Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bible Blogging: Genesis, Ch. 1 - 3

It is natural for humanity to grasp for knowledge and understanding. Questions such as "How did we get here?" and "What's the purpose of our existence?" will continue on in perpetuity.

Science is beginning to answer the first question, yet we all struggle still with the second. But what happens when humanity doesn't have the tools and capabilities to make even rudimentary inquiries into how we arrived on earth? You get creation myths such as The First Book of Moses, Commonly Called Genesis.

The interesting thing about Genesis, especially in regards to fundamentalism, is that two creation narratives co-exist within the first two chapters of the book. The first creation myth (Gen 1.1 - 2.3) establishes the power of the word ("And God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light.'")and God's creation of humanity in his own image, imploring them to "[b]e fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it." I don't think it's too far-fetched to state that the last command haunts us today in regards to human overpopulation and the resultant environmental degradation.

The second creation myth (Gen. 2.4 - 2.24) is much more fanciful with God fashioning the man, Adam, from dust and then his wife, Eve, from his rib. Also, the timeline differs with God creating man first and then populating the earth with all forms of life, both plant and animal, for food and enjoyment. This differs from the first creation narrative where humanity comes last. God, it seems, can create two worlds and then somehow splice them together a la Donnie Darko style. How fundamentalists can reconcile two creation narratives with differing timelines is beyond rationality. It seems with God all things are indeed possible. Also noteworthy in chapter 2, God tells the man, "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die," setting up humanity's fall from grace and humanity's mortality.

Enter the serpent in chapter 3, who can talk and beguile. This wily snake takes it upon itself to trick the woman into eating of the tree of knowledge, saying, "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." And wouldn't you know it, but that temptress falls for the serpent's double-talk and then gives some to her husband and he eats it as well. "Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked." God, naturally, finds out and punishes these two sinners by cursing them with not only death, but pain in childbirth and male dominance for the woman, and toiling in the soil for the man to reproduce his family's existence until his own eventual death. The final divine infliction upon these two transgressors is banishment from Eden, because there in grows the tree of life and God doesn't want them to gain immortality on top of having knowledge of both good and evil. God does not like competition, because, well, he's God.

Now, it's evident from even an elementary school education that this is a made-up story created by primitive people to answer pressing questions such as how the earth arose, how we got here, and why we die. Also, it has disciplinary implications such as servility to authority and the establishment of a patriarchal society.

The thing which matters today, is how, with all that science has accomplished and explained, can we believe this myth today? All the animals of the earth flourished in one day? What about those fossils showing millions and millions of years of adaptations and failed evolutionary experiments? Night and day aren't a product of a spoken utterance, but are due to the rotation of the earth on its axis as it orbits around the sun. We have evidence for all of this, fundamentalists don't have anything but the words in this piece of ancient literature.

Lastly, we should look at the message these creation myths perpetuate. Although more liberal religious people claim the command, "[b]e fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it," is one of stewardship, this isn't what's communicated in this translation. They're merely reinterpreting it to serve their environmental ideology. The command is simple: breed and conquer nature.

Another message embedded within the text is that women are second class beings, slaves to their masters, men. Let's be serious, how many of us would tell our daughters that certain careers or lifestyles are out of their hands because a book people believe is the word of God proclaimed that a woman's, "desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you?" Rightly so, not many.

And of all the things that bother me the most is God's punishment for man's thirst for knowledge in chapter 3 of Genesis. What kind of God would create an inquisitive being and then place a powerful temptation before it and declare it off limits? Are Adam and Eve merely playthings for this God? Does this God show forgiveness or love of any kind?

When you add the fantastic elements, the contradictory timelines and possible interpretations of this story together, the thing that should strike a rational reader is not the believability of the account, but that anyone of a modern education could still believe this literally.

Continue Reading...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Immorality of Religious Certainty

I found this quote in Sam Harris' phenomenal treatise on the riches of reason and the poverty of religious faith, The End of Faith. It gets to heart of what I've been trying to argue through my posts on the religious right and their intellectual association to their vile Islamic counterparts.
"Intolerance is the natural concomitant of strong faith; tolerance grows only when faith loses certainty; certainty is murderous."
This is from the philosopher Will Durant's The Age of Faith. Durant understood, as we all should, that the ability to claim supernatural knowledge of the divine without evidence leads people to separate themselves as superior from whomever they regard as inferior. When people become less than human, the leap from mere intolerance to the Towers, the inquisitor's chair, or the gas chambers isn't the chasm we believe it to be.

P.S. To see just how sensitive some Christians are, check out this website maligning Will Durant as a "Christianity trasher." For some Christians, as long as their are those that are unconvertable and disagree with them and demand evidence for their beliefs, Christianity will always be under attack. Scary.

Continue Reading...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Lightning Strikes Twice

Uh-oh, I almost agree wholeheartedly with Thomas Friedman again. This is getting eerie. Here's what he has to say about Corporate America and their enlightened self-interest in keeping the U.S. as competitive as possible.
America faces a huge set of challenges if it is going to retain its competitive edge. As a nation, we have a mounting education deficit, energy deficit, budget deficit, health care deficit and ambition deficit. The administration is in denial on this, and Congress is off on Mars. And yet, when I look around for the group that has both the power and interest in seeing America remain globally focused and competitive - America's business leaders - they seem to be missing in action. I am not worried about the rise of the cultural conservatives. I am worried about the disappearance of an internationalist, pro-American business elite.

Is there any company in America that should be more involved in lobbying for some form of national health coverage than General Motors, which is being strangled by its health care costs? Is there any group of companies that should have been picketing the White House more than our high-tech firms, after the Bush team cut the National Science Foundation budget by $100 million in 2005 and in 2006 has proposed shrinking the Department of Energy science programs and basic and applied research in the Department of Defense - key sources of innovation?

Is there any constituency that should be clamoring for a sane energy policy more than U.S. industry? Is there any group that should be mobilizing voters to lobby Congress to pass the Caribbean Free Trade Agreement and complete the Doha round more than U.S. multinationals? Should anyone be more concerned about the fiscally reckless deficits we are leaving our children than Wall Street?
Friedman's right about all this, but he misses one important aspect that makes this unlikely: corporations have only one priority -- maximize profits in the interest of their shareholders. So if an Indian is better educated and a more efficient worker and cheaper than an American worker, then the corporation would be actually unethical to promote the interests of their nation (hiring an American at more cost than a cheaper Indian equivalent) above their shareholders according to the rules that govern it. As horrible as it is to say, either the U.S. government can make it easier to do business here, which they have been doing, or they can create a push to regulate corporate activity internationally. Unless there is a international disciplinary regime to govern and regulate corporate activity, any laws created to impede a corporation's pursuit of profit, will result in corporate lawsuits challenging a nation's commerce laws and capital flight -- think of NAFTA and the World Trade Organization.

The thing to recognize here is that corporate power is disproportionate to that of the nation-state, because control of capital is control of live itself. (Just think about how employment drives national elections.) Unless nation-states ban together to regulate corporate activity, CEO's of any nationality will not do what's best for their nation, but what's best for their shareholders. That's corporate logic. Therefore corporations have to be forced to change that logic and make labor, the environment, and human rights just as important as shareholders. The problem is that countries are clamoring to be exploited by corporate capital, because, while arguable, it does lead to development.

Continue Reading...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Resplendent Zinn

Please head on over to TomDispatch.com and read Howard Zinn's commencement address to Spelman College's 2005 class. The ironic thing is that this "people's historian" was fired in 1963 from his position as chairman of the history department of this black college due to his civil rights activities. While Professor Zinn is unique in his democratic belief that people should control their government, their culture, and their economy for the common good, he's uncommon in his zest to stand side-by-side in direct action to achieve this.

In his address he reminded the graduates -- with an eye toward today -- what happens when a committed group of people are ready to battle the bullet and baton non-violently for what's moral and just:
I want to remind you that, fifty years ago, racial segregation here in the South was entrenched as tightly as was apartheid in South Africa. The national government, even with liberal presidents like Kennedy and Johnson in office, was looking the other way while black people were beaten and killed and denied the opportunity to vote. So black people in the South decided they had to do something by themselves. They boycotted and sat in and picketed and demonstrated, and were beaten and jailed, and some were killed, but their cries for freedom were soon heard all over the nation and around the world, and the President and Congress finally did what they had previously failed to do -- enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. Many people had said: The South will never change. But it did change. It changed because ordinary people organized and took risks and challenged the system and would not give up. That's when democracy came alive.
As the Japanese have their scholar-warriors, Howard Zinn is our American scholar-activist, using his intelligence and time to document how ordinary Americans, indigenous as well as immigrant, have been smashed by concentrated power throughout history, but more importantly and triumphantly, how they have risen up and demanded their rights and a better life. He never tires in reminding us that this is in us as well, and necessary, if we are to retain the republic we so love. He never tires in inspiring.

Continue Reading...

Blogs Matter To Democracy

To be honest, before I started Woodshavings I thought blogs were imprudent, vain, and stupid. They were a platform for the puffy, portly, and pretentious soul, chained to his computer and who had no use for Saturday night. Obviously, my opinion has changed but I'm not above an imprudent comment here and there, and I enjoy knowing that some of you check in regularly to read my posts, although I'm sure my IQ has been a matter of speculation for others. So, basically, blogs can be -- and I grant most of the time are -- imprudent, vain, and stupid. Yet, the blog platform's low-cost and easy accessibility provides a potential to be transformative when harnessed by the right people to expose the wrong people in the interest of democracy and public accountability.

NYTs op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof brings us one of those muckrakers today, a Mr. Li Xinde, a self-appointed journalist that travels around China using his blog to make the unaccountable accountable to the public in the interest of transparent government -- a hallmark of democracy. Read all about him here and the power of blogs to battle for free expression and an accountable government in China.

Continue Reading...

Monday, May 23, 2005

Biblical Knowledge Should Be Fundamental to the Fundamentalist

Yesterday, the NYTs Magazine ran a lengthy piece on my Pennsylvania Senator, Rick Santorum. While there is no doubt Santorum is a fundamentalist, and probably the most dangerous man in politics right now if you believe in privacy rights and equal protection under the law, he is a true believer and I respect that. Nevertheless, he's a dangerous force if democracy's a virtue you believe in.

Yet I caught this little tidbit from Santorum that just causes consternation, particularly since it validates my contention that a good many believers don't read what they believe is the word of God.
Santorum is not a reader of Scripture -- "I've never read the Bible cover to cover; maybe I should have'' -- and has no passages he clings to when seeking spiritual guidance. "I'm a Catholic, so I'm not a biblical scholar. I'm not someone who has verses he can pop out. That's not how I interact with the faith.''
But earlier in the piece Michael Sokolove dredged this up from a 1999 speech at the Heritage Foundation:
''How is it possible, I wonder, to believe in the existence of God yet refuse to express outrage when his moral code is flouted?'' he asked that day. ''To have faith in God, but to reject moral absolutes?
It could be me, but how can you know God's morals if you've never read the book you said he wrote? As anyone knows, there are many different interpretations of the Bible within Catholic circles. Where did Santorum get his if he never read the book?

This is why religion, particularly a fundamentalist reading of whatever text is your poison -- or if you're Santorum, religion by miraculous absorption -- is positively septic to a vibrant, pluralistic, and democratic society.

People like Santorum want to govern according to Scripture, just don't ask them to quote it.

UPDATE: I have picked up my Bible, the revised standard version Catholic edition, and will begin reading Genesis tomorrow. Bible blogging will begin shortly afterwards, hopefully book by book.

Continue Reading...

The Big Deal

It seems a combination of 14 Senate Democrats and moderate Republicans have come to terms to avert a Tuesday vote on banning the filibuster on judicial nominees. As part of the deal, the "senators pledged to vote to end prolonged debate on three of President Bush's most disputed appellate court nominees: Priscilla R. Owen of Texas, Janice Rogers Brown of California and William H. Pryor of Arkansas." You can read all about it here. To be honest, I don't know how I feel about this yet.

Continue Reading...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

My Summer Project

I'm going to do what most religious people haven't, read the Bible cover to cover. While anyone that has read this blog knows my hostility to religion and religious thought altogether, I thought I should start at the source and try to remain as objective as possible.

Now, I've read much of the Bible already, particularly the four Gospels, and found them wanting at fourteen while in the thrall of priests and nuns who failed to show any of those Christ-like characteristics they tried to pound into us little sheep, so don't expect any epiphany or Saul-like conversion. This is a project to demonstrate that between the cover of this book lies Yahweh inspired rape, murder, pillage, and genocide. Sure, there's love, but that love really only extends to Jews in the Old Testament and followers of Christ in the New Testament -- those who don't convert await eternal hellfire. And yes there's wisdom as well, but you can find much of the same in myriad other works of literature.

The point of all this is to show the fundamentalists -- who deny reason for the power of faith -- that if they truly believe in the literal truth of the Bible, then this modern world of ours that they take advantage of is a cauldron of vice: essentially know one gets out alive. The other point is to prove to religious moderates that their moderation is rather ridiculous considering they don't follow the book supposedly written by God. Better yet, that they wouldn't dare teach most of its contents to their children if they wanted them to be well-adjusted, good human beings.

Now I know the objection already, I don't have to believe in the literal truth of the Bible to be a Christian. Well, actually, you do. The only evidence for the Christian belief system is the Bible. Rationally if you can disprove or at least show the improbability of those fanciful stories, then you ultimately undermine the rest. Remember,believers claim the book was written by God. Therefore, if you don't believe this or that or follow this or that commandment, then you're betraying God. If you believe that the Bible is more allegory than the word, you can't really claim you believe that Jesus was both man and God, resurrected as proof of God's love. How can one use reason to shine skepticism on one fanciful story and then swallow the most ridiculous of them all?

I know this all sounds intolerant. But why? Christians attack Muslims for their beliefs and vice versa all the time. When you really study the Bible and the Koran, are the precepts within all that different? Switch Yahweh to Allah and Jesus to Muhammad and you have essentially the same book, calling on humans to do the most despicable of acts in one chapter while chapters later imploring them to love selflessly.

Bottomline, if you claim you live, or are cognizant of, the truth, then everyone has the right to question that truth, especially if you want to ground a secular, democratic nation's laws underneath the aegis of your private ghost in the sky.

If you can't meet the same standard of skepticism you apply to others, then your private beliefs, should stay just that, private.

Continue Reading...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

When He's Right, He's Right

Rarely do I agree wholeheartedly with Thomas Friedman, but his op-ed today in the NYTs is right on. Have a look. (Besides, there isn't much time before linking to Friedman is impossible due to the wisdom of the NYTs.)

Continue Reading...

Getting Tough With China?

According to the AP via the NYTs, the Bush Administration has warned China to stop manipulating both the dollar and the yuan, unless they want the U.S. to retaliate. By pegging the yuan to the dollar and then buying up "more than $250 billion in dollar-denominated securities over the past year" -- bringing their holdings to about $600 billion overall -- the Chinese have kept the dollar artificially high compared to the yuan, thereby making Chinese exports dirt cheap in the U.S. The only thing I can write is it's about time!

It will be interesting to see how giant retailers like Wal-Mart, who use the overpriced dollar to supply most of their inventory from China, will respond to the possibility of the dollar and the yuan approaching each other in value. Will they simply pass the price increase to consumers or will they marshall their lobbyists to raid Congressional offices on Capitol Hill? Probably both.

Continue Reading...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Posada Detained

U.S. Immigration has detained suspected Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles. No decision has been made on whether the U.S. will extradite Posada to Venezuela to stand trial for the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976. According to the AP, "The department did not say what it planned to do with Posada, who is wanted by Venezuela and Cuba. But it said that generally, the U.S. government does not return people to Cuba or to countries acting on Cuba's behalf. The department said it has 48 hours to determine his immigration status."

There has to be some arrangement where the U.S. government can save face and still ensure Posada is tried for his crimes. Or it could simply do what's right, and extradite him to Venezuela.

Continue Reading...

Cubans March for Posada Extradition

Hundreds of thousands of Cuban citizens are currently marching for the extradition of suspected terrorist Luis Posada, accused of blowing up the 1976 airliner that killed 73 people. Cuba wants Posada to be extradited to Venezuela to stand trial for that crime.

While Posada denies any involvement with the airliner bombing, he also allegedly helped plan and execute a 1997 string of bombings in Havana to upset Cuba's tourist industry. According to the AP,"he refused to confirm or deny playing a role in a series of 1997 bombings targeting Cuban tourist sites, including one that killed a young Italian tourist. 'Let's leave it to history,' he told the Herald."

On its face, there seems to be enough evidence to warrant Posada's extradition to stand trial. Yet, this could upset Florida's conservative, anti-Castro community that views Posada as a hero. Does Bush have the balls to alienate this invaluable constituency, particularly when Jeb is governor of Florida and a future presidential candidate who will probably need to carry Florida to win? Hmmmm.

If Posada's not extradited, we have another glaring example of the hypocrisies of Bush's "War on Terrorism."

Continue Reading...

Monday, May 16, 2005

Chappelle No Show For All The Right Reasons

I found this cruising Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish. It seems comic genius Dave Chappelle's flight to South Africa has nothing to do with drugs or mental instability, but his desire to slow down, take a long look at himself, and ensure the comedy isn't tainted by the fame, the forture, and the pressure to deliver. God, how I like him even more. Apparently, Chappelle is a Muslim -- how devout I have no idea -- yet his take on his faith you'll find in this article by Time's Christopher John Farley is refreshing in the era of jihad.

Continue Reading...

The Times Takes On Class

Kudos to the NYTs for broaching a subject that has become increasingly taboo -- social class -- even as inequality continues to widen. Yesterday, the NYTs opened a series of articles, entitled "Class Matters," which explores how social class determines how far an individual can climb up America's increasingly long and fractured economic ladder. Here Janny Scott and David Leonhardt sum up their findings:
...[C]lass is still a powerful force in American life. Over the past three decades, it has come to play a greater, not lesser, role in important ways. At a time when education matters more than ever, success in school remains linked tightly to class. At a time when the country is increasingly integrated racially, the rich are isolating themselves more and more. At a time of extraordinary advances in medicine, class differences in health and lifespan are wide and appear to be widening.

And new research on mobility, the movement of families up and down the economic ladder, shows there is far less of it than economists once thought and less than most people believe. In fact, mobility, which once buoyed the working lives of Americans as it rose in the decades after World War II, has lately flattened out or possibly even declined, many researchers say.

Mobility is the promise that lies at the heart of the American dream. It is supposed to take the sting out of the widening gulf between the have-mores and the have-nots. There are poor and rich in the United States, of course, the argument goes; but as long as one can become the other, as long as there is something close to equality of opportunity, the differences between them do not add up to class barriers.
The Horatio Algers argument, or myth, is American folklore. This isn't surprising and neither is people's difficulty, on every economic level, in acknowledgeing this. The poor and the middle-class have a lot invested in this folklore: Who wants to admit they are relatively stuck in the same socio-economic group for the rest of their life? Upper middle-class people as well as the rich want to believe that everything they've acquired or stashed away is legit, rightfully earned through hardwork without the privilege class bestows.

And while all believe in the American Dream of rising up the rungs of the socio-economic ladder, the United States ranks behind France, Denmark, and Canada in terms of social mobility while ranking parallel with Great Britain. What should strike one is that all these countries have public policies that are more socialistic than the United States. Interestingly, Denmark, probably one of the most robust social democracies, ranks number one in social mobility. While the NYTs authors don't make these connections, this data seems to show that government intervention into the marketplace helps rather than hinders social mobility. When done justly and democratically, the government can help produce socio-economic results that benefit the masses and help give those born into disadvantage the foundation -- good health and a good education -- needed to level the playing field so that merit, not privilege, is indicative of how far the individual will climb in a lifetime.

If this country, or any other country for that matter, is concerned with providing equal opportunity to all its citizens, then the public must organize to push for free college education and free, universal healthcare for all. A healthy and intelligent workforce can only be helpful in an era of increasing globalization where efficiency and intellectual capital are evermore important in determining a nation's competitiveness.

Continue Reading...

Friday, May 13, 2005

A Dynastic Presidency

It looks like Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich are politically approaching each other on military and healthcare issues. According to the NYTs, their time together working on these issues led Gingrich to say, "any Republican who thinks she's going to be easy to beat has a total amnesia about the history of the Clintons."

From any ideological perspective, you might think this is a Faustian bargain, but I'm more bothered by the implications of a Hillary Clinton presidency or for that matter a Jeb Bush presidency in the next couple of election cycles.

If Hillary Clinton does win the 2008 nomination for president and takes the presidency, that would mean this nation, the supposedly most democratic on earth, has been led by two families, without an intermission, for the last 24 years. There's no doubt Jeb Bush has presidential desires as well. If Ms. Clinton does become president and governs well, she might be politically unbeatable in 2012. Jeb, smart as he is, may wait her second term out and start with a clean slate.

So it's possible the United States could be in the thrall of two political families, both utterly corrupt and craven, for the forseeable future. This may sound like hysteria, but it's certainly possible and plausible -- and I might add, completely undesirable and destructive of republican government.

Even if there are short presidential terms between either a Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush presidency, we're already in the era of American dynastic politics where the most powerful position in the world has been much too concentrated in the hands of two families. And to the detriment of our already fragile democracy, it could get worse.

Continue Reading...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Freedom: A Vital Possibility

With all the talk of freedom lately, I thought I'd post this quote and eliminate any reference to the ideology associated with it.
"X recognises only the relative significance of ideas, institutions, and social conditions. It is, therefore not a fixed, self enclosed social system, but rather a definite trend in the historical development of mankind, which, in contrast with the intellectual guardianship of all clerical and governmental institutions, strives for the free unhindered unfolding of all the individual and social forces in life. Even freedom is only a relative, not an absolute concept, since it tends constantly to broaden its scope and to affect wider circles in manifold ways. For the X, freedom is not an abstract philosophical concept, but the vital concrete possibility for every human being to bring to full development all capacities and talents with which nature has endowed him, and turn them to social account. The less this natural development of man is interfered with by ecclesiastical or political guardianship, the more efficient and harmonious will human personality become, the more will it become the measure of the intellectual culture of the society in which it has grown."
This quote was written by Rudolf Rocker in his "Anarcho-Syndicalism," published in 1938 as the Nazi menace became apparent. On the left, Rocker and the rest of the anarchists were the only ones to rail against both the exploitative and disciplinary nature of capitalism and the evils of authoritarian communism. As you can see from the quote above, Rocker's view of freedom was evolutionary and dependent on the aspirations of the people organized democratically. This is counter to the conception of freedom evoked by President Bush where freedom is merely equated to representative government and free enterprise, with the latter superceding the former. Representative government and free enterprise are indeed important steps in the evolution of most of the world's societies for sure. Yet here in America, it's time we took a step toward Rocker's more expansive conception of freedom which allows the public to decide how to organize their society, rather than be mere spectators to economic and political processes over which they have no control.

Continue Reading...

Idle Hands

It's not only recent college grads that have seen their economic fortunes go woe. As Bob Herbert explains today, most of the jobs created since 2000 have gone largely to immigrants, leaving younger workers' to explore whether idle hands are truly the devil's playthings.
[A] recent report from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston tells us that the employment rate for the nation's teenagers in the first 11 months of 2004 - just 36.3 percent - was the lowest it has ever been since the federal government began tracking teenage employment in 1948.

Those 20 to 24 years old are also faring poorly. In 2000, 72.2 percent were employed during a typical month. By last year that percentage had dropped to 67.9 percent.
Two-thirds of this generation can't even reproduce their parents' prosperity. One of the most thoroughly ingrained beliefs of America is that you will do better economically than your parents before you.

It looks like another aspect of the American Dream is up for revision, which means, parents, get used to your kids, cause they're never leaving home.

Continue Reading...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A Progressive Ownership Society

Over at Commondreams.org, Gar Alperovitz argues there's a progressive tax revolt gaining currency on the local and state level.
Last November California voters approved tax increases for people making more than $1 million--and earmarked the proceeds for mental health programs. New Jersey has enacted legislation taxing those making more than $500,000–and uses the money to offset regressive property taxes.

In Connecticut–which is currently considering a new tax on incomes over a million–a recent poll found 77% of voters in favor of the tax (including 63% of Republican voters!)

The conservative Virginia State Senate has also approved legislation to raise income taxes on those making more than $150,000. And in Indiana, Mitch Daniels, once President Bush’s extremely conservative White House Budget director (“the blade”) and now governor of the state, proposed a special tax increase on residents making more than $100,000 a year

Even as Washington has been cutting taxes for the rich, these initiatives aim to raise them at the state level. The progressive tax revolt is the logical result of three fundamental realities:

First, the draconian Bush tax cuts have led to equally draconian federal spending cuts. Second, the pain these are causing is being felt at the state and local level as mounting educational, Medicaid, transportation, environmental and other problems. Third, at the state level there is politically often simply no other place to turn for revenues but to those at the top.

Unlike attempts to tax the suburbs, moreover, targeting the very top elite groups can put 95-98% of the electorate on one side of the line of political demarcation–and only a tiny 2-5% on the other side. As the Republican poll data in Connecticut suggest, the extremely unequal economic gains of the last decades have made targeting the highly favored few politically and ethically compelling.
By taxing the fortunes of the super-rich, innovative public policies on the local and state level could be financed to create wealth ownership on a community level.
[T]here are now more than 4,000 neighborhood development corporations which invest in housing and other services. Over the last three decades employee-owned companies have grown from a handful to an estimated 10-11,000. In communities all across the nation creative mayors have been establishing new municipal enterprises to produce additional revenues for public services.

Hundreds of nonprofit social enterprises also now own businesses which help pay for service provision and simultaneously create jobs for disadvantaged populations. In many cities new land trusts have created an ownership form which maintains low and moderate income housing. There are also thousands of traditional and modern cooperatives which use ownership strategies to serve more than 115 million members.
Many of Alperovitz's ideas can be found in his interesting new book, America Beyond Capitalism. Essentially, Alperovitz is trying to define a neo-socialism that is not state-driven, where capital is controlled on a community level by popular organizations and its investment is democratically controlled for the benefit of the public. These progressive and innovative initiatives that Alperovitz explores are a necessary counterweight to the corporate driven "democratic centralism" that leaves people alienated, isolated, and powerless. They are ways to bring public decision making into the economic realm, a democratic deficit too long ignored.

Continue Reading...

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Economic Opportunities Down Among College Grads

Here are more reasons for twenty-somethings to get involved in politics and it dovetails pretty well with what Kevin Drum has been blogging about lately (here and here). According to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think-tank, real hourly wages, employer-provided health insurance, and employment have decreased among college grads. As you'll notice when you view the graphs accompanying the text is that the downturn has occurred underneath the Bush Administration.

Real hourly wages have declined for three consecutive years from $23.04 an hour in 2001 to $22.41 in 2004. Also the tendency of employers to provide health insurance to their young employees has dropped as well from 87.3% to 84.2% from 2000 to 2003. To top it all off, employment's down as well for college grads.

While the Bush Administration shouldn't receive all the blame, their obsession with gaming the economic system for the rich has economic repercussions. Tax cuts for the rich combined with the expenditures for war have hurt the government's ability to prime the pump to increase aggregate demand (which leads to employment gains) while our ever-increasing deficits are being financed by foreign lenders such as China and India which are keeping the dollar artificially high thereby making their exports cheap and ours priced out of most foreign markets. Whether or not the jobs created would be craved by recent college grads is another matter altogether. Globalization will persist and if foreign workers can do the job better and cheaper then they deserve the increased opportunities globalization has presented. The thing for progressives and other concerned parties is to ensure the competition is fair and not a race to the bottom.

Nevertheless, twenty-somethings need to take note, because it's going to be our responsibility to clean this mess of fiscal irresponsibility up.

Continue Reading...

Checks and Balances

Former Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell contributes a simple and direct op-ed to the NYTs today, arguing the legitimacy of the filibuster to prevent up-and-down votes on judicial nominees. And surprise, the current theocrats aren't being honest, claiming the Democrat's use of the filibuster is new (and therefore evidence that Democrats are "against people of faith.")
Between 1968 and 2001, both parties used filibusters to oppose judicial nominees. In 2000, the last year of Bill Clinton's presidency, Republican senators filibustered two of his nominees to be circuit judges. They also prevented Senate votes on more than 60 of Mr. Clinton's judicial nominees by other means.
But there's a better statistic to show the current GOP's megalomaniacal pursuit of power.
[Senate Republicans] claim that their actions are justified because the filibuster is being used unfairly to stop the confirmation of President Bush's nominees. But 208 of the president's 218 judicial nominees have been approved. That's right: the Senate has confirmed 95 percent of Mr. Bush's judicial nominees. That's a higher percentage of approval than any of his three predecessors achieved.
95%? Damn those obstructionist Democrats!

This isn't politics as usual, but a party contemptuous of the processes that ensure our republican form of government.

Continue Reading...

Monday, May 09, 2005

Homosexuality: More Biology Than Choice?

An interesting new study will be released tomorrow by the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences showing that homosexual men respond to male odor the same as straight women. The study was conducted by Dr. Ivanka Savic and colleagues in Stockholm, Sweden. Here's the science behind it from the NYTs.
Most odors cause specific, smell-related regions of the human brain to light up when visualized by a PET scanner, a form of brain imaging that tracks blood flow in the brain and hence, by inference, the presence of suddenly active neurons in need of extra glucose. Several years ago, Dr. Savic and colleagues showed that the two chemicals activated the brain in a quite different way from ordinary scents. The estrogen-like compound, though it activated the usual smell-related regions in women, lit up the hypothalamus in men. This is a brain center that governs sexual behavior and, through its control of the pituitary gland lying just beneath it, the hormonal state of the body.

The male sweat chemical, on the other hand, did just the opposite; it activated mostly the hypothalamus in women and the smell-related regions in men. The two chemicals seemed to be leading a double life, playing the role of odor with one sex and of pheromone with another.

Dr. Savic has now repeated the experiment but with the addition of homosexual men as a third group. The gay men responded to the two chemicals in the same way as did women, she reports, as if the hypothalamus's response is determined not by biological sex but by the owner's sexual orientation.
While this study matters scientifically because it may show humans produce phermones that help attract mates, it matters culturally as well. It seems that science is a step closer to proving homosexuality is disproportionately genetic.
Dr. [Simon] LeVay said he believed from animal experiments that the size differences in the hypothalamic region he had studied arose before birth, perhaps in response to differences in the circulating level of sex hormones. Both his finding and Dr. Savic's suggest the hypothalamus is specifically organized in relation to sexual orientation, he said.

Some researchers believe there is likely to be a genetic component of homosexuality because of its concordance among twins. The occurrence of male homosexuality in both members of a twin pair is 22 percent in non-identical twins but rises to 52 percent in identical twins. On the other hand, gay men have fewer children, meaning that in Darwinian terms any genetic variant that promotes homosexuality should be quickly eliminated from the population. Dr. [Dean]Hamer [a geneticist at the National Institutes of Health] believes such genes may nevertheless persist because, although they reduce descendants in gay men, they increase fertility in women.
And for those fundamentalist bigots that like to carry "God hates fags" signs and who will continue to cling to their despicable prejudice despite the evidence, I have only one question, "What loving God creates creatures in his image that have a sexual predilection that earns them eternal hellfire?"

Continue Reading...

Democratic Economic Stewardship

Jump on over to Political Animal where Mr. Drum dissects the economic numbers of Democratic stewardship over the economy versus Republican stewardship. The results shouldn't come as a surprise, but his twist on why the working poor and the lower-middle class vote Republican will.

Continue Reading...

Russian Amnesia

It's good to know that historical amnesia isn't an uniquely American trait. Today, Russia, with President Bush in attendance, celebrated Victory Day -- the formal surrender of Nazi Germany -- at Red Square in Moscow. Also in attendance was the ghost of Josef Stalin, his image draped on placards amid other Soviet imagery.

AFP/Getty Images Posted by Hello

Much like our veneration of Andrew Jackson or Ronald Reagan, the murder of multitudes and the gulag doesn't hurt his memory much.

Continue Reading...

Extradite Posada

One of the main tents of America's "War on Terrorism" is that suspected terrorists shouldn't find safehavens in other nations. The Bush Administration now has an opportunity to show they don't just talk a big game. Via the NYTs:
From the United States through Latin America and the Caribbean, Luis Posada Carriles has spent 45 years fighting a violent, losing battle to overthrow Fidel Castro. Now he may have nowhere to hide but here.

Mr. Posada, a Cuban exile, has long been a symbol for the armed anti-Castro movement in the United States. He remains a prime suspect in the bombing of a Cuban commercial airliner that killed 73 people in 1976. He has admitted to plotting attacks that damaged tourist spots in Havana and killed an Italian visitor there in 1997. He was convicted in Panama in a 2000 bomb plot against Mr. Castro. He is no longer welcome in his old Latin America haunts.

Mr. Posada, 77, sneaked back into Florida six weeks ago in an effort to seek political asylum for having served as a cold war soldier on the payroll of the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1960's, his lawyer, Eduardo Soto, said at a news conference last month.
Naturally this presents problems to the Bush clique considering the backlash that will result in Florida's Cuban community if the U.S. extradites Posada to Venezuela, which is willing to try him for the Cuban airline bombing. (Don't forget Chavez has warm relations with Castro.) The Bush Administration could also arrest him for illegal entry or grant Posada political asylum.

The Bush Administration should do the right thing and extradite Posada.

Continue Reading...

Friday, May 06, 2005

Scopes Redux

Kansas is currently undergoing a modern-day Scopes Trial as the conservative Kansas Board of Education is about to create new science standards which include theories counter to evolution -- meaning Intelligent Design and possibly Creationism.

I thought I could design an intelligent argument concerning another challenge to the validity of evolution, and science more broadly, but I'll leave it to Cheryl Shepherd-Adams, a physics teacher, to sum up these proceedings from a personal perspective: 'Kansas has been through this before," she said. "I'm really tired of going to conferences and being laughed at because I'm from Kansas.'"

Also if you have any doubt that these "doctors" --who by the way argued their questioning of evolution stemmed from religious conversion -- are simply utilizing scientific evidence to contest a theory that's more dogma than fact, I give you William S. Harris, director of the Intelligent Design Network, who helped write the new standards.
"You can infer design just by examining something, without knowing anything about where it came from," [he] said, offering as an example "The Gods Must be Crazy," [yeah, that's right, "The Gods Must be Crazy,"] a film in which Africans marvel at a Coke bottle that turns up in the desert. "I don't know who did it, I don't know how it was done, I don't know why it was done, I don't have to know any of that to know that it was designed."
Meaning Dr. Harris doesn't need evidence other than his own belief. That's not science Mr. Harris, its theology. (Harris wrote Intelligent Design: The Scientific Alternative to Evolution. Note how it wasn't published by a scientific journal but The National Bioethics Catholic Quarterly.)

Also if you read the article closely, you'll find the recurrent inability of proponents of ID to distinguish between the common everyday usage of theory --speculation-- and how it's meant in the sciences -- "a set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena."

When proponents of ID can show their theory has been repeatedly tested and can make predictions about natural phenomena, then it should be included in a public school's curriculum.

Until then, it's time for ID theorists and advocates to inherit the wind (and blow away).

Continue Reading...

The Divine Will

I take back everything I've written concerning faith and the Almighty Lord on this blog: the New York Yankees are in last place in the AL East. Only an act of a divine intelligence and benevolence could manipulate such an outcome. Hallelujah! Now I'm a believer.

Continue Reading...

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Lincoln's God

One of the many confusing things about theists, especially of the Christian variety, is that God is responsible for all that's good, and absent, or at least a neutral observer, during the bad. Isn't this why athletes praise God when they bomb a homerun or score a touchdown, yet never curse the Almighty when they strike out or fumble? (God, how I would pay to see a middle-finger extend to the heavens the next time an athlete screws up.)

David Brooks traveled in this inconsistency today in his latest op-ed. For Brooks, God is a positive inspiration for public policy. His historical example takes us into the thick of the civil war when President Lincoln finally decided to free the slaves with his Emancipation Proclamation. (Which by the way ignores slaves freeing themselves before Lincoln had God's approval. Should they have waited until God's wisdom touched Lincoln's soul?) Here's Brooks version of events:
On Sept. 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln gathered his cabinet to tell them he was going to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. He said he had made a solemn vow to the Almighty that if God gave him victory at Antietam, Lincoln would issue the decree.

Lincoln's colleagues were stunned. They were not used to his basing policy on promises made to the Lord. They asked him to repeat what he'd just said. Lincoln conceded that "this might seem strange," but "God had decided the question in favor of the slaves."

I like to think about this episode when I hear militant secularists argue that faith should be kept out of politics. Like Martin Luther King Jr. a century later, Lincoln seemed to understand that epochal decisions are rarely made in a secular frame of mind. When great leaders make daring leaps, they often feel themselves surrendering to Divine Providence, and their strength flows from their faith that they are acting in accordance with transcendent moral truth.
There are three things that bother me in the preceding paragraphs. First, Lincoln's God must be the God of the Old Testament rather than the new, considering a bloodbath (Antietam) resulted in favor of the slaves -- essentially the wicked got theirs.

Second, he misrepresented "militant secularists" and their views. As a "militant secularist," I don't like overt faith in politics. Faith might be an undercurrent that shapes the views of people and I would never rob anyone of those religious convictions. Yet when faith is marshalled as the major motivation for public policy (i.e. same-sex marriage, abortion, stem cell research)I have a huge problem. Public policy based on faith results in a tautology. "Why should we pass this law? Because God dictates it."


The Founding Fathers understood the molotov cocktail that results from a conjoining of religion and politics and rightly separated the two for each's benefit. Moreover, democracy is based on the people en masse. This essentially makes it a pragmatic form of government because it must accomodate the manifold differences contained in the body politic. By choosing one faith over all others, tyranny ensues as a privileged class arises (i.e. those troublesome Taliban). Therefore, I don't necessarily have a big problem with faith influencing politics when reason, or as Brooks scoffs, "enlightened reason," bears out those religious convictions.

Lastly, I'll ask this rhetorical question: "Is anyone out there cool with leaders 'surrending to Divine Providence,' when they cannot be assured their leaders are listening to the same divine providence they're listening to?"

Brooks rightly holds up Lincoln as a politician that integrated skepticism with religious belief. But his historical example is weak. If Lincoln seriously freed the slaves due to a quid pro quo with God, it dilutes the courage associated with that action for me. Also, Brooks neglects to mention that while abolitionists were quoting scripture for freedom, clerics down south were quoting that same Holy Bible in favor of continued enslavement. Paradoxically, each camp was right as they were both wrong to look to that book for the answer.

Continue Reading...

The Darkness of Dystopia

Christopher Hitchens calls North Korea a slave state and it's hard to disagree with that assertion. But what really caught my attention was his link to this map of the Korean peninsula. While the south is a blaze of lights at night, up north across the DMZ there's nothing but pitch black. Who knew satellite imagery could be such an effective metaphor for the darkest of human dungeons?

Continue Reading...

Left Smiling in Latin America

Tom Englehardt of TomDispatch.com has a phenomenal essay on American imperial decline in our own backyard. Historically, Latin America has been our stomping ground ever since The Monroe Doctrine, but those days of compliant regimes quashing internal disorder maybe over -- and that's a good thing. Here's how Mr. Tom describes the shift toward a social democratic socio-political order:
Unlike in areas bordering Russia and in the Middle East, the United States has put no money into a "Latin Spring," and yet it's happened anyway. We may, in fact, already be at the very start of something like a Latin Summer. Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico -- the largest countries in the region -- are all now democracies; and all but Mexico are led by socialists or independent-minded leaders. This trend hasn't been restricted to the more economically powerful countries in the region either. It has taken hold from Uruguay to Ecuador. Next year, if the leftist mayor of Mexico City, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is elected president, Mexico will put a stunning cap on the process. Two-thirds of Latin America is now considered left-leaning.
The Organization of American States (OAS) has for the first time disobeyed Washington, electing "a Chilean socialist, Interior Minister Jose Miguel Insulza...to be its secretary general." (Excuse me while I grin toothfully.) Also of note, Englehardt quotes UPI's Pentagon correspondent, Pamela Hess, on the declining symbiosis in Latin American-U.S. military relations:
[E]xcept for Colombia and Argentina, all the major countries of South America are on the ASPA black list: Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay and Brazil. Prior to the passage of the ASPA (American Service Members Protection Act), the major South American players had nearly 700 officers in training in U.S. military schools under the International Military Education and Training program. That number is essentially down to zero, say U.S. Southern Command sources. ‘We have lost access to a whole generation of military officers,' a Southern Command source told UPI.

"‘Extra-hemispheric actors are filling the void left by restricted U.S. military engagement with partner nations. We now risk losing contact and interoperatibility with a generation of military classmates in many nations of the region, including several leading countries,' [Southern Command chief Gen. Bantz Craddock told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March.]. The void left by the United States after ASPA is increasingly being filled by China, Craddock warned." (my italics)
Considering the bruts and thugs that have come out of Fort Benning's School of the Americas, this split seems in the best interest of ordinary Latin Americans. Yet, I can't help but thinking China training the next generation of Latin America's military is any better -- for Latin Americans or us.

For those who applaud and root for democracy, recent events --whether in the Middle East, the former Soviet satellites, or in Latin America -- have been fortuitous. While the Bush Administration has used its military and its rhetoric to advocate democratization throughout Eurasia, let's see if it can allow Latin America to pursue its left democratic course without intervention. The indicator of whether or not the U.S. can keep its mitts off of Latin America will be the course of events in Venezuela -- Chavez's recent military buildup, his banishment of the U.S. military from Venezuelan soil and his threat to cut off oil to U.S. if it continues to insert itself into Venezuela internal politics.

If past American foreign policy is any Delphic Oracle, I can't see the U.S. allowing such insubordination in its backyard. That said, without the political support of countries surrounding Chavez and with much of its resources being ripped up in Iraq, the U.S. could become the father to a very unruly Venezuelan son.

Continue Reading...

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Son of a Turd Farmer Has His Day

Via the NYTs, Comedy Central's giving Stephen Colbert his own show to follow "The Daily Show." On "The Colbert Report" -- which Colbert is pushing to be pronounced in a faux French accent: The co-BEAR re-PORE -- he'll be satirizing the "cult of personality" shows of O'Reily, Matthews, and "Hannity and his liberal stooge."

Good stuff.

Continue Reading...

Insurgent Assault Continues

An insurgent posing as a job applicant blew himself up today outside a police recruiting center in the Kurdish provincial capital of Erbil. Initial casualty numbers are at least 45 murdered and 200 wounded. An attack of this magnitude is relatively unusual considering the Kurds maintain strict checkpoints manned by their militia, the pesh merga.

I wonder what's the specific insurgent strategy in attacking the Kurdish north. Is it merely to send the message you're not safe up north either? Is it an attempt to quicken Kurdish demand for autonomy? Is it to provoke anti-Arab racist violence from the pesh merga?

Regardless, it would be wise for Talabani and Barzani to ensure the pesh merga are under control and won't be looking for indiscriminate revenge against Arabs.

The insurgents want civil war; the Kurds and the Shiites must not fall into their trap.

Continue Reading...

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Iraq's Dirty War

The past few days in Iraq has shown that the insurgency survives and is as committed as ever to derailing the formation of a stable government. I don't think it's too presumptuous to argue, however you feel about the Iraq war, that the Iraqi government and its U.S. overseers must win this fight. But as the NYTs Magazine cover story, "The Way of the Commandos," by Peter Maass, described this weekend, the U.S. has delved back into its dark past to fight Iraq's insurgents.

Echoing El Salvador during the 1980s, the U.S. is empowering a largely Sunni, ex-Baathist paramilitary force known as the "Special Police Commandos" to help hunt down insurgents throughout Iraq. Led by Adnan Thabit, a former general and death row inmate during Saddam's reign, the 5,000 strong commandos have done battle against the insurgents in Mosul, Ramadi, Baghdad, and Samarra. They are advised by James Steele who cut his teeth "leading a Special Forces mission in El Salvador during that country's brutal civil war in the 1980s." This is extremely disconcerting considering how El Salvador's military and paramilitaries acted under U.S. advisement. Maass writes:
According to an Amnesty International report in 2001, violations committed by the army and its associated paramilitaries included ''extrajudicial executions, other unlawful killings, 'disappearances' and torture. . . . Whole villages were targeted by the armed forces and their inhabitants massacred.'' As part of President Reagan's policy of supporting anti-Communist forces, hundreds of millions of dollars in United States aid was funneled to the Salvadoran Army, and a team of 55 Special Forces advisers, led for several years by Jim Steele, trained front-line battalions that were accused of significant human rights abuses.
There's indirect evidence to suggest Iraq's commandos might be heading in this direction. In one passage, Maass, on a night-time patrol with the commandos and U.S. soldiers, describes how an Iraqi captain threatened the life of a suspect.
The captain's methods were swift and extreme. He yelled at the son, who was wearing a loose tunic; in the tussle of the arrest the young man had lost one of his sandals. The captain pushed him against a mud wall and told everyone else to move away. Standing less than 10 feet from the young man, the captain aimed his AK-47 at him and clicked off the safety latch. He was threatening to kill him. I was close enough to catch some of the dialogue on my digital recorder.
Later, Maass asks a U.S. lieutenant along on the raid his feeling about what they witnessed.
''I'm about 99 percent sure it was intimidation to put fear into the guy,'' he told me. ''I know they use different means of interrogation, but I didn't expect them to raise a weapon at a detainee. I don't think they know the value of human life Americans have. If they shoot somebody, I don't think they would have remorse, even if they killed someone who was innocent.''
When Maass is invited to interview a captured Saudi youth behind the closed doors of a commando-run detention center, he comes into contact with more evidence of systematic abuse: bloodstains running down a desk's side, painful screams of "Allah" coming from the main hall, and one afternoon, gunshots ringing out from within or behind the detention center.

If the commandos are beginning to engage in Salvador-style atrocities, it would be wise for the U.S. and the Iraqi government to put an end to it now. First, as most Americans would agree, human rights are inviolable. Second, it's simply not pragmatic. In a 1997 article in World Affairs, Ernest Evans argued why the resort to brutal tactics hurts more than it helps.
Another reason that systematic human rights abuses are so counterproductive in a counterinsurgency campaign concerns the critical issue of intelligence. In unconventional war, as in all war, good intelligence is key to victory, and therefore, for all of the reasons so forcefully stated by retired British general Richard Clutterbuck in a 1995 article, the torture and killing of suspected or actual rebels is inimical to the collection of vitally needed intelligence:

Above all the British philosophy (of counter-insurgency)had been to secure the cooperation of the people in acquiring intelligence, the decisive ingredient for victory. This was achieved by identifying people who, willingly or unwillingly, were working for the terrorists,and they were offered incentives to cooperate in giving information. This information was a mixture of routine background intelligence(e.g., who lived where and who talked to whom) against which precise intelligence enabled terrorists or their supporters to be pinpointed. Torture, morality aside, would have been counter-productive; even if it had induced the victim to give information about the past or present, it would certainly not have secured future cooperation to enable the security forces to arrest or ambush the terrorists.

The experiences of U.S. military advisors in El Salvador document and confirm the wisdom of Clutterbuck's arguments. Observers of the course of the conflict in El Salvador generally agree that after 1984 the war began to go much better for the government side. In a 1987 interview, a U.S. advisor argued that the El Salvadoran military had recognized by 1984 that humanely treated prisoners were good sources of intelligence and that treating prisoners humanely encouraged defections; this recognition was a key reason for this military's improved performance after 1984. The issue of torturing and killing prisoners can perhaps best be summed up by recalling Talleyrand's famous remark to his master, Emperor Napoleon, with respect to one of Naoleon's actions: "Sire, it is worse than a crime, it is a mistake!"
Maass has another reason why we should be wary about these commandos: who are they loyal to? In a country where the Sunnis are the minority and are fearful of official discrimination by the ruling Shiite government, it's possible the U.S. and the government are arming future insurgents or creating the foundation of another militia beyond government control. As Maass notes:
Already, Iraq has a Kurdish militia, the 90,000-strong pesh merga, outside the control of the central government; there is also the Badr Brigade, the Iranian-trained wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is Shiite; and there is the Mahdi Army, loyal to the Shiite militant Moktada al-Sadr. The last thing the country needs is another militia.
One thing seems sure: If Iraq fails politically, we already know how the battle lines will break down in any future civil war. Let's hope the recent formation of Iraq's government and today's swearing in of Iraq's cabinet will be increasingly the norm, not an aberration.

Continue Reading...


Sorry for the hiatus in posting: my fellowship at The Washington Monthly is over and I'm back in Philly for a few months before I head off for grad school at the University of St. Andrews for International Security Studies. Daily postings will begin later this afternoon.

Continue Reading...