the Lord."

After each of these incidents, by the way, Mr. Falwell issued what were
described as "apologies." But they weren't apologies — they were statements
along the lines of, "I'm sorry that some people were upset by what I said."
It's clear that in each case Mr. Falwell's offensive remarks were not a slip
of the tongue; they reflected his deeply held beliefs.

And that's why it's important to hold someone like Mr. McCain — who is still
widely regarded as a moderate, in spite of his extremely conservative voting
record — accountable when he cozies up to Mr. Falwell. Nobody thinks that
Mr. McCain shares all of Mr. Falwell's views.

But when Mr. McCain said that the Christian right had a right to be part of
the Republican Party, he was in effect saying that Mr. Falwell's statements
were within the realm of acceptable political discourse.

Just to be clear: this is a free country, and Mr. Falwell has a right to say
what he thinks, even if his views include the belief that other people, by
saying what they think, brought down God's wrath on America. By the same
token, any political party has a right to include Mr. Falwell and his
supporters, just as any politician has a right to make a political alliance
with Mr. Falwell.

But if you choose to make common cause with religious extremists, you are
accepting some responsibility for their extremism. By welcoming Mr. Falwell
and people like him as members of their party, Republicans are saying that
it's O.K. — not necessarily correct, but O.K. — to declare that 9/11 was
America's punishment for its tolerance of abortion and homosexuality, that
Islam is a terrorist religion, and that Jews can't go to heaven. And voters
should judge the Republican Party accordingly.

As for Mr. McCain: his denunciation of Mr. Falwell and Mr. Robertson six
years ago helped give him a reputation as a moderate on social issues. Now
that he has made up with Mr. Falwell and endorsed South Dakota's ban on
abortion even in the case of rape or incest, only two conclusions are
possible: either he isn't a social moderate after all, or he's a cynical
political opportunist.

The Tragic Irony of John McCain's Faustian Bargain


The Tragic Irony of John McCain's Faustian Bargain (9 comments )
READ MORE: Iraq, Tim Russert, 2006, Harriet Miers, George W. Bush

A lot of people are angry at John McCain -- and with good reason. His
contemptible performance on this week's Meet the Press was enough to make
any sentient person's blood boil.

For a dose of this ire, check out georgia10 at Kos who proclaims "the death
of McCain the Maverick", Paul Krugman who raises the notion that McCain has
become "a cynical political opportunist", Cenk Uygur who says McCain "is a
shell of his former self." and Rachel Sklar who slams his "transparent
political backtracking."

But I come here not to condemn John McCain but to weep for him.

Watching a true American hero hang a For Sale sign on his principles is a
profoundly sad thing. Especially for me.

I've long admired, respected -- indeed loved -- John McCain. I've written
many columns about him citing his courage and integrity, traveled with him
on the Straight Talk Express, been to his home and met his wonderful family,
and introduced him as the keynote speaker at the 2000 Shadow Convention I
helped organize by calling him "the most prominent voice for reform within
the political system." In fact, I am still on the advisory committee of his
Reform Institute.

Even though we've frequently disagreed on issues, I have always been
impressed with the unfailingly above-board way he has navigated the often
choppy waters of political leadership. Until now.

Back in December, following another dispiriting McCain appearance on Meet
the Press in which he repeatedly provided cover for Bush's woeful
mishandling of Iraq, I wrote: "The big question now -- a question left
unanswered on today's show -- is: which is the real McCain? The captain of
the Straight Talk Express, or the one who showed up today trying to have it
both ways -- expressing just enough gentle criticism to keep his 'maverick'
bona fides, while at the same time assuring Bush's right wing supporters
they have nothing to worry about?"

Sadly, that big question is unanswered no more. McCain has clearly convinced
himself that the only way he can become president is to sell his soul --
making a pact with the devils of the religious right and turning into what
Jim Pinkerton dubbed "a born-again Bushophile".

There he was on Sunday, disavowing his 2000 claim that Jerry Falwell is "an
agent of intolerance," offering the very telling insight that "the Christian
right has a major role to play in the Republican Party" because "they're so
active, and their followers are." In other words: there are votes in them
thar pews so principles be damned. Liberty University commencement, here I
come!

McCain was equally transparent in his repeated efforts to carry water for
Bush. He backed the president's handling of Iraq -- and even went so far as
to call Bush's recent speeches on the war "fairly eloquent" (is this the
first time Bush and eloquence have been linked, other than by Harriet
Miers-types?). He told us he "applauds" the president's efforts in Iran. And
he shamelessly turned his back on his powerful explanation for being one of
only two Republican Senators to vote against Bush's 2001 tax cuts. Here's
what he said then: "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which
so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of
middle-class Americans who need tax relief." Now, when asked to defend his
recent vote to extend these same cuts, McCain offered the GOP boilerplate:
"I do not believe in tax increases."

There can be no doubt: McCain's blatant desire for the White House has
caused him to abandon the Straight Talk Express and hop on board the
Bullshit Express. Talk about "pimping your ride."

I find it deeply ironic that, at a time when voters are desperately longing
for a political leader with authenticity, a man who defined the authenticity
brand has now decided to screw with the formula.

The New McCain is the political equivalent of New Coke -- and will meet with
the same disastrous results.

It's worse than a Faustian bargain. At least Faust got what he desired in
exchange for his soul. McCain, in giving up the core of who he is -- as a
man and as a leader -- may actually be destroying his chances of getting
what he so desires.

The saddest thing is not how McCain has betrayed us -- it's how he has
betrayed himself.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/the-tragic-irony-of-john-_b
_18409.html