Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Coward's Bludgeon

In a comment on the blog Victim's Voice, run by Stephen Flatlow, a commentor calling herself Shana Maydel has accused me of anti-semitism. My post, which criticized the activities of organizations such as the ADL and AIPAC for being uncritically supportive of Israel. To Maydel, this comment was apparently tantamount to alleging that Jews control the government and the media, something which I do not believe.

My Gut Reaction: Shana Maydel (whomever she may be) is a childish coward.

Analysis: Maydel's rather incoherent rant raises several issues. First, her unsubstantiated use of the term anti-semite cheapens the meaning of the term, effectively reducing it to a code word for anyone who disagrees with her in regard to the state of Israel. This dilutes the actual impact of the term, and makes it less likely that actual incidents of anti-semitism will be taken seriously in the future. (Essentially the boy who cried wolf effect.)

Second, Maydel hurls smears at the organization my comment originally defended CAIR, effectively calling it a front for Hamas. However, these charges have been debunked by Michael Rolince, a former FBI agent and counter terrorism expert who concludes there are no hard facts backing the accusations. (Hmmm...perhaps Ms. Maydel's next act should be to expose the FBI as an anti-semetic front group.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dare We Hope...

According to a news posting on the Carnal Nation website, the fanatical anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue may be on its last legs. The organization sent a message to its supporters recently saying that it is severely lacking in funds. The funding shortage may be partially due to the murder of Dr. George Tiller, in which the organization is indirectly implicated.

My Gut Reaction: If it's true, Hallelujah!

Analysis: The Tiller murder has undoubtedly played a major role in the organization's rapid reversal of fortune. The organization had a long history of harrassing Dr. Tiller and clinic workers. Furthermore, Dr. Tiller's probable assassin, Scott Roeder, had been in contact with Operation Rescue policy adviser Cheryl Sullenger, who herself did two years in prison for trying to bomb an abortion clinic.

However, as Chris Hall points out, this was not the only issue facing Operation Rescue. The organization had lost its tax exempt status due to activities during the 2004 presidential campaign.

Here We Go Again...

The usual one man gang of panic-mongers is at it again. Stephen Flatlow of the Victim's Voice Blog is in his usual state of borderline paranoia at the recent set of terror arrests. He is so worked up that he takes issue with anyone raising questions about what is happening, including a few snipes at the Muslim advocacy group CAIR (Council for American Islamic Relations) for pointing at that this was another group of bumbling idiots who had to be entrapped into doing something. He argues that they will defend anyone just because they are Muslim.

My Gut Reaction: Pot. Kettle. Black. (With apologies to Richard Dawkins.)

Analysis: Although Flatlow attempts to contrast the Muslim advocacy groups with Jewish advocacy groups, it would seem that many of these Jewish advocacy groups are guilty of the very things he accuses CAIR of. Anyone who follows Middle Eastern news regularly cannot help but be aware of the uncritical support given to Israel given by American Jewish advocacy groups such as AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League. Leaders of these groups such as Abraham Foxman justify virtually any Israeli action, without reflection on its brutality, largely on the basis of shared religion.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9 / 11 Reconsidered

Eight years after September 11, 2001, I feel the time has come to reconsider that date's place in history. In our memory, it has gained a significance far beyond what it actually has, out of proportion to the number of people that died and the overall effects on the world.

To many Americans, 9 / 11 has become an epochal moment, a day of terror and atrocity that is beyond anything they have experienced. It is, in effect, the blackest day the world has ever seen. The only problem is, it was not.

Yes, the terrorist attacks that took place that morning were horrific and beyond the pale of experience of most Americans. Yes, the suffering of the victims' families must be awful. But 9 / 11 is not the only tragedy in human history, or in American history.

If we limit our glance merely to the twentieth century, we are faced with the Armenian genocide, the First World War, the Second World War, the Holocaust, the Palestinian Nakba, the Vietnam War, Pol Pot's Kampuchea, and numerous other historical events have killed far more people. What makes 9 / 11 so special is that it happened to us. It was a matter of location, not magnitude.

People said it would change everything. However, for most Americans, life has gone back to normal. Even in New York, the site of the attacks, things have gone back to pretty much the way they were. As an article in today's New York Times illustrates, even though many New Yorkers thought that the city would never recover, the city has suffered only minimal changes. Businesses have remained where they were, the city itself has not degenerated into a security state, and the population has not fled.

One might argue that 9 / 11 has changed everything. He or she might point to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or the sweeping anti-terror laws that were passed afterwards. However, these changes were not merely results of the attacks themselves. They were outgrowths of our panic, and unwillingness to think before we acted.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

President Obama's Speech Last Night

The behavior of congressional and Senate Republicans during last night's prime time speech by President Obama was genuinely embarrassing. From the idiot from South Carolina to Republican senators leaving early to "avoid the rush," the Republicans fully humiliated themselves, acting like small children.

My Gut Reaction: President Obama should have laid down the law.

Analysis: President Obama should not have taken that crap lying down. Upon Rep. Wilson's outburst, President Obama should have told the Republicans point blank to "Shut up!" or get out of the hall. He might also have considered personally mocking a few of them on national television. Spare the rod, spoil the ideologues.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Quit Hating on Jimmy

As Ben Smith reports on his Politico blog, some Jewish Democrats, although certainly not all, are taking offense at Jimmy Carter's willingness to make even a mild critique of Israeli policy. Elliot Abrams, an Iran-Contra indictee, and Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council whine about the former President's willingness to point out how big a contribution Israeli settlements have made to continuing the conflict in that region.

My Gut Reaction: Oh, boo-hoo...

Analysis: If one takes even a brief look at their website, it becomes clear what the NJDC is trying to do. As part of their "Stop the Smears" campaign, they are doing their best to present President Obama as Israel's best friend possible. Any comments, however legitimate, that might lead some to doubt the Democratic Party's support for Israel will be condemned, no matter how well-thought out they are.

However, these criticisms ignore the genuine moral claims of Palestinians in the face of Israeli settlers. Furthermore, they ignore the fact that, as a major source of funding for the Israeli government, we have the most control over what they do, and hold responsibility for their actions in the face of the Arab world. If we seek to be taken seriously as peacemakers, we must rein in the Israelis' actions.

Funny but True

Friday, September 04, 2009

How to Offend A Catholic

1. Tell them you used to be a Catholic, but are no longer.

2. Explain to them why you are no longer a Catholic.

3. Explain to them why a full grown woman might have more rights than a zygote.\

4. Discuss why you might be reluctant to send children to schools with track records of protecting pedophiles.

5. Suggest that the Church's limits on debate in Catholic colleges are actually a stifling of intellectual freedom.

6. Point out how idiotic the idea of papal infallibility is.

7. Point out the Church's adaptation of pagan saints and rituals.

8. Discuss the Church's history of violent intolerance.

9. Discuss the Church's collaboration with Fascist leaders such as Mussolini and Francisco Franco.

10. Point out the Church's indirect responsibility for violence and intolerance against homosexuals.

11. Point out various revisions the Church has made to its own doctrine.

12. Note that Catholic charities are not the only way to help the poor.

13. Point out how Catholic schools are in many respects indoctrination centers meant to brainwash children.

14. Discuss how the American Catholic Church is increasingly dependent on immigrants to keep its numbers up.

15. Mention all the former Catholics you keep meeting at Unitarian Churches.

16. Counter their arguments about how the longevity of the Church proves it's right by noting that Buddhism is older.

17. Note how all the best Catholic politicians are not particularly devout Catholics.

18. Discuss how the majority Catholic countries in Europe are largely secular.

19. Mention the Church's genocidal policies on AIDS in Africa.

20. Laugh at them when they post absurdist YouTube videos comparing President Obama to Hitler.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Blessed Are the Intolerant Nitwits

The usual gang of idiots at The Lair of the Catholic Cavement apparently have a beef with surfers or people who like going to the beach. In a screed against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, they complain about the diocese's effort to reach out to non-traditional religious communities among the surfer crowd, whom the blogger denounces as pagans and heretics.

This hostility from ultra-orthodox Catholics is apparently somewhat common. Another Catholic blog denounces the diocese for permitting Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, apparently taking issue with her positions on abortion and Obama's health care plan.

My Gut Reaction: This stupidity is what made me leave the Roman Catholic Church.

Analysis: I am no fan of the Catholic Church, but I feel that if members of the Church are willing to reach out to people with other religious and political viewpoints, that should be encouraged. More ecumenism, even from a church I stongly disagree with, is always to be encouraged.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Iraq: Land of the Death Penalty

According to Amnesty International, there are roughly one thousand people on death row in the country of Iraq. They are currently being held by the Iraqi Ministry of Justice, with some alleging that they were tortured to give false confessions. Iraq's current government has admitted to carrying out executions in secret.

My Gut Reaction: Ah, Iraq, that beacon of freedom in the Middle East.

Analysis: There are a number of human rights issues confronting the Iraqi government which should give observers extreme pause in trusting their use of capital punishment. For example, the Iraqi justice system has been documented to have difficulty dealing efficiently with lesser criminal cases. This is hardly an encouraging prospect for someone facing the death penalty.

I believe the death penalty is barbaric in all cases, no matter how serious the crime. Admittedly, many, although not all, of those facing death in Iraq are terrorists. However, that does not mean we should trust a government to kill them, particularly in a country that was so recently under a dictatorship.