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: The Nation (1-11-11)
The Arizona legislature is considering a proposal to authorize the carrying of weapons on campus by faculty members. The idea is simple -- in case of trouble in the classroom, somebody needs to be able to blast away at problem students. But the question arises, should all faculty members be armed?
Adjuncts, for example --part-timers, "freeway fliers," paid by the course -- are often burning with resentment over their low status and high student debt payments. They are more likely to be part of the problem on campus, more likely to need to be kept in line by others with guns. My suggestion would be that adjuncts and part-timers should be prohibited from carrying guns on campus....
Posted on: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - 00:41
SOURCE: CNN.com (1-11-11)
Princeton, New Jersey (CNN) -- The mass shooting in Arizona has raised a political challenge for the Republican Party. Party leaders have spent the last few days rebutting charges from liberals that extreme rhetoric from the right had something to do with inspiring the rampage.
At this point, there is no evidence that the gunman went on his horrendous shooting spree as a result of political rhetoric from the right or the left.
The alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, had enrolled as an independent voter. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, his apparent target, had been the focus of criticism from conservatives, particularly for her vote in support of President Obama's health care bill. The New York Times published a chilling article documenting the tension that had been brewing in her district, including vandalism at her local office (for which no one has been arrested) that had led her to fear the possibility of violence. She had also been criticized by liberals for being too centrist.
The shooting may have been the result of mental illness without any connection to recent political debates. But, given the political climate, it has immediately stimulated debate about the dangers of extremism in American politics....
Posted on: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - 16:02
SOURCE: National Review (1-9-11)
Very few Americans are fans of both The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kamp, as the Tucson killer, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, apparently was. Fewer still post on the Internet fears about “brain washing,” “mind control,” and “conscience dreaming”; have a long record of public disruption and aberrant behavior; were expelled from community college; or were summarily rejected for military service.
No matter. Almost immediately following Loughner’s cowardly murdering of six and wounding of 14 including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, pundits and some public figures rushed to locate his rampage, together with his paranoid rantings about government control, within the larger landscape of right-wing politics — especially the rhetoric of the Tea Party and Sarah Palin.
Apparently, we are supposed to believe that Loughner’s unhinged rants about the “government” indict those who express reasonable reservations about the size of government as veritable accessories to mass murder. The three worst offenders were Paul Daly of the New York Daily News, who claimed just that in an essay with the raging headline “The blood of Congresswoman Giffords was on Sarah Palin’s hands”; the ubiquitous Paul Krugman, who connected Loughner to the supposedly Republican-created “climate of hate”; and Andrew Sullivan, who thought he saw yet another avenue through which to further his own blind antipathy toward Sarah Palin and “the Palin forces.” In their warped syllogism, the Tea Party unquestionably creates hatred; a congresswomen was shot out of hatred; ergo, the Tea Party and/or the Republican party all but pulled the trigger.
That the 22-year-old shooter more likely fit the profile of an unhinged killer like Ted Kaczynski or John Hinckley did not seem to register. In the wake of the Kennedy assassination, commentators pontificated about a right-wing “climate of hate” in Dallas, Texas, that supposedly explained why a crazed avowed Communist — pro-Soviet, Castroite 24-year-old Lee Harvey Oswald — shot President Kennedy. Suddenly, this week, we are back in a 1963 mood of blaming politics for deranged shootings....
Posted on: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - 14:42
SOURCE: The New Republic (1-11-11)
The papers have mentioned it mainly in passing. Had this happened a decade ago, I would not have fixed on this detail. But Gabrielle Giffords is Jewish. And her alleged assassin, Jared Lee Loughner, is reported to have admired Mein Kampf and claimed ties to the anti-Semitic hate group called American Renaissance. Was this an anti-Semitic attack? There is no significant evidence to conclude as much, since we know hardly anything about the suspected killer. And yet, I’m confident that I’m not the only one today with a gnawing worry.
Shortly after September 11, 2001, Jonathan Rosen wrote an essay for The New York Times Magazine that quickly became a near-classic, an essay in which he described a childhood free of the fears of anti-Semitic persecution that had plagued his—and my—parents’ generation. But, among the many casualties of the attacks, Rosen wrote, was the sense of security, the (false?) comfort that murderous Jew-hatred was a thing of the past, at least on America’s shores. Not much younger than Rosen, I shared his experience, and his foreboding. The news of the years since September 11 has been full of more anti-Semitism than any decade in my lifetime, from the murderous kind in Mumbai and the banlieues of Paris to the “genteel” variety espoused by Caryl Churchill and Stephen Walt and John Mearshimer. Much of it has been blithely tolerated....
Posted on: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - 13:56
SOURCE: Toronto Star (1-4-11)
While much of the discussion since U.S. President Barack Obama’s “shellacking” in the 2010 congressional midterm elections has focused on the Republican surge, Obama also should worry about his base. In the last 50 years, the only incumbent presidents who have lost their re-election bids first faced primary challenges for renomination. In short, Obama better worry about his own party before dealing with the Tea Party.
Although in the age of modern communications the power of any incumbent is considerable, the American president’s powers are particularly formidable. By being both the head of state and head of government, in effect the king and the prime minister, the president can tap all kinds of non-partisan patriotic emotions while monopolizing the airwaves and using political muscle. During the Christmas season, for example, as the president hosts thousands of influential Americans in the White House, as he lights the national Christmas tree and calls for national unity, he serves as the high priest of America’s civic religion, transcending mundane partisan concerns.
So it is difficult — and has always been wrenching — to fire a president. In the 20th century, only five incumbents lost re-election bids, and in the last half century, it occurred only three times. Each time it required a major crisis and a serious insurgency, whereby someone with purer ideological credentials from the president’s own party first weakened the incumbent before the general election.
In 1976, president Gerald Ford knew his position was weak. He was the first vice-president in American history to replace the first president ever to have resigned, Richard Nixon. Furthermore, he had been the first vice-president never to have faced the national electorate, having replaced a disgraced vice-president, Spiro Agnew, under the terms of the new 25th Amendment, which had only been ratified in 1967. Before then, vice-presidents were not replaced and, when necessary, the speaker of the House became the president’s designated successor. Moreover, in the 1974 midterm congressional elections, just weeks after Ford became president in August of 1974, his Republican party had imploded, losing 48 House seats and five Senate seats. Americans punished the Republicans as the party of Watergate, shorthand for all the scandals that forced Nixon from office....
Posted on: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - 13:15
SOURCE: Philadelphia Inquirer (1-10-11)
About a quarter-century ago, when I was a rookie high school teacher, I was helping a student in the faculty office when a colleague bounded in to grab some coffee on his way to class.
"Are you teaching this young lady some history, Mr. Zimmerman?" he asked, refilling his cup.
I nodded and smiled, unsure where he was going. Then I found out.
"And, my, is she a beautiful young thing," he added....
I thought of this exchange last week as I read about Lower Merion High School teacher Robert Schanne, who was suspended after a former student reported that she had a romantic relationship with him while she was still attending the school. I don't know what happened between Schanne and the student, and neither does anyone else besides those involved. That's why the school district put Schanne on paid leave pending a full investigation....
Posted on: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - 12:44
SOURCE: Politico (1-10-11)
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, during a press conference about the Tucson shootings, called Arizona “the Tombstone of the United States.”
Some journalists gave the word a lowercase “t,” but the sheriff was clearly referring to the infamous silver-mining town 70 miles from Tucson — site of the shootout at the OK Corral.
As bloggers and journalists invoke the hoary image of “frontier violence” and “Arizona’s poisonous political rhetoric,” it is not that surprising it took less than a day to mention Arizona’s most infamous bloodshed—and from a local sheriff no less.
The irony of Dupnik’s remark is that Tombstone lawmakers in the 1880s did more to combat gun violence than the Arizona government does today.
For all the talk of the “Wild West,” the policymakers of 1880 Tombstone—and many other Western towns—were ardent supporters of gun control. When people now compare things to the “shootout at the OK Corral,” they mean vigilante violence by gunfire. But this is exactly what the Tombstone town council had been trying to avoid....
Posted on: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - 12:36
SOURCE: CS Monitor (1-10-11)
One hundred and fifty years ago, American passions over politics blew off the lids we usually keep in place on our political debates and turned a war of words into a war of arms. By its end, the US Civil War had taken the lives of 620,000 Americans – the population equivalent of 6 million today. And despite the emancipation of more than 3 million slaves, the war ended up replacing slavery with a century's worth of racist Jim Crow laws.
The reasons for war were many and complicated, but the fundamental issue was how to define liberty. "We all declare for liberty," Abraham Lincoln said in 1864, but after that, all similarity evaporated. "With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor," Lincoln said.
Four years of war finally settled that question.
I have the uneasy sensation, however, that the lids are rattling again. The past year in US politics has been full of more alienation and polarization than at any time since 1861, all of it now capped off hellishly in the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) of Arizona. And just as in 1861, that divide has opened up over a single deep question. Then, the question was "What makes for liberty?" In 2011, it is "What makes for justice?"...
Posted on: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - 12:24
SOURCE: CS Monitor (1-10-11)
It’s the Republicans’ fault! Listen to their nasty anti-government rhetoric!
That’s been the party line among many of my fellow Democrats, ever since Jared Loughner allegedly shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others outside an Arizona shopping mall Saturday morning.
They’re wrong. The real problem lies instead in our public schools, which have left millions of Americans unequipped to engage in rational politics. That makes them suckers for the kind of conspiracies that Mr. Loughner reportedly embraced, as well as for the mistaken idea that one party is to blame for all of this....
We’ve stripped the schools of almost anything that’s divisive, contentious, or controversial. Is it any wonder that many of our citizens can’t engage in reasonable political dialogue?
Open up a typical history or civics textbook, and you’ll see what I mean. At the end of each chapter, students are told to recall certain names and dates or to identify different aspects of government. But rarely are they asked to take a position on a hot-button contemporary issue....
Do we want them to do it? That’s the biggest question of all. By insulating our classrooms from political controversy, we have raised a generation of Americans who often don’t know how to think or act politically. And if you think Jared Loughner is the only one, you haven’t been listening.
Posted on: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - 12:22
SOURCE: Salon (1-11-10)
In the wake of Jared L. Loughner’s attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords -- part of a shooting rampage that has claimed six lives -- Americans are going through much hand-wringing and some honest soul-searching, while politicians and media pundits have loudly condemned this heinous act of political violence and bemoaned its occurrence. All of these heartfelt expressions are necessary. Words are the only way we can truly express our national grief and sorrow.
But much of what is being said frames the event in terms we have become more than accustomed to, whether the occasion has been a Columbine or a standoff between local police and a hostage-taker in a domestic dispute. In all of these instances, we tend to interpret the events and their perpetrators as aberrations. Our first reaction is shock and disbelief. But our understanding of the situation soon takes the form of something else, as if acts of personal and political violence are like the devastation of a Katrina or an oil spill -- something that happens infrequently enough to make us shake our heads in sadness and disbelief. Deeper in our thoughts is gratitude that such events are not more prevalent.
And yet, deeper still in our consciousness and in our souls, we know that they really are not infrequent at all. Violence erupts around us all the time -- in our communities, on the news, or in our homes. Yet we try to dismiss it, hoping that by pushing it into the recesses of our consciousness we can deny its pervasiveness. We condemn it and we fear it, for we know we live in a world where it can manifest itself without warning at any time, in any place.
But even as we condemn such violence -- particularly political violence like what has just taken place in Arizona -- with lamentations and scowls, we persist in condoning it. There are two reasons for our toleration of political violence, despite all our sincere words of grief and castigation. For one thing, America has a long history of political violence -- a dark river of brutality, even savagery, that runs through our entire national experience. For another thing, we don’t like facing up to that fact as a people or as a nation. Americans prefer instead to see each outburst of violence -- whether in physical attacks on political figures or in blasts of gunfire in our schools and shopping malls -- as aberrations, isolated incidents committed by deranged individuals who cause mayhem and slaughter like human whirlwinds. When the wind has subsided, and the casualties have been counted, we proceed as we have done before, dismissing the event as an exception, waiting for the next act of lunacy to occur, at which time we will express our shock and dismay all over again.
The American tradition of political violence goes back as far as the colonial era, when Nathaniel Bacon and a sizable number of Virginians rose up in armed rebellion against the royal governor of the colony in 1676. Other armed uprisings took place against colonial authority in New York and Maryland in the late 17th century. In the 1760s, on the eve of the American Revolution, political violence broke out in the backcountry of the Carolinas, where disenchanted frontiersmen took up arms to fight for more equitable representation in their colonial legislatures, but these illegal posses often consisted of nothing more than roaming bands of thieves and cutthroats. By the early 1770s, Ethan Allen -- the Vermont patriot, not the furniture salesman -- led his Green Mountain Boys into violent confrontations with New Yorkers over border disputes, while Connecticut Yankees clashed with Pennsylvanians for political dominance over the settlements along the Susquehanna River. Pennsylvania, in fact, was a maelstrom, for a rebellion of Western Scotch-Irish settlers marched on the Quaker-dominated government in Philadelphia in their own bid for increased representation in the colony’s assembly....
Posted on: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - 11:07
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (12-23-10)
As it says goodbye and good riddance to 2010, is America also saying so long to depression, both the economic and the psychic varieties? Is double-dip now just another way to get your hot fudge sundae? Riding the Metro North commuter train from Pleasantville to Grand Central Station on the last weekend before Christmas, you’d certainly suppose so. The consumer confidence index had been rising for two straight months now and most of it seemed to be on board, wallets bursting to get in on the action. Heavy-set thirtysomethings on parole from suburbia, fists popping cans of Bud Lite, boomed to all who wanted to hear (Ben Bernanke maybe?) that they were “gonna do some serious shopping DAMAGE dude!” In the month before Christmas Grand Central turns into a retail bazaar, and to the strains of jingle tills vendors selling silk scarves, Thai and Polish jewellery, hammered leather goods and fancy stationery were all doing brisk trade to elbow-working crowds.
Is this Manhattan or is this America? Over the West Side Highway, a habitually witty storage company billboard proclaims – against its own self-interest, you might think – “NY. Where people are openly gay and secretly Republican. Why leave?” But the US lame duck Senate, in one of a series of valedictory superquacks, has just enacted the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that prohibited lesbians and gays in the military from declaring their sexual orientation. There was some hurrumphing amidst the Marines but a poll of the public showed a majority of those asked believing military morale would improve, not deteriorate as a result.
Ride the train in the opposite direction and rosy scenario, even in New York, gives way to rust-bucket gloom. Upstate towns such as Poughkeepsie and Buffalo have unemployment rates not seen since the war. One in seven adults lives below the official poverty line; for children it is one in three, a truly shaming statistic. Life for millions in burgered America goes on only through food banks and food stamps. Seventy per cent of the population have a close friend or family member who has lost a job. We are still living in 3D America: desolation, devastation, destitution.
But look on the bright side....
Posted on: Thursday, January 6, 2011 - 17:13
SOURCE: National Review (1-6-11)
In classical Athens, public life became dominated by clever and smart-sounding sophists. These mellifluous “really wise guys” made money and gained influence by their rhetorical boasts of having “proved” the most amazing “thinkery” that belied common sense.
We are living in a new age of sophism — but without a modern Socrates to remind the public just how silly our highly credentialed and privileged new rhetoricians can be.
Take California, which is struggling with a near-record wet and snowy winter. Flooding spreads in the lowlands; snow piles up in the Sierras.
In February 2009, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize–winning physicist, pontificated without evidence that California farms would dry up and blow away, because 90 percent of the annual Sierra snowpack would disappear. Yet long-term studies of the central Sierra snowpack show average snow levels unchanged over the last 90 years. Many California farms are drying up — but from government’s, not nature’s, irrigation cutoffs.
England is freezing and snowy. But that’s odd, since global-warming experts assured us that the end of English snow was on the horizon. Australia is now flooding — despite predictions that impending new droughts meant it could not sustain its present population. The New York Times just published an op-ed assuring the public that the current record cold and snow is proof of global warming. In theory, they could be, but one wonders: What, then, would record winter heat and drought prove?..
Posted on: Thursday, January 6, 2011 - 08:03
SOURCE: Montreal Gazette (1-4-11)
Good riddance to 2010 - not only because the calendar gods decree it, but because so many of us were so fed up with it.
Fortunately no historic cataclysm occurred that will jump off the page of future textbooks. Instead, it was a year of slogging through, of feeling drained. It featured major leaks, notably the British Petroleum oil leak and the diplomatic tsunami of WikiLeaks. During 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama's support and standing continued to seep away. And 2010 witnessed trouble brewing in the United States and Europe, as the prolonged recession drained individuals' morale, family finances, and communal energies.
The spectacular Deepwater Horizon explosion, and its ensuing oil gush, represented yet another spectacular failure brought to you by the corporate and government structures supposed to keep our world safe. Pictures of poisoned waters, ruined aquatic life and devastated coasts, were heartbreaking -and terrifying. This perfect environmental storm epitomized the high ecological price we pay for our oil addiction, and the humbling human impotence we see sometimes when technological failure begets natural disaster....
Posted on: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - 11:37
SOURCE: WSJ (1-5-11)
We're in an era of "covert action."
That phrase went into disrepute in the 1970s, when Congress's Church Committee exposed hare-brained CIA plots to eliminate foreign leaders, such as assassinating Fidel Castro with exploding cigars. President Ford banned assassinations, a chastened CIA cast many veteran officers into the cold, and Congress imposed new limits on covert activities. From then on the president would have to approve all operations in writing and notify senior members of Congress. There would be no more "wink-and-nod" authorizations.
Covert action made a comeback in the 1980s, as the U.S. directed billions of dollars in aid to the Afghan anti-Soviet mujahedeen—the most successful covert action in American history. Yet at the same time President Reagan's National Security Council was pursuing a crazy scheme to sell weapons to Iran and channel some of the proceeds to the Nicaraguan Contras, so as to bypass a congressional ban on aid to the guerrillas. The Iran-Contra scandal almost brought down the Reagan administration and once again tarnished the reputation of covert action.
In the 1990s, out of an abundance of caution, the Clinton administration failed to act effectively against Osama bin Laden and the growing danger of al Qaeda. The CIA and the military's Special Operations forces offered proposals for capturing or killing bin Laden and his senior lieutenants, but the risk-averse White House rejected them.
Since 9/11, however, CIA and Special Ops "operators" have been unleashed to take the battle to the jihadists across the world...
Posted on: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - 09:06
SOURCE: Tabsir (Blog) (12-30-10)
[Daniel Martin Varisco is professor of anthropology at Hofstra University]
Without a doubt the most sacred site in the history of Islam is the precinct at Mecca around the black stone known as the Ka’aba. Images of the holy site have adorned Islamic manuscripts for centuries, as millions of pilgrims have made the trip to see the holy city over the years, some taking months to reach their goal. In this last pilgrimage it is estimated that some three million Muslims partook in the annual hajj. Accommodating such a large number of people, no matter how holy their demeanor, is no easy task. But neither is it easy to resist the temptation of making money off the pilgrims, even for adherents to a religion that denigrates the age-old financial burden of usury. One can understand the need to provide hotel rooms for the faithful, but do they really need Gucci bags to pack their plain white dress in after the fact? Apparently the royal family of the House of Saud thinks so, given the massive “Royal Mecca Clock Tower” rising up out of the dust where Ibrahim once walked and the Prophet Muhammad preached. And it is much more than a Babel-like tower: a pseudo-Islamic, capitalist Disneyland for the weary pilgrim.
In an article in today’s The New York Times, Nicolai Ouroussoff describes the tower with these discomforting words:
It is an architectural absurdity. Just south of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Muslim world’s holiest site, a kitsch rendition of London’s Big Ben is nearing completion. Called the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, it will be one of the tallest buildings in the world, the centerpiece of a complex that is housing a gargantuan shopping mall, an 800-room hotel and a prayer hall for several thousand people. Its muscular form, an unabashed knockoff of the original, blown up to a grotesque scale, will be decorated with Arabic inscriptions and topped by a crescent-shape spire in what feels like a cynical nod to Islam’s architectural past. To make room for it, the Saudi government bulldozed an 18th-century Ottoman fortress and the hill it stood on.
The current guardians of the two holy mosques, swept into power with the iconclastic fervor of a tribal shaykh married to an ultra-conservative religious message, have found a new way to bring Mecca into the 21st century: a shopping mall that begs to be dubbed Ibn Big Ben. Remember the original Big Ben? It was designed as part of Westminster Palace after a major destructive fire in 1834. The architect was a certain Augustus Pugin, who shortly thereafter went stark raving mad. It is not entirely clear why the tower, or more precisely the large bell inside one of the faces, was labeled “Big Ben,” but it may have been after a contemporary English Heavyweight Champion named Benjamin Caunt. If you want to hear the real Big Ben, all you have to do is tune into the BBC World Service. Only in Mecca does Big Ben now announce “Allah” in neon brilliance.
In the Saudi version it seems the child is father to the man, at least commercially. It promises to be six times the size of the original. And it will be only 11 meters shorter than the world’s largest tower, Dubai’s Burj al-Khalifa; apparently the Saudi royal family did not want to be inhospitable to their neighboring UAE emir. The clock itself comes from Germany. The cost of the whole complex is estimated at about 3 billion dollars. And here is the best part, at least for conspiracy theorists: the contractor for this megamonstrosity is the Bin Laden group, building a tower taller than the one a Bin Laden family member caused to crumble.
If you are looking for a luxury hotel and happen to be Muslim, then the Raffles Makkah Palace is the place for you. That is if you own a gold mine or have dictatorily ripped off your citizens in a Muslim-majority country. The rate for a Royal Suite with a Kaaba View, quoted online today, is a mere 4950 Saudi riyals, which is about $1,320. OK, so imagine that the Prophet Muhammad, with his earnings as a caravan driver, were to return to Mecca today. He probably would not be recognized, because the most devout Saudis think what they wear is exactly what the Prophet wore. But let us say he walks into the hotel Raffles. I suspect that before he has a chance to say anything, the security guards will escort him out as too poor to afford even coffee in the coffee shop. But let us imagine he makes it to the registration desk and a fellow from Bangladesh or the Philippines asks if he has a reservation. I suspect that looking around at the costly grandeur of the hotel, the Prophet would indeed have reservations. A passage from surat al-Nisa (4:38) may come to mind:
And those who spend their wealth in order for people to see, and do not accept faith in Allah nor the Last Day; and whoever has Satan (the devil) as a companion - so what an evil companion is he!
It seems that the Wahhabi elite creating this palatial hotel next to the Ka’aba have so concentrated on the second part of this verse that they have forgotten the first part. If making a replica of Big Ben next to the sacred precinct is not spending wealth for people to see, I do not know what else this verse could mean.
And then there is the Prophet’s concern about idols. When Muhammad entered Mecca on his first pilgrimage after the hijra, he entered the complex and destroyed the idols and icons (except perhaps those of Jesus and Mary). What would the Prophet Muhammad say about a hotel that caters only to the rich and super-rich within a short walking distance from the main gate to the holy precinct? And which of the 4000 stores in the mega shopping mall would the Prophet shop in? Would he drop by Gucci’s for an expensive leather handbag? Perhaps buy an expensive Parisian perfume or Godiva chocolates for Aisha? Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple in his day; I wonder what Muhammad would do to the foreign commercial idolatry on display in the Abraj al-Bayt mall?
If the Prophet is thirsty, there is no need for him to draw water from Zamzam, since level 1 of the mall has a Starbucks, one of its 1658 coffee clutch holes world wide. And one which conspiracy theorists are quick to point out, has an Israeli connection. But I have a conspiracy theory of my own to suggest. One of the Saudi princes must have passed over the University of Notre Dame on the way to medical help at the Mayo Clinic. If so, it must have been exhilarating and disturbing at the same time to see the infamous American Catholic icon of “Touchdown Jesus.” Could this have been the inspiration for Ibn Big Ben, choosing a seemingly secular yet royal image for the faithful to see as they pray at the Ka’aba? After all, it would not do to have an image of Muhammad outside the gates of the holy precinct. I wonder. Look for yourself in the image below and let me know what you think?
Posted on: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - 19:43
SOURCE: Sandbox (Blog) (1-4-11)
[Martin Kramer is the president-designate of Shalem College in Jerusalem (in formation) and the Wexler-Fromer Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.]
Kennan died in 2005 at the age of 101, and just what he would say about Iran today is anybody’s guess. But if the exercise is valid at all, perhaps it is only fair to ask what Kennan did say about Iran. During two crises, in 1952 and 1980, he made policy recommendations—in 1952, to the State Department in private, and in 1980, to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in public.
In 1951, Iran’s new nationalist premier Mohamed Mossadegh challenged Britain over control of Iran’s oil. This prompted Kennan (by that time, January 1952, a private citizen awaiting confirmation as ambassador to the Soviet Union) to write a long, unsolicited memo intended for Secretary of State Dean Acheson.
“The thesis to which we acquiesced in Iran,” he wrote, “that such arrangements [i.e. Western concessions] can be cancelled or reversed abruptly, on the basis of somebody’s whim or mood, is preposterous and indefensible.” The West had every right to thwart Iran’s actions by force: “Had the British occupied Abadan [Iran's oil fields and refineries], I would personally have no great worry about what happened to the rest of the country.” The only possible concern, he added, was the Soviet response. But if the Soviets wanted war, “I doubt that Abadan would be the place they would choose to start it. Abadan is a long way from the Soviet frontier.”
Indeed, if any of the West’s vital strategic assets in the Middle East were jeopardized by “local hostility,” Kennan argued, they should be “militarily secured with the greatest possible despatch.” “To retain these facilities and positions we can use today only one thing: military strength, backed by the resolution and courage to employ it. There is nothing else that will avail us.” The least concession would invite disaster:
The idea that the appetites of local potentates can be satiated and their deep-seated resentments turned into devotion by piecemeal concessions and partial withdrawals is surely naïve to a degree that should make us blush to entertain it. If these people think they have us on the run, they will plainly not be satisfied until they have us completely out, lock, stock, and barrel, and then they will want to crow for decades to come about their triumph, in a way that will hardly be compatible with minimum requirements of western prestige. The only thing that will prevent them from achieving this end is the cold gleam of adequate and determined force. The day for other things, if it ever existed, has now passed.
Posted on: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - 13:01
SOURCE: Salon (1-4-11)
At a rally last week, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann playfully confessed to having campaigned for Jimmy Carter in 1976. Waiting for the laughter to subside, she went on to say that it was as a junior (elsewhere she has said senior) at Minnesota’s Winona State College, sitting on a train and trying to work her way through Gore Vidal’s 1973 bestseller, "Burr," that she gave up on the volume in her hand and all at once converted to the Republican Party. Vidal’s book was, Bachmann asserted, a founder-hating tome, apparently so violent in its anti-American rhetoric that it redirected her whole system of belief.
Here is how she put it: "He was going after our founders, and he was mocking them, and he was making fun out of them." Loosely based on historical events, "Burr" is purely fictional and fairly cynical, though the critics in 1973 found it quite entertaining. The novel does suggest that the founders were complex, calculating, and not always morally upright–in other words, that the politicians of old were not entirely unlike the politicians of today. But what could possibly have led young Michele, in 1976-77, to see the Republican Party as the moral antithesis of the Carter Democrats, or the Democrats reflected in a "snotty" historical novel?
Think back. In the mid-1970s, the Republican Party was foundering (yes, foundering) in the wake of President Nixon’s resignation and the publication of his embarrassingly coarse and petty and conniving remarks on tape. The vast majority of Americans were disgusted with Nixon, abettor of a criminal conspiracy, his official image tarnished by the foul-mouthed recordings. It seems less than credible that the erstwhile Democrat Michele was more horrified by Vidal’s fiction than by a flesh-and-blood president who left office in disgrace. So, what really made her a Republican? We may never know. But rest assured, with "Burr" she has invented a quaint story for herself, one she knows she can market effectively to her unquestioning devotees in certain parts of the Midwest....
Posted on: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - 12:52
SOURCE: NYT (1-3-11)
THE so-called Shield bill, which was recently introduced in both houses of Congress in response to the WikiLeaks disclosures, would amend the Espionage Act of 1917 to make it a crime for any person knowingly and willfully to disseminate, “in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States,” any classified information “concerning the human intelligence activities of the United States.”
Although this proposed law may be constitutional as applied to government employees who unlawfully leak such material to people who are unauthorized to receive it, it would plainly violate the First Amendment to punish anyone who might publish or otherwise circulate the information after it has been leaked. At the very least, the act must be expressly limited to situations in which the spread of the classified information poses a clear and imminent danger of grave harm to the nation....
Posted on: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - 11:55
SOURCE: Informed Comment (1-1-11)
...1. Egypt, after decades of being unproblematic for the US, may be on the verge of being a foreign policy challenge of some magnitude. President Hosni Mubarak is advanced in age and could pass from the scene soon. He is grooming his son, Jamal, to be his successor, but the wikileaks cables suggest that the powerful Egyptian military intelligence chief is not happy with this idea of dynastic succession. On the other hand, US cables also suggest that the Egyptian military is declining in power and modernity. Although the government successfully repressed its radicals during the past two decades, they are back in the streets again, as with today’s car-bombing of a Christian church in Alexandria, which killed 21. More serious challenges come from the Muslim Brotherhood,, which could do well in an election that was not rigged against them. Likewise, Egypt’s labor and middle class movements have shown themselves capable of mounting significant campaigns in recent years, deploying new communications tools such as facebook. A more democratic Egypt, like a more democratic Turkey, may not be willing to be complicit with Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. Obama should not take Egypt for granted, but rather should have some subtle and culturally informed contingency plans if its politics abruptly opens up. Above all, the US must not stand in the way of democratization, even if that means greater Muslim fundamentalist influence in the state....
...2. Turkey, a NATO ally, is emerging as a major player in the Middle East. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s doctrine of peaceful relations with neighbors, however, has set Turkey at odds with the US in some respects. Turkey is seeking a freed trade zone with Jordan and Syria, adding to the one already established with Lebanon, and Ankara’s rapprochement with Damascus makes Washington uncomfortable. Likewise, Turkey opposes increased sanctions on Iran, and, indeed, is seeking to much expand its trade with Iran. Turkey is far more sympathetic toward the Palestinians, including Hamas, under the Justice and Development Party (which is not Islamist but has some Muslim themes, a rarity in secular-dominated Turkey) than it had been in the past. This sympathy has led the government to demand an apology (not forthcoming) from Israel for killing 9 Turkish citizens in international waters in a botched commando raid on an aid ship headed toward Gaza. The US would be wise to accommodate Turkey’s new initiatives, which are stabilizing for the Middle East, even if Ankara is not always cooperative with particular Washington priorities....
Posted on: Monday, January 3, 2011 - 14:39
SOURCE: National Review (1-3-11)
We all are familiar with the debates surrounding illegal immigration: absolute versus flexible laws; amnesty versus deportation or earned citizenship; closed versus open borders; entitlement dependency versus work no one else will do.
We also know the debates over the causation of this perfect storm that has resulted in 12 to 15 million illegal aliens residing in the United States. Was it the Right’s desire for cheap labor or the Left’s wish for more constituents, or both?...
Quite simply, America in almost instantaneous fashion has chosen to take in millions of the poorest citizens of one of the poorer nations in the world in an attempt to transmogrify them into middle-class suburbanites within a generation. That may not be the explicit description of our undertaking, but it surely is one arrived at empirically. And it is a multifaceted political, economic, cultural, and social effort that involves tens of millions of Americans at all levels of society and is proving to be the near salvation of Mexico....
Almost all university race-based research — and it is considerable — seeks to discover disparities in longevity, health, housing, and general quality of life, and it finds them, those responsible for them, and the government programs needed to address them. Such studies make no distinction in legal status. A recently arrived Mexican national from Jalisco who delivers a baby without much prenatal care is just as much proof of America’s “broken” health-care system as if she were an American citizen without health insurance. The failure to reach utopian results is as widely lamented as the near impossibility of the task of such massive assimilation is neglected....
Posted on: Monday, January 3, 2011 - 14:11