August 2010 Archives

No to both Beck and Sharpton

They both make me sick.  They represent the poles that are tearing this country apart.  For  a while, I thought the Tea Party movement was representing the center.  Silly me.

Beck and Palin just don't get the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  And that floors me.  The potential GOP sweep in November is starting to look to me like one of those "be careful what you wish for" moments.  Been there and done that, back when I was a Democrat.

Why is it that "the centre cannot hold?"  Yeats' vision suggests that the extremes lead to apocalypse.  That sounds about right to me.


You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into... the Twilight Zone.
They're here!

21.   [IRS] Agent Gentry also informed Z STREET's counsel that the IRS is carefully scrutinizing organizations that are in any way connected with Israel.

22.   Agent Gentry further stated to counsel for Z STREET: "these cases are being sent to a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization's activities contradict the Administration's public policies."

This is not a joke.  This is not a spoof.  This is not the country I grew up in. This is happening, now. 

Solomonia nails the J Street connection. 

Enough, already.  Whatever your political persuasion, if you're an American, you should be outraged.


Rauf tapes (so far).

No big shocks there and can't say I'm surprised.  The bang on any given story is often inversely proportional to the hype.  Or at least perceived that way.  Which is why excessive hype is often not the best strategy.

Still, a "moderate," he ain't.  At least in my book.  OTOH, I'm beginning to think that this notion is worth considering.  Maybe this really is as good as it gets.


Lightening up

I just love Jeff Jacoby's column in the Globe today.  I've read similar sentiments elsewhere, but this one cracked me up.  I needed the laugh.

Let's face it, Mr. President, you're not exactly a standout in the joie de vivre department. P.G. Wodehouse says of one of his characters, "He had the look of one who had drunk the cup of life, and found a dead beetle at the bottom.'' With all due respect, that character sounds like you.

For a guy who spent several years and hundreds of millions of dollars single-mindedly running for the presidency, you don't appear to take much pleasure in the job.
Hey, sometimes an excerpt doesn't quite cut it.  You really do have go read the whole thing.

The three strands

SoccerDad challenges this WaPo editorial chastising the petty, narrow-minded, bigoted Americans who dare to voice opposition to the building of a hundred million dollar shrine to the glory of Islam a stone's throw (so to speak) from Ground Zero.  The Post believes it has identified "three strands" (that many?) of argument, one or more of which, it claims, suffice to neatly explain the only possible bases for this folly.  I'll summarize:

  1. The 9-11 terrorists really did represent Islam and "to pretend otherwise is a dangerous delusion"
  2. Al-Qaeda does not speak for Islam, but people naturally associate the two, so it would be "insensitive to locate anything Islamic so close to the scene of the crime"
  3. (This one is for politicians only)  Since most Americans oppose construction of the mosque, it's "useful" for Republicans and "safe" for (wimpy) Democrats to join the chorus.
The Post, unsurprisingly, deems all three of these straw so-called arguments "objectionable."

Let's just ignore that last cheap "politicians" shot.  At best, it describes the motives of a dozen or so members (or would-be members) of Congress (hey, who knew there was pandering in Washington?).  The other 67.9999% of Americans who oppose the mosque, we are to assume, rely on either "strand" #1 or "strand" #2.

There are, of course, a number of Ground Zero Mosque opponents who subscribe to some version of strand  #1.  They have a point and it's a well considered, well documented point with which one can certainly disagree, and many do (see, e.g., strand #2).  What's chiefly "objectionable" about the Post's strand #1 is the simplistic and dismissive way it's phrased ... by the Post.  The implied message there is the one GZM opponents are constantly accused of and have repeatedly disavowed, i.e., that Islam is bad and Muslims should therefore be denied the right to build places of worship.  No one is saying that.  Hence, the straw.

Strand #2 contains the word "insensitive," and therefore might at first glance be credited with accurately representing an argument made by GZM opponents.  That word is surely the one most widely associated with objections to the project.  But it's the connector, the "people naturally associate the two, so ..." premise that misrepresents the argument and straws this strand all up.

The fact is that there are any number of articulate and rational reasons given for opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque.  The Post simply chooses to ignore them all and knock down its own straw men.  Shoddy.

Here are just a few:

The 9-11 terrorists did attack America in the name of Islam and their associates continue in their attempts to do so today.

Islam has a long and undeniable record of proliferation by force, of which the historic conquest of Cordoba is a particularly prominent example.

There is a growing (?) body of evidence that Imam Rauf is not the model of tolerance and moderation he is made out to be by GZM defenders.  To the contrary.

Whatever good intentions the proponents of this mosque may have, the message that building it will send to those who seek to destroy us is a potentially dangerous one.

The developers refuse to rule out funding of the project from Iran and Saudi Arabia, which should raise serious questions as to the true message the mosque is intended to convey.

These and like-minded families (yes, of course others differ, so what?).

This mosque could well have the effect of eroding interfaith dialogue, tolerance and understanding rather than facilitating it.

There are more, but those should suffice to crack open the tidy little box into which the WaPo editorial board has tried to stuff all of the mosque's detractors.

To be continued...

Shabbat Shalom.

Stupid quote of the week


Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington
They don't?  Epic fail, on so many levels.

Honorable mention:

There is no question that there is a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some, and I join those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque being funded? How is this being ginned up?
Was there something in the water?

No Jewish right to the land of Israel

Let them be clear.

Don't deny our rights: An open letter to Mahmoud Abbas

22 July 2010

We are Palestinians of diverse perspectives and affiliations -- scholars, intellectuals, artists, activists, trade unionists, human rights advocates and civil society leaders, inside historic Palestine and in exile -- who are united in our commitment to the fulfillment of the fundamental rights of all Palestinians, particularly our inalienable right to self-determination. This universally sanctioned right encompasses, at a minimum, freedom from occupation and colonization in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem; full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

During a 9 June meeting with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, you reportedly said: "I would never deny [the] Jewish right to the land of Israel," a statement that you have yet to retract. We regard this announcement, which adopts a central tenet of Zionism, as a grave betrayal of the collective rights of the Palestinian people. It is tantamount to a surrender of the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to live in equality in their own homeland, in which they have steadfastly remained despite the apartheid regime imposed on them for decades. It also concedes the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

No Palestinian institution or leader has ever accepted an exclusive Jewish claim to Palestine, which is irreconcilable with the internationally recognized rights of the Palestinian people. Our rights inhere in us as a people; they are not yours to do with as you please.
(via IMRA)

Note the list of initial signatories.  And especially of the subsequent endorsements.

Do these folks speak for all palestinians?  Of course not.  But recent polling would indicate that they speak for a substantial number of them.

Is it peace yet?

Best response I've seen yet?

One of them, anyway.

Ground Zero's wounds are still too deep to build upon by Aaron David Miller

Yes. That Aaron David Miller. What can I say? He got this one exactly right.

If there is one lesson to be learned from the controversy over the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, it is that messing with memory, particularly traumatic memory of the first order, is akin to messing with Mother Nature: It rarely ends well, no matter how good the intention.

I learned this the hard way 12 years ago, when my idea of inviting Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat to visit the Holocaust museum in Washington proved to be a disaster. There is great danger in misappropriating memory and attempting to link it to another agenda or to a tragic historical experience seared in the minds of millions. However the controversy over the proposed mosque and Islamic center in Lower Manhattan plays out, the outcome is bound, for many in this country and elsewhere, to keep raw and open the wounds of Sept. 11, 2001. And the benefits do not appear to be worth the risk.
Much more here (via Solomonia).

It's an approach that reaches deep down to what I believe is at the real core of the opposition to this offensive project. Not racism, not Islamophobia (or any other phobia), not politics. Sure, there are people out there appropriating this issue for their own agendas. There always are. The attempts to brand the rest of us with their malice is just another distraction.

Quick quote of the day

It's the second miserable August in a row for Democrats. Maybe they want to strike the month from the calendar. Or at least find out who's funding it.
The whole thing.

And a miss

Krauthammer, I'm afraid, was not in his best form today.

Location matters. Especially this location. Ground Zero is the site of the greatest mass murder in American history -- perpetrated by Muslims of a particular Islamist orthodoxy in whose cause they died and in whose name they killed.

Of course that strain represents only a minority of Muslims. Islam is no more intrinsically Islamist than present-day Germany is Nazi -- yet despite contemporary Germany's innocence, no German of goodwill would even think of proposing a German cultural center at, say, Treblinka.

As I said, the other day, sometimes analogies fail.  Badly.  Whether or not Islamists represent "only a minority" of Muslims, there is an argument to be made that they represent "true" Islam.  They certainly think so.  And if Nazis continued to have the influence today in Germany that Islamists appear to have in the Muslim world, plenty of Germans might be just fine with a German cultural center at Treblinka.  (To say that no German "of goodwill" would propose such a thing is simply begging the question.)

And then there's this.

America is a free country where you can build whatever you want -- but not anywhere. That's why we have zoning laws. No liquor store near a school, no strip malls where they offend local sensibilities, and, if your house doesn't meet community architectural codes, you cannot build at all.

These restrictions are for reasons of aesthetics.

I'm absolutely certain that CK didn't intend to say that restrictions on liquor stores near schools are "for reasons of aesthetics."  But that is, in fact, what he said.

Because I totally concur with Krauthammer' s message, I wish he had delivered it in a stronger package.  It's hardly original, but it bears repeating until it gets through.

The governor of New York offered to help find land to build the mosque elsewhere. A mosque really seeking to build bridges, Rauf's ostensible hope for the structure, would accept the offer.
But of course.

Shabbat Shalom.

One totally awesome column

George Will pens his WaPo column from Jerusalem this week.

Arguably the most left-wing administration in American history is trying to knead and soften the most right-wing coalition in Israel's history. The former shows no understanding of the latter, which thinks it understands the former all too well.

The prime minister honors Churchill, who spoke of "the confirmed unteachability of mankind." Nevertheless, a display case in Netanyahu's office could teach the Obama administration something about this leader. It contains a small signet stone that was part of a ring found near the Western Wall. It is about 2,800 years old -- 200 years younger than Jerusalem's role as the Jewish people's capital. The ring was the seal of a Jewish official, whose name is inscribed on it: Netanyahu.

No one is less a transnational progressive, less a post-nationalist, than Binyamin Netanyahu, whose first name is that of a son of Jacob, who lived perhaps 4,000 years ago. ...
Will knows his history, biblical and otherwise.  You do not want to miss a word of this one, folks.

Ramadan in Tel Aviv

This is via IMRA, and I just had to share.  Published yesterday by the Palestine News Agency:

Muslims Working in Tel Aviv Municipality to Work according to Ramadan Timing
Date : 7/8/2010   Time : 13:19

TEL AVIV, August 7, 2010 (WAFA)- Human Resources Official responded positively to Tel Aviv Municipality member, Ahmed Meshharawi's demand to work according to Ramadan timing in the Muslim Holy Month.

The HR director send a memo to the department heads reminding them of the HR department in Israel regulations concerning working hours in Ramadan.

According to the law, every Muslim is allowed to start work two hours after the beginning of the working day, or to finish earlier, whichever is convenient.

Meshharawi said that these regulations facilitate the work of Muslims during the fasting month.
But they make these accommodations, by law or prevailing custom, for Muslim workers in all non-Muslim countries.  RightDon't they?  Not to mention for Christians in non-Christian countries.  And for Jews in countries other than Israel.


More here: Muslims in Israel, Worldwide Prepare for Start of Ramadan Aug. 10

[ ... ]

Israel's Declaration of Independence ensures religious freedoms for all of its inhabitants, stating that Israel, "will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions."

Muslim Israelis are an integral part of Israel's workforce. Israeli law mandates that Muslims receive the three days of Eid al-Fitr - usually a joyous festival marking the end of the fasting period - as vacation days. Although Islam does not consider Ramadan a time of rest, Muslim workers may choose to leave work as early as 2 p.m.

[ ... ]

VDH, as usual

Victor Davis Hanson is, as usual, right on the money.  And yet ...

The odd thing is that the entire country senses how Obama could restore his ratings to over 50 percent in the same way Clinton did in 1995. He would simply call in Republicans to work out a deal to balance the budget, quit his two-year "Bush did it" whine, stop suing the states, reassure business that there will be no more tax hikes, praise the private sector for its ingenuity and competence, stop trying to appeal to his base through race and ethnicity, and get engaged on Afghanistan.
If only.

Because there is no chance that Obama will or can do that, we are witnessing another Greek tragedy as our chief executive slowly implodes.

So we, the American public, have become something like the anxious townspeople of Hawthorne's morality tale. We keep claiming that our next national leader is some sort of monumental icon who will magically solve our crises, only to learn that in the flesh he turns out not to be the Great Stone Face on the mountain at all. (The Obama euphoria of 2008 was not unlike the Bush worship for a short while between September 2001 and early 2003.)

In the end, if we are lucky, we will end up with a workmanlike candidate similar to the Ernest of Hawthorne's short story, someone nondescript from the community, someone like the rest of America, who through humility and competence avoids the vanity of high office, balances budgets, wins wars, cuts spending, restores American confidence, finesses the partisan rancor, and restores our global stature and competitiveness -- and slowly grows to resemble the visage on the side of the mountain.

Again, if only.  But what are the chances that such a person would be even remotely interested in running for President?  I mean, really?


Analogies are a great means of communication, but often they can be stretched so thin that they seem like a gimmick.  Forced.  Other times, they just don't work.  Or they hover on the verge of working, but are problematic. 

The analogy, currently making the rounds, of the Ground Zero mosque/Islamic center to the Carmelite convent at Auschwitz is one of the latter.  For one thing, the camp was not operated under the auspices of the Catholic Church or anyone claiming the mantle of the Church (far from it).  For another, well,

... On that site is Oswiecim, where a camp was used to detain and kill Poles, and which has become a symbol of Polish martyrdom for the nation. It is also the site of an extermination camp where Nazi Germany killed, according to Yehuda Bauer of Hebrew University, about 1.35 million Jews, and which has become the most preeminent symbol of the Holocaust. As [Emanuel] Tanay writes, "The Carmelite convent was established in Oswiecim, a proper place for Polish nuns. The trouble is that Auschwitz, a death camp for Jews, existed at the same location."

So the analogy makes me just a bit uncomfortable, because Muslims were not the targeted victims of the 9-11 terrorists, nor is Ground Zero a site of significance to the Islamic (or any other specific) faith.  Still, William McGurn points out important parallels in this Wall St. Journal op-ed.

For Jews, Auschwitz is a symbol of the Shoah, and the presence of a convent looked like an effort to Christianize a place of Jewish suffering. Suspicions were further aroused by a fundraising brochure from an outside Catholic group, which referred to the convent as a "guarantee of the conversion of strayed brothers."
And of course, in his conclusion.

Without doubt Pope John Paul II did not share the more malevolent interpretations attached to the presence of the Carmelites at Auschwitz. By asking the nuns to withdraw, he didn't concede them either. What he did was recognize that having the right to do something doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.
This metaphor, on the other hand, is a home run (and, as far as I can tell, entirely original).  As is the rest of the post.  I don't want to spoil the impact.  Read it for yourself.

Another double standard

Jeff Jacoby makes an excellent point here.

Gibson and Stone are both guilty of indulging in rank anti-Semitism (for which both promptly "apologized''), but only Gibson was buried under a newsroom avalanche of outrage and disgust. What explains that glaring difference? Surely the media don't think Jew-baiting is intolerable only when it comes from a right-wing Christian like Gibson. Surely they wouldn't overlook Stone's noxious rant just because he is a pluperfect left-wing activist.

Surely that can't be the explanation for so disgraceful a double standard.

Can it?

This just hadn't occurred to me, but Jeff has facts and figures behind this analysis, and I'm afraid his conclusion is kind of inescapable.

Hide the decline?


Obamacare's bewildering complexity

Ok, it's the Republican view.  But still ... a picture is worth a few thousand words.

obama_chart.jpgAs a bonus, here are few more words.

Developed by the Joint Economic Committee minority, led by U.S Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the detailed organization chart displays a bewildering array of new government agencies, regulations and mandates.

"For Americans, as well as Congressional Democrats who didn't bother to read the bill, this first look at the final health care law confirms what many fear, that reform morphed into a monstrosity of new bureaucracies, mandates, taxes and rationing that will drive up health care costs, hurt seniors and force our most intimate health care choices into the hands of Washington bureaucrats,"said Brady, the committee's senior House Republican. "If this is what passes for health care reform in America, then God help us all."

[ ... ]

Brady admits committee analysts could not fit the entire health care bill on one chart. "This portrays only about one-third of the complexity of the final bill. It's actually worse than this."
Soccer Dad has it exactly right.  Rube Goldberg would be proud.

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