Roundup: Historian's Take
This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
SOURCE: CNN.com (9-13-10)
In the aftermath of 9/11, Americans were angry, fearful and scrambling for answers....
A few Americans turned their rage against Muslims who were living in the United States....
Speaking at an emotionally charged moment, just six days after the attacks, Bush told the audience that it was vital for Americans to understand that the terrorists did not represent the Muslim tradition.
"Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don't represent the best of America; they represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior," Bush said.
The president reiterated his firm commitment to protecting the constitutional rights and honoring the important role of the Muslim community in the United States....
Bush's philosophy is now under fire. In response to the proposal to build an Islamic center near ground zero in New York City, a heated national debate has unfolded about Muslims in America. While some focused their criticism on whether this was a proper project so close to the site of the attacks, many others turned it into a different kind of discussion....
Posted on: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - 12:35
SOURCE: GoErie.com (9-13-10)
BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the recent explosion of the Mariner Energy rig offers Pennsylvanians several important lessons that are directly applicable to the natural gas drilling boom in the state.
In both the Gulf and in Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale, the industry has claimed that new technologies make drilling for hydrocarbons safe and clean. It is in fact a dirty and dangerous process. The Gulf Coast has learned this first hand as oil has washed up on the shores of five states and covered more than 80,000 square miles of the Gulf's water surface.
Although Pennsylvania will not suffer an oil spill, the hydraulic fracturing process (fracking) used to unlock natural gas in the Marcellus Shale can badly damage vast stretches of the state's lands and waters. This is being done, however, through the equivalent of 10,000 cuts rather than one big blowout as in the Gulf spill....
Posted on: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - 12:32
SOURCE: DIverse Issues in Higher Education (9-10-10)
For anyone who thought the election of Barack Obama ushered in an era of post-racial harmony, several events that have transpired over the past few months should assuage any doubts of such a notion....
It seems that race relations in certain quarters of America have become intense during Obama’s tenure as commander–in-chief. From more benign, yet problematic comments such as Nevada Senate candidate Harry Reid's reference to Obama as a “light-skinned Negro with no Negro dialect,” to more problematic rhetoric from former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin urging Laura Schlessinger “not to retreat, but rather, reload” in response to the criticism Schlessinger received for repeatedly using one of the most vile racial epithets in American history, to disturbing comments from Kentucky Tea Party candidate Ron Paul who described “certain portions” of the Civil Rights Act as “problematic.” During her tirade, Schlessinger also offended those Americans involved in interracial marriages and relationships. In the case [of] Gibson, let’s be honest, were we really all that surprised?...
Posted on: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - 12:29
SOURCE: Politico (9-14-10)
With all the political challenges Democrats face going into the midterms, one thing is clear: Despite talk of a broken branch of government, Congress has been enormously productive since President Barack Obama took office. The list of legislation that has passed the 111th Congress is impressive: an economic stimulus bill, health care reform and financial regulation, among others. Some commentators have compared this Congress with the 73rd and 74th (the early New Deal) and the 88th and 89th (the Great Society).
It is too early to tell whether this Congress will have the same kind of impact as those earlier ones. We don’t yet know what will happen to the measures that have passed when they are implemented, whether they will have the same kind of long-term success in achieving their objectives as measures such as the Wagner Act (1935) and the Civil Rights Act (1964). Nor do we know whether the bills will last over time. It is important to remember that there are many landmark bills, such as the loophole-closing Tax Reform of 1986, that unravel after passage.
But we can discern three important differences between the current Congress and those of the past that can help us understand the challenges facing everyone who operates in the current fraught political environment.
The first difference is that the 111th Congress passed major controversial bills that impose many costs but don’t provide a clear set of universal benefits....
Posted on: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - 12:13
SOURCE: New Republic (9-13-10)
It came. It went. It vanished without a trace.
Last week America’s secretary of state appeared before what passes in Washington for a gathering of the great and good and announced that a “new American Moment” had arrived. Unfortunately for Hillary Clinton (and her hopelessly pedestrian speechwriters), the secretary’s effort to brand our age didn’t take. The duration of the new American Moment did not extend beyond the peroration of her eminently forgettable speech.
The temptation to pass quietly over Clinton’s performance and move on is strong—but should be resisted. To read the speech carefully is to confront the central problem bedeviling American diplomacy: Infested with people who (like Clinton) are infatuated with power, Washington has increasingly become a city devoid of people who actually understand power.
They chant the empire seemingly oblivious to the fact that the empire’s foundations are rapidly crumbling.
“[A]fter years of war and uncertainty,” the secretary of state informed her audience at the Council on Foreign Relations, “people are wondering what the future holds, at home and abroad. So let me say it clearly: The United States can, must, and will lead in this new century.”
That settled, Clinton then proceeded to make her case for American leadership by resurrecting familiar clichés and reciting a long list of aspirations. Hers is a No Child Left Behind approach to statecraft: There is no global problem, however large or however remote from U. S. interests, that will evade America’s sympathetic ministrations.
“[I]n this day where there is nothing that doesn’t come to the forefront of public awareness: What do we give up on? What do we put on the backburner? Do we sideline development? Do we put some hot conflicts on hold? Do we quit trying to prevent other conflicts from unfreezing and heating up? Do we give up on democracy and human rights?”
No, we do not. By extension, therefore, everything becomes a priority. Besides, according to Clinton, to admit that A should take precedence over B while categorizing C as too hard “is not what Americans do.”
“Americans have always risen to the challenges we have faced. That is who we are. It is in our DNA. We do believe there are no limits on what is possible or what can be achieved.”
History itself testifies to what American leadership can accomplish, as demonstrated by Clinton’s own concise rendering of the postwar era...
Posted on: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - 06:13
SOURCE: Philadelphia Inquirer (9-10-10)
Hey, Americans, stop hating each other! Don't you know there's a war going on?
That's essentially what the United States' top commander in Afghanistan said in a much-publicized interview, condemning a Florida pastor who has vowed to burn Qurans on Sept. 11. "It could endanger troops, and it could endanger the overall effort," Gen. David Petraeus told the Wall Street Journal. "Not just here [in Afghanistan], but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community."
Petraeus was right, but he didn't go far enough. The problem runs deeper than the bigoted Florida minister whose stunt sparked protests around the globe. From attacks on mosques to charges that President Obama is secretly Muslim, America is suffused with anti-Islamic sentiment right now.
As Petraeus' comment suggests, the best argument against our current bout of Islamophobia might lie in the war itself. For the past century, America's overseas conflicts have catalyzed campaigns against prejudice and discrimination at home. So we have good reason to hope that the current war does the same....
Posted on: Monday, September 13, 2010 - 14:07
SOURCE: CS Monitor (9-10-10)
The extraordinary popularity of the television series "Mad Men," which recently won its third consecutive Emmy for Best Drama, suggests an interesting and important shift in Americans’ attitudes toward our culture and history. That shift may have profound, if so far subtle, political implications.
For the past four decades, the divide in America – call it the culture wars, red-blue or whatever – has been based on clashing views of the 1960s. Republicans have blamed The '60s for changing America for the worse. Others herald the decade as a liberation from the 1950s. But there was an era in between. "Mad Men" is set in that middle ground of the "Young '60s," and its broad appeal points to the possibility of cultural compromise....
As "Mad Men" actor Jon Hamm (who plays Don Draper) has said, "There’s a pretty big sea change that happens at a certain point in society, and I think that the reason "Mad Men" has been so successful is that it lives in this transitory period of the ’60s." That Young '60s deserves far more attention, and "Mad Men" is to be commended for bringing it back into our consciousness. And, just maybe, a focus on that period between the extremes of the highly fictionalized '50s and the greatly exaggerated later '60s – the Ficties and the Sicksties – could help us to reach an armistice in the red-blue culture wars.
Posted on: Monday, September 13, 2010 - 11:01
SOURCE: Tabsir (Blog) (9-12-10)
[Daniel Martin Varisco is professor of anthropology at Hofstra University.]
In biblical times when an individual mourned, it involved tearing up everyday clothes and putting on coarse sackcloth and ashes. This is what the patriarch Jacob did when told his young son Joseph had been killed. When Job lost his family he sat on a dung pile. Both acts were motivated by humility rather than thoughts of revenge. As fitting as Job’s location might be for some of the memorial scenes yesterday, several of those making the news headlines represented the Empire (it is hard not to think of the United States superpower as anything else but an empire) in what they thought were patriotic “red, white, and blue” cloth, but which even a little child could see were politically naked to the core. The New York Times reports a woman at the 9/11 site holding up a sign that read ““Today is ONLY about my sister and the other innocents killed nine years ago.” Would that were true.
The loss of life nine years ago in a terrorist act deserves reflection for many reasons. For those of us who live in the New York area, there but for the grace of timing go we. Those who died had pulled no triggers, pushed no buttons to drop bombs, made no political decisions to invade another country, burned no Qur’ans. They died because politically motivated extremists so hated the policies of the United States in the Middle East that they were willing to commit an atrocious suicidal act to make a symbolic statement. It did not matter that among those killed were Americans who strongly disagreed with America’s foreign policy or were in fact Muslims. Such is the ethical nothingness that hate sets as a trap, no matter which God is being called upon to condone an evil act.
Yes, there were people yesterday who paused to reflect, who prayed to the God of their particular belief. But there were also the hatemongers on parade. Among those with naked ambition was the infamous Dutch politician Geert Wilders, whose speech near Ground Zero only tarnishes the memory of those who died. It is bad enough that he spews hate against fellow Dutch citizens who happen to be Muslim, but now he sets himself up as a citizen spokesman of the world. To Wilders the world has no color, only his white vs the other’s black. He did not even play the nuance game of only attacking “terrorist” Muslims.
For Wilders, America pre-9/11 was a peaceful Garden of Eden, like his “tolerant” Dutch homeland (somehow the Dutch control of Indonesia is written off as another result of imperial tolerance). “The West never ‘harmed’ Islam before it harmed us,” he claimed. Just about everything that is wrong with Islamophobic discourse oozes out of this terse Himmleresque screed. For the simple minded the world is bipolar: the unbounded “West” standing for a particular secular, white bastion of political power vs “Islam” which has no border. It is no longer Christianity vs. Islam, as propagandized during the crusades, nor West vs East, nor even North vs South nor Cold War Free World vs. Communism. Dear Geert, the harm is there in full color and has been a two-way blood-soaked street throughout the history of this geographic space known as the “West” and “Orient.” The Crusades were surely harmful, as was the expulsion of Jews and Moors from 15th century Spain. The Ottoman intrusion into eastern Europe to the gates of Vienna was just as harmful. As was the mentality that fueled wars between Catholics and Protestants in Europe. As was the lust for power that drove the Mongols to utterly destroy the Abbasid caliphate in 1258 CE. The history of the world is all about harm, and there is plenty of blame to go around. As a historian I dredge up the murky past only to silence the nonsense that anyone today is pure. As a concerned citizen of the United States I love my country but not because I hate someone else’s nation or faith.
Wilders was not the only morally nude performer on display yesterday for the media to cover with fig-leaf reporting. In Alaska Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck took to the stage to a packed, paying crowd, to flaunt their own commercial and political ambitions at the expense of the memory of those who died. Palin noted that when she heard about the attack on September 11, 2001, she went to her church to pray. So why did she not do the same yesterday? Prayer in a church strikes me as a fitting memorial; using such an event for self promotion (as quite a few desperate politicians have done over the years) is hardly any different from exposing yourself in a Playboy centerfold. Beck only noted that at the time he was getting ready for work and suggested we are somehow “forgetting” so many years later. For a day that the media relished and covered all across the country, Mr. Beck seems strangely out of touch. Was the Mormon Tabernacle, where he might have offered a prayer, sold out?
Then there is Terry Jones, who continued to make news by not making news. Here is a fringe lunatic (yes, lunatic by any rational measure in the 21st century) who now has the wrath of Gainesville upon him, who had no permit to build a bonfire and who had his ten seconds of fame. How newsworthy is the fact that he so reluctantly decided not to burn Qur’ans, managing to put his calculated act on a par with the building of an Islamic community center several blocks away from the Ground Zero site.
Here’s news for Wilders, Palin, Beck and Jones: there is a Bible verse written just for you, way back in Genesis, although I suspect the irony will be lost on the lot of you: “They were both naked, and were not ashamed.”
Posted on: Monday, September 13, 2010 - 10:12
SOURCE: American Interest (blog) (9-11-10)
Nine years ago this morning I came up from the subway stop at 68th Street and Lexington Avenue to hear from the breakfast cart vendor that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in lower Manhattan. It didn’t seem that important; I pictured a small two seater private plane crashing into a large building and hoped that no one had been killed. Once I got to my office, it became clear that something bigger had happened. Then came a groan from a group of people watching television a few doors down the hall; I rushed in to see the second plane hitting the second tower.
In the hours that followed, life in New York gradually fell apart. Great clouds of ash and smoke rose up from the fires; the transport system crashed. When the buildings collapsed, telephone service went down across the city. With the news of the attack on the Pentagon I went out to withdraw cash from my bank in fear that electric power also would fail. Traffic came to a halt; by early afternoon there were tens of thousands of grimy, dirty people trudging up the avenues of the city, walking home from lower Manhattan. The BBC asked me to come down to their studios near Times Square for an interview; it was almost impossible to get there — even more difficult to get back. I spent the night with friends; the subway system that had brought me into Manhattan could not get me home.
Nine years later, we are still living in the world that introduced itself on that grim and unforgettable day. Shadowy organizations of hate-crazed fanatics seek to destroy the foundations of civilized life. Satan, we are told, can appear as an Angel of Light; these grandiose, delusional fools have mistaken the King of Death for the Maker of the Universe. “Evil be thou my good,” is what Satan said as he contemplated the ruins of his hopes in Paradise Lost; this is what the Osama bin Ladens of the world have come to. When a bomb goes off in a mosque, they rejoice that God’s will is done. When schoolchildren die horribly in the ruins of a burning bus, they give thanks and praise to God. They pine for greater destruction, greater havoc, for mass deaths of millions; the blood of the innocent has become a drug they cannot live without.
The question of how to deal with these fanatical death-eaters has convulsed world and American politics ever since. It is fatal to ignore them, fatal also to react to their attacks in ways that inflate rather than diminish their support. The free peoples of the world ultimately learned to fight communism though not without many costly blunders and mistakes. We can and will defeat this new scourge, born like Nazism and communism of the hatreds and failures of the world. We will learn, we will grow, we will act and we will by God’s grace and God’s help win.
In some ways we are winning already...
Posted on: Monday, September 13, 2010 - 07:40
SOURCE: Huffington Post (9-9-10)
[Shaun Jacob Halper is currently a PhD student of History at the University of California at Berkeley where he studies modern European History with a focus on subaltern histories including Jewish and gay history. Shaun graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia in '05 where he studied Art History and American and European History.]
Any professional historian worth his academic chair knows that no two historical periods are ever truly the same. No matter how widely the cliché is used, history does not repeat itself.
Many Americans, however, see things a bit differently.
Enter discussion of the Iranian nuclear threat and you will likely be transported back to 1938. The most significant player determining American foreign policy is not American, Israeli, or Iranian, but German--and he has been dead for sixty five years. The Iran debate is so haunted by the ghost of Hitler, one might think it possessed the bodies of Khameini and Ahmadenijad. Concessions to Teheran are framed as appeasement at Munich; the nuclear sites at Bushehr and Qom are the launching pads for the next Chelmno and Sobibor.
The use of Nazi analogies in the current debate over Iran is ubiquitous. Talk of Iran and Nazi Germany is not merely limited to fringe political elements or loud-mouth demagogues on conservative talk radio. It is repeated by cable-news talking heads; in the blogosphere; by politicians , academics and investigative journalists. Not merely the language of neoconservatives (R. James Woolsey, Tony Blankley, Ted Nugent are just the most recent examples), the weight of Nazi history burdens the hawkish Left too.
Of course there are quite a few American pundits and scholars who reject the analogy--and the Obama administration has generally relied on this camp. But in terms of shaping public opinion, these less-hawkish voices are drowned out. Like so much else that has characterized the Obama administration thus far, its policy initiatives and achievements, however beneficial to the health (quite literally) of the nation, have not translated into public understanding or public support for those policies. The White House and its allies on the Left have been remarkably bad at political instruction. While the White House pursues diplomatic solutions vis-à-vis Iran, the"1938-ers," to borrow Tony Blankley's term--those who build analogies between Iran and Nazi Germany--dominate the airwaves; the analogy is repeated as mantra, ultimately shaping public opinion.
Certainly the Nazis have been--and will always be--a powerful political symbol of evil for Americans and non-Americans. Politicians and pundits (both Left and Right) will continue to appropriate Nazi history and imagery, usually to the detriment of its true historical significance, no matter how ugly, tasteless, and inappropriate the comparison. This phenomenon does not begin or end with the debate over Iran currently raging in the US; but its use in the current debate is so widespread that it requires attention, especially if we want to understand American public discourse as the West moves ever closer to military engagement.
By contrast, Hitler seems to rarely make an appearance in German discussions of Iran. In Germany, where reference to a"Jewish gene" by a single public figure sparks public outrage, where Holocaust denial is a crime, and where teaching the Holocaust is mandatory--none of which is true for the US--discussion of Iran is not saturated in historical analogies to Nazism. Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule: Chancellor Angela Merkel has made the comparison as has the president of Germany's Central Council of Jews. And as Jeffrey Herf (who is quite warm to the analogy himself) recently pointed out, there are a number of German pundits and scholars who perceive the Iranian threat through the prism of fascism: Richard Herzinger of Die Welt, the political scientist Matthias Küntzel, Klaus Faber, and the leaders of the"Stop the Bomb" campaign for example. But these are minority voices, as these advocates themselves admit.
The difference between American and German public discourse is striking and available for any German with access to American media outlets to see. But why is this so? Why is the American debate over the Iranian nuclear threat so obsessed with Nazi History? And why is the analogy largely dismissed in Germany?
Certainly the most logical reason--and one I have heard from several Iran experts in researching this piece--is that the analogy is simply inaccurate. It is true that states are facing a very real and complicated problem that historians of the German 30s know well: should the international community give precedence to Iran's rhetoric or its actions and is the regime too ideological to be appeased? But beyond this parallel, the analogy falls apart. Suffice to point out that Iran today has none of the economic, military, or political might that characterized Nazi Germany by the late 1930s. Iran does not even rank among the top twenty economies in the world. The Pentagon's budget is more than double Iran's total gross domestic product; America's annual defense outlay is more than 100 times Iran's. In short, unlike Nazi Germany, Iran is not an equal player or a true threat (not even by a long shot). It could never win or even hope to win a true military encounter with the US (nuclear or not). That is not to say, however, that Iran is not a significant threat to the security of Israel and its Arab neighbors or that its apparent drive toward nuclear weapons should not be stopped or that it does not believe in the frighteningly anti-Semitic things it says or that it could not generate a tremendous amount of violence and pain in its drive to reshape the balance of power in the Middle East. Still: the analogy to Nazi Germany cannot withstand analysis. Simply put: Iran is its own beast.
But factual accuracy can only explain so much. If we follow this line of reasoning--that Germans, unlike Americans, largely reject the analogy to Hitler on factual grounds--then the"1938-ers" either do not know what they are talking about (possibly true for some, but not probable for most); or, more likely, the"1938-ers," are content to use the analogy's superficial parallels to scare their audience into awareness of just how evil the Iranian regime is, which the"1938-ers" sincerely believe. What then of their American audience who should know better?
Well, many readers are saying to themselves, Americans are not the brightest bears in the forest, now are they? This is, after all, the nation that re-elected George W. Bush in 2004. And to be sure, Susan Jacoby,Rink Shenkman, and many other American scholars have documented just how poor American historical and geopolitical knowledge is (it's abysmal). But again, lack of historical and geopolitical literacy is still not a sufficient explanation. Americans (of whatever political persuasion) are hardly the only nation on earth to believe in historically inaccurate narratives that buttress their political interests. Myths--the perception of Iran as a reincarnation of Nazi Germany is certainly a type of myth--buttress every political ideology and national identity and they rarely if ever correlate to truth. This is not a particularly American sin. The question is why this particular historical narrative finds so many ready ears in the US.
Israel, AIPAC (the American Israel lobby), and American Jews are other obvious, but incorrect targets. Most Israelis (though certainly not all), including its current leadership, perceive the Iranian regime as an existential threat. After all, the regime's international face, Ahmadenijad, called for Israel's extermination and has been a state-sponsor of terrorism (including Hamas and Hezballah) for years. Shall we trace the source of American Nazi rhetoric then to the influence of the pro-Zionist community?
Again, this theory only skims the surface of explanation. The source of American support for Israel does not, as many incorrectly believe, stem from the influence of the American Jewish community, much of which has a tortured and critical relationship to Zionism. American support for Israel is grounded in the tremendous power and influence of American Christian Evangelism, who regard the Jewish presence in the Holy Land as part of God's plan for the second coming of Jesus. True, many neoconservatives are Jewish and AIPAC is one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, but neither keeps a stranglehold on American public opinion. Jews make up less than 2.5 percent of America's population; without the wide support of the broader Evangelical population, American foreign policy and its relationship to Israel would look very different.
Those who charge 1938-ers as propagandists for Israel, of course, are easy targets themselves. 1938-ers often condemn their (usually European) detractors with a litany of vices: anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, Holocaust and general war fatigue; and, in the case of Germany: the desire to unburden the weight of its historical guilt or compromise its extensive trade.
Again, while some of these motives are true for some individuals, they fall short: for one, it ignores widespread German outrage over Iranian Holocaust denial, not least the Weimar city council's cancelation of the Iranian delegation refusing to visit Buchenwald. Germany is still Israel's closest European ally, even if at times critical of Israeli policy, and Germany has been the most vocal of European states in its condemnation of Iranian rhetoric. And while Germany could certainly do more to use its economic leverage to pressure Iran, it is clear that American pressure has helped place Iran's nuclear aspirations at the forefront of relations between Germany and Iran. Germany has been a crucial player in supporting the latest round of sanctions and, despite the most recent numbers, German businesses are increasingly wary of expanding trade with the increasingly unpradictable regime.
No, contrary to its surface appearance, the American obsession with Hitler is not actually about the danger posed by Iran. The obsession with Hitler is about returning to the lost glory days of World War II--to what Americans call"the Greatest Generation," who, as 1938-ers (among many others) romanticize as proudly fighting against a clearly identifiable evil. It is about returning to a world where Americans could unify around a common purpose and a common enemy. Nazi rhetoric is about restoring honor and glory to America. When commentators compare Ahmadinejad or Khameini to Hitler, they are doing rather little to explain the true threats Iran poses. Instead, they emphasize how righteous any future conflict with Iran would be.
One should not neglect, of course, how different the American profit-driven media establishment is from its German counterpart. American media encourages and enables the spread of such analogies, regardless of factual inaccuracy, because as everyone knows, Nazi sells. But this narrative sells because Americans opine to return to an imagined world of national purpose and moral meaning. The desire to return to American glory sits easy with the Christian Evangelical drive toward hastening the end days, a narrative that situates a beleaguered Jewish people at the heart of the battle between good and evil. These narratives of lost glory and religious exuberance are alien to today's Germany, a nation that understands how nostalgia for war and a failure to emotionally demilitarize--well-known characteristics of the interwar period-- can lead to a path of destruction. Many Americans have yet to learn this lesson, even after ten years of the Bush White House.
Perhaps then a comparison to Nazi Germany is truly warranted after all, but for a very different reason.
Posted on: Thursday, September 9, 2010 - 18:40
SOURCE: National Review (9-9-10)
In less than 60 days, the Democrats will probably suffer historic losses in both the House and the Senate. The eleventh-hour campaigning of the now-unpopular Barack Obama on behalf of endangered congressional candidates will not change much. In fact, most embattled Democratic candidates don’t want the president to even set foot in their districts....
The Democrats’ best hope is a major crisis overseas that would rally the American public around their commander-in-chief. Usually, cynical journalists refer to an unexpected autumn bombing run, missile launch, or presidential announcement of a cease-fire or needed escalation as an “October surprise.”...
Abraham Lincoln could have lost the 1864 election to peace candidate Gen. George McClellan, given that over the summer Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had almost ruined the Army of the Potomac without taking the Confederate capital of Richmond. Then, suddenly, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman captured Atlanta on Sept. 2. Overnight, Lincoln went from an inept bumbler to a winning commander-in-chief. An exasperated McClellan never recovered....
Posted on: Thursday, September 9, 2010 - 14:46
SOURCE: TomDispatch (9-9-10)
[Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History and the director of the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan.]
The Great Deluge in Pakistan passed almost unnoticed in the United States despite President Obama’s repeated assertions that the country is central to American security. Now, with new evacuations and flooding afflicting Sindh Province and the long-term crisis only beginning in Pakistan, it has washed almost completely off American television and out of popular consciousness.
Don’t think we haven’t been here before. In the late 1990s, the American mass media could seldom be bothered to report on the growing threat of al-Qaeda. In 2002, it slavishly parroted White House propaganda about Iraq, helping prepare the way for a senseless war. No one yet knows just what kind of long-term instability the Pakistani floods are likely to create, but count on one thing: the implications for the United States are likely to be significant and by the time anyone here pays much attention, it will already be too late.
Few Americans were shown -- by the media conglomerates of their choice -- the heartbreaking scenes of eight million Pakistanis displaced into tent cities, of the submerging of a string of mid-sized cities (each nearly the size of New Orleans), of vast areas of crops ruined, of infrastructure swept away, damaged, or devastated at an almost unimaginable level, of futures destroyed, and opportunistic Taliban bombings continuing. The boiling disgust of the Pakistani public with the incompetence, insouciance, and cupidity of their corrupt ruling class is little appreciated.
The likely tie-in of these floods (of a sort no one in Pakistan had ever experienced) with global warming was seldom mentioned. Unlike, say, BBC Radio, corporate television did not tell the small stories -- of, for instance, the female sharecropper who typically has no rights to the now-flooded land on which she grew now-ruined crops thanks to a loan from an estate-owner, and who is now penniless, deeply in debt, and perhaps permanently excluded from the land. That one of the biggest stories of the past decade could have been mostly blown off by television news and studiously ignored by the American public is a further demonstration that there is something profoundly wrong with corporate news-for-profit. (The print press was better at covering with the crisis, as was publically-supported radio, including the BBC and National Public Radio.)
In his speech on the withdrawal of designated combat units from Iraq last week, Barack Obama put Pakistan front and center in American security doctrine, “But we must never lose sight of what’s at stake. As we speak, al-Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Even if Pakistan were not a major non-NATO ally of the United States, it is the world’s sixth most populous country and the 44th largest economy, according to the World Bank. The flooding witnessed in the Indus Valley is unprecedented in the country’s modern history and was caused by a combination of increasingly warm ocean water and a mysterious blockage of the jet stream, which drew warm, water-laden air north to Pakistan, over which it burst in sheets of raging liquid. If the floods that followed prove a harbinger of things to come, then they are a milestone in our experience of global warming, a big story in its own right.
ews junkies who watch a lot of television broadcasts could not help but notice with puzzlement that as the cosmic catastrophe unfolded in Pakistan, it was nearly invisible on American networks. I did a LexisNexis search for the terms “Pakistan” and “flood” in broadcast transcripts (covering mostly American networks) from July 31st to September 4th, and it returned only about 1,100 hits. A search for the name of troubled actress Lindsay Lohan returned 653 search results in the same period and one for “Iraq,” more than 3,000 hits (the most the search engine will count). A search for “mosque" and"New York” yielded 1,300 hits. Put another way, the American media, whipped into an artificial frenzy by anti-Muslim bigots like New York gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio and GOP hatemonger Newt Gingrich, were far more interested in the possible construction of a Muslim-owned interfaith community center two long blocks from the old World Trade Center site than in the sight of millions of hapless Pakistani flood victims.
Of course, some television correspondents did good work trying to cover the calamity, including CNN’s Reza Sayah and Sanjay Gupta, but they generally got limited air time and poor time slots. (Gupta’s special report on the Pakistan floods aired the evening of September 5th, the Sunday before Labor Day, not exactly a time when most viewers might be expected to watch hard news.) As for the global warming angle, it was not completely ignored. On August 13th, reporter Dan Harris interviewed NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt on ABC’s “Good Morning America” show at 7:45 am. The subject was whether global warming could be the likely cause for the Pakistan floods and other extreme weather events of the summer, with Schmidt pointing out that such weather-driven cataclysms are going to become more common later in the twenty-first century. Becky Anderson at CNN did a similar segment at 4 pm on August 16th. My own search of news transcripts suggests that that was about it for commercial television.
The “Worst Disaster” TV Didn’t Cover
It’s worth reviewing the events that most Americans hardly know happened:
The deluge began on July 31st, when heavier than usual monsoon rains caused mudslides in the northwest of Pakistan. Within two days, the rapidly rising waters had already killed 800 people. On August 2nd, the United Nations announced that about a million people had been driven from their homes. Among the affected areas was the Swat Valley, already suffering from large numbers of refugees and significant damage from an army offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in the spring-summer of 2009. In the district of Dera Ismail Khan alone, hundreds of villages were destroyed by the floods, forcing shelterless villagers to sleep on nearby raised highways.
The suddenly homeless waited in vain for the government to begin to deliver aid, as public criticism of President Asaf Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani surged. President Zardari’s opulent trip to France and Britain (during which he visited his chateau in Normandy) at this moment of national crisis was pilloried. On August 8th in Birmingham, England, a furious Pakistani-British man threw both his shoes at him, repeating a famously humiliating incident in which an Iraqi journalist threw a shoe at President George W. Bush. Fearing the response in Pakistan, the president’s Pakistan People’s Party attempted to censor the video of the incident, and media offices in that country were closed down or sometimes violently attacked if they insisted on covering it. Few or no American broadcast outlets appear to have so much as mentioned the incident, though it pointed to the increasing dissatisfaction of Pakistanis with their elected government. (The army has gotten better marks for its efficient aid work, raising fears that some ambitious officers could try to parlay a newfound popularity into yet another in the country’s history of military coups.)
By August 5th, the floods had taken an estimated 1,600 lives, though some aid officials complained (and would continue to do so) that the death toll was far larger than reported. Unlike the Haitian earthquake or the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, this still building and far more expansive disaster was initially greeted by the world community with a yawn. The following day, the government evacuated another half-million people as the waters headed toward southern Punjab. At that point, some 12 million Pakistanis had been adversely affected in some way. On August 7th, as the waters advanced on the southernmost province, Sindh, through some of the country’s richest farmlands just before harvest time, another million people were evacuated. Prime Minister Gilani finally paid his first visit to some of the flood-stricken regions.
By August 9th, nearly 14 million people had been affected by the deluge, the likes of which had never been experienced in the region in modern history, and at least 20% of the country was under water. At that point, in terms of its human impact, the catastrophe had already outstripped both the 2004 tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. On August 10th, the United Nations announced that six million Pakistanis needed immediate humanitarian aid just to stay alive.
On August 14th, another half-million people were evacuated from the Sindhi city of Jacobabad. By now, conspiracy theories were swirling inside Pakistan about landlords who had deliberately cut levees to force the waters away from their estates and into peasant villages, or about the possibility that the U.S. military had diverted the waters from its base at Jacobabad. It was announced that 18 million Pakistanis had now been adversely affected by the floods, having been displaced, cut off from help by the waters, or having lost crops, farms, and other property. The next day, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, surveying the damage, pronounced it was “the worst disaster” he had ever seen.
The following week a second crest of river water hit Sindh Province. On August 30th, it submerged the city of Sujawal (population 250,000). The next day, however, there were a mere 16 mentions of Pakistan on all American television news broadcasts, mostly on CNN. On Labor Day weekend, another major dam began to fail in Sindh and, by September 6th, several hundred thousand more people had to flee from Dadu district, with all but four districts in that rich agricultural province having seen at least some flooding.
Today, almost six million Pakistanis are still homeless, and many have not so much as received tents for shelter. In large swaths of the country, roads, bridges, crops, power plants -- everything that matters to the economy -- were inundated and damaged or simply swept away. Even if the money proves to be available for repairs (and that remains an open question), it will take years to rebuild what was lost and, for many among those millions, the future will mean nothing but immiseration, illness, and death.
Why the Floods Weren’t News
In the United States, the contrast with the wall-to-wall cable news coverage of the Haitian earthquake in January and the consequent outpouring of public donations was palpable. Not only has the United Nations’ plea for $460 million in aid to cover the first three months of flood response still not been met, but in the past week donations seem to have dried up. The U.S. government pledged $200 million (some diverted from an already planned aid program for Pakistan) and provided helicopter gunships to rescue cut-off refugees or ferry aid to them.
What of American civil society? No rock concerts were organized to help Pakistani children sleeping on highways or in open fields infested with vermin. No sports events offered receipts to aid victims at risk from cholera and other diseases. It was as if the great Pakistani deluge were happening in another dimension, beyond the ken of Americans.
A number of explanations have been offered for the lack of empathy, or even interest, not to speak of a visible American unwillingness to help millions of Pakistanis. As a start, there were perfectly reasonable fears, even among Pakistani-Americans, that such aid money might simply be pocketed by corrupt government officials. But was the Haitian government really so much more transparent and less corrupt than the Pakistani one?
It has also been suggested that Americans suffer from donor fatigue, given the string of world disasters in recent years and the bad domestic economy. On August 16th, for instance, Glenn Beck fulminated: “We can't keep spending. We are broke! Game over… no one is going to ride in to save you… You see the scene in Pakistan? People were waiting in line for aids [sic] from floods. And they were complaining, how come the aid is not here? Look, when America is gone, who's going to save the people in Pakistan? See, we got to change this one, because we're the ones that always ride in to save people.”
Still, the submerging of a fifth of a country the size of Pakistan is -- or at least should be -- a dramatic global event and even small sums, if aggregated, would matter. (A dollar and a half from each American would have met the U.N. appeal.) Some have suggested that the Islamophobia visible in the debate about the Park 51 Muslim-owned community center in lower Manhattan left Americans far less willing to donate to Muslim disaster victims.
And what of those national security arguments that nuclear-armed Pakistan is crucial not just to the American war in Afghanistan, but to the American way of life? Ironically, the collapse of the neoconservative narrative about what it takes to make the planet’s “sole superpower” secure appears to have fallen on President Obama’s head. One of the few themes he adopted wholeheartedly from the Bush administration has been the idea that a poor Asian country of 170 million halfway around the world, facing a challenge from a few thousand rural fundamentalists, is the key to the security of the United States.
If the Pakistani floods reveal one thing, it’s that Americans now look on such explanations through increasingly jaundiced eyes. At the moment, no matter whether it’s the Afghan War or those millions of desperate peasants and city dwellers in Pakistan, the public has largely decided to ignore the AfPak theater of operations. It’s not so surprising. Having seen the collapse of our financial system at the hands of corrupt financiers produce mass unemployment and mass mortgage foreclosures, they have evidently decided, as even Glenn Beck admits, it’s “game over” for imperial adventures abroad.
Another explanation may also bear some weight here, though you won’t normally hear much about it. Was the decision of the corporate media not to cover the Pakistan disaster intensively a major factor in the public apathy that followed, especially since so many Americans get their news from television?
The lack of coverage needs to be explained, since corporate media usually love apolitical, weather-induced disasters. But covering a flood in a distant Asian country is, for television, expensive and logistically challenging, which in these tough economic times may have influenced programming decisions. Obviously, there is as well a tendency in capitalist news to cover what will attract advertising dollars. Add to this the fact that, unlike the Iraq “withdrawal” story or the “mosque at Ground Zero” controversy, the disaster in Pakistan was not a political football between the GOP and the Democratic Party. What if, in fact, Americans missed this calamity mostly because a bad news story set in a little-known South Asian country filled with Muslim peasants is not exactly “Desperate Housewives” and couldn’t hope to sell tampons, deodorant, or Cialis, or because it did not play into domestic partisan politics?
The great Pakistani deluge did not exist, it seems, because it was not on television, would not have delivered audiences to products, and was not all about us. As we saw on September 11, 2001, and again in March 2003, however, the failure of our electronic media to inform the public about centrally important global developments is itself a security threat to the republic.
Posted on: Thursday, September 9, 2010 - 12:56
SOURCE: Dissident Voice (9-9-10)
Christians have a long tradition of book burning, dating back to the first decades of what some call the “Jesus movement.” The Book of Acts in the New Testament records how Christian believers in Ephesus collected books with offensive content (involving “magic” and “spells”) “made a bonfire of them in public.” According to the scripture, “The value of these was calculated to be fifty thousand silver pieces.” This destruction of such literature revealed the power of God (Acts 19:18-19).
But the real wave of book burning started in the fourth century. Then, in the course of one person’s lifetime, Christianity was legalized (by the Edict of Milan in 312), its doctrine standardized by state order at the Council of Nicaea in 325, and under Theodosius I the faith was made virtually compulsory for Roman subjects ca. 390. (Jews were accorded a special exemption.) Believers in Jupiter and the other Greco-Roman gods had a brief reprieve under the rule of Emperor Julian (“the Apostate”) who reigned from 355 to 363. But then came the era of violent Christian intolerance. Temples to the pagan gods were shuttered, destroyed or converted to Christian churches. Manichaeism, the faith from Persia popular in some parts of the empire, was harshly suppressed, along with all pagan cults. Eventually Plato’s Academy in Athens was shut down–all in the name of the Christian God....
The widely publicized plans of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, to burn Qur’ans on Sept. 11 thus continues a long tradition of ignorance and intolerance. This intolerance is not normative in modern Christianity in the U.S.; ecumenism has long been the more mainstream tradition. But when you have someone of the stature of the Rev. Franklin Graham opining that Islam is “a very evil and wicked religion,” does he not encourage the book burners?
It needs to be said: since the seventh century, the Islamic world has been generally more tolerant towards books than the Christian world. There have been some egregious departures from tolerance; the destruction of the library in the Nalanda (Buddhist) monastery in northern India by a Muslim army from Central Asia in the 12th century, for example. (Reports of the sacking of the Library of Alexandria by an Arab army in 642 are generally now discounted.)...
The Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid (r. 764-809), a contemporary of Charlemagne (whom he sent an elephant as a present) presided over a diverse court that included Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and probably Buddhists and Brahmins. Born in Tehran, Persia, he enjoyed presiding over debates between thinkers of different religions. (Charlemagne tolerated the Jews in his empire and began the “Carolingian Renaissance.” But he was probably less religiously tolerant than al-Rashid who sought his friendship.)
The first Abbasid caliphs founded the “House of Wisdom” library in Baghdad, which also served as a center for the translation of ancient Greek texts into Syriac or Arabic throughout the eighth and ninth centuries. Christians and Jews under Muslim rule played important roles in preserving these books. Some had been burned and lost in Christendom but were only re-introduced due to the fact that Muslims conquered the Iberian peninsula and established centers of intercultural dialogue in places like Cordoba. (Yes, that’s Cordoba, as in the New York City Islamic center, Cordoba House, that bigoted fools demanded change its name so as not to “offend” “Americans”…)
Everyone who’s received a decent primary education should realize it was interaction between Christians and Muslims in Muslim Spain that allowed for the revival of much classical learning lost to Christendom during the Dark Ages. It’s from Cordoba that we acquired algebra (which by the way, is a word derived from Arabic)....
Posted on: Thursday, September 9, 2010 - 12:33
SOURCE: GhanaWeb (9-9-10)
It was fascinating to watch Mubarak, Abdullah, Netanyahu, and Abbas-a rogue's gallery of oppressors and human rights violators if there ever was one-talk seriously about peace and protecting human and civil rights and expanding freedom while sitting a continent away from either Jerusalem or Washington, or in my case in Accra, Ghana, on the southern end of West Africa.
Here most people I meet have no more than passing interest, if that, for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They have plenty of other issues to take up their time much closer to home.
Ghana is routinely touted as one of Africa's "success stories" because of its political stability. Certainly the United States has invested a lot in this idea; the US Embassy complex rivals the Presidential Palace in size.
However a closer look at the economic statistics underlying that claim underscores what a miracle the country's stability is, considering that Ghana ranked 152 out of 189 countries in the latest Human Development Report, poorer even than Yemen, the Sudan, Haiti and even violence torn Pakistan and the Congo....
Posted on: Thursday, September 9, 2010 - 11:50
SOURCE: Globe and Mail (9-8-10)
When it comes to American politics, Canadians are heavily Democratic.
But Canadians might want to pause before hoping for a Democratic victory in November’s congressional elections.
Canada is economically dependent on the United States and although Canada has fared much better than the U.S. in the Great Recession, Canada too is stuck in the economic doldrums and will remain so as long as American consumers keep their money in their wallets. They will likely stay out of the market as long as fear dominates the U.S. economy. As long as they do so, job growth in the U.S. will remain anemic....
A Republican victory in November might be the political catalyst to move that consumer....
There is a national mood of pessimism and depression in the United States today. To many who will vote in November, it doesn’t matter a bit whether Mr. Obama and the Democrats are truly at fault for America’s ills. They want change and they won’t come back to the market until they feel safer and more secure. They are more convinced than ever that nothing will change if the political alignment in Washington remains the same.
Most Canadians may be appalled at the prospect of a Republican victory, but there’s a good chance such an outcome will have a silver lining for Canadian economic recovery.
Posted on: Thursday, September 9, 2010 - 11:47
SOURCE: The Root (9-7-10)
While most examinations of Islamophobia suggest that it is only the most recent expression of American nativism -- made manifest after the 9/11 terror attacks -- the history of using the fear of Islam as a tactic actually extends much further back. The first attacks on Islam in the Western Hemisphere had little to do with religion and more to do with suppressing Africans during slavery.
As early as the 1500s, European colonial powers began passing anti-Muslim legislation as a way to prevent the importation of African Muslims, who were often involved in slave rebellions in the New World. African Muslims led some of the earliest slave revolts in the Spanish colonies, played a role in the Haitian Revolution against France and led several major revolts against the Portuguese in Bahia, Brazil. From these early encounters, Islam came to signify a challenge to the authority of white slave owners and the state-sanctioned subjugation of African people....
In the 20th century, black Islamic revival movements -- most notably the Nation of Islam -- seized upon this history of enslaved African Muslims, and the brutality of the slave regimes that attacked them, to present Islam as essential to the restoration of a lost cultural identity and the struggle against white supremacy. The prospect of a movement for black self-determination, fueled in part by a historical memory of Muslim ancestors who suffered under slavery, ignited white racial anxieties and fears of black retribution.
These anxieties and fears received their airing in a 1959 television news broadcast anchored by a young Mike Wallace, entitled "The Hate That Hate Produced" -- arguably the first major example of Islamophobia in the mainstream U.S. media. The program introduced the Nation of Islam, its leader Elijah Muhammad and spokesperson Malcolm X to the American public in the most sensationalized way possible, hoping to scare whites into supporting more moderate African Americans in the civil rights movement....
Posted on: Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - 13:32
SOURCE: Tabsir (Blog) (9-8-10)
[Daniel Martin Varisco is Professor of Anthropology at Hofstra University.]
“Burn, baby, burn.” One might expect these words to come from a comedian as much as an arsonist. If you put the name “Terry Jones” into Google you will find a comedian. That is Terence Graham Parry Jones of Monty Python fame. These days there is another Terry Jones, a “Rev.ed” up one to boot. Rev. Terry Jones is the previously and foreseeably future little-known pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center on the outskirts of Gainesville, Florida. For a congregation estimated at about 50, their outreach may take a millennium or more, but they do have an inflammatory website, which promotes the “Right” (in all the irony this words entails) Rev. Jones’ book with the rather unoriginal title of “Islam is of the Devil,” which is for sale, as is a $20 t-shirt to advertise hatred of Islam. For an individual who has no clue about Islam, apart from his own rabid intolerance, the devil is certainly not in the details. His moment of fame is about to eclipse, but his motive is so shameful it deserves all the condemnation it can get, the kind in which the pen is mightier than the bonfire.
Let’s start with the desire to burn. One name should suffice to call out the hypocrisy of Mr. Jones. That name is John Wycliffe, the 14th century Christian cleric whose name inspired the Wycliffe Bible Translators, one of the most active Protestant organizations translating the Bible into other languages. Wycliffe dared to translate the Latin Vulgate into English, so earning the ire of the Catholic Pope that he was excommunicated. Some 44 years after Wycliffe died of a stroke, the “Church” had his bones dug up and burned, along with all his writings. I suspect that Jones prefers the King James Version of the Bible, although I do not know if he is aware that this “authorized” version was greatly influenced by Wycliffe.
There are two lessons here for Jones and those who want to be intolerant like the Joneses. First, burning bodies and books is a tactic long carried out by Christians against fellow Christians. I believe that Jones would side with Wycliffe and condemn the Catholic church (no doubt accepting the rival fundamentalist claim that Catholicism is of the Devil). Had Jones preached his gospel at the time of Wycliffe, he too would have been thrown into the bonfire of an intolerant religious bigotry. Second, it never works. Those Christians called of the Lord to burn Beatles’ albums (all that Satanic rock and roll) in the 1960s did not knock the “Hey Jude” group off the top-ten charts.
Jones is not entirely looney; he is perspicacious enough to issue the following disclaimer (not even in fine print) on his website:
Let’s just make one thing clear. A small church, in a small town, down a back road, burning copies of its own books, on its own property, is not responsible for the violent actions anyone may take in retaliation to our protest. Remember, Paul did not make the snake, the fire drove it out and he was bitten. If violence happens in reaction to this, the violence was not caused by us, it has just been exposed.
The only thing being exposed in this logic is the stupidity of the person saying it. I am not sure this logic has chapter and verse in the gospel, although it goes along well with the sentiment in Deuteronomy 22:28-29. If Jones wants to emulate Christ and throw the moneychangers out of the temple, then go to Saudi Arabia and knock on the door of Alwaleed Bin Talal, the second largest owner of Fox News. But let’s twist the analogy a little: “Remember, Paul did not make his male member erect, the hot pants on the young girl drove it out and he was smitten. If rape happens in reaction to this, the rape was not caused by Paul who had no choice but to expose himself.” This might make an interesting story for a sermon on Matthew 5:28.
Fire begets fire. Burn a Quran to get coverage in the New York Post and on Fox News (both owned by the same less than divine mogul) and the lives of all Americans overseas in Islamic countries are for sure put in jeopardy. I can understand that Jones would not listen to advice from Hillary Clinton, but it appears that Rev. Jones does not support General Petraeus either. Here is the likely chain reaction: burn a Qur’an, create yet another terrorist.
So is it possible to bring sanity to a man who thinks he has been called upon by “his” God to spit fire in the faces of other folks’ God? Since the horseshit has already been let out of the barn, it may not even matter. The very fact that he would threaten to do so will no doubt incite violence. But I have a suggestion and it is a prophetic one right out of the Bible. Turn to I Kings 18 and read the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Here it is in the inspired KJV:
20 So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.
21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
22 Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
23 Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:
24 And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.
Rev. Jones would probably have no problem identifying King Ahab with former President Bill Clinton (since they would both be married to Jezebels in his dhimmiwitted eyesight). So let several Qur’ans be placed on the front lawn of his church. He is welcome to put as much kindling as he desires underneath. Then invite a Muslim imam and ask him to go first. I guarantee the Muslim will say “This is my holy book, just as you have a holy book that I would not disrespect because I also accept Jesus as a prophet sent by Allah.” So he will not call upon “his” God to commit an act of sacrilege. Then let Rev. Jones deliver the most powerful, hellfired-up prayer he has ever done and ask “his” God to send down fire from heaven and consume those Qur’ans. It certainly worked for Elijah, a Jewish prophet, because a lot of people would say God was on his side. So, Rev. Jones, I suggest you go for it and burn all your bridges. Since “your” God has called on you to do this, how can “your God” forsake you?
Posted on: Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - 11:44
SOURCE: National Review (9-8-10)
In just 20 months, President Obama’s polls have crashed. From near 70 percent approval, they have fallen to well below 50 percent. Over 70 percent of the public disapproves of the Democratically controlled Congress. Hundreds of thousands of angry voters flocked to hear Glenn Beck & Co. on the Washington Mall. Indeed, things have gotten so bad that the cherubic Mormon Beck might outdraw Barack Obama himself on any given Sunday.
All this was not supposed to be — and it has evoked a lot of anger....
The president himself is grieved by these polls and the Beck-led protests. Indeed, he derides it all as the “silly season.” He does not mean “silly” as in Michelle Obama’s Marbella–to–Martha’s Vineyard odyssey, or his own mini-recession summits on the golf links. Instead, like [many journalists], he is bewildered that millions don’t appreciate that our godhead is “making decisions that are not necessarily good for the nightly news and not good for the next election, but for the next generations.” I suppose here the president means that he is on schedule to add more debt than all previous presidents combined — just the sort of bravery that the “next generations” who will pay for it will appreciate....
Posted on: Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - 11:38
SOURCE: Dissent (9-7-10)
Less than two years after the beginning of a “new progressive era” in the United States, progressives face the midterm elections saddled with massive political baggage. This may seem like nothing new. Since the term gained currency in the early twentieth century, Russell Kirk, James Ceaser, Jonah Goldberg, and other conservatives have claimed that American progressives share intellectual territory with Marxists, Nazis, and other radical, intolerant atheists. Largely by their rhetorical force, they have converted progressivism into utopianism, bureaucratic technocracy, corporatism, emotivism, anti-Americanism, philosophical non-foundationalism, racism, and so on and so forth.
In other words, for the umpteenth time in the last two decades, the American Left doesn’t know what it stands for. As has become customary, progressives are waiting for their more organized opponents to define the debate, its terms, and their role in it. They are routinely on the defensive in public debate, even when the facts overwhelmingly support their positions. Progressives have been reduced to dismissing their opponents as unfair, as unenlightened, as racists, or as politically incorrect. This needn’t happen. Progressivism is not as amorphous as the current state of affairs indicates. This is no time to despair or retreat; it is a time to reengage and reassert progressive positions in more compelling ways....
In the early twentieth century, changes in American social and economic conditions had systematically eroded the worth of constitutional protections of individual liberty. It became difficult to ignore the ways in which regnant constitutional interpretation had arbitrarily damned masses of individuals to desperate existences while rewarding others with outrageous luxuries. Progressive philosopher John Dewey asked Americans to consider the meaning of individual freedom through the following thought experiment: imagine an individual without property, education, or employment. Is this individual free to amass property? Would it matter if she was? Can this individual coherently explain her plight to those with power? Does the right to free self-expression help her obtain their ear? If they hear an inarticulate message from her, will they attend to her needs? Dewey’s point is straightforward enough: liberty is not only a matter of leaving individuals alone. At times, government must act positively to give all individuals a minimum chance to live freely. Put another way, liberty without opportunity would be a farce, if only its social, political, and economic consequences weren’t so tragic.
Dewey argued that instead of deemphasizing relevant constitutional protections of individuals, the state ought to explore ways to strengthen them against newly important corporate forces. He was among the first to note that applying private property protections to corporate and semi-public property presented a direct threat to the liberty of individuals, not to mention a tortured interpretation of constitutional property rights. Constraints upon individual liberty, he recognized, are as much social and economic as they are political. It is in response to such arguments that many conservatives determine progressives to be subconscious Marxists or secret “socialists.” The fallacy of conflating any argument suggesting that market regulation may enhance individual liberty with Marxism ought to be baldly evident. Marx saw politics withering away at the end of history, while Dewey emphasized the value of individual engagement in democratic decision-making. Concern over the use of wealth as a weapon against the less powerful does not make one a Marxist....
Posted on: Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - 11:36
SOURCE: Boston Globe (9-3-10)
WHEN PRESIDENT Obama defended the right of Muslim-Americans to build a mosque near Ground Zero “in accordance with local laws,” he noted that in 1806, Thomas Jefferson had entertained the Tunisian ambassador at the White House. In fact, the Tunisian’s visit was rather more eventful than Obama let on. In the summer of that year, that same ambassador would, quite unintentionally, throw the town of Boston into turmoil. Then, as now, well-established local laws proved insufficient to quell what turned into a wider political furor.
The ambassador’s name was Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, and according to one part of his official instructions, he was coming to these shores to “ascertain what sort of country America was.” When he and his retinue arrived in Boston, the local Republican committee invited the garishly-attired Tunisians to attend its Fourth of July celebration on Copp’s Hill. Mellimelli was quite a draw, and gawkers at the feast were so numerous that Eben Eager, the beleaguered tavern-keeper who was supposed to feed everyone, had to come up with twice the amount of plum puddings and meat pies as originally planned. But the Republican committee would not pay him the cost of the extra provisions....
Posted on: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - 21:40