Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Stop the Analogy

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld believes critics of the war don't know their history. What the U.S. faces in Iraq is akin to fascism he believes. I don't disagree totally. But then again, Rumsfeld like the rest of the Bush administration likes to travel in generalizations and oversimplifications. The thrust of his argument over time has been this.
In many previous speeches, including some before groups of veterans for whom World War II is a sacred memory, he has compared the government of Saddam Hussein, and the violent resistance since it fell, to the Nazis, and warned explicitly against appeasement there or in the broader campaign against terrorism, comparing it to the error of appeasing Hitler.
But while the analogy between Nazism and Islamism carries some similarities ideologically -- killing Jews, world domination -- Islamism has yet to take over a state with significant economic and military resources to seriously jeopardize world peace. Iran is certainly a problem, but it's no Nazi Germany and I don't think there's a movement to appease Iran or its ambition to go nuclear. Also Ahmadinejad is not Hitler. There has been no Czechoslovakia moment. Besides, Iran has a vibrant pro-democracy movement that loathes the ayatollahs.

Iraq is a problem though. Zarqawi's objective was for militant Islam to overtake Iraq and use it as a base to infect the wider world. The U.S.'s presence in Iraq only made this easier for him to spread his jihadist message throughout Iraq. Arrogantly, Rumsfeld and the rest of the Bush administration fail to admit this. Nevertheless, Islamism is a serious enemy to Iraq and it is ideologically similar to fascism, but we must remain steadfast that this is still primarily a political battle for the majority of Iraqis who have yet to decide in favor of Islamism or a militant nationalism or something more liberal and democratic.

Certainly we must kill the undeterable jihadists, but we must be careful not to alienate society in the process. Domestically, Americans must be level-headed and ignore the political red herring being served to them by Rumsfeld that if they criticize the war, they are the new Chamberlains of the 21st century. The more the U.S. military kills Muslims -- whether intentionally or accidentally -- the easier it will be for Islamism to indeed become something as powerful as Nazism.

Sometimes it seems the Bush Administration is determined to be right by pursuing policies that will make them right. Now that's scary stuff.

Continue Reading...

Monday, August 28, 2006

With News Like This, How Can the Dems Lose?

More rosy news for American workers via the NYTs.
The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards — has risen steadily over the same period.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as “the golden era of profitability.”
Naturally this golden era of profitability doesn't extend to American workers. The interesting thing will be how the Democratic Party handles this economic "boon" to their election hopes. Iraq and a struggling economy where hard work doesn't pay off should be disasterous to the GOP.

It's great how sordid politics can be isn't it?

Nevertheless, I'm not hopeful the Dems will retake Congress. If the Democrats lose these mid-term elections, can there be any doubt America needs a progressive alternative. Unfortunately, the problem may be that progressive values are a thing of the past in 21st century America and we are indeed a superpower in nosedive.

Continue Reading...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Over-the-Counter But Underhanded?

Fundamentalists Christians and Catholics cannot be happy while every 18 year old girl and boy breathes a sigh of relief: the morning after pill is cleared for over-the-counter use. WaPo reports:
The Food and Drug Administration approved an application today making the long-debated emergency contraceptive Plan B, commonly known as the "morning-after pill," available without a prescription to women 18 and older.

The FDA said Barr Laboratories, the maker of Plan B, could begin selling the drug, but only at pharmacies and health clinics. Women purchasing the drug will have to show proof of age.
It's nice to see parts of the government are regaining their balls and implementing policies that demonstrate reason and a healthy respect for the individual's decision to do what they think is best.

I don't want to color Christian reaction to this as hysterical since I'm no fan of abortion, although I do believe it is the woman's choice. Here's the big concern:
While the FDA concluded that the pill works like a traditional contraceptive -- preventing an egg from becoming fertilized -- it has not ruled out the possibility that it can also prevent a pregnancy by keeping a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman's uterus. That possibility has led some social conservatives to liken emergency contraception to abortion.
But then all you have to do is head over to the Family Research Council's blog and you'll get this:
On top of overstepping the law, the FDA has no procedures to ensure that children are acquiring Plan B only with a prescription, or that nefarious adults (say a 45 year old dating a 13 year old) are getting the drug for equally nefarious reasons.
FRC's arguing that the FDA and the President do not have the authority to grant the over-the-counter status. I don't know if that's correct, but they weren't complaining when Bush adamantly opposed the "morning after pill's" over-the-counter status. Nevertheless, this is a good argument. We should all be concerned when the federal government does not obey its own procedures.

But FRC blogger, Tom McClusky, can't help himself, resorting to the usual scare tactics and off-the-wall scenarios about "nefarious adults" using the morning-after-pill after having sex with 13 year olds. McClusky argues there must be procedures in place to stop this type of activity. Have there ever been procedures in place to stop this sort of thing? I'm skeptical. Think about it. When say a 41 year old elementary school teacher comes in the pharmacy for the "morning after pill," will the pharmacist turn and ask, "Yes m'am, I can fill that prescription, but only if you tell me you aren't diddling a minor you may or may not be teaching."

Ridiculous and such an obvious assault on the Bill of Rights.

Continue Reading...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Brush Off the Bling

WaPo's Juan Williams argues all that bling fetishized by hip-hop is weighing down young black Americans and is a cultural depth-charge poised to sink what's left of the civil rights movement.

No argument here. I pretty much hate hip-hop but I can handle Jay-Z and I think Talib Kweli is amazing for all sorts of reasons, not least his DIY ethos and his social conscience.

Nevertheless, they are not role models; they are entertainers.

So Williams's thought on providing alternative heroes to young black students in the home and in history class is right on.
In order to face this century's class battles, young minds need the self-confidence that comes from examples of inspiring historical personalities, such as a black woman born into slavery who made herself a national leader, Sojourner Truth, or a black man living under rank segregation, A. Philip Randolph, who defied corporate power to break segregation in organized labor. Frederick Douglass had to teach himself how to read before standing up to defeat slavery.
You can't beat any of these three. Great American heroes regardless of race or class, they never ceased fighting for the underdog and never bowed before power. There are no closer embodiments of America's ideals than these three.

Continue Reading...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Bad Consequence

The worst thing to happen from the latest round of fighting between Hezbollah and Israel in the Middle East is the continued entrenchment of Islamism throughout the Muslim community or ummah. Today's NYTs Week in Review leads with Michael Slackman's article, "And Now, Islamism Trumps Arabism."

This is bad for all sorts of reasons. First Islamism is totalitarian and oppressive. It's about as far away from liberalism as the twin killers of the 20th century, fascism and Stalinism. Worse, its ideology may be harder to defeat because it is bolstered by a fundamentalist Islamic belief that only God is supreme and therefore religion and politics cannot and should not be separated. The worst sub-group of Islamism is the jihadists like al-Qaeda that believe they must fight and die if Islam is ever to regain worldwide hegemony.

But one of the more interesting aspects of Islamism is that for many Muslim inhabitants of the Middle East, the Islamists are disciplined model citizens fighting the oppressiveness of their secular regimes and providing the social services these despots won't. Slackman writes:
The terms Islamic nationalism and pan-Islamism have a negative connotation in the West, where they are associated with fundamentalism and terrorism. But that is increasingly not the case in Egypt. Under the dual pressures of foreign military attacks in the region and a government widely viewed as corrupt and illegitimate, Islamic groups are seen by many people as incorruptible, disciplined, efficient and caring. A victory for Hezbollah in Lebanon is by extension a victory for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Combine this with many Muslims belief that the Islamists are the only people fighting Israeli, and by extension American, imperialism then you may have a religio-political juggernaut reemerging. Of course it is too soon to say but the recent victories of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in Palestine, and Hezbollah's popularity across the Sunni-Shia divide are evidence that the West will have to start talking to Islamists if we want normalized politics.

Many analysts, primarily conservative, will say there can be no negotiations with Islamists. I understand their point while being luke-warmly sympathetic, but continuing to support the status quo in places such as Egypt, Iraq, and the Palestinian territories is unacceptable and will only cause Islamism to metastasize quicker and more potently. The only course is to stuff the Islamists into the political box of governing as they increasingly win elections. Only the day-to-day monotony and mundaneness of providing services and maintaining popular legitimacy will blunt their radicalism. Surprisingly, Islamism may lead to a kind of Islamic liberalism if we are courageous enough to let things go a bit awry at times. We can't control everything and it's foolish to try.

All in all, the West must give Islamists the space to moderate. But we should always make it known that this space isn't us admitting weakness but simply allowing the forces of liberalization to do their thing like water flowing over a rockface. Eventually liberalization will wear Islamism down and the whole world will be better for it.

Continue Reading...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Politics of Peacekeeping

The NYTs has a great piece discussing the pitfalls of peacekeeping in Southern Lebanon. Diplomats throughout the world are currently reviewing the UN's planning document for introducing peacekeeping forces to help Lebanon regain the monopoly of the use of force states are entitled to under international law. Naturally, problems are arising.
Diplomats involved in the negotiations acknowledged that efforts to create a peacekeeping force were lagging in part because of the reluctance of governments to introduce troops into a part of the Middle East with deep, unresolved political and religious conflicts.

But they said there were also hurdles beyond that concern, particularly in France, which surprised diplomats by pledging only 200 soldiers to the new force. About 50 French military engineers arrived in Lebanon on Saturday to prepare for their arrival.

Terrorist attacks drove American and French troops from Lebanon once before, in 1983.

The diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because deliberations over the force were continuing, said that another issue slowing the formation of the peacekeeping mission was the experience of the failed Balkans effort of the 1990’s, when European and other foreign troops wearing the blue helmet of the United Nations were shackled by an unwieldy chain of command that split responsibilities between national commanders and United Nations officials in New York.
If a peacekeeping force is inserted between Israel and Hezbollah fighters in Southern Lebanon, the interesting thing will be how the "blue helmets" respond if they are fired upon by either party. Will it become another Somalia or Balkans redux?

Continue Reading...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction

President Bush read Camus' existential classic, The Stranger. The French laugh. I'm bewildered. Americans wonder who Cah-mus is. Arabs have more evidence President Bush is the "crusader" they always knew he was. Slate's John Dickerson explains:
Whatever the reasons, Camus' story line is ripe for geopolitical literary misinterpretation. The main character, Meursault, spends much of his life as the young George Bush did, engaging in escapades that demonstrate little drive or motivation. On a visit to the beach with friends, he gets into a fight with some Arabs. Later, he finds one of the Arabs and without much further provocation shoots him repeatedly...Unhappy tales of East meets West are found in the papers every day, so presumably the president was looking for more, but his aides will not tell us what he made of the story of a remorseless killer of Arabs. White House spokesman Tony Snow said Bush "found it an interesting book and a quick read" and talked about it with aides. "I don't want to go too deep into it, but we discussed the origins of existentialism," said Snow.
As always I think people are looking much too deep into Bush's motivations here, but it is striking for him to advertise he read a book by the hated French's literary hero whose main plot line follows a callous killer of an Arab Algerian. Even funnier, Camus' atheism is widely known and his abhorence of positivism unquestionable considering his body of work described the utter absurdity of life. Maybe Dickerson's surmise is right though, maybe Bush is just trying to better himself.

Continue Reading...

Thursday, August 10, 2006


I'm sure everyone's heard the plot to detonate numerous airliners on cross-Atlantic flights into the U.S. from London, UK was stymied today.

The interesting bit of information will be who are the 21 suspected terrorists detained. Are they second-generation immigrants from "Londonistan?" Are they hardened jihadists that have waged asymmetrical warfare in other conflicts such as Afghanistan, Bosnia or Iraq?

It seems right now it will be the latter. Via the NYTs:
...Mr. Chertoff drew a distinction between the suspects arrested today and the kinds of homegrown, relatively amateur plotters who carried out the London transit attacks or those who were arrested more recently for scheming to blow up buildings in Florida or tunnels in New York.

“This was a very sophisticated plan and operation,’’ he said. “It was not a circle with a handful of people sitting around and dreaming.’’
As we all know it's only a matter of time before militant Islamists succeed in another attack on the U.S. homeland. Today, because of good intelligence, we breath another sigh of relief, fortunately.

Continue Reading...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bring the Paine

Hitchens eulogizes Britain's greatest radical and America's most principled ex-pat, my main man Thomas Paine -- the only founding father without the taint of hypocrisy.

Continue Reading...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Religion + Repression = Porn Addict

Read this. It seems evangelicals like to rock out with their cock out. I take too much glee in this.

Continue Reading...


The "Joes" in Iraq have something to look forward to: Lindsay Lohan.
''I've been trying to go to Iraq with Hillary Clinton for so long. Hillary was trying to work it out, but it seemed too dangerous,'' the 20-year-old actress says in an interview in the September issue of Elle magazine, on newsstands Wednesday.

Lohan, whose screen credits include ''Freaky Friday,'' ''Mean Girls'' and the upcoming ''Georgia Rule,'' says she hoped to emulate Marilyn Monroe, who performed shows for about 100,000 troops stationed in Korea in 1954.

''It's so amazing seeing that one woman just going somewhere, this beautiful sex kitten, who's basically a pinup, which is what I've always aspired to be,'' Lohan tells the magazine, adding that she would prepare for her trip to Iraq by taking shooting lessons with her security guard.
Just what our troops need, a hung-over "sex-kitten" that wants to shoot her gun off.

Continue Reading...

Friday, August 04, 2006


Here's the latest upswelling of support for the "You don't have to go home but you have to get the hell out of the region" sentiment swirling around the Islamic world.
More than 100,000 followers of the Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr marched today to show support for Hezbollah, denouncing Israel and the United States for the violence in Lebanon.

The protesters filled 20 blocks of a wide boulevard and dozens of side streets in the Shiite-dominated Sadr City section of the capital.

Waving Lebanese flags and posters of Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, the protesters chanted, “No, no, no, Israel, no, no, no, America,’’ challenged Americans to fight them in their neighborhoods, and called on Hezbollah to strike at Tel Aviv.

Continue Reading...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Nice Suggestion

Sarah Posner of has a nice little suggestion for the Washington Press Corps.
In a perfect world, a reporter at last week's press conference with George Bush and Tony Blair would have asked Bush, in the presence of his principal European ally, if he believes the European Union is the Antichrist.

Although it sounds like the kind of Pat Robertson lunacy that makes even the wingnuts run for the nearest exit, it's a question Bush should be forced to answer. Bush and other leading Republicans have lined up behind a growing movement of Christian Zionists for whom a European Antichrist figures prominently in an end-times scenario. So they should be forced to explain to the rest of us why they're courting the votes of people who believe our allies are evil incarnate. Could it be that the central requirement for their breathlessly anticipated Armageddon -- that the United States confront Iran -- happens to dovetail so nicely with the neoconservative war agenda?
I would love to see President Bush stumble and bumble all over this question. It's about time there's full disclosure whether or not U.S. foreign policy is being written by the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.

Continue Reading...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

So True

Recently released Iranian dissident and journalist Akbar Ganji -- I love how those words couple -- lays down some truth to the Bush Administration.
We have learned from our history that despotism can be imported, and that despotic rulers can survive with the help of outsiders. But we have also learned that we have to gain our freedom ourselves, and that only we can nourish that freedom and create a political system that can sustain it. Ours is a difficult struggle; it could even be a long one. Anyone who claims to possess a golden formula for bringing freedom to Iran, and claims that all he needs is foreign cash and foreign help to put his plan into effect, is a swindler.
Iran doesn't need any Chalabis.

Continue Reading...