Thursday, January 27, 2011

Intelligence from an Unexpected Source

As Ben Smith reports on his Politico blog, Republican and Tea Party Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky has called for the ending of foreign aid to Israel and other Middle Eastern countries, arguing on CNN's Wolf Blitzer that continued American aid would only be "funding an arms race on both sides."

My Gut Reaction: Even a broken clock is correct twice a day.

Analysis: Rand Paul's statements cannot be construed as support for the Palestinian cause, or even as a condemnation of Israeli policy. Sen. Paul states that he admires Israel as a democracy, and it is clear from his comments that they stem more from an overall drive to lower federal spending.

Nevertheless, this statement raises some interesting questions in regard to United States policy toward Israel, and the current drive toward cutting federal spending. For all the Republicans' vows to lower the deficit, they seem very reluctant to even bring up the possibility of major cuts to defense spending. When we do hear them bring up defense cuts, they are already one's pre-approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Imagine if we had to run education spending cuts by the teachers' union!) Given that most of the aid to Israel falls into the category of military aid, Sen. Paul's comments have potentially broader implications.

Furthermore, Rand Paul lays his finger on an important truth when he notes that we are essentially funding an arms race in the Middle East. Although Sen. Paul makes this point while discussing the Arab nations we fund, it is worth considering how military aid to Israel also perpetuates the Middle East conflict. If the Israeli government did not have the assured backing of the United States and its military resources, Israeli leaders might be more amenable to actually making steps towards peace, such as dismantling settlements.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Jack Kelly: Ideological Contortionist (Warning: Strong Language)

In his column in this Sunday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jack Kelly tries to argue that the real source of violent rhetoric in the United States today is the liberal movement. He tries to link just about every major shooting or terror incident of the past two years to liberal ideology.

My Gut Reaction: According to the website SourceWatch, Kelly makes much of the fact that he served in the Marines and the Special Forces in his official biography. Just goes to show why they're paid to fight, not to think.

Analysis: It's difficult to know where to begin mocking Kelly's article, as it is strewn with statements of varying levels of stupidity. Perhaps we should start with his comments about the program Democracy Now!, which he characterizes as an obscure radio show. As even a cursory look at Democracy Now's website will reveal, it is both a television show and a radio show that plays on 900 stations across the country, making it one of the largest independent media operations in the United States. Not bad for an "obscure left wing radio program."

Things start to get funny when Kelly paints Jared Lee Loughner as a leftist largely based on the fact that he smoked pot and owned a book by Karl Marx. He conveniently omits the fact that Loughner had at least tenuous connections to the group American Renaissance, a white supremacist organization whose founder at one point spoke at Loughner's college. This linkage has been documented by such radical sources as the Department of Homeland Security and the Christian Science Monitor. He also listed Hitler's Mein Kampf as one of his favorite books, another sign of his liberal credentials.

Kelly descends even deeper into comic territory when he attempts to attribute just about every major act of political violence over the past two years to liberalism. The most laugh inducing paragraph in this section is when he depicts James von Brunn, the lunatic who attacked the National Holocaust Museum, as an enemy of conservatism. Never mind the fact that von Brunn was an avowed white supremacist who claimed that President Obama was not an American. Or the fact that he posted on the conservative website Free Republic, which quietly deleted his writings after the shooting. Very liberal guy, Mr. von Brunn.

Kelly then proceeds to shoot his argument in the foot. Having argued against the possibility that violent right wing rhetoric could produce killings, he then claims that criticism of Sarah Palin by figures such as Scott Simon of NPR has resulted in an increase of death threats against Sarah Palin. So violent right wing ranting, complete with gun imagery, is perfectly fine, but even moderate criticism of Republicans by left wingers is an incendiary act.

Just how fucking stupid do you think your readers are, Mr. Kelly?

What Mr. Kelly's argument represents is a thinly veiled concern among right wingers that their own violent calls to action could be turned against them. Even though it is highly unlikely that President Obama or any of the cowards who make up the Democratic leadership would be willing to take a truly hard line with the conservatives over this issue, there is nothing to stop the left wing netroots from adopting the right's rhetorical tactics. What's good for the goose may also be good for the gander.

Coming Home

A Virginia teenager, Gulet Mohamed, has finally returned to the United States after being held in Kuwait for a month due to the fact that he was on the no-fly list. Government officials had apparently placed him on the list because he had visited Yemen and Somalia. Mohamed is of Somali descent, and alleges that he was tortured by Kuwaiti authorities while in that country.

My Gut Reaction: Proud of your allies, President Obama?

Analysis: This seems to be a case of the United States government using foreign allies to carry out interrogations and torture that they would not be able to get away with in this country. As Amnesty International documents in its 2010 Annual Report, the Kuwaiti government itself has admitted to torturing people suspected of involvement in terrorism. Given this background, it seems likely that Mohamed's allegations are true.

I cannot make any judgments about Gulet Mohamed's involvement or lack thereof in terrorism. However, anyone with an ounce of moral decency should acknowledge that the way to deal with terrorism is to investigate and stop it through proven intelligence methods, not to outsource torture to some third world regime we are involved with.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Raid on Dreaming Ant Video

Today, I am going to be posting about a news story that I have an indirect connection to. The video store that I go to, Dreaming Ant Video, was raided yesterday evening, apparently in connection with a false press release that was sent out to mock the Fraternal Order of Police. They seized Dreaming Ant's business computer, as well as the wireless servers of Crazy Mocha, the coffee shop Dreaming Ant is based in.

My Gut Reaction: Don't the police have something more important to do than to pursue vendettas against people who parody or insult them?

Analysis: The phony press release in question had to do with the Jordan Miles case, which involved an honors student who was beaten by the police, leading to allegations of police brutality. The press release contained a false admission of guilt by the FOP, which has supported the officers in the case. The Fraternal Order of Police, in turn, would like to press charges against whoever made the release up, including identity theft.

This is screwed up on a number of fronts. First of all, it is hard to see why Dreaming Ant should have to shut down-they can't really function without a computer to keep track of rentals-just because some idiot used the wireless connection in the coffee shop they're based in to send out a phony press release. This action demonstrates a total lack of proportionality on the part of the Pittsburgh Police Force.

Second, it is difficult to see how sending out a phony press release with a fake letterhead on it constitutes identity theft. This seems more like a case of the Police Department abusing its powers in order to stifle criticism over the Miles case. What this incident calls for is not legal action, but a sound spanking for the idiot who sent it out in the first place. Such legal overreaches make it open to question whether the police department is fully trustworthy.

The best way the Police Department can atone for this is to hand the computer back immediately, and to reimburse Dreaming Ant and Crazy Mocha for any money lost due to loss of business. While they're at it, the police should send me, and every resident of Pittsburgh, a check repaying the tax money expended on this raid.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lincoln, Lincoln, Lincoln...

As Ben Smith reports on his Politico blog, Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island has banned state employees from spending their work time talking on talk radio. His decision, obviously spurred by the Tuscon rampage, argues that state employees giving interviews on talk radio would constitute supporting ratings and profit driven programming.

My Gut Reaction: This is a very stupid idea.

Analysis: What the hell is Governor Chafee thinking??? He's just given the talk radio fanatics the perfect excuse to scream censorship, while also ceding a major section of the mass media to his enemies. This is not the way to act if you want to get anything done or stay in office.

The way to deal with the talk radio bullies is not to run away from them or try to censor them, but to give them a dose of their own medicine. It is not time to flee, but to fight back. The Democratic and Independent public officials of this country should be dragging the Republicans and their talk radio sycophants across the coals right now. It is time to make it clear to these lunatics that they are not going to be tolerated by the thinking people of America.

Grow a pair and start fighting back, Lincoln.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Massacre in Tuscon (Warning: Strong Language)

This past Saturday's massacre in Arizona, which severely wounded Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, has sparked a great deal of debate over civil discourse in American politics. This evening's episode of Nightline, although posing as an objective newscast, argued that it was simply a matter of an insane person which had nothing to do with politics. Provocations such as Sarah Palin literally targeting Rep. Giffords in a gun sight in an e-mail and tea partiers holding an anti-Giffords rally in which guns were fired off had nothing to do with it.

My Gut Reaction: Who the fuck are they kidding?

Analysis: This is just another example of the mainstream media being too chicken to take a position on even the simplest of issues, consequently reducing itself to inanities. The conclusion of the 'experts' they had on was that mass murderers are crazed perverts.

Wow!Spree killers are mental cases. I would never of thought of that myself! The question isn't whether someone who engages in this type of activity is a mental case, but what triggers them to act out in a certain direction. And given the level of violent rhetoric that surrounds this Congresswoman, I find it very difficult to believe that there was no correlation.

For me, the solution is not any type of limit on free speech. Rather, liberals and progressives should start to play tit for tat with the Republicans and their pet fanatics in the Tea Party in terms of rhetoric. If the conservatives are going to use inflammatory images and words to rally support, so should we. No more Mr. Nice Guy...