The Moderate Voice An Internet hub with domestic and international news, analysis, original reporting, and popular features from the left, center, indies, centrists, moderates, and right Wed, 30 Jul 2014 04:39:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Children Seeking Asylum and Finding Antipathy Wed, 30 Jul 2014 04:39:02 +0000
Angel Boligan, El Universal, Mexico City,

Angel Boligan, El Universal, Mexico City,

Children Seeking Asylum and Finding Antipathy
By Tina Dupuy

I might be the only syndicated columnist in the country who was raised by the state. So when lawmakers and public pontificators discuss the welfare of unaccompanied minors who’ve been dropped on our proverbial doorstep, I should probably speak up.

I was a ward of the court starting at 13 until I aged out after graduating high school at 17. (In retrospect, I should have been put in foster care much earlier.) My birth parents were not able to take care of me; I was handed over to an entity that would: The Government.

Now when I’ve told people I was raised by the state, sometimes I’ll get pushback. They’ll say, “Tina, you were raised by people.” And yes, both statements are true. My adolescence was paid for by taxpayers, funded by legislators and organized by administrators. They, like corporations, are people.

And those people took great interest and care in my emotional and intellectual wellbeing. And those people made sure I was safe. And those people didn’t feel the need to punish me for the shortcomings of my parents.

There’s an old English law referred to as “corruption of blood.” Essentially if the father committed treason, they’d also punish his children. North Korea, the bastion of human rights, has a similar philosophy. They will lock up the entire family of anyone who commits a crime and also the next two generations will be born in gulags for that crime. But we don’t do that in the U.S. The framers were so appalled by this practice that they put into the Constitution, Article III, Section III “…but no attainder of treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.”

Meaning, in this country you’re not tainted for the sins of your parents. You don’t inherit their debt, you don’t serve time for their crimes and you’re not held accountable for them shipping you away from The Murder Capital of the World.

But that was before the Grand Old Party made “empathy” into a bad word. That was before they deemed “amnesty” to be the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse of the Republic. That was before Republicans in the House had a single goal which crushes out all common decency: Foil Obama.

It’s the only reasonable explanation as to why when a flood of what are essentially orphans end up at our border because of a 2008 bipartisan law signed by George W. Bush, Republican lawmakers and their echosphere support team feel obligated to call it Obama’s Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina was the deadliest natural disaster in this country in nearly 100 years. The comparison is an affront to all 1,833 Americans who lost their lives while Bush was celebrating John McCain’s birthday.

If this is Obama’s Katrina, everyone gleefully using the analogy is the festering mold that ate the city after the waters receded.

Children are not illegal. Refugees are not illegal. Actually, because of the law Bush signed these kids at the border are here legally. The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, gives protections to children here alone and not from Mexico or Canada. One protection is not sending them back to their country of origin immediately—instead giving them access to an immigration hearing with an advocate and counsel.

These are not criminals. It’s irrelevant who their parents are or how they got here. These children are an expected consequence of a law to shelter children from unspeakable situations.

We are not Arizona state lawmaker, Adam Kwasman, now running for Congress, who while protesting tweeted a picture of a bus full of YMCA campers because he thought they were migrant children. “This is the abrogation of the rule of law,” he wrote. (It’s like if Wallace wanted to stand in the schoolhouse door and ended up blocking the entrance to a DMV instead.)

We are not this. We are better than this.

Congress has another week to address this crisis before their undeserved break. Since Republicans have vowed to not get anything done, the bill they proposed has in it funding to fight wildfires in the west and “$225 million for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.”

This is a Congress that will happily fund things that create orphans but when it comes to taking care of any—suddenly the coffers are dry.

Tell Congress to take care of these evacuee children. It’s the least (absolutely the least) they can do.


© Copyright 2014, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Tina Dupuy is a nationally syndicated op-ed columnist, investigative journalist, award-winning writer, stand-up comic, on-air commentator and wedge issue fan. Tina can be reached at

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Campus Sexual Assault: What Are Colleges Doing Wrong? Wed, 30 Jul 2014 04:16:38 +0000 < !]]> graphic via]]> shutterstock_141367759

Campus Sexual Assault: What Are Colleges Doing Wrong?

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Paul Ryan’s new clothes Wed, 30 Jul 2014 03:55:32 +0000 WASHINGTON — Paul Ryan is counting on this: Because he says he wants to preserve a safety net, speaks with concern about poor people and put out a 73-page report, many will elide over the details of the proposals he made last week in his major anti-poverty speech.

The Wisconsin Republican congressman is certainly aware that one of the biggest political difficulties he and his conservative colleagues face is that many voters suspect them of having far more compassion for a wealthy person paying taxes than for a poor or middle-income person looking for a job.

So Ryan gave a well-crafted address at the American Enterprise Institute in which the centerpiece sounded brand spanking new: the “Opportunity Grant.” The problem is that this “pilot program” amounts to little more than the stale conservative idea of wrapping federal programs into a block grant and shipping them off to the states. The good news is that Ryan only proposes “experiments” involving “a select number of states,” so he would not begin eliminating programs wholesale. Thank God for small favors.

Ryan surrounds his retread idea with the language of innovation. “The idea would be, let states try different ways of providing aid and then to test the results — in short, more flexibility in exchange for more accountability,” he declared. “My thinking basically is, get rid of these bureaucratic formulas.”

Who can possibly like those “bureaucratic formulas”? The phrase is another disguise. Among the programs Ryan would block grant are food stamps (now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP). Food stamps are one of our most valuable initiatives because people are automatically eligible for them when they lose a job or their income drops sharply. Studies have amply documented how important food stamps are to the well-being of children.

For the economy and for the disadvantaged, curtailing SNAP would be devastating. While providing nutrition help to families in desperate need, food stamps also offer an immediate economic stimulus at moments when the economy is losing purchasing power. Economists call such programs “automatic stabilizers.”

Ryan’s block grant would not be nearly as responsive to economic changes. If Congress would have to step in, its reaction would be slow. And the history of Ryan’s own budgets shows that increasing spending for poor people is not exactly a priority on his side of politics.

Food stamps aren’t the only programs that get wrapped into the grant. Housing vouchers go there, too, which could lead to more homelessness. So does money for child care. Ryan says there would be rules barring states from using funding from his Opportunity Grant for purposes other than helping the needy. But it’s not clear from his outline how he’d stop states from using their new flexibility to move spending away from the needy indirectly by substituting block grant money for existing expenditures.

Ryan might reply: You just don’t trust the states! And my answer would be: You’re absolutely right, there are some states I don’t trust to stand up for their poor people. I’d point specifically to the 24 states that are depriving roughly 5 million Americans of health insurance because they refuse to participate in the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

In his speech and report, Ryan movingly described two hypothetical Americans, “Andrea” and “Steven,” and how much they could benefit from intense counseling by a case worker. There may well be something to this, but it’s expensive. How much would states have to cut basic assistance to the poor to hire additional case workers?

And by the way, one of the programs Ryan would eliminate to pay for an undoubtedly positive part of his plan — a roughly $500-a-year increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for childless workers — is the Social Services Block Grant, which helps pay for the kinds of interventions he wants for Andrea and Steven.

There is such a hunger for something other than partisanship that the temptation is to praise the new Ryan for being better than the old Ryan and to leave it at that. It’s good that he moved on the EITC and also that he embraced sentencing reform. I also like his suggestion that we re-examine occupational licensing rules.

But forgive me if I see his overall proposal as a nicely presented abdication of federal responsibility for the poor. “Experimenting” with people’s food-stamp money is not something we should sign onto.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is Twitter: @EJDionne. (c) 2014, Washington Post Writers Group

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No Signs Of A Wave Election So Far Wed, 30 Jul 2014 02:56:51 +0000 Nate Cohn looked at the small amount of generic Congressional polling there is available and concluded, consistent with other indicators, that there is no sign of a wave election this year. The polls he looked at showed an average 1.9 percent advantage for the Democrats over Republicans. Cohn wrote:

These findings bear no resemblance to the one-sided results at this point in 2010, when Republicans held a clear 4.7-point advantage, or in 2006, when Democrats were ahead by 10.1 points. The current slight Democratic edge is fairly similar to what generic ballot surveys showed in the days ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

It’s important to emphasize that these polls are of registered voters, not likely voters. Previous years’ surveys were also of registered voters. The Republicans probably have a slight advantage among the older and whiter electorate that’s likely to participate this November. But that’s a separate matter from national political conditions.

While some have predicted a Republican wave based upon Obama’s unpopularity in the polls, the fact that both Congress and the Republican Party have even worse favorability ratings must count for something. The actual result seems to be a decreased turn out at the polls in primary elections so far this year, possibly indicating that voters are fed up with everybody. There is still quite a while until the election, and an unforeseen event still might tilt things towards either party.

The lack of a Republican wave, assuming things stay as they are, should limit the expected loses by Democrats which we would normally see in the sixth year of a presidency. Unfortunately the Republicans are in a good position to take control of the Senate without a wave as the Democrats are forced to defend several Senate seats in red states which they picked up in 2008.

As it now stands, the Republicans have a very slight edge to take the Senate, but there are a number of reasons that Democratic incumbents might still hold onto enough seats to narrowly maintain control. The Hobby Lobby might get more single women to turn out to vote for the Democrats.  Republicans still could find ways to lose elections which are now close, such as with a call for nullification of federal laws by the states by the Republican Senate candidate in Iowa:

Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa, appears to believe states can nullify federal laws. In a video obtained by The Daily Beast, Ernst said on September 13, 2013 at a form held by the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition that Congress should not pass any laws “that the states would consider nullifying.”

“You know we have talked about this at the state legislature before, nullification. But, bottom line is, as U.S. Senator why should we be passing laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws. We’re right…we’ve gone 200-plus years of federal legislators going against the Tenth Amendment’s states’ rights. We are way overstepping bounds as federal legislators. So, bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators—as senators or congressman—that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line.”

Originally posted at Liberal Values

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Gaza and Israel: new disasters but no end in sight Tue, 29 Jul 2014 23:14:18 +0000 shutterstock_112326050 (3)

Today’s destruction of Gaza’s electricity power station raises the specter of a severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza because it will severely curtail supply of safe water for drinking and use in hospitals and make safe disposal of sewage almost impossible. That could lead within weeks to epidemic diseases including cholera and dysentery, which has the worst impacts on children, the infirm, old people and women.

Unrecovered bodies buried in the rubble of destroyed neighborhoods will also become breeding grounds for bacteria, virus, infections and airborne diseases since the Gaza Strip houses 1.82 million people in an area just 25 miles long and 3.5 -7.5 miles wide

These prospects underline the urgency of at least a humanitarian truce but that seems out of reach because the Israeli military has not yet finished its missions and Hamas and its allies are not yet ready to lay down arms.

Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon are trying to use Egypt to mediate a truce as in the past but its new President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has lost the trust of Hamas.

Israel’s travails have no end in sight although this time Hamas is isolated as never before. It may not yet have lost the will to fight but Israel is no longer its only adversary. It must also contend with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Saudi Arabia, which is mostly Salafist Muslim and wants to break the back of Egypt’s less conservative Sunni Muslim Brotherhood that nurtured Hamas.

This time the suffering of Gaza’s civilians will owe as much to Sisi’s loathing for Hamas as the might of Israel’s awesome military. The situation has become so dire for Hamas that it now seems to define victory as simply standing up in resistance to both Israel and Egypt.

Confronted by Hamas nihilism, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has no effective response. The more his soldiers destroy and kill in Gaza, the more visceral becomes the hatred against Israel of the people of that vulnerable territory. Instead of rejecting Hamas for having brought the hellfire of Israeli power upon them, they turn to it as a savior delivering vengeance. As if the inaccurate homemade rockets of Hamas, sometimes made from drainpipes, allow them to hold their heads up honorably in front of Israel’s wrath.

In Gaza, Sisi is seen increasingly as an Israeli ally, which is an embarrassing situation for his medium-term popularity among the Egyptian people. Surprising diplomatic collaboration seems to be emerging among Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia against Hamas because of its links to the Muslim Brotherhood and earlier backing from Iran, Hezbollah and Syria. But the signals from Tel Aviv are still unclear about whether it wants to destroy Hamas or simply deter it for a few more years.

More than previous wars, Israel’s Operation Protective Edge is existential because Hamas now attacks with thousands of long-range rockets from above and battle hardened commandos emerging from tunnels below.

Destroying Hamas is an existential necessity because it is an obdurate terrorist group dedicated to eliminating the Jewish state entirely from the map by any means. In turn, Hamas now says the current war is an existential fight for the people of Gaza because being killed by bombs is better than a slow death from the near total blockades by both Israel and Egypt that have turned the territory into an open prison.

The people are asphyxiated mainly because Sisi has destroyed nearly 1,650 tunnels linking Egypt to Gaza across the 11km-wide border. The tunnels were lifelines used by Gaza’s people to smuggle all of life’s daily necessities and Hamas to smuggle weapons and money while collecting taxes on commerce.

Sisi treats Hamas like an enemy because he is convinced it sent fighters through the tunnels to foment violent resistance to his government after he deposed Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013. Morsi was elected President following the February 2011 fall of Hosni Mubarak’s military dictatorship.

Sisi has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Together with the Saudis, he seems to believe — perhaps foolishly in a world of globalized terror — that the nearly century-old underground resistance movement will not be able to rise again if Hamas can no longer help it. He may be placing too much trust in Saudi Salafists, forgetting that Salafism inspired al Qaeda and now the awful ISIL in Syria and Iraq.

Hamas has pretensions to using the current war as leverage to obtain an end to the blockades to restore some normalcy to life in Gaza. But that may be a pipedream since it has no powerful diplomatic allies.

Almost all Arab countries other than tiny Qatar have remained silent and non-Arab Turkey is the only Muslim nation to have spoken out strongly in favor of Gaza’s people and against Israel. That may be partly because rivalry with Saudi power in the wider Middle East prompts Ankara to support the Muslim Brotherhood, which Saudi Salafists see as a threat to their influence over Islam as a whole.

Yet again, Israeli civilians face intolerable insecurity because Arab politics has murkier agendas than installing peace in the Middle East. Israel’s presence and Palestinian pain are used to mask other power struggles among Muslims.

graphic via

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Iron Dome, Dirt Tunnels Tue, 29 Jul 2014 20:46:33 +0000 IronDome

Copyright 2014 David Donar. All rights reserved.Copyright Donar, Political Graffiti

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Analyzing Fantasy Does Not Produce Facts Tue, 29 Jul 2014 18:30:05 +0000 or, Sober Analysis from Drunken Lunatics:

leibowitz wrong

Today, Byron York writes a superficially rational analysis of the current state of Republican Confederate politics and the internal fractures within the GOP. [emphasis added]

GOP internal debate: Is party repeating mistakes of 1998? Byron York / Washington Examiner BARACK OBAMA BILL CLINTON JOHN BOEHNER 2014 ELECTIONS  —  For anyone who was around, it’s hard to compare 1998 — the year of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the Starr Report, and Bill Clinton’s impeachment — with any other year. Yet there are reasons both Republicans and Democrats are thinking about 1998 as they head into this fall’s elections.

It’s the second midterm of a two-term Democratic president. Republicans scored a big victory in the president’s first midterm but failed to stop his re-election bid. Now, the GOP is increasingly frustrated by the White House; there are accusations of lawlessness and rumors of impeachment.

There’s talk of making the midterms a referendum on the president. That’s what scares some Republican strategists….

Seriously? Seriously. The old computer term GIGO applies here: Garbage In; Garbage Out.


GIGO — Old School

The presumption that today’s schism-riven GOP bears any but superficial resemblance to the 1998 Gingrich GOP is bad analysis. In fact the two parties in question share only a spelling in common, just as the “Party of Lincoln,” and Teddy Roosevelt bears ZERO in common with this current claque of gun nuts, racists and religious fanatics.

gadsden tea partiers

So, THIS doesn’t factor into York’s analysis? Really? 

The current GOP is riven with toxic factionalism, Tea Parties, Dominionists and other fantasies anathema to old “moderate” and Neo-conservative GOP base. (As I predicted with utter accuracy in 2009′s “Daddy Long Legs” — indicating that MY analysis has a track record of credibility that Mr. York is going to have a long slog to begin to catch up to. I knew more about the GOP’s internal divisions in 2009 than York has yet divined — pun intended.)


You can’t fundamentally misdiagnose the malady and expect to make any other than accidental progress in curing the disease.

Of course, Democrats would love to see Republicans blow their own chances. From the White House down to the party fundraising machine, Democrats have been trolling 24-7 in a transparent effort to goad Republicans into a self-destructive impeachment attempt.

“They are desperate to reprise ’98,” says the GOP veteran of his Democratic adversaries. “Not just impeachment, but this whole idea that we’re going to make it all about the president again.”

Classic projection: the Evil Democrats are behaving as GOPs, shamelessly raising money the way that the GOP is ACTUALLY attempting to turn their “scandals” into a cash machine. E.G. “Benghazi”  Projecti0n, thy name be GOP.

Judson-Phillipsand sign

The hilarious spectacle of a GOP fanatic telling anyone else not to lie.

The use of the term “impeachment” has spurred Mr. York and his Fellow Travelers to mistake 1998′s GOP for 2014′s GOP, just as they mistake 2014′s GOP for the GOP of 1864.


NOT the Current GOP

But York never ONCE mentions that the American people just MIGHT be pissed off at the most DO NOTHING Congress in American history with the lowest rating ever recorded, and the least work EVER done by said Congress — straight up the fault of House Republicans.

Seriously? This fact has ESCAPED our “analyst’s” analysis?


Voters might be less than enamored of the House GOPs. Seems ridiculous to ignore.

The only bit that seems to apply here is the portion of the word “analysis” not “ysis.”


York continues to pile absurdity upon absurdity until one anticipates his solution involving a cavalry of unicorns bearing Thundercats®:

The Republican majority barely survived the election. Some top party strategists expected a GOP pickup of 20 seats in the House. Instead, Democrats picked up five seats, leaving Republicans still in charge but by the thinnest of margins. Democrats had successfully argued that Republicans were so obsessed with getting Clinton that they weren’t paying enough attention to the concerns of the American people.

Now, 16 years later, Republicans are again arguing among themselves. Of course, some circumstances are different; among other things, 1998 was a time of general prosperity and growth, Clinton’s job approval rating was far higher than Obama’s is today, and Obama hasn’t had an independent counsel building an impeachment case against him.

Still, the GOP base is infuriated with Obama, particularly his abuse of executive power….

The last is not a ‘fact.’ It is, in fact, an hallucination.


Current GOP policy controversy

  This citation begins with facts and quickly shifts gears to absurd hallucinations. But facts don’t matter to the modern GOP. See them squawk:

Erick Erickson / RedState: The Ridiculous Handwringing of the Overthinking GOP

After yesterday’s post, we appreciate how Erick Erickson would naturally eschew “thinking.”

Erick Erickson by Gage Skidmore

Don’t ever w0rry about him singing “Roll over, Einstein! And tell Feynman the news.”

It’s just rather hilarious to watch a brew of nonsense and absurdity bubbling over as ‘rational analysis’: followed by analysis by attacking ‘analysis’ itself seems unselfconsciously oxymoronic. (But all-too-natural in this case.)

The only actual thing that can be added is my hope that no trees were sacrificed to this comic absurdity. GIGO.


More brilliant GOP analysis in action

Since there is no possible way that the Republicans Confederates will make any sense of what I am saying (but will cluelessly sneer ad hominems instead, as is their wont) let me emphasize: it is just as important to have the facts in hand, and a clear perspective ON said facts as it is to analyze them logically to arrive at a reasonable prediction with a higher degree of probability than, say, that Bigfoot will be the Keynote Speaker of the 2016 RNC.

elephant crook

Including nonsense and myth in his analysis makes Mr. York’s analysis pointless and worthless — an outcome that ALL political pundits need to take to heart in these days of information overload and factual paucity.



A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.

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ISIL: The Latest Disastrous Tool of Western Statecraft (Carta Maior, Brazil) Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:45:33 +0000 ISIS-animated_map[1]

This column deals with an issue that no U.S. official, or member of the mainstream media for that matter, will ever address or admit to: the deliberate fostering and creation of terrorist groups for the furtherance of American foreign policy. For Brazil’s Carta Maior, columnist Francisco Carlos Teixeira takes on the history of Western involvement in the Middle East, showing how it has exacerbated Sunni-Shiite tensions for its own purposes since at least the beginning of the last century. Teixeira writes that the reason such tensions are so prevalent in the Middle East today is that Washington has made the monumental error of seeing them as a handy tool for controlling countries like Iraq and Syria. Instead, though, the creation of groups like al-Qaeda and ISIL, aka/the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, has literally blown up in America’s face, along with that of its partner in crime, Saudi Arabia.

For Carta Maior, Francisco Carlos Teixeira begins with a run-through of the dawn of the Sunni-Shiite breach in the eighth century, Britain’s ‘appointment’ of a small minority of Sunnis to rule over the majority Shiites, starting in 1918 in Iraq, and then in Lebanon, Syria, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, always resulting in ‘cruel and highly repressive dictatorships.’ He then takes up the issue of Iraq, and challenges Washington’s mantra that Iraq Prime Minister Maliki is flawed because of an incapacity to work with Sunnis and Kurds, laying out a series of reasons Washington wants him out, one of them being his refusal to go along with the Western strategy of toppling Bashar al-Assad in Syria. On that issue, and on the creation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Teixeira writes in part:

Baghdad charted a foreign policy independent of the so-called Arab Spring revolutions, especially in Syria. For Baghdad and Tehran, the situation in Syria was and is completely different from the other “Springs.” Early on, they denounced the extensive foreign intervention from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, with the support of the United States, Turkey and France, to overthrow the Assad regime, comprised of a coalition of Shiites (Alawite) and Christians, which is nationalist in character, as well as pan-Arab and anti-Israel. Tehran and Baghdad denounced from the outset foreign intervention and the presence of mercenaries and volunteers from the Persian Gulf, financed by Saudi Arabia and armed by England and France, aimed at overthrowing the Damascus regime.


In Syria, a broad Sunni fundamentalist coalition formed that was extremely intolerant and conservative in character: al-Qaeda, the al-Nusra Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, called ISIL in English.


This coalition, in the beginning manipulated by Saudi Arabia, with the capacity to unify a wide swath of Arab territory under its authority and eliminate Iranian influence in the region, became increasingly autonomous, and eventually adopted the ideals of al-Qaeda, which was in the end overcome by the harshness and cruelty of the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”


Meanwhile, Al-Maliki caused great discomfort in Washington and Paris by supporting pan-Arab and Shiite groups in Lebanon, where the “Dawa Party,” a Lebanese cousin of Iraq’s Dawa and also very close to Tehran, confronted American and French troops in Lebanon.


Thus in recent years, the Obama-Clinton Administration (2009-2013), drawing ever closer to the American center-right and right, and to Saudi interests in America, has adopted a clear anti-Iran, anti-Dawa, anti-Shiite stance, based on a strategic triangle capable of ruling the Arab world centered in Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. For the sake of this obsessively anti-Iranian stance, Washington permitted the growth of Wahhabi fundamentalism (the most radical branch of Sunni Islam, which executes Shiite clergymen and destroys Shiism’s holy places), and the formation of a large army to which it gave a territorial basis for dominating regions of Syria and Iraq – something that al-Qaeda never succeeded in doing.


Strangest of all, to sum up this immense list of strategic, political, and anthropological mistakes made by Washington, is that the death of Osama bin Laden strengthened and accelerated the fight against the Baghdad government established by the American invasion in 2003. The elimination of the charismatic leadership of bin Laden among his followers and sympathizers allowed for the emergence of dissident forces such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and its proclamation of the “caliphate,” opening up a new and explosive reality in the Middle East.


All told, the United States acted like Harry Potter upon obtaining his first magic wand: it liberated forces it didn’t understand or control. The crucial difference is that in this case, there is clear risk of general chaos and a bitter end for the local peoples.

READ IT ALL IN ENGLISH OR PORTUGUESE, OR READ MORE GLOBAL COVERAGE OF THE IRAQ-SYRIA CRISIS AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

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Appeasement Again Tue, 29 Jul 2014 13:13:54 +0000 NavalBombardment1950NatlArchTrumanWith a move towards enhanced sanctions against Russia, major European states believe they have taken a step to punish the Russians for their actions in Ukraine. But they have still not made the tough moves that would truly penalize the Russians. What they have taken are baby steps. The Europeans have not learned from history. And as George Santayana said- “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” The European Union and its most powerful members continue to appease President Putin and Russia reminiscent of the way Neville Chamberlin, England and France appeased Hitler and Germany when they took the Sudatenland from Czechoslovakia prior to World War II.

Russia has already annexed the Crimea which was formally part of Ukraine, although populated mainly with Russian speaking citizens. This land grab was answered by the European Union with admonitions, but no major sanctions that would impact the Russian economy or make Putin cautious. Economic sanctions are the only weapon the Europeans possess, since they have been cutting their defense budgets and the size of their militaries since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. There was a belief by European leaders that no military threats existed to challenge geographical borders established after the fall of the Soviet Union, so why spend the money on defense.

However, Russia under Putin has become an aggressor nation, seizing land from Georgia and occupying parts of Moldavia, as well as setting up the “nation” of Transnistria, which is not recognized by any other country. Now the Russians are supplying armaments, including advanced missile systems to the separatists in the Eastern Ukraine. The shooting down of a Malaysian commercial airliner has resulted from this, a war crime whether or not it was an accident. Some Russian troops have infiltrated Eastern Ukraine to help the separatists and the Russians have been firing artillery across the border. Putin is trying to destabilize Ukraine and perhaps have the Russian speaking areas seek union with Russia. He refuses to recognize that the nations formally bound to the Soviet Union are now independent and want to go their own way. The Soviet sphere of influence would be gone if the power of the Russian army were neutralized.

But how can that be accomplished. Certainly not militarily, when no nation wants to see a major war and the Russian army is dominant on the European land mass. The only answer to Russian “imperialism” are economic sanctions against Putin’s cronies and sectors of the Russian economy. With the United States leading the way, new sanctions are going to be imposed that will have some bite, but remain a joke to Russia. Even after the civilian deaths from the downing of a commercial airliner, the Europeans still consider their immediate self-interest paramount. They don’t seem to understand that their inertia will only encourage Putin.

There is no question there would be economic effects on the European nations that have active commercial ties with Russia if more powerful sanctions were applied. But the costs to Russia would be much greater and it is the only way the Europeans can stop Russian incursions and their support for the Ukrainian separatists. Unfortunately, Europe is partially dependent on Russia for their energy needs, and Germany has opposed any measures that might affect natural gas sales, a major part of the Russian economy.

France, that great defender of human rights, has been particularly anxious to accommodate Russia instead of standing up to Putin. While the Europeans have embargoed “future” sales of arms to Russia, current contracts will be allowed. The reason is that Russia is purchasing two state of the art amphibious warships being built by France, a deal that defies belief. Though France will receive several billions euros for the ships and two thousand jobs are provided by their production, they are building advanced military hardware for a potential enemy. Mon Dieu!

Though the capital markets and banks with ties to the Russian state have been targeted with sanctions, Great Britain is not willing to curb the entire Russian financial sector. Doing that would impact Britain’s financial sector as well.

Little Netherlands is one of Russia’s major trading partners. Though the majority of passengers on the doomed Malaysian flight were Dutch, Prime Minister Rutte was very slow in condemning Russia and agreeing that more sanctions against Russia was necessary.

Overall, the European Union has not taken the necessary steps to keep Russia in check, using hope rather than concrete moves to counter Putin’s expansionist dreams. In addition to sanctions, the European Union nations need to spend money for defense and strengthen their armed services as a prophylactic measure. Europe should not continue to depend on the U.S. for protection. And the 2018 World Cup should be taken away from Russia because of its actions. Submission to aggression without counter moves only encourages the aggressor.

Resurrecting Democracy

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Israel’s Ground Offensive in Gaza – Final Update Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:00:41 +0000 shutterstock_116708431

Note to readers:

The news — the daily carnage — coming out of this godforsaken part of the world has become too depressing, too wretched. I will no longer be “updating” such a tragedy.

Readers can pick up any newspaper, open up any web page, tune in to any broadcast or cable station to get the abominable facts for themselves. No middle man, no interpretation, no ‘opinionating,’ no coloring of the facts, one way or another, is needed or appropriate. But that is just my view.


Jul 27, 2014 3:00 AM CDT - Reuters:

The Israeli military started fighting again in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, saying Hamas militants had ignored a 24-hour, humanitarian ceasefire requested by the United Nations.

“Following Hamas’ incessant rocket fire throughout the humanitarian window, which was agreed upon for the welfare of the civilian population in Gaza, the (army) will now resume its aerial, naval and ground activity in the Gaza Strip,” a military statement said.

Residents in Gaza reported hearing heavy shelling east of Gaza City shortly after the announcement was made.

July 26 2014 – 7:30 CDT

A pause in the bombing and fighting in Gaza has allowed Palestinians to survey the devastation, to “try to salvage something from their shattered homes and lives” and to recover the bodies.

The New York Times:

Saturday’s cease-fire provided the first daylong relief from violence for civilians on both sides of the conflict since the start of the 19-day war between Israel and Palestinian militants. The 12-hour lull granted people an ability to move, with Israelis visiting their troops and Palestinians discovering damaged neighborhoods and dead bodies.
More than 140 bodies were recovered across Gaza on Saturday — including 21 members of one family — raising the Palestinian death toll to 1,139, most of them civilians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. On the Israeli side, 42 soldiers and three civilians have been killed.
On Saturday evening, Israel’s top ministers decided to extend the lull for 24 hours, but said Israeli troops would continue their efforts to destroy tunnels. Palestinian fighters renewed their rocket fire at Israel, and Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, said it rejected any cease-fire that did not include the withdrawal of Israeli troops.

Images of the devastation here.

22 July 2014 – 12:00 PM CDT – The New York Times:

Major American airlines stopped flying to Israel on Tuesday after a rocket fell near Ben-Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv, and the Federal Aviation Administration told the carriers not to fly to Tel Aviv for 24 hours.

All three United States carriers with service to Israel – Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and US Airways – said they had temporarily suspended their flights. The move highlighted the impact of the conflict in Gaza on the Israeli economy at the height of the summer tourism season.

It also came at a time when airlines around the globe appeared to be much more sensitive about the risks of flying over conflict areas, following the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner over eastern Ukraine last week.

For the moment, European airlines are still operating their flights. British Airways, for instance, said it “continues to operate as normal” and is monitoring the situation closely.

Read more here.


Jul 22, 2014 8:39 AM CDT - Reuters:

Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top U.S. and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting fighting that has claimed more than 500 lives.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in neighboring Egypt, while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Israel later in the day. Both have voiced alarm at mounting civilian casualties.


Hamas, the dominant group in the Gaza Strip, and its allies fired more rockets into Israel, triggering sirens in Tel Aviv. One hit a town on the fringes of Ben-Gurion International Airport, lightly injuring two people, officials said.


With the conflict entering its third week, the Palestinian death toll rose to 546, including nearly 100 children and many other civilians, Gaza health officials said.

The Israeli military said it had killed 183 militants.

Israel’s casualties also mounted, with the military announcing the deaths of two more soldiers, bringing the number of army fatalities to 27 – almost three times as many as were killed in the last ground invasion of Gaza, in a 2008-2009 war.

Two Israeli civilians have also been killed by Palestinian rocket fire into Israel.


Violence spread to the nearby West Bank, where medics said soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man while dispersing stone-throwing protesters. A Palestinian shot and seriously wounded an Israeli in the Nablus area on Tuesday.

Dispatched by U.S. President Barack Obama to the Middle East to seek a ceasefire, Kerry held talks on Tuesday in Cairo with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri.


Israel has signaled it is in no hurry to achieve a truce before reaching its goal of crippling Hamas’s militant infrastructure, including rocket arsenals and networks of tunnels threatening Israelis living along the Gaza frontier.

Hamas has said it will not cease hostilities until its demands are met, including that Israel and Egypt lift their blockade of Gaza and its 1.8 million people, and that Israel release several hundred Palestinians detained during a search last month for three Jewish teenagers later found dead.

And so the eye-for-an-eye and the loss of lives continues…

Read more here.

21 July, 4:47PM CDT – Aid to Gaza -The State Department:

Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States is providing $47 million to help address the humanitarian situation in Gaza. This assistance includes:

An initial $15 million contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in response to UNRWA’s $60 million Gaza Flash Appeal;

$3.5 million in emergency relief assistance from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA);

$10 million in existing USAID bilateral funding, redirected to meet immediate humanitarian needs; and
$18.5 million in new USAID bilateral funding for humanitarian and emergency relief assistance.

These funds will provide critical humanitarian aid, including shelter, food, and medical supplies to Palestinians in Gaza. The United States remains committed to addressing the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people, and will continue to monitor the humanitarian situation closely.

21 July 2014 13:30 CDT – The BBC:

At least five people have been killed and 70 injured by an Israeli strike on a hospital in Gaza, Palestinians say.
The Israeli military said it believed a cache of anti-tank missiles was stored in the hospital’s “immediate vicinity”
Overnight, more than 30 members of two Palestinian families died in Israeli strikes, Gazan health officials said.
On Monday evening Israel said seven of its soldiers had been killed in the past 24 hours, bringing the number of Israeli military dead to 25.
Two Israeli civilians have also died in the recent violence.
The Palestinian death toll from the two-week conflict has now passed 500, the majority of them civilians, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
Israel says it has killed more than 170 militants since Thursday night, when it launched the ground offensive phase of its two-week old operation to end rocket fire from Gaza.
Ten militants were killed on Monday after using tunnels to get into Israel near the town of Sderot.

Read more here.


21 July – 9:49 AM CDT – Newsweek:

Secretary of State John Kerry is headed to Cairo to discuss the crisis in Gaza with Egyptian officials and is “expected to urge Hamas to accept a cease-fire agreement put forth by Egypt…”

“The United States — and our international partners — are deeply concerned about the risk of further escalation, and the loss of more innocent life,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki. “We believe there should be a cease-fire as soon as possible — one that restores the cease-fire reached in November of 2012.”

Read more here.

20 July Update

The Washington Post has just reported that Hamas claims to have captured an Israeli soldier

This during a day when 70 Palestinians have been killed “in a heavy bombardment of a Gaza neighborhood and 13 Israeli soldiers were slain in the most intense day of fighting in Israel’s current offensive against Hamas fighters” according to the Post.

Abu Obaida, a spokesman for the Al Qassam Brigades, appeared on Hamas TV to make the announcement. An Israeli military spokeswoman said the army was investigating the claim. A kidnapped Israeli soldier would represent a victory for Hamas and a difficult new challenge for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


The last Israeli soldier abducted by Hamas was Gilad Shalit, who spent more than five years in captivity before being released in a controversial prisoner exchange in 2011 that freed 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners, some of whom carried out terror attacks against Israeli civilians. Shalit was captured by Hamas operatives who tunneled into Israel and snatched the corporal.

Read more here

7/18/2014 08:00 CDT Update:

The BBC quotes Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that his instructions to the military are to prepare to “significantly widen” its ground offensive against militants in the Gaza Strip, targeting the Hamas tunnel network, which it could not do “only from the air.”

The BBC also reports that at least 24 Palestinians — including three Palestinian children killed by Israeli tank fire — and one Israeli soldier have been killed since the ground offensive began on Thursday, according to Gaza’s health ministry.


The Jerusalem Post reports:

IDF ground forces began to move into the Gaza Strip on Thursday evening, the prime minister’s office confirmed.
The purpose of the operation was to destroy the Gazan terror tunnels leading to Israel, according to a statement released by the prime minister’s office.
“Israel is committed to act to protect its citizens. The operation will continue until its goals are reached: To bring quiet to the citizens of Israel for a long period of time, and to seriously harm Hamas and other terrorist organizations’ infrastructure in the Gaza Strip,” the statement read.
Prior to the commencement of the ground invasion, the IDF launched a massive wave of combined air and artillery strikes on Thursday night.

Update VIII:


Palestinians rushed to shops and banks on Thursday during a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire that largely held and an Israeli official said Egypt has proposed a permanent truce that would start on Friday.


In Gaza City, hundreds of Palestinian lined up outside banks to collect salaries paid directly into their accounts, while others went food shopping. Gaza roads almost deserted over days of conflict were filled again with traffic.
“We are here to get paid. Thank God for the calm and we hope it lasts,” said Zakaria Ahmed, 35. “We hope Egypt brings a good truce, we hope the killing will stop and (Gaza’s border) crossings will open.”

Breaking Update VII:

The BBC reports that Israel “will observe a ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ in Gaza, after nine days of deadly rocket and missile exchanges with militants,” according to a senior Israeli army officer.

In an interview with BBC Arabic, Brig Gen Yoav Mordechai said “the civilians in Gaza can take the five hours of ceasefire to stock up on supplies and goods.”

The ceasefire was requested by the UN and other international organizations.

It is not known to this author whether the “humanitarian ceasefire” was announced before or after four boys, ages seven to 11, who had been playing on and around a beach in Gaza were killed by an exploding shell.

The Guardian:

In the space of 40 seconds, four boys who had been playing hide and seek among the fishermen’s shacks built on the wall were dead. They were aged between seven and 11; two were named Mohammad, one Zakaria and the youngest Ahed. All were members of the extended Bakr family.
Three others who were injured made it to the hotel: Hamad Bakr, aged 13, with shrapnel in his chest; his cousin Motasem, 11, injured in his head and legs, and Mohammad Abu Watfah, 21, who was hit by shrapnel in his stomach.

Read another first-hand account here.

Update VI:

The Jerusalem Post reports:

One day after an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire accepted by Israel, but rejected by Hamas, fell through, the terrorist organization proposed a 10-year end to hostilities in return for its conditions being met by Israel, Channel 2 reported Wednesday.
Hamas’s conditions were the release of re-arrested Palestinian prisoners who were let go in the Schalit deal, the opening of Gaza-Israel border crossings in order to allow citizens and goods to pass through, and international supervision of the Gazan seaport in place of the current Israeli blockade.

In the meantime, also according to the JP, Israel is raising the idea of a demilitarized Gaza Strip. Read more here.

Update V:

The BBC reports:

Israel has ordered thousands of Palestinians in eastern and northern Gaza to leave their homes as it continues air strikes.
The warning came after an Egyptian truce initiative failed to halt militant rocket attacks on Israel.
Hamas initially rejected the truce but an official later told the BBC it would consider a political solution.
The resumption of air strikes come after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had “no choice” but to step up the military campaign.
“When there is no ceasefire, our answer is fire,” Mr Netanyahu said.
The Israel Defense Forces are using recorded telephone messages, warning 100,000 residents of Gaza to leave their homes before 08:00 (05:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

Update IV:

After Egypt’s proposal for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas collapsed only a few hours after the Israelis had accepted it, and as Palestinian militants in Gaza continued to fire rockets, mortar fire near the Erez crossing with Gaza killed the first Israeli in the in the eight-day-old military confrontation, in which Israeli bombings have killed nearly 200 Palestinians, according to the New York Times.

The fatality, a 37-year-old man who had volunteered to distribute food parcels to Israeli soldiers near the crossing was critically wounded and died shortly after in an Ashkelon hospital.

The Times:

The Israeli military said in later statements that its resumed aerial assaults had hit 30 targets, including 20 concealed rocket launchers, tunnels, weapons storage facilities and “operational infrastructure” of Islamic Jihad, a Gaza-based militant group aligned with Hamas.

By evening, the Israeli military said, 125 “rockets and mortars” had been fired from Gaza and that 20 had been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense.

While some Palestinians reject the cease fire,

Other residents in Gaza still held out hope for a cease-fire. “Who would want to be bombed?” said Dr. Ayman al Sahbani.
The question, residents say, is where a cease-fire would lead, and whether it would bring any change to Gaza. The Palestinian enclave has been occupied since 1967, and now, despite the pullout of Israeli settlers and troops in 2005, its borders, airspace and seas are controlled by Israel. There are tough restrictions that have effectively amounted to a blockade, keeping the movement of goods and people to a trickle.
“Every time they have a cease-fire, but then everything comes back: the siege, the closures,” said Wedad al-Jarba, who was at the hospital, where her two-and-a-half-year-old grandson, Maher, was being admitted with a skull fracture. Israel “never agreed on anything real,” she said.

Continue reading the story here.

Update III:

After raiding a suspected rocket-launching site in Gaza, Israel has warned residents in northern Gaza to evacuate as it prepares to launch fresh air strikes, says the Guardian:

At least 159 Palestinians have been killed since the air strikes, according to health officials in Gaza.
They are said to include 17 members of one family who died in an Israeli missile strike on Saturday evening.
Israel says it is targeting Hamas militants and “terror sites”, including the homes of senior operatives. However, the United Nations has estimated that 77% of the people killed in Gaza
Some 800 Palestinians with dual citizenship began leaving Gaza via Israel’s Erez Crossing on Sunday.
Others have sought shelter at UN-run schools across cities in Gaza
By 10:30am local time (07:30am GMT), more than 4,000 Gaza residents had taken refuge at eight bases of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, spokesman Chris Gunness said.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described the raid as “a heinous crime”, warning that Israel would “pay a heavy price for its aggression against the Palestinian people”
At least three Israelis have been seriously injured since the violence erupted, but no Israelis have been killed by the attacks.
Palestinian sources say more than 1,000 people have been injured since Israel began its operation six days ago.
France on Sunday again condemned the Hamas rocket attacks, but also called on Israel to “show restraint” in its Gaza campaign and avoid civilian casualties.

The Australian government has advised all Australians to leave the Gaza strip immediately.

Breaking Update:

ABC News reports that Israeli ground troops entered northern Gaza tonight to take out a number of missile launch sites, according to the Israeli military.

The mission launched early Sunday local time comes after the UN Security Council urged the two sides to reach a cease fire, and the Israeli government said it hit northern Gaza “with great force” to prevent more Hamas rocket attacks.
During the incursion there was an exchange of fire with militants that left four Israeli soldiers lightly wounded, according to the IDF.
The IDF troops returned to Israel after the mission, and no soldiers were left in Gaza, the Israeli military said.

Update II:

TIME reports that Israeli airstrikes targeting Hamas in Gaza hit a mosque, which the Israeli military said was concealing rockets, and a center for the disabled where two women were killed Saturday, raising the Palestinian death toll from the offensive to more than 120 with more than 920 wounded.. (In an update, the BBC claims that at least 148 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its operation five days ago.)

Hamas says Israel hit two mosques, a claim that could not be immediately verified.

No fatalities have been reported in Israel from the continued rocket fire.

The prevention of fatalities in Israel is attributed to the U.S. funded, Israel-developed “Iron Dome,” which has intercepted more than 130 incoming rockets, according to TIME, although , “militant rockets have reached further into Israel than ever before, with air raid sirens sounding even in the northern city of Haifa, 100 miles (160 kilometers) away.”

The BBC reports that, on Saturday alone, Israel says it was hit by about 90 rockets — several intercepted over Tel Aviv after Hamas said it would target the city.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said:

We have accumulated achievements as far as the price Hamas is paying and we are continuing to destroy significant targets of it and other terror organizations…We will continue to punish it until quiet and security returns to southern Israel and the rest of the country.

In the meantime, and for the first time since Israel’s offensive started, all 15 members of the UN Security Council have called for a ceasefire, calm and peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Arab league foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting in Cairo on Monday to discuss the continued Israeli offensive and measures to urge the international community to pressure Israel, according to TIME.

While Israel vows to press on with its campaign until rocket attacks stop and is “targeting militants and militant facilities, including the homes of senior operatives,” a UN estimate says that in the period from 10 July (1500 hrs) to 11 July (1500 hrs) 77% of the people killed in Gaza were civilians.

Original Post:

Last night, as Hamas was firing rockets at Israel at a rate of about one every ten minutes, according to an Israeli source, as Israel was striking additional targets in Gaza bringing the total number of targets hit in three days to 750, and as Netanyahu was instructing Israeli military to intensify the assault on Gaza, three of us held a summit meeting in a parking lot here in Austin, Texas.

We had just finished a match of tennis and, as we were saying goodbye, the subject turned to the latest chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian “conflict.”

This latest round of killings and counter-killings started with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers allegedly by Palestinians, followed by the burning alive of a Palestinian allegedly by Israelis, followed by the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel allegedly by “small militant groups challenging Hamas’s authority,” followed by Israeli strikes into Gaza, followed by an intensified firing of rockets into Israeli territory, followed by the launching of an additional 300 air strikes in Gaza by the IDF.

While it is not known how many casualties the Israeli have suffered in this latest round – in addition to the three young Israeli teenagers — the New York Times reports that this latest offensive has killed at least 80 Palestinians, including women and children.

Finally, an Israeli military spokesman says, according to the Times, “Israel has already mobilized 20,000 reservists for a possible ground operation into Gaza, but for the time being Israel remained focused on maximizing its air campaign.”

Today, the U.N. Security Council is scheduled to meet for an emergency session to discuss the increased hostilities in the ongoing conflict.”

But back to our parking lot summit where we discussed various options to resolve the “conflict.”

Without divulging who said what, they ranged from diplomacy to just “wiping out” Palestine.

On the way home, it struck me how three people — picked randomly by a game of tennis — could have such widely differing opinions on such a grave issue. But, perhaps more interesting, how accurately the “views of three” reflect what I have come to understand is the full spectrum of opinions on the Israel-Palestine conflict. We have seen a microcosm of it here at TMV.

Fortunately — and hopefully — there are much better minds, and hearts, at work to once and for all resolve this “conflict.” Or are there?

The Editorial Board at the Washington Post takes a stab at it.

Acknowledging that the latest mini-war between Israel and the Hamas movement is as unwinnable for either side as previous rounds in 2009 and 2012, the Board says — after stopping the fighting “before it escalates beyond the control of either side” — what is needed is:

…not another diplomatic blitz but a more patient, incremental and sustainable effort to restore trust between Israelis and Palestinians, improve economic conditions in the West Bank and Gaza, and create the foundations for an eventual settlement.

The Board adds, “That is if the fire in Gaza can be put out.”

To those who were expecting some grandiose, ambitious 20-point “plan for peace,” my apologies.

But think about it, neither repeated wars nor diplomatic blitzes have brought about any long-term solution to this “conflict.”

How about trying something in-between — something innovative — like helping the Palestinian people rise out of their almost intolerable living circumstances; improving the dire humanitarian and human-rights conditions facing them; giving Palestinians hope that tomorrow will be a better day than today and helping them shape that tomorrow.

Unlocking and opening that tattered, screechy door to lasting peace will take monumental efforts, sacrifices and serious give-and-take on all sides.

I know, it is much, much easier said than done — and then there are those who want to wipe Israel off the map…

Lead image:

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Images that are just fun Tue, 29 Jul 2014 07:18:23 +0000 Some mostly SoCal surfing images I have collected over the years that reflect what I am interested in at work and during my down time. Hoping a couple of you get a kick out of them. A diversion. Click to enlarge images.


A exhausted lone surfer walks under the piers at Venice after exiting a huge session. See outside.

Wavwes past Venice Piers

1960s Ford Fairlane, in Hawaii, in 1971. It is white. That is a green shadow. Image by Bernie Baker.
1960s Ford Fairlane in Hawaii in 1971.

Going out into the surf wilderness to find waves. Image by Craig Peterson in 1972 at Point Arena, SF.

Surf Wilderness

As a teenager I dreamt of an office on the beach; literally sitting on the beach. Thirty years later I made it happen. I got an air card and worked on a deserted beach on the big island of Hawaii covering my crew and Ironman Hawaii. I had finally made it! But surf reporter John Severson beat me to it by forty years. In case your are a newborn, that is a typewriter and a VW van.


Looking onward …

I love this. You can’t capture a much better pic of peaceful wisdom.

John Kelly. Image Art Brewer. Yokohama Bay.


About 1970, St Quen, Jersey. Photographer unknown; but well done. A little respect for the east coast. Thick non verbal language going on here!

1970 St Quen, Jersey.

Dale Velzy and Hap Jacobs; legend shapers of boards in the south bay of LA. James Dean wished he looked that SoCal.


5x world champ, look at the stoke in her face. She is completed fearless and locked in.

5x world champ

I admire Raquel Welch, previously, Raquel Tejada in 1958 from La Jolla High School, Cali. Shoot me :)

Raquek Tejada 58

SoCal sunset at the beach.

SoCal sun


Kelia, levitating, again. Image by Peterson at Roxy.

Walking the plank.

Walking the plank

I haven’t cracked the code, but I am paying attention most days. What I hear is that we need to pass it on.


Face Shot

At dducks requests:



And an overview of the Rincon. This 1973 special edition Surfer magazine image was three miles from my backyard as a kid. I paddled down coast from Carpinteria the AM, surfed and paddled back up in the PM. Look at how undeveloped the point is. I think the lots went for about 25k. Probably a couple mill now. I couldn’t find 25cents to put a gallon of gas into my parents car for a date .. but I was wealthy in other ways. We all are.

The Rincon

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Impeachment threat fundraising bonanza for b-o-t-h parties Mon, 28 Jul 2014 23:25:14 +0000 shutterstock_114849337

Get ready for the False Equivalency Police to be sent out in force as we discuss a f-a-c-t: the threat of the impeachment is proving to be a fundraising bonanza for BOTH two major political parties, and both are grabbing the I-ball and running with it.

Forget the fact that (at this stage of the game) polls don’t show a national clamor for impeachment. For every reaction there is a reaction — and The Daily Beast’s John Avlon documents it:

Silly season has started—and both parties are trying to fund-raise off the fringe.

One-third of Americans now say that President Obama should be impeached, according to a CNN/ORC poll. This carries about as much constitutional weight as previous free-floating anxieties about the president being secretly Muslim, communist or born in Kenya.

The partisan breakdown of the Impeach Obama crowd is roughly what you’d expect. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans say they support impeachment and 35 percent of independents, with a very-confused 13 percent of Democrats bringing up the caboose.

But just because you’re a few beers short of a six-pack doesn’t mean you’re not somebody’s constituent—and so a small but determined band of dim-witted congressmen and conservative racketeers keep ratcheting up the impeachment rhetoric as a way of agitating the base ahead of the typically low-turnout, high-intensity, mid-term elections.

As usual in the Republican party’s second decade in the 21st century, the drum-beat for impeachment eminates from the Republican Party’s most partisan, tiresomely predictable (for independents, moderates and centrists) political personalities, who then whip up their loyal minions into pressuring weak-kneed politicos to say “Me, too!!” And, yes, one of them is former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin– that living, breathing monument to Arizona John McCain’s flaws as a serious, thoughtful decision maker. And the other — no surprise, again — from talk radio’s Mark Levin, nemesis of MSNBC’s more traditionally conservative “Morning Joe” namesake, who Levin calls “The Morning Schmo.” Avlon notes that some GOPers are trying to put distance from the call to do to Obama what Republicans did to Bill Clinton that boosted Clinton’s numbers:

But Speaker Boehner wants no part in this political suicide march. When asked about Palin’s call for impeachment, he dismissed her coolly. His long-promised (but so far unspecified) effort to sue President Obama is seen as an effort to deflect impeachment calls while still harnessing conservative anger at what they see as President Obama’s executive office over-reach. This past weekend, newly minted House Majority Whip Steve Scalise repeatedly refused to say whether he supported impeachment efforts when grilled by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

The reason for the awkward dodge is clear. Impeachment talk is nothing more than the latest episode in the GOP’s six-year effort to harness Obama Derangement Syndrome for grass-roots donations and voter turnout while maintaining a degree of plausible deniability.

But this is a dangerous game with high potential for backlash. After all, the flipside to the 33% means that two-thirds of Americans believe that Obama should not be impeached and 78% say that impeachment should only be invoked for a serious crime like treason or bribery—which even the most unhinged Obama opponent.

A reality: some voters are disappointed in Obama but would look with disgust at an effort to impeach him as a reminder why they voted against Republicans and not necessarily for Democrats in the first place. The Democrats clearly can see how a serious move or obesession by the conservative political entertainment complex could make some voters not only return home, but cough up some money:

White House senior adviser Dan Pfieffer pronounced himself very concerned about the possibility of impeachment at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters. “I saw a poll today that had a huge portion of the Republican Party base saying they supported impeaching the president. A lot of people in this town laugh that off. I would not discount that possibility.”

Hours later, the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee began to furiously fund-raise off the crazy, using media reports of Pfeiffer’s comments to declare that “the White House sees impeachment as a serious threat” and “Democratic Headquarters is at full RED ALERT.” A flurry of emails continued over the weekend, culminating in what they claimed were $2 million in new donations.

Beyond the hysterics that fundraising emails use to scare donors into opening their wallets, the whole incident provides an example of the feedback loop of modern politics—one side’s extremes quickly becomes a fundraising call to arms for the other. Nobody wins, but the professional partisans get to pocket cash by fanning the flames.

Democrats are trying to call Republicans’ bluff—there’s nothing they’d love more than an election-eve example of the Stockholm syndrome that seems to afflict the GOP leadership. Last time, Ted Cruz & Co. convinced their party to shut down the government without a plan past freefall and it all ended predictably. Democrats want to be thrown in that brier patch—it might be their best chance to win the midterms.
But you can’t convince some hardcore far-right Republicans that Cruz & Co morphed into Republican Party flop sweat.

If some truths are self-evident, Avlon points to one of the most self-evident of all: when it comes to impeachment — as it comes to many issues — there is no shortage of partisans defending or dissing an action they once dissed or defended:

Executive over-reach was never much of a concern for conservatives not named Ron Paul when their party controlled the executive branch. Republican reaction to Kucinich & Co was predictable: 86% of Republicans said Bush should not be impeached, calling it absurd, extreme and an outrage.

These terms still apply even when the other guy is in the Oval Office. We debase our democracy by playing the impeachment card too casually—and it’s particularly offensive when its done by puffed-up, self-appointed defenders of the constitution with a profit motive.

You betcha.

Meanwhile, Scarborough offers some advice on how Republicans should handle questions about impeachment if they’re pressured to give an answer:

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A Dangerous Game Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:42:02 +0000 Josh MarsIsreali Flaghall thinks that Netanyahu and Israel are playing a very dangerous game.

US officials are “fuming” in the AP’s words at the barrage of Israeli criticism of Secretary of States John Kerry. But as Chemi Shalev notes in Haaretz, there’s a deeper backstory. Nothing gets the Obama administration’s ire up like the perception (very often grounded in reality) that Netanyahu and his government ministers are trying to scuttle his initiatives by inveigling themselves into domestic partisan conflict in the US. Specifically, using GOP proxies as cut-outs to push back against the President’s initiatives.

As you may remember Netanyahu tried to not so covertly  to inject himself into the US presidential election in 2012- he lost that gamble.  Now it’s no secret that he and Obama don’t like each other.  It would appear there is a new twist.

In one very notable example, Israel’s current Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, is a former GOP political operative who once worked for Frank Luntz, and only made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) in 2005. He even reportedly played some role (though I suspect a small one since he was just out of college at the time) in creating the 1994 Contract with America. It’s usually good for both countries when a country’s ambassador has a deep relationship with the country’s head of government. It makes more seamless and reliable communication possible. And all seem to agree that Dermer’s relationship with Netanyahu is very, very deep – this article refers to him as “Bibi’s Brain.”

So Dermer is tight with Netanyahu and he, by definition, has a ready grasp of the the minute intricacies of US politics, particularly Washington politics. But his background makes Democrats and especially this White House suspicious.

This is a dangerous game for Israel because it really only has was friend left in the world, the United States.  Europe has largely abandoned it and even in the United States support is on the decline.  Before you say “but Israel is an ally”, it’s not and never was  - it has always been a client state receiving support from the US but supplies little or nothing in return. So as Israel continues to be identified with one party, the Republicans especially when that party at times seems to be in a kind of death spiral that is a dangerous game indeed.

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Obama’s crackdown on leakers damages constitutional protections, activists say Mon, 28 Jul 2014 20:38:42 +0000 < ![CDATA[//>< ! // ]]> graphic (which is not part of the original article) via]]> shutterstock_155312210

graphic (which is not part of the original article) via

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We are what we eat Mon, 28 Jul 2014 20:03:41 +0000 shutterstock_141107062


We are what we eat 

By Esther J. Cepeda

Washington Post Writers Group Columnist

CHICAGO — Remember last year’s hysteria over school lunches? Administrators, cafeteria workers, students and parents across the country freaked out when — gasp! — school lunches were made healthier.

News reports throughout the 2012-13 school year — when lunch standards mandated by the 2010 Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act went into effect — told of wrinkled noses, discarded lunch trays, solemn vows to brown-bag kids’ lunches and a glut of wasted food.

Now, just in time for the new school year, researchers suggest that America’s students are actually going to be OK with their new, healthier lunches.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation surveyed principals and school food service providers in spring 2013, approximately six months after the healthier meal standards went into effect.

They found that 56 percent of respondents at elementary schools, 44 percent at middle schools and 53 percent at high schools said students complained at first about the lunches but gradually accepted the new menus across all grade levels. Compared to the previous year, 84 percent reported no change in the number of students buying lunch.

In other words: Aside from some typical kid bluster over new food — and overblown news coverage of it — the students eventually got used to what was being offered and just ate it.

When kids who grow up in a society where “food” is presented to them battered, deep-fried, related to movie tie-in toys, and artificially salted or sweetened — and they are allowed to choose their own food selections — they will scoff at healthier choices.

The new guidelines call for more fruits and vegetables — preferably fresh — more appetite-satiating whole-grain breads instead of insulin-spiking white bread, less sodium overall, and fat-free or low-fat milk.

Nothing controversial, from a nutritional standpoint, but here’s one example of how a real kid in a school cafeteria reacted to the loss of a lunchroom standard:

“In the past we always had an option for chicken nuggets or something else that was generally tasty, but this year we get a little sandwich or pizza made with wheat bread,” said a teen in a May news story.

I can totally relate.

Even under the best of circumstances, it is hard to be a student beholden to a school cafeteria for lunch. And it can be mentally and physically painful to cope with food changes if you’re a picky eater — take this from someone who still hasn’t fully graduated from severe food pickiness. It’s even more of a shock if your parents have always accommodated your food aversions.

It’s no walk in the park for the schools, either.

Not only is it a challenge to feed a picky eater — my husband and I have tried everything for our sons, from “hiding” vegetables in sauces to carving flowers and birds out of fresh, ripe fruit to no avail — but it is also expensive and emotionally exhausting.

The cafeterias had to retool their menus, their food costs went up and there was, no doubt, some measurable increase in the normal amount of food that children waste at lunchtime. And I bet the teachers got an earful of food complaints, too, during any class after lunch.

But the sacrifice, the adjustment pains and even the short-term waste will eventually pay off.

There is nothing more important to our children’s well-being than a real-world understanding of how to eat healthy.

Based on the number of children in this country who are malnourished — about 32 percent of kids ages 2 to 19 are considered to be overweight or obese — too few of the adults in our kids’ lives have this knowledge.

The more-stringent lunch guidelines are but a tiny ripple in the tsunami of food and nutrition awareness that has to happen so the current and next generations of children can learn how to sustain their bodies.

No one said it would be easy, but instinctively we’ve always known that children are capable of great learning and habituation. The research now maintains this as truth, even with scary new food.

This fall, support your local school’s efforts for more wholesome meals instead of reminiscing with your kids about the Tater Tots and pizza you chowed on as a child. They’ll never thank you for it, but they might live healthier lives as a result.


  Esther Cepeda’s email address is Follow her on Twitter, @estherjcepeda  (c) 2014, Washington Post Writers Group

graphic via shutterstock

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Life Changing Events III Mon, 28 Jul 2014 19:17:33 +0000 You don’t have to leave the country to have a life changing event.  When I was growing up we never went camping and the same applied to my X wife who was from New York City.  In spite of this we took up camping shortly after we were married.  It was a bit clumsy at first but we eventually got pretty good at it.  There is nothing like a week in the mountains living in a tent without electricity or a phone to clear your mind and soul.  I bought a new tent and a new lantern but picked up an old Coleman stove at a garage sale and refurbished it.  There is a certain primordial sanctification  with catching a trout you will have for dinner in the evening.  It was not always easy – since we were usually camping in the Oregon Cascades thunderstorms were not uncommon and of course there were the mosquitoes.   But it was always worth it.


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The New Urbs Mon, 28 Jul 2014 17:09:24 +0000 Glenwood-Park-Atlanta-mixed-use-new-urbanismAlthough I am a left of center progressive I read The American Conservative and most of the time find myself agreeing with the articles there.  They have a refreshing new blog there, New Urbs.  They discuss how to turn urban America back to the people friendly communities of the past and manages to really criticize the suburbs at the same time.


Welcome to New Urbs. Over the course of the next year, The American Conservative will be opening a discussion on how to rebuild America’s communities and sense of place by fostering humane, sustainable, and walkable built environments, made possible by a grant from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. For while the breakdown of community and the family is a consistent theme in conservative circles, the conversation very rarely gets beyond some mix of exhortation towards traditional values and demands for rollback or reform of the welfare state. That’s where a school of urban design called “New Urbanism” comes into play.

Just as an individual is embedded in a family, and a family is embedded in a community, so too a community is embedded in its neighborhood. The patterns we live in can bring us into the sort of constant, casual, incidental contact that builds bonds between neighbors, or they can silo each of our families away, leaving civil society to wither as the “place between” is filled with asphalt and strip malls. As Paul Weyrich, William S. Lind, and Andres Duany wrote in “Conservatives and the New Urbanism” in 2006, “Edmund Burke told us more than two hundred years ago that traditional societies are organic wholes. If you (literally) disintegrate a society’s physical setting, as sprawl has done, you tend to disintegrate its culture as well.” New Urbanists aim to reinvigorate those traditional structures, like the classic Main Street with living space above the storefronts, and other homes right around the corner.

I grew up in a middle to upper middle class neighborhood in Portland in the 50s.  The neighborhood truly was a community something I never experienced while I was raising my family in the suburbs.  We used to have community events like picnics and barbecues.  Everyone looked out for everyone else.  I never saw any of this in the suburbs.

Suburban sprawl has, through an accident of history, often been defended by conservative Americans, especially those who mistakenly consider suburban living to be the pure product of free choices and free markets. Yet traditional building of the sort encouraged by New Urbanism is very amenable to conservative sensibilities. Traditional neighborhoods where a family can live within walking distance of their church, or send their child to the grocery store to pick up an ingredient for dinner, are often illegal to build today. Even the supposed free-market success of the automobile over mass transit has itself been heavily subsidized. These issues are of a kind with arguments and concerns that conservatives of all stripes should be very familiar with.

We had at least three grocery stores within easy walking distance of our house one of them a Safeway.  You could fit several of that Safeway into a modern one.  The bus stop that could take you anywhere else was about a block from our neighborhood.  There was also a hardware store and a pharmacy within easy walking distance .  Walking was made easy because of the wide tree lined sidewalks.  The suburban community I lived in didn’t even have sidewalks.

I for one look forward to following this blog.     It’s certainly a step in the right direction.

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Cartoon: Dawn of the Dead Republicans Mon, 28 Jul 2014 16:05:01 +0000 Taylor Jones, El Nuevo Dia, Puerto Rico

Taylor Jones, El Nuevo Dia, Puerto Rico

This copyrighted cartoon is licensed to run on The Moderate Voice by Cagle Cartoons. Reproduction without licensing is strictly prohibited.

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Sullivan on Israel’s War on Gaza Mon, 28 Jul 2014 15:19:21 +0000 Andrew Sullivan drills down into the justification for Israel’s war on Gaza on The Daily Dish.

Katie Zavadski, fresh from a Dishternship, nails down a critical fact in the latest Israel-Hamas death-match. As the Dish has noted before, the Israeli government knew from the get-go that the murderers of three Israeli teens – the incident that set off this bloody chain of events – were not doing official Hamas’ bidding even in the West Bank, let alone Gaza.


So the entire swoop on the West Bank against Hamas, which soon escalated into all-out war, was based on a a false premise, uttered by Bibi Netanyahu thus: “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay.


Netanyahu saw an opportunity to hammer Hamas and punish the PA for cooperating with them. He took it. It disempowers both and makes an even more radical successor more likely. But if you assume that Netanyahu has no intention of ever coming to a peace agreement, a more radical Palestinian population helps justify that. Meanwhile, the core project of a permanent Greater Israel is advanced.


After watching this situation for too many years now, I have developed one key measurement: follow the settlements. Everything that happens is designed for their benefit. And that goes for the current ghastly carnage. It’s staggering what the Israeli government will sacrifice to advance the settlements.

Cross-posted from The Sensible Center

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Sarah Palin Launches Web TV Network That’s Pricier Than Netflix Mon, 28 Jul 2014 14:46:11 +0000 ll (2)

Half-term Alaska governor and failed vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is taking her sideshow to the web with a focus on American politics via her own network, The Sarah Palin Channel.  Um, this is too funny. The Sarah Palin Channel is a Glenn Beck knock-off.  Palin took to Twitter to peddle for prospective viewers. Only one problem….Netflix is cheaper. You know, I swore off writing about Sarah Palin, but this was too good to pass up. I guess she can con a few suckers into paying the annual subscription fee of nearly $100. As they say, a sucker is born every minute.

Sarah Palin is returning to her roots in low-budget televisionbut this time, she’s  on the web, the focus is American politics, and she owns the network. The Sarah Palin Channel launched Sunday, asking prospective viewers for $9.95 per month–96 cents more than Netflix–or $99.95 a year. (No word on whether subscribers get money back if Palin decides to stick with the project for only half of that term.) The cost is the same as GBTV, the web-TV channel run by Glenn Beck, a role model for wealthy media figures who hope to monetize the cult of personality they’ve built up by expertly playing to the cultural affinities and anxieties of Red America.

“We’ll go beyond the sound bites and the media’s politically correct filter to get to the truth,” she promised new subscribers in a welcome video that blends Beck with a twist of Arianna Huffington at the end. “We’ll boldly take on any issue—those issues that the powers that be don’t want to cover,” she declared, exuding faux-boldness. “I’ll let you know what’s on my mind and you’ll be able to do the same in the video chats we’ll set up where you can ask me anything. So welcome to our channel. Together let’s do this, let’s live life vibrantly, purposefully, and boldly.” Source: The Atlantic

I pity the person who gets his or her news solely from the Sarah Palin Channel, full of insights from its namesake and her daughter, the “accomplished” Bristol Palin. We have John McCain to thank for this sideshow. To sum it up in a nutshell — a sucker is born every minute.

This was cross-posted from The Hinterland Gazette.

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Constituting Cruel and Unusual Punishment Mon, 28 Jul 2014 12:00:13 +0000 The eighth amendment to the Constitution of the United States plainly makes clear that,

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

And, yet, we’re hearing stories of a convicted criminal enduring for nearly two hours before finally dying. In this case, our attention turns to Joseph Wood, as he struggled to breath after being injected twice with an experimental cocktail containing two different drugs.

In January, an inmate in Ohio was the victim of a drawn out thirty minute death, during which he gasped for breath and convulsed. In Oklahoma, a needle was dislodged and the the inmate ultimately died of a heart attack.

death-penalty-1Although a majority of the public still supports the death penalty, we’re seeing that less Americans, over the course of twenty years, are supporting it. Since the mid-1990s, we’ve seen a steady increase in opposition.

If we are to have any death penalty in this nation, then we must first find a way to humanely carry it out. People should not be strapped down, suffering, before their death. However, is there a way to do this?

Sodium thiopental has been a go-to component in lethal injections. In recent years, companies have stopped selling it and others have stopped producing it. These decisions have had a widespread impact on the nature of executions and are responsible for drug shortages states are experiencing. Additionally, due to a European Union ban, manufacturers abroad are prevented from exporting this to the United States. As it stands, Belarus is currently the only United Nations member state in Europe which carries out a death penalty.

A large part of the problem is that, in some states, the ingredients of their experimental injections are kept a secret from the public and this secrecy is reinforced by state law. In many cases, we just don’t know what is being used. And, even when we know what has been used in the prisoner’s death, the company selling the drug for this use is often protected and kept private.  This makes it difficult to hold anybody accountable and, unlike Europe, creates a new obstacle in pressuring companies to halt the manufacture or sale of these drugs for the state’s use.

Americans deserve to live in safety, free from crime and those who commit it. However, what is the death penalty achieving? If we cannot adequately carry it out, is it even worth the effort? If the public slowly continues to oppose capital punishment, we could very well see a majority being against it within the next ten to twenty years. Much like in 1972, if states fail to secure a safe way to execute its prisoners, we may be facing another suspension of the death penalty based on the grounds of cruel and unusual punishment.

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Congress sides with consumers on cellphone unlocking bill Mon, 28 Jul 2014 04:06:28 +0000 unlocked iphoneAlmost eight years ago, the U.S. Copyright Office gave cellphone owners the right to unlock their cellphones. It had been illegal since the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which banned the “circumvention” of any copy protection mechanisms (Section 1201).

This did not, however, mean that carriers honored the ruling.

AT&T, for example, has been a notable laggard with regards to the iPhone. From April 2012 :

In a statement to Phone Scoop, AT&T said that it will [finally] offer customers the option to unlock their iPhone so long as they’re not currently under contract and have an account that’s in good standing.

Last January, the rule changed: If you bought your cellphone after January 26, 2013, you could unlock it only with approval from your carrier. Even if your contract has expired, ostensibly after the phone is “yours.”

On July 25, the U.S. House of Representatives passed S517 on a voice vote; the bill is designed to “promote consumer choice and wireless competition by permitting consumers to unlock mobile wireless devices.” The bill had passed the Senate on July 15 by unanimous consent.

President Obama has indicated that he will sign the bill. He gave public support to a petition in 2013.

However, the term of the bill is limited until the next scheduled review by the Copyright Office in 2016.

As I pointed out last year, unlocking and jailbreaking are not the same thing. An unlocked phone can be used on a network other than the original carrier. Jailbreak your iPhone if you want to install third party apps.


:: Cross-posted from WiredPen
:: Follow me on Twitter

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Losing the high moral ground Mon, 28 Jul 2014 00:58:13 +0000 middleeast_gaza_map200-4cc6f47550bd5f78439a1c1b3ad6092d0f023921-s6-c30 (2)

WASHINGTON — The civilian death toll in Gaza from Israel’s latest incursion is appalling. The right to self-defense is inalienable, but it is not free from moral constraints.

As of this writing, nearly 750 Palestinians have been killed since the Israeli assault began, including dozens of children. On Thursday, a compound housing a United Nations school — crowded with Gaza residents who had fled their homes to seek shelter — was shelled in an incident still under investigation by the Israeli Defense Forces. Palestinian officials said 15 people were killed and scores injured.

I support Israel. I abhor Hamas. But unleashing such devastating firepower on a tiny, densely crowded enclave in which civilians are trapped — and thus destined to become casualties — is wrong by any reasonable moral standard.

The Israeli government’s motivations in Gaza deserve to be taken seriously. In the end, however, they do not justify the onslaught that is now in its third week. For Israeli military action to be justifiable, it must be proportionate. What we’re witnessing is not.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Hamas is “targeting civilians and hiding behind civilians,” which he called a “double war crime.” He was referring to the fact that Hamas targets Israeli civilians with its rocket attacks and positions its military installations in residential neighborhoods or near schools and hospitals.

Netanyahu is right that these practices are reprehensible and that Israel has every right to respond. But none of this absolves Israel from its own moral responsibility. A civilized nation does not repay every heinous act in kind.

Israel says it is taking great pains to avoid civilian deaths. Indeed, Israel has been warning people to leave — with leaflets, text messages and non-lethal “roof-knocking” bombs — before smashing into residential neighborhoods. It is also true that in many instances Hamas, even knowing that an attack was coming, has instructed Gazans to stay put.

I have seen no confirmed reports, however, of Hamas using force to keep people in targeted areas so they can serve as human shields — and perhaps sway world opinion by boosting the body count. When people decide they must leave their homes, they can do so. But where are these evacuees supposed to go? To the nearest school or hospital? Not if these, too, are considered legitimate targets by the Israeli armed forces.

Gazans cannot flee across the closed border with Egypt. They obviously do not have the option of escaping into Israel or sailing away across the Mediterranean Sea. Gaza’s 1.8 million people are packed into an enclave measuring 139 square miles — an area and population roughly the size of Philadelphia.

Israeli officials say they would never consider attacking such targets as a school, a hospital or an apartment building unless Hamas were using these places — which should be off-limits in war — as military command posts, launch sites for rocket attacks and entry points for tunnels through which assassins and suicide bombers could enter Israel.

Again, however, there is the issue of proportionality. The military and political leadership of Hamas has much better intelligence about what the Israeli armed forces are doing, and more options for refuge and shelter, than the average Gazan. Indeed, we have not heard of any major Hamas figure being killed. So if you’re an Israeli commander and you know that there’s a Hamas military facility next to a medical clinic, but you’re not completely sure the militants are still there, while the clinic is likely packed with injured civilians, do you still pull the trigger?

Hamas’ rockets are much less of a threat than in the past because of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which has an impressive record. The tunnels are more worrisome because of their potential for use in future terrorism. Assume for the sake of argument that Israel had no choice but to act. What, then, would be a morally acceptable number of Palestinian civilian casualties?

Let me frame the question in practical terms: How many civilian casualties are needed to guarantee another generation of hatred and war?

The scale of death and destruction appears to be aimed not just at lessening the actual threat from Hamas but also at punishing Gazans for elevating Hamas to power in the first place. Netanyahu seems determined to teach them a lesson.

From all reports, however, the people of Gaza were already weary of Hamas. Netanyahu could have offered them an alternative future of free movement, economic development and peace. Instead, he gives them no choice.

Eugene Robinson’s email address is

(c) 2014, Washington Post Writers Group

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SciFi Weekend: Arrow; Constantine; SHIELD; Hannibal; Big Bang Theory; Community; Orphan Black; True Blood; Fargo; Sleepy Hollow Mon, 28 Jul 2014 00:41:27 +0000

There’s a lot of news coming out of San Diego Comic-Con. The Arrow panel is above, followed by the season three trailer. Ra’s al Ghul will be the main villain next season. Flashbacks next season will include characters who died earlier on the show, and will deal with characters beyond Oliver. Thea will be back (but changed) and there will be a flashback to when she first got into Malcolm’s limo. John Barrowman will be a regular as Malcolm Merlyn. Brandon Routh will join the show as The Atom, and will also be the new head at Queen Consolidated and there will be a triangle between his character, Oliver, and Felicity. There will be cross over episodes with The Flash, with the other CW show being lighter than Arrow.

The Constantine preview above was unveiled at Comic-Con. There has also been a lot of talk this week about a change in the female lead.

Patton Oswalt discussed Agents of SHIELD as Agent Koenig x2 n the above video. Lucy Lawless will be joining the cast. There will also be a another new character, code name Mockingbird. More at the Marvel panel, video below, which includes Director Coulson:

Bryan Fuller reports that the third season of Hannibal will get into the plot of Red Dragon. The first half of the season will primarily deal with Hannibal, with Gillian Anderson also a regular. The second half will deal more with Will. The Hannibal panel is above.

Penny Gorilla Big Bang

Among the things learned about The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon getting on the train doesn’t necessarily mean disaster for Sheldon and Amy. Despite the fact that he died, Bob Newhart’s character Professor Proton could be back. The elevator will probably never be fixed. It’s unlikely that we will ever see Penny’s (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) movie Serial Ape-ist 2: Monkey See, Monkey Kill but there was a sneak peek of the trailer at Comic-Con which included the line, “This film is not yet rated, but don’t worry, she gets naked in it.” There will be a comic book store to hang out at despite Stuart’s store burning down. Penny and Leonard will have a very long engagement: “They are engaged, but the wedding is sometime off in the future. Penny’s first goal is to put the date far enough in the future so everyone knows that she’s not pregnant.” The real challenge for the writers will be getting through the ceremony without revealing Penny’s last name. Bernadette and Howard will have babies, not not anytime soon.

Community probably won’t return until late 2014 or in 2015 and there will probably not be any holiday episodes this year so we don’t wind up having a Halloween episode showing in the winter. It does not sound like much will be different despite the increased freedom of being off network television, but there is talk of an orgy episode. There might be more paintball, and Dan Harmon says he will do anything to get Donald Glover back. Interview with Dan Harmon in the video above.

Part I of the Orphan Black panel is above, with links available there to the rest of the panel.

Information on the final five episodes of True Blood here, which will deal more with Bill and Sookie.

Fargo was renewed for a a second season and information was revealed at the Television Critics Association fall previews. The second season will take place in 1979 around Luverne, Minnesota, Fargo, and Sioux Falls, showing events which were alluded to in the first season

In the first season, cop-turned-diner owner Lou Solverson (Keith Carradine) often mysteriously referred to a major incident that occurred back in Sioux Falls. At the time, he was 33-years-old and recently back from the Vietnam War. “Lou Solverson is a state police officer. His wife Betsy, her dad is the sheriff of Rock County,” Hawley said. “[Lou's] father-in-law is a character in this next go-round. I don’t know if we see any other Solversons… I’m excited to spend time with Molly’s mom.” He also added that Molly did not get her plucky spirit only from her dad

News from earlier in the week on Sleepy Hollow here.

Related Posts: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Originally posted at Liberal Values

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Flight MH 17: Emotional Words From a Dutch Man Sun, 27 Jul 2014 21:25:38 +0000 FRans Timmermans UN

While every family member, relative or friend lost in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 represents a horrific tragedy, and while every nation whose citizens died as a result of that criminal act is in deep mourning, the loss suffered by the Dutch nation and the Dutch people is especially heavy: 193 of its residents killed in a matter of seconds, entire families wiped out…

No wonder the Netherlands has been taking a lead role in receiving and honoring the bodies of the victims.

No wonder the Netherlands is leading the investigation into this tragedy and taking the lead in the forensic examination of the human remains.

No wonder the Dutch are outraged at the shocking images of how Ukrainian separatists have desecrated the crash site, violated the bodies — and continue to do so.

It is not surprising that, while some of the traditionally pragmatic and peaceful Dutch are calling for “cooler heads” to prevail, others bemoan the EU’s reluctance to “slam its fist on the table.

(Note: Immediately after the tragedy, various newspapers were suggesting sending Dutch military, with U.S. and British support, to eastern Ukraine to secure the crash site, according to the Dutch Volkskrant. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said since then that such a move is “unrealistic.“)

It is also not surprising that the Dutch, notwithstanding how much their financial and economic interests are intertwined with, perhaps even somewhat dependent on Russia’s, are joining the European Union in calling for stiffer sanctions against Russia, the enabler of this horrendous crime.

What surprised me, however, considering the “calm, cool and collected” nature of the Dutch people — especially of those in government — was the emotion, sorrow and anger expressed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, Frans Timmermans, when he spoke at the UN Security Council Meeting on the MH17 tragedy last week.

At times with tears in his eyes, Timmermans talked about the human dimensions of the tragedy in a most powerful, moving manner.

I have not seen much coverage of his speech in the U.S. press.

Please watch the entire speech below.

Here are the Minister’s words that struck me most:

We are here to discuss a tragedy: the downing of a commercial airliner and the death of 298 innocent people. Men, women and a staggering number of children lost their lives, on their way to their holiday destinations, their homes, loved ones, or international obligations, such as an important HIV/Aids conference in Australia.

Since Thursday, I’ve been thinking: how horrible must have been the final moments of their lives, when they knew the plane was going down. Did they lock hands with their loved ones, did they hold their children close to their hearts, did they look each other in the eyes, one final time, in a wordless goodbye? We will never know.

The demise of almost 200 of my compatriots has left a hole in the heart of the Dutch nation, has caused grief, anger and despair. Grief for the loss of the loved ones, anger for the outrage of the downing of a civilian airplane and despair after witnessing the excruciatingly slow process of securing the crash site and recovering the remains of the victims.


Mr President, for the Netherlands, one priority clearly stands out above all others: bring the victims’ remains home.

It is a matter of human decency that remains should be treated with respect and that recovering victim’s remains should be done without any delay.

The last couple of days we’ve received very disturbing reports of bodies being moved about and looted for their possessions. Just for one minute, not addressing you as representatives of your countries, but as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, just imagine that you first get the news that your husband was killed, and then within two or three days, you see images of some thug removing the wedding band from their hands. Just imagine that this could be your spouse.

To my dying day I will not understand that it took so much time for the rescue workers to be allowed to do their difficult jobs and that human remains should be used in a political game. And somebody here around the table talks about a political game – this is the political game that is being played, with human remains, and it is despicable. I hope the world will not have to witness this again, any time in the future.

Images of children’s toys being tossed around, luggage being opened and passports, including passports of children, being shown on television, they are turning our grief and mourning into anger of a whole nation. We demand unimpeded access to the terrain. We demand respectful treatment of the crash site. We demand dignity for the victims and the multitudes who mourn their loss.

Timmermans went on to plead for the return of the victims’ remains “home to their loved ones without any further delay” and for setting up a proper investigation into the cause of the tragedy of MH17.

A total of 227 coffins with victims’ remains have arrived thus far in the Netherlands.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs concluded:

Once the investigation ascertains who was responsible for the downing of the flight MH17, accountability and justice must be pursued and delivered.
We owe it to the victims, we owe it to justice, we owe it to humanity. Please, provide full cooperation so that justice can be served. We will not rest until all facts are known and justice is served.

As fighting continues around the crash site and as Ukraine separatists continue to make it difficult for journalists going to the site, Dutch experts today cancelled plans to head to the crash site, according to the BBC.

Lead Photo: Frans Timmermans, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands at the UN Security Council. Courtesy the Government of the Netherlands

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Digital Photography Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:07:26 +0000 As you may have noticed I have grown tired of politics and current events and have been doing posts of a more personal and philosophical nature.  I may be 68 but I tend to embrace new technology but one exception may be digital photography and the death of film.  I have been a photographer for nearly 50 years.  One of my early mentors was the late great Ansel Adams.  In addition to his great composition skills he was also a great photo chemist and great print maker.  Although best know for his wonderful black and white photos he experimented with color photography and quickly embraced the Polaroid camera when it was introduced.  I suspect he would also have embraced digital photography and I’m sorry he wasn’t around because his genius would have helped to make it all it could be.   You can view some of Ansel Adams’ extraordinary photos here but I won’t post any because of copyright issues. So here is one of my Adams’ inspired photos instead.


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Life Changing Events II Sun, 27 Jul 2014 15:45:16 +0000 Yesterday I did a post on my life changing event of living in Munich, Germany for several years.   Life changing events are ones that force you to reevaluate how you look at the world.  Living abroad for an extended period of time, especially for someone like me who grew up in the backwoods of Oregon is certainly a life changing experience.  In the late 80s I worked for the Japanese Company NEC and as a result I spent weeks and sometimes months in Japan.  While Germany was at first an alien place Japan at first seemed like another planet or an alternate universe.  Although I did speak German when I got to Munich I never learned much Japanese, I did manage to memorize the Kanji  characters for the places I where was supposed to get off the train.   The massive Shinto and Buddhist temples were far away from what I was used to.


The Japanese were for the most part very friendly and most of the people I worked with and socialized with spoke English as bad as it might have been.  It was crowded in the cities.  I remember one time I was there I had to take a train for one stop to get to the station where the next train would take me to work.  I would board the first train and grab the pole nearest the door and hang on for dear life.

These life changing experiences alter the way we look at the world and I think the world would be a better place if more had the opportunity.

Me in Yokohama CA 1987

Me in Yokohama CA 1987

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Gaza and MH17: France Pays the Price for its Moribund Diplomacy (Le Figaro, France) Sun, 27 Jul 2014 14:45:11 +0000 gaza-paris-protest-2014-3-caption_pic

France is not only home to the largest Muslim and Jewish populations in Europe, but with the Kremlin in the global doghouse over MH17 and Ukraine, Paris is in the process of selling Russia two massive Mistral warships for $1.6 billion. For Le Figaro, columnist Pierre Rousselin writes that with pro-Palestinian protests erupting across the country, and allies losing patience with the French for selling such powerful weapons to Russia, the nation’s diplomats are falling down on the job. Rousselin warns that if they hope to prevent the violence at Europe’s doorstep from causing an greater eruption in France and the E.U., the Quai d’Orsay had better get off the dime – and quickly.

For Le Figaro, Pierre Rousselin begins by outlining Europe’s lost Eden:

The crash of a Malaysian Airlines flight shot down by a missile over east Ukraine and the Israeli offensive against Hamas in Gaza shows that European countries can no longer pretend to be sheltered from multiplying nearby conflicts.


Until recently, Europe considered itself an impregnable haven of prosperity and stability. It could only be the envy of its neighbors. The force of its example served as its foreign policy. The crisis in the eurozone sounded the death knell of this golden age. Shaken by the financial markets, the Union has lost its powers of seduction. But its fragility is not only economic. It is also at the mercy of an inexorably deteriorating international environment. On its borders, the effects of destabilization in the east and south are now being felt in the very heart of every country on the continent.


The emotions provoked by the deaths of 211 European passengers (out of a total of 298), mostly Dutch, on Flight MH17 from Amsterdam, bring the reality of civil war taking hold in Ukraine much closer. Whatever the precise responsibilities of the parties to this drama, no one can ignore, or even minimize, the conflict between pro-Russian and pro-Western sides at the gates of Europe. At the very least, we urgently need to find a solution that goes beyond the imposition of sanctions on the Kremlin, decided on reluctantly for lack of a better option.


In the same way, riots in Barbès (a district of Paris near the Gare du Nord railway station, mainly inhabited by immigrants from North Africa) and Sarcelles (Northern suburb of Paris, which is home to a large Jewish community) confirm how close the Israel-Palestinian conflict is to us. The deadlock in the Middle East has long been influenced by the more radical elements of the Muslim community. Every outbreak of violence there, always for the same reasons, raises strong ethnic tensions in France, the country with the greatest number of Jews and Muslims in Europe.

READ ON IN ENGLISH OR FRENCH, OR READ MORE GLOBAL COVERAGE OF THE UKRAINE CRISIS AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

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Heading for a high court showdown? Sun, 27 Jul 2014 11:42:30 +0000 bill of rights

Heading for a high court showdown?
by Ruth Marcus
Washington Post Writers’ Group Columnist

WASHINGTON — Don’t be so sure the Supreme Court is going to save Obamacare. Again.

The question is enormously important: Are health care consumers entitled to subsidies if they buy coverage on insurance exchanges established by the federal government, as they are from state exchanges?

Two federal appeals courts have reached contradictory conclusions — at least so far. (The Obama administration plans to ask the full federal appeals court for the District of Columbia Circuit to review the three-judge panel ruling against the subsidies, and that court is newly stocked with liberals.) Cases are headed to two other appeals courts.

Which adds up to: coming eventually to a Supreme Court near you. The justices, particularly Chief Justice John Roberts, might prefer to duck the case — who needs the court embroiled in another Obamacare dispute? — but this might not be a realistic option.

The dispute involves perhaps the most consequential case of sloppy bill-drafting in congressional history. The section of the law outlining how subsidies are calculated refers specifically to an exchange “established by the state.” It doesn’t mention subsidies for the federal exchanges set up in those states (now 36) that opted not to establish their own.

Preventing federal exchanges from offering subsidies would cripple the law, driving up premiums as healthy enrollees drop coverage and sicker ones remain. It is implausible to think that a Congress that created federal exchanges as a back-up alternative to state marketplaces also intended them to fail. Yet the legislative language, taken alone, implies that outcome.

As the Richmond-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals conceded even as it upheld the subsidies, “If Congress did in fact intend to make the tax credits available to consumers on both state and federal exchanges, it would have been easy to write in broader language, as it did in other places in the statute.”

Nonetheless, the stronger legal argument is with the government. In context — and even Justice Antonin Scalia, the ultimate textualist, believes in looking at laws this way — it’s clear Congress could not have meant the provision to be so narrowly construed.

As you may have noticed, the stronger legal argument doesn’t always win at this Supreme Court. The four liberal justices are reliable votes in the government’s favor. Where is the fifth? Justice Anthony Kennedy believes the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, but he might be moved by the plight of millions of people suddenly without affordable insurance.

A more likely candidate is Roberts, who has already rewritten the statute once in order to save it, in the 2012 ruling upholding the constitutionality of the individual mandate because it was a tax, not a penalty. Would he ride again to Obamacare’s rescue — not because he cares a whit about the law but to protect the court’s reputation?

Some smart people think so. “A major lesson to be learned from the court’s previous decision … is that a majority of the justices do not want to determine the fate of a hugely important social issue,” Supreme Court super-litigator Tom Goldstein wrote for ScotusBlog.

Ezra Klein of Vox agreed: “The Supreme Court simply isn’t going to rip insurance from tens of millions of people in order to teach Congress a lesson about grammar.”

Let’s hope they’re right, but I have my doubts. Certainly, Roberts zealously guards the court’s institutional standing against accusations of overreaching. But only to a point. The Voting Rights Act offers an example. In 2009, Roberts, as with the Affordable Care Act, demonstrated his willingness to stretch the language of the statute in order to save it — temporarily. Four years later, he wrote the majority ruling striking down the law’s key provision.

Importantly, Roberts’ initial restraint in that case, as in his ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act, was based on constitutional considerations: the long-standing principle that the court, if possible, should avoid overturning the work of a coequal branch of government.

In the looming case about federal subsidies, which involves statutory interpretation (actually, whether the court should accept a federal agency’s interpretation of a statute), Roberts may be inclined to a less deferential stance.

Indeed, the two D.C. Circuit judges who invalidated the subsidies — Thomas Griffith and Raymond Randolph — cast their decision in terms of the “legislative supremacy” of Congress and the need for judges to respect statutory language, not substitute their own judgment about what Congress intended.

Last time around, Roberts was protecting the court from appearing to overstep its constitutional muscle. This case is different, and so, I fear, could be the outcome.

Ruth Marcus’ email address is 2014, Washington Post Writers Group

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Norm Ornstein On The Republican Battle Between The Conservatives And Lunatic Radicals Sat, 26 Jul 2014 20:37:27 +0000

Yesterday, just prior to this post at Liberal Values, I had a post quoting criticism of Hillary Clinton from Andrew Sullivan. While I am not thrilled by the prospect of Hillary Clinton being president, any Republican alternative would be far worse. With all her faults, Clinton isn’t bat-shit crazy. Norm Ornstein has written again about how extreme the Republican have become. He described the extremists who have become more common in the Republican Party, providing multiple quotations (not even resorting to quoting Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann):

As for the radicals in elected office or in control of party organs, consider a small sampling of comments:

“Sex that doesn’t produce people is deviate.” —Montana state Rep. Dave Hagstrom.

“It is not our job to see that anyone gets an education.” —Oklahoma state Rep. Mike Reynolds.

“I hear you loud and clear, Barack Obama. You don’t represent the country that I grew up with. And your values is not going to save us. We’re going to take this country back for the Lord. We’re going to try to take this country back for conservatism. And we’re not going to allow minorities to run roughshod over what you people believe in!” —Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert, at a tea-party rally.

President Obama has “become a dictator” and needs to face the consequences of his executive actions, “whether that’s removal from office, whether that’s impeachment.” —Iowa state Sen. (and U.S. Senate candidate) Jodi Ernst, one of a slew of elected officials calling for impeachment or at least putting it front and center.

“I don’t want to get into the debate about climate change. But I’ll simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There’s no factories on Mars that I’m aware of.” —Kentucky state Sen. Brandon Smith (fact-check: the average temperature on Mars is -81 degrees).

“Although Islam had a religious component, it is much more than a simple religious ideology. It is a complete geo-political structure and, as such, does not deserve First Amendment protections.” —Georgia congressional candidate Jody Hice.

“Slavery and abortion are the two most horrendous things this country has done, but when you think about the immorality of wild, lavish spending on our generation and forcing future generations to do without essentials just so we can live lavishly now, it’s pretty immoral.” —U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas.

“God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big-bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. It’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.” —U.S. Rep. (and M.D.) Paul Broun of Georgia.

“Now I don’t assert where he [Obama] was born, I will just tell you that we are all certain that he was not raised with an American experience. So these things that beat in our hearts when we hear the National Anthem and when we say the Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t beat the same for him.” —U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa.

He pointed out some of the less extreme forces in the Republican Party and concluded:

I am not suggesting that the lunatics or extremists have won. Most Republicans in the Senate are not, to use John McCain’s term, “wacko birds,” and most Republicans in office would at least privately cringe at some of the wild ideas and extreme views. At the same time, the “establishment” is fighting back, pouring resources into primaries to protect their preferred candidates, and we are seeing the rise of a new and encouraging movement among conservative intellectuals—dubbed “Reformicons” by E.J. Dionne—to come up with a new set of ideas and policy prescriptions to redefine the ideology and the party in a positive way.

But there is a darker reality. Many of the “preferred” candidates—including Ernst as well as James Lankford in Oklahoma and Jack Kingston in Georgia—are anything but pragmatic.

A few years ago, they would have been labeled hard-liners. (Kingston, a favorite of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was beaten in the Senate primary Tuesday by businessman David Perdue, who has said he would not vote for Mitch McConnell as party leader in the Senate.) It is a measure of the nature of this intra-party struggle that the mainstream is now on the hard right, and that it is close to apostasy to say that Obama is legitimate, that climate change is real, that background checks on guns are desirable, or even that the Common Core is a good idea. When we see presumably sane figures like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal shamelessly pander to the extremists, it tells us where the center of gravity in the GOP primary base, at least, is set. Of course, there are still courageous mainstream figures like Jeb Bush who are willing to deviate from the new orthodoxy, and it is possible that he can run and get the Republican presidential nomination, win the White House, and begin the process of recalibration.

But when one looks at the state of Republican public opinion (especially among the likely caucus and primary voters), at the consistent and persistent messages coming from the information sources they follow, and at the supine nature of congressional leaders and business leaders in countering extremism, it is not at all likely that what passes for mainstream, problem-solving conservatism will dominate the Republican Party anytime soon.

Even if the lunatics have not entirely won, they are the ones influencing the views of the rest of  the party. The establishment Republicans have beaten some primary challenges based upon disagreements on tactics, such as no longer wanting to shut down the government, but they have also adopted the ideology of the Tea Party.

Initially posted at Liberal Values

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This Week in Pantsuit Politics: Lithuania’s Karate Black Belt President Speaks Out Sat, 26 Jul 2014 17:42:28 +0000 One need only look at the Oval Office to see that when it comes to politics, we’ve got a bit of a gender discrepancy. In this weekly roundup, focuses on powerful political women in the news who are helping to break the proverbial glass ceiling of policy-making. Politicos, move aside. We bring you . . . politicas.

Dalia Grybauskaite

Lithuania’s president recently conducted her first interview with the Indian media—for Times of India—and it’s been making the news rounds all week. Among many topics, Grybauskait addressed women in politics, including this ever-so-astute quote:

So it is important for women to find their voice in politicslocal, national and global. Institutional quotas for women politicians are not enough. A real solution requires determination and effort both from women and societies at large. We cannot expect to have democracy in the full sense of the word if women remain excluded.

Specifically, democracy needs women like Grybauskaite, who we officially want at all our future dinner parties. Not only is she her country’s first female president, but she recently became the first ever to be re-elected into that position. Plus, she has a doctorate in economics and once served as the country’s finance minister (who doesn’t love a woman who knows her way around the male-dominated field of finance)? And because if you’re going to being badass, you might as well commit to the cause, she also has a black belt in karate.

Trish Kelly

Male politicians are routinely forgiven for being caught with their pants down, but it seems female politicians can’t even talk about the dirty deed without getting canned. In Vancouver, Canada, Trish Kelly learned this the hard way when she was forced to drop out of the race for the city’s park board because of backlash over an artistic video she made about masturbation eight years ago.

Happily, she didn’t go out with a whimper.

Speaking to The Globe and Mail about her decision to be honest about her time as a self-proclaimed “sex-positive” erotic artist and writer, she said:

Are we willing to give permission to politicians to be authentic? Or do we want politicians not owning their history in order to fit into a small box?

(Answer: B!) Kelly also spoke candidly about censorship in the Internet age, noting:

I worry about how what’s happened to me will impact younger people who have lived their entire adolescence, or their entire process of self-actualization, in an era where everything is documented through the Internet. How will they ever feel that they can run for public office?

With her background as a brand manager for a natural foods company, and as a social and environmental activist, it seems Kelly would’ve made for a fine public servant. She’s also openly bisexual and, well, female—which, as The Globe and Mail pointed out, would’ve made for a nice change in a country with “far too few women in office.”

Let us all pray for a mystical future era in which women like this are encouraged to succeed, not fail. Hey, it could happen.

Hillary Clinton

Meanwhile, in Hillary-World, news coverage was relatively ho-hum this week. A tell-all book claims Hillary blames Bill’s infidelity on his mother being asbuve to him as a child—but that sensational story has been mostly relegated to the pages of The Daily Mail, the New York Daily News and other tabs.

In more serious news, Hillary has turned up the heat on Putin, saying he “bears responsibility” for the MH17 crash, while stating she stands by her commitment to a “Russian reset.” (Sick international affairs burn!)

Meanwhile, Hillary’s polling numbers remain strong in key battleground states—promising if, you know, she ever decides to run for president.

And Also . . .

In other news, it turns out people are more likely to vote for women politicians if they have feminine features, proving that even in politics, it pays to conform to society’s ideals of female beauty. Also, apparently most women say they won’t vote for politicians who support Hobby Lobby. (You don’t say!)

Just a couple more reminders that in the fight for fair female representation in politics, we still have a ways to go.


This story first appeared at, an alternative news+culture+politics women’s website.



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Life Changing Events Sat, 26 Jul 2014 17:20:56 +0000 We all have events and situations that change our lives forever.  For this kid from the backwaters of the Pacific Northwest it was the 4 years I lived in Munich, Germany in my early 20s.  I don’t think I really appreciated western civilzation before my time in Munich.  It truly changed the way I looked at everything.  My friends noticed when I returned to the US and said I was not the same person they had known.  Old here in the Pacific Northwest was a hundred years.  In Southern Bavaria it was over a thousand years.  That really does change your perspective.  The odd thing is Southern Bavaria looked a lot like Western Oregon although Munich itself looked nothing like I had ever seen before.  I was not one of those who stayed in a shell and only associated with other Americans but got to know Germans many of whom became friends.  Once again enough words and another picture.


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