Thursday, August 31, 2006

One man's legacy

The air traffic controller who was working in Lexington on the day Comair 5191 crashed had worked a seven hour shift on Saturday that ended at 2:30pm and then came back on duty Saturday night at 11:30pm. In between, he had two hours of sleep. The crash happened at 6am on Sunday. In addition, he was working by himself when he should have had a partner.

How does an air traffic controller end up in such a vulnerable position? A weak union. And why is the union weak? Ronald Reagan, who conservatives lionize by naming an airport after him and actually suggesting that he should replace F-Roosevelt on the 10-cent piece. That would actually be appropriate because thanks to Reagan and the Bushes the middle class is left with just one thin dime.

I've heard a lot of great stats on what has happened to the middle class on Thom Hartmann's radio program. Unfortunately, some of them are not handy, but here's what sticks out: Before the air traffic controller's strike that Reagan busted, there were on average 300 strikes per year across the country. In the years since, there have been an average of 30 strikes per year.

Connected to that, real wages have stayed stagnant in the years since the Reagan administration while CEO salaries have gone up hundreds of percentage points. In the decades between WWII and Reagan, real wages went up more than 60% while CEO salaries only went up marginally.

There is a war on the middle class, and it has been led by conservatives and their anti-worker policies. Hartmann has a new book called Screwed: The Undeclared War against the Middle Class. I haven't read it yet but would like to read it.

When I was a kid, my parents were able to live on my dad's salary as a tech at IBM. My mom stayed home, only occasionally working weekends as a nurse, until I got to high school when she went back to work full-time. We had a nice home in the suburbs, we took annual summer vacations, and we were able to get new clothes each school year.

Today, my wife and I have a home that is probably the equivalent of that home I grew up in, but if we lived on just one of our salaries- and my wife has a master's degree- we would not be able to live here, let alone do all of the things listed above.

And the same conservatives who support the anti-worker policy also lament the fact that so many kids are in daycare today. They've made the bed and now they don't want to sleep in it.

I worked at a union shop recently. While I was there, the administration changed, and the new administration was anti-worker. Wages were cut for new employees (to be fair, existing employees got a significant pay raise), vacation was cut in half, and off-time vulnerable to being scheduled as work time. They even rolled over our existing contract, intimidating employees into voting for the changes by threatening an even worse atmosphere if we didn't accept the changes.

Many of my colleagues were conservative Bush supporters. One of my buddies said to our colleagues over and over again, "I assume that all of you are OK with this because you support George Bush. This is exactly the kind of atmosphere that we have in the country now." I don't know how many of them got what he was saying.

That's how conservatives are. They don't care about things until it affects them personally. They don't care about workers' rights until they're the workers who are losing rights. They don't care about the environment until someone wants to build a land-fill or a factory farm in their town.

The difference between progressives and conservatives is that those on the progressive side grasp that there is a vaster world around them. Conservatives only see what is in their immediate vicinity.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Connect these dots

Fun and games on a Sunday night.

According to a recent Harris poll, 50% of Americans believe that we have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

According to a recent Science magazine poll, 50% of Americans do not believe that humans evolved from a lower species.

And according to the 2004 election returns, 52% of American voters voted for George W. Bush.

How much overlap do you think there are in these three groups?

This response came from media critic Michael Massing on the WMD poll:
"This finding just has to cause despair among those of us who hope for an informed public able to draw reasonable conclusions based on evidence," Massing said.

The Science poll backs up the findings of a CBS News poll from earlier this year, which found that 53% of Americans believe that God created us in our present form. The funny thing is that at least one Finnish news outlet, NewsRoom Finland, reported the results from the same Science magazine poll with the lede, "With only two thirds saying the theory of evolution is a tenable explanation of the origin of species, Finns are more sceptical about evolutionism than people in many other European countries as well as in Japan." Only two thirds? Two thirds would be cause for celebration in the U.S.

As I once heard someone else say, it's been a rough couple of years for those of who are based in reality.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

885 greatest artists of all time

WXPN in Philadelphia is compiling the 885 greatest artists of all-time. You can vote by submitting your top 10 list (or more) at this link.

Here's mine:
10. Fugazi
9. Barenaked Ladies
8. REM
7. The Beatles
6. Dave Matthews Band
5. Public Enemy
4. Michael Franti and Spearhead
3. The Beastie Boys
2. U2
1. The Replacements

Who's the more foolish?

The fool or the fool who follows?

NY Times: Some in GOP say Iran threat is played down
Some senior Bush administration officials and top Republican lawmakers are voicing anger that American spy agencies have not issued more ominous warnings about the threats that they say Iran presents to the United States.

Ex-CIA officer Larry Johnson points out that the CIA had an operation that is now defunct that was gathering information on Iran's WMD program. It was led by someone you may have heard of, a lady by the name of Valerie Plame.
So, the Republicans want to whine about inadequate intelligence on Iran's nuclear program while holding fund raisers for Scooter Libby, one of the men implicated in the leak of Valerie's classified identity? Excuse me? The leak did more than ruin Val's ability to continue working as an undercover CIA officer. The leak destroyed a U.S. intelligence program to collect information about Iran's efforts to get nuclear weapons material.

And, as usual, Cenk Uygur nails it:
Look, I don't have a problem with neoclowns making these arguments. It's a free country. If you want to put on a shiny red nose and big floppy shoes and make clowning your calling in life, more power to you. What I don't get is why we're still going to the circus. Haven't we had enough of this freak show?

In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve, and in light of the fact that 59 million people voted for Bush in 2004 and they've continued to allow the Republi-cons to control Congress for 12 years, the public is getting what it deserves. Enjoy.

You're on notice!

Create your own.

Monday, August 21, 2006

More thoughts on torture at Guantanamo

The night before I read that article from Rolling Stone I watched a documentary on the History Channel called "Nazi POWs in America." The difference between the way Nazis were treated and the way we've treated detainees at Guantanamo is striking. The Germans were housed in the United States. They had more food than average Americans, who were rationing. They gardened, played games, had concerts, and watched movies. The most hardcore among them did carry out their own form of justice, which included killings, while American overseers looked the other way, but this was the one negative.
(B)y bringing Axis POWs to the U.S., the Allies inadvertently defanged even the most ardent Nazi POWS and created "Little Ambassadors". First, Nazi loyalists among the Germans saw that the wild and rabid anti-U.S. propaganda that they had been fed didn't fit what they saw in America. Second, all German POWs learned by example what democracy looked like on a daily, personal basis. Third, after the German capitulation some were chosen for special "re-education" to counter lingering post-war Nazi ideology once backs in Europe. Fourth, most German POWs took with them to Germany news and views of America which, by and large, spoke well of the U.S.—the land of their victors and former "enemies".

Some German POWs returned to the United States to live just a few years after returning to Germany. Some went on to be leaders in the democratic West Germany.

Compare that to what we're doing at Guantanamo. George W. Bush wants to spread democracy and freedom around the world but is missing a great opportunity by destroying people at Guantanamo Bay.

If it talks like a racist and acts like a racist...

...then it's a racist.

It's getting pretty damn difficult for those advocating for punitive measures against undocumented immigrants to deny that race is playing a major role in igniting the debate. Peruse these nuggets.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Protest roils Riverside
After an hour of prayers and speeches, Rivera and the protesters headed up Scott Street, the Burlington County town's main drag, as hundreds on both sides of the street cursed, spit and shouted at them to leave and never come back.

Some in the crowd were intoxicated. Some waved Confederate flags, while others thrust their right arms up to resemble a Nazi salute. Dozens had signs calling for tighter border control.

As the protesters walked along the center line, police kept the opposing crowd on the sidewalks. When the march ended and the two groups were allowed to mingle, the verbal attacks continued.

Some claimed illegal immigrants took jobs away from citizens. Some said they were angry because some illegal immigrants pay no income taxes. For others, the matter seemed personal.

"You spread germs," screamed Mary Goff, 32, a lifelong township resident. "You're ignorant, disgusting and lazy. Go somewhere else and give us back our town."

And then there's this:
The Nation: Nightly Nativism
(Lou) Dobbs (of CNN) often features and quotes activists with links to extremist and even openly racist groups, as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, reported last year. Yet Dobbs consistently fails to mention those connections--even when he or his reporters interview the founder and leader of a hate group. Glenn Spencer, for example, who heads the nativist American Patrol, deemed a hate group by both the SPLC and the Anti-Defamation League, was portrayed as a hero for running a "shadow border patrol" with "a handful of committed friends" using technology that rivals the federal government's. The reporter didn't mention that Spencer has also predicted a war with Mexico; his popular website, which often quotes Dobbs and links to his show, spreads rumors that immigrants are plotting to overthrow the Southwest United States. There's also Protect Arizona Now (PAN), which successfully pressed a ballot initiative that denies state services to illegal aliens and requires state employees to report them. Dobbs ran glowing features on the group and its campaign, never mentioning what many news outlets had reported: that Virginia Abernethy, a self-described "white separatist" and former editorial adviser to the white-supremacist CCC, headed PAN's national advisory board.

And finally we have this lovely piece:
Pittsburgh Tribune Review, columnist Dimitri Vassilaros: ACLU should check the law
But Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a news release that "You might as well just paint a target on every foreigners' (sic) forehead or a sign saying 'please treat me differently.'" Um, OK. Actually, that sounds like a dandy idea. (my bold)

Physically marking foreigners. Nice. Somebody tried something like that once.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Rolling Stone's feature article on the torture of Omar Khadr left me not angry, as my wife suggested, but numb. The online version doesn't do it justice:
Before boarding a C-130 transport to Guantanamo, Omar was dressed in an orange jumpsuit and hog-chained: shackled hand and foot, a waist chain cinching his hands to his stomach, another chain connecting the shackles on his hands to those on his feet. At both wrist and ankle, the shackles bit. The cuffs permanently scarred many prisoners on the flight, causing them to lose feeling in their limbs for several days or weeks afterward. Hooded and kneeling on the tarmac with the other prisoners, Omar waited for many hours. His knees sent intensifying pain up into his body and then went numb.

A military-intelligence officer estimates that 75% of detainees at Guatanamo are innocent. Another report states that just 8% of detainees are confirmed al-Qaeda.

Go get this article. It is in the latest issue with Christina Aguilera on the cover. You will be haunted by what it describes and might even leave you thinking that simply allowing George W. Bush to serve out his term until January, 2009 is letting him off too easy.

Good to the last drop

NY Times: Coffee as a health drink? Studies find some benefits
Coffee is not usually thought of as health food, but a number of recent studies suggest that it can be a highly beneficial drink. Researchers have found strong evidence that coffee reduces the risk of several serious ailments, including diabetes, heart disease and cirrhosis of the liver.

Among them is a systematic review of studies published last year in The Journal of the American Medical Association, which concluded that habitual coffee consumption was consistently associated with a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. Exactly why is not known, but the authors offered several explanations.

Coffee contains antioxidants that help control the cell damage that can contribute to the development of the disease. It is also a source of chlorogenic acid, which has been shown in animal experiments to reduce glucose concentrations.

It's a good thing because diabetes is in the fam and I drink waaaaaay too much...wait, I drink a healthy amount of coffee, apparently. Tip up your cup!

Harrisburg Hero: Stephen A. Glassman

Stephen A. Glassman, chair of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, has a top-notch guest blogger entry on the immigration debate over at Speaking Freely, the blog of the ACLU of PA:
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission has sought to insure that a person's race, skin color, national origin, or ancestry did not result in such patently unfair discrimination. Unfortunately, those who are different from the majority, who are the most disenfranchised and the least able to protect or speak for themselves, are the ones most likely to become the targets of discrimination. Immigrants are simply the current target, whether they are Hispanic, Asian, African, or Middle Eastern. They are not the first. They will, unfortunately, not be the last.

The Commission's assessment of various legislative initiatives and, more pointedly, our assessment of the tone and tenor of much of the public debate, suggests that the impetus for action comes from the same type of prejudice and fear that has had such demonstrable and unfortunate consequences in the past. Much of the proposed legislation and public debate is centered on punishing both those who are here illegally and those who provide them with employment, food and housing. Inevitably, these laws will unfairly ensnare many individuals who are living here legally and will encourage aggressive behavior against anyone perceived to be an illegal immigrant.

Reform, to be truly effective, must be broader in its approach; punitive action, alone, will not solve the problem. It will simply encourage people to "obey" these new laws by treating anyone who looks or sounds "foreign" as if they are also "illegal." This is not only bad social policy. It is also unlawful under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and other state and federal laws.

Along with the revival of NLM comes the revival of the Harrisburg Hero award. Steve deserves it for his leadership and his desire to move Pennsylvania forward, not backward.

Top Global Universities

Newsweek has ranked the top global universities, which means:
universities have...become more self-consciously global: seeking students from around the world who represent the entire spec­ trum of cultures and values, sending their own students abroad to prepare them for global careers, offering courses of study that address the challenges of an inter­ connected world and collaborative research programs to advance science for the benefit of all humanity. To capture these developments, NEWSWEEK devised a ranking of global universities that takes into account openness and diversity, as well as distinction in research.

#10 nationally and #37 globally? The University of Pittsburgh. Hail to Pitt!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Federal judge declares surveillance without a warrant unconstitutional


Glenn Greenwald:

In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court -- as Marty Lederman was the first to note -- rejected the Bush administration's principal defense for its violations of the Geneva Conventions not only with regard to military commissions, but generally. By holding that Common Article 3 of the Conventions applies to all detainees, and a failure to treat detainees in compliance with Common Article 3 constitutes "war crimes," the Supreme Court effectively found that Bush officials have authorized and engaged in felony violations of the War Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. sec. 2241), which makes it a federal crime to violate war treaties such as the Geneva Conventions. That is why the administration is busy at work trying to change that law so as to retroactively legalize their conduct -- because the Supreme Court all but branded them war criminals, and the consequences of that can be severe.

And now, a federal court in Michigan -- the first to rule on the legality of the President's NSA program -- just rejected all of the administration's defenses for eavesdropping in violation of FISA, effectively finding that the administration has been engaged in deliberate criminal acts by eavesdropping without judicial approval. And as I documented previously, Hamdan itself independently compels rejection of the administration's only defenses to its violations of FISA. Eavesdropping in violation of FISA is a federal crime, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine (50 U.S.C. 1809).

Thus, judicial decisions are starting to emerge which come close to branding the conduct of Bush officials as criminal.

This will knock you on your (behind)

Try explaining September 11, 2001, to a three-year-old. Tonight my daughter was in the room while I was watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann and the story on more 911 tapes from NYC on 9/11 came on. Here's sort of how the conversation went:

Child: (sees street scene) "Daddy, what's that?"
Dad: "That's trash on the street, honey."
"A building fell down."
"What are they doing?" (referring to firefighters on the street)
"Trying to help people."
"Because the people needed help."
"Why did the building fall down?"
"Because an airplane hit it."
"The building shook and fell down when an airplane hit it."
"Why did an airplane hit the building?"
(Dad puts arm around child) "I'll explain it to you some other day but not right now, OK?"
"Ok, you can tell me another time."

In between, I said a few times, "This almost never happens." I thought of saying, "This only happened one time," but then I thought, 'How do I explain earthquakes?' It's also not clear if she realizes that some of what we see on television is fiction and some is non-fiction.

Comic of the day

Sick and twisted humor from Get Your War On

I never heard of this comic until I saw it in the latest Rolling Stone. The strip that is in the issue is hilarious but not online yet.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Size of trophy inversely proportional to size of heart

In my mid-teens, I umpired little league baseball for two seasons or so. I stopped doing it because of a summer job working at a summer camp, but I probably would have stopped, anyway. The kids were great, but the parents and coaches were awful to deal with. That was 18 years ago, and based on the stories out there, they've only gotten worse.

Which brings us to this little jewel, courtesy of Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated:
In a nine- and 10-year-old PONY league championship game in Bountiful, Utah, the Yankees lead the Red Sox by one run. The Sox are up in the bottom of the last inning, two outs, a runner on third. At the plate is the Sox' best hitter, a kid named Jordan. On deck is the Sox' worst hitter, a kid named Romney. He's a scrawny cancer survivor who has to take human growth hormone and has a shunt in his brain.

So, you're the coach: Do you intentionally walk the star hitter so you can face the kid who can barely swing?
Yanks coach Bob Farley decided to walk the star.

Parents booed. The umpire, Mike Wright, thought to himself, Low-ball move. In the stands, Romney's eight-year-old sister cried. "They're picking on Romney!" she said. Romney struck out. The Yanks celebrated. The Sox moaned. The two coaching staffs nearly brawled.

And Romney? He sobbed himself to sleep that night.

Short of a dad beating a coach to death, this is about as bad as it gets. The only uplifting part of this story was this:
By the way, the next morning, Romney woke up and decided to do something about what happened to him.

"I'm going to work on my batting," he told his dad. "Then maybe someday I'll be the one they walk."

SI is doing a poll on this, and although it's not scientific, it's awfully sad that only 60% of voters have opted to pitch to the slugger.

Here's a CNN feature on the story.

"Deport them all" PR and Guam???

If you're in the United States, how is it possible to be deported to Puerto Rico or Guam?
Waiting downtown for a bus, Lena Zizzo, of McAdoo, said she supports the ordinance because illegal immigrants should "stay where they belong."

"Why should they come and take everything away? You don't see me going to Puerto Rico or Guam. Deport the whole lot of them. Chances are, they're no good," Zizzo said.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Mindful Politics

Shambhala Sun

Lieberman and Cheney: Cut from the same cloth

Only Republicans like Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman could claim that Ned Lamont's primary victory in Connecticut last week would embolden terrorists:
"My God, here we have a terrorist threat against hearth and home and the very first thing that comes out of their mind is how can we turn this to partisan advantage. I find that offensive," Lamont said in an interview Sunday with The Associated Press.

After British officials disclosed they had thwarted a terrorist airline bombing plot on Thursday, Lieberman warned that Lamont's call for a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq would be "taken as a tremendous victory" by terrorists.

Cheney suggested Wednesday that Lamont's victory might encourage "the al-Qaida types" who want to "break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task."

Like so many that have come before him, Lieberman has to have power taken from him instead of graciously giving it up. If he cared about the country, he would give up his independent bid.

The Republicans and the neo-conservatives are doing their best to paint Lamont's victory as a takeover of the Democratic party by the "far-left" since the campaign centered largely around Lieberman's support of the occupation of Iraq and Lamont's opposition to it. They are flailing, looking down the barrel of their own loss in November and perhaps long-term exile into the wilderness. 60% of the general population and 82% of Dems oppose what we're now doing in Iraq. That is not the far-left.

Neo-con (emphasis on the "con") Charles Krauthammer of the WaPo claims that this will lead to the Democrats' demise much like the party's anti-Vietnam War shift did.
Like Iraq, Vietnam was but one theater in a larger global struggle -- the struggle against the Soviet Union and its communist clients around the world -- and by the early 1970s, the newly reshaped McGovernite party had to face the larger post-Vietnam challenges of the Cold War. The result? Political disaster.

There is one major problem with Krauthammer's premise. There were communists in Vietnam. Before we invaded, there were no global jihadists in Iraq. The Iraq debacle has taken us away from the job at hand, which is chasing the extremists like al-Qaeda.

John Kerry made those arguments in 2004, and I believe the people of this country are finally recognizing this truth.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The many flaws of the anti-immigrant crowd

Along with Israel-Lebanon, immigration is the other issue brewing this summer that has had me itching to blog. A few thoughts on the misconceptions and the misinformation espoused by those opposed to immigrants:
"Immigrants burden our communities with crime." Immigrants commit crime at a lower rate than non-immigrants. In Hazleton, PA, where much of the summer debate has been focused with that focus on latinos, 22% of the city's crime is committed by latinos, who make up 30% of the population.

"Illegal immigrants burden our welfare system." Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for cash-assistance, food stamps, public housing, or Medicare and Medicaid. This argument is a non-starter.

"Immigrants don't assimilate into and embrace American culture." First-generation immigrants throughout the nation's history have hung onto their own culture and language, but by the second and third generations, their children are Americanized. I saw this recently when an Indian neighbor held a party. Those from my parents' generation wore traditional Indian dress while those in my generation dressed like me and others our age.

"Immigrants demanded that we provide services in languages other than english." Admittedly, I do not know the history of how we started offering government services to people in non-english languages. But I find it hard to believe that powerless immigrants who barely have a pot to pee in were able to force the big, bad government to cater to them. Common sense tells me that the government realized it could operate more efficiently and effectively if it offered services in other languages. A good example is the case of Alberto and Anna Pacheco of Luzerne County, who lost their children for more than a year simply because the county did not provide them with a spanish interpreter to aid them in dealing with Children and Youth Services.

As Grits for Breakfast said (see link above):
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. Often though, the immigration debate seems virtually fact-free.

Picture of the Day

Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean on Monday morning. Most pics that appear here are from others and are gathered from the 'net, but this one came from my own camera.

Friday, August 04, 2006

We already made that mistake once

Rumors in Cuba are that the U.S. is preparing to invade.
In a televised message beamed into Cuba, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice offered the full support of the United States in a transition to democracy while promising to respect the sovereignty of the Cuban people.

Carried on TV Martí, the government-financed service that broadcasts to Cuba from the United States, Ms. Rice tried to calm fears that Washington planned to intervene directly in Cuba in the wake of President Fidel Castro's illness and his decision to hand off power provisionally to his brother Raúl, who is 75.

"The United States respects your aspirations as sovereign citizens," Ms. Rice said. "And we will stand with you to secure your rights - to speak as you choose, to think as you please, to worship as you wish and to choose your leaders, freely and fairly, in democratic elections."

The Iran-Israel War?

Andrew Sullivan says that the Iran-Israel War has begun.
It will end only in either the destruction of Israel and Iran's major populations, or in the demise of the Ahmadinejad-Khameini regime.

Let's hope not...the former, that is.

The continued strategy of pillage and plunder

Ah, it's great to see Israel doing its best to win the hearts and minds.

NY Times: Israel Extends Strikes North of Beirut, Hitting Village
Israel unleashed airstrikes across Lebanon Friday, severing the last major road link to the outside world and killing more than 30 people.

The bombs destroyed four bridges along the main north-south highway in what had been the largely untouched Christian heartland north of Beirut and far from Hezbollah territory. With the road from Beirut to Damascus already cut at several points, this was the only practical way to bring in relief and other supplies from Syria, tightening the sense of siege here.
"Where are the Katyushas of the Hezbollah here?" asked Joseph Abihana, referring to a type of rocket that has been fired at Israel from the southern part of Lebanon. He said he was awakened by four bomb blasts. "We are used to being a safe area here, but now there is no safety. I blame the Israelis."
In the Bekaa Valley, hard against the Syrian border, an airstrike killed at least 28 seasonal farm workers loading fruit and vegetables into a refrigerated truck. Ali Yaghi, the head of the rescue service in the tiny village of Qaa, told reporters that others may be buried in the rubble. Israel has frequently fired upon vehicles it suspected of carrying fighters or weapons, but these have also included water drilling rigs, convoys of medical supplies and minivans of fleeing civilians.
The wave of bombings was yet another crippling blow to Lebanon’s infrastructure, painstakingly rebuilt over the past decade after years of civil war. Lebanese officials say 71 bridges have been destroyed — including elaborate overpasses on the Damascus road — and estimate the damage at $2 billion and rising.
While many Lebanese Christians have long distrusted Hezbollah and other Muslims and Druse (there were, after all, 15 years of civil war along sectarian lines), and many criticized the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers on July 12 that touched off the conflict, comments Friday indicated that the damage Israel has inflicted on Lebanon has shifted that equation.
"Public opinion is 100 percent against Israel from this area," said Camille Chamoun, scion of one of the three major Christian families who mounted militias against the Muslim and Palestinian forces during the civil war and whose faction was aligned with Israel during its 1982 invasion.

"This is just an excuse to hit more of our infrastructure," said Manal Azzi, a 26-year-old health worker who lives next to the destroyed bridge.

"I'm here speaking as a Christian," she went on. "Israel is our main invader and has been for the last 50 years. Right now we're getting more civilian casualties, so we'll have another war in 10, 15 years.

"They talk about a new Middle East. To serve who? Israel and the United States. Israel is itself a terrorist state backed up by the United States."
More than 400 fishing boats and trawlers, most of them moored in a dock, others stored in a nearby field, were destroyed in the bombings in an hour-long barrage by helicopters, aircraft and warships off the shore, residents said.

"The planes came from above, and then we heard ships shooting too," said Jihad al Hoss, who lived across the road. "They hit 30 or 35 rounds into the area. But what fault is it of the fishermen in all this?"
"They've destroyed our homes, and now they've destroyed our livelihood," said Fadel Alami, who dove into the water to salvage parts from his wooden fishing trawler. He managed to recover the registration booklet for the boat and pieces of a sonar device, but, he said, the rest is all gone.

"We still have our dignity, and Seyed Hassan will help us get the rest back," he said, speaking of Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
She had escaped the house the night before as planes began circling overhead, she said, and stayed with relatives in another part of town. Her son, who only gave his name as Claude, climbed over a fence to help his mother.

"Why are you crying mom?," he asked as she came up the stairs. "We have to be steadfast."

"How can I not cry, just look around you," she said. "But we have to persevere. Hassan Nasrallah will change this."

People, people, people. Come on. Haven't you heard what PM Ohlert and President Bush have said? Blame Hezbollah. The firepower was supplied by the U.S., and it was the Israelis who decided that fishermen and farmers needed to die and have their industry destroyed, but blame Hezbollah. You didn't hear those speeches?

Before some wise guy comes along to justify this madness...
But Hezbollah's ability to fire rockets into Israel remained intact. By nightfall, Israeli officials said, 195 rockets had landed, killing at least four people. The Israeli police said that 2,500 rockets had been fired into Israel since the war began.

If you justify Israel's actions by claiming self-defense, then you would be hard-pressed to not say the same about Hezbollah. But Israel knows best. Completely obliterating a country is a good way to ensure security. Like Afghanistan in the '80s and '90s.

Seriously, when people say, "Blame Hezbollah," there's an underlying assumption that I haven't heard verbalized yet. If one is to say that Hezbollah's actions caused what Israel is doing, the assumption then is that Israel cannot control itself. Come to think of it, based on its actions, that's a safe assumption to make.

Vacation open thread

Post whatever you wish in the comments section. Stir it up.

Even though I'm far from home, I know I'm not alone

Two days ago I sent an e-mail to some family and friends announcing the relaunch of NLM but completely forgot that we're heading off and will be away from a comp for a week. One of my traveling companions wants to try to find a coffee shop with wireless, so maybe I'll get a chance to check in. I know you'll be waiting with baited breath.

Picture of the Day

I saw this at an arts festival in May. You can check out more of the photographer's pics by visiting his website. He has a lot of great photos from central Asia.

A meditation on peace by Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is truly a bodhisattva among us. His book The Miracle of Mindfulness had a tremendous influence on my life.

Here is a peace meditation narrated by Thay (Vietnamese for "teacher") which provides a nice oasis. Sitting quietly while listening to this provides respite.

A smattering of op-eds on the Middle East

Harrisburg Patriot News: From the Haifa incident to the Qana incident
I do not recall any outrage or a single demonstration anywhere in the world at this hideous act committed by the Hezbollah.

Actually, the Haifa incident and the Qana incident are similar, yet different. The similarity is that in both many people, most of them children, were killed. For kid-loving people who don't care about context, that would have been enough reason to demonstrate in both cases.

But that is where the similarity ends. It makes all the difference in the world that in the Haifa case the kids were murdered. In the Qana case the kids were unintentionally killed. Israel did not target the kids in Qana -- we never do -- but Hezbollah did target our kids in Haifa. Then and now, it always does.

Now if those pious souls thousands of miles away from here, taking to the streets in outrage -- people in other continents, most of whom probably are unable even to point out Israel on the map -- really cared about kids, should we have heard of them when the body parts of our kids were sprayed on the pavement and the walls of the homes across from the bus station where the Hezbollah-launched human bomb mounted the bus?

I could be completely off on this, but I think many people feel helpless when it comes to rogue groups like Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, etc. while we feel a certain level of control over elected governments like Israel and the U.S.

NY Times: Ground to a Halt
Nearly two decades of Israeli military presence did not root out Hezbollah. The only thing that has proven to end suicide attacks, in Lebanon and elsewhere, is withdrawal by the occupying force.

Thus the new Israeli land offensive may take ground and destroy weapons, but it has little chance of destroying the Hezbollah movement. In fact, in the wake of the bombings of civilians, the incursion will probably aid Hezbollah’s recruiting.

Equally important, Israel’s incursion is also squandering the good will it had initially earned from so-called moderate Arab states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The countries are the court of opinion that matters because, while Israel cannot crush Hezbollah, it could achieve a more limited goal: ending Hezbollah’s acquisition of more missiles through Syria.

Joe Klein, Time: Even Churchill couldn't figure out Iraq
While the world has been fixed on the crisis in Israel and Lebanon these past few weeks, Iraq has reached the brink of a "very grave occurrence," an all-out civil war between Sunnis and Shi'ites that could quickly spread to neighboring countries. The Iraqi-led military push to pacify Baghdad, Operation Forward Together, has run into fierce resistance from the Sunni insurgency and the Shi'ite militias. The death toll—an average of 100 per day—is at least double the rate of casualties in Lebanon.
We are in free fall in Iraq, and there is no net.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Picture of the Day

The Great Smoky Mountains, courtesy of this month's National Geographic.

Movie of the year (maybe) now on DVD

V for Vendetta. Here's the Borders review and a snip.
V for Vendetta succeeds where the Matrix sequels failed because despite its disinclination to answer all of the questions it poses, it holds tight to a focused, cohesive theme. This can be attributed to first-time director James McTeigue's ability to place a coherent story at the heart of his philosophizing. There is no simple answer to what role vengeance should play in a revolution, but V for Vendetta leaves to the audience not only the question but the option of whether or not they want to answer it.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

What I said, with wrath

I guess I listen to The Young Turks a lot. On his blog, show co-host Cenk Uygur said basically the same things I said below but with more fury. And with more heartbreaking pictures.
So, whenever you hear anyone on television or radio saying how Israel had to do this and we had to sanction it, remember these pictures. These are not abstract principles. These are real dead women and children you're looking at.

This is self defense? Those two girls above were about to imperil the existence of Israel?
Doesn't anybody think anymore? Doesn't anybody feel anymore? Why is it impractical to suggest peace while war has proven futile over and over? Does Bush really believe allowing just a couple more bombings will do the trick?

Do the people of Lebanon look like they are more willing to co-exist with Israel now? Or could it be that you made mortal enemies where they did not have to exist before? Please spare me your generic "these people hated us anyway" bullshit. Which people? They're not monolithic. They're actual human beings. They have different opinions, and people can be swayed. The brothers and sisters of these kids could have grown up to be moderates. What do you think the chances of that are now?
When are we going to realize that war only feeds the beast? When are we going to have leaders who can use their heads to solve problems?

The only answer George Bush ever has is - more bombings. He once famously said that he doesn't do nuance. We desperately need a president who does do nuance. Someone who has enough wisdom to realize that the solution to every problem isn't more war.

If you still support this administration which has no clue and no moral compass, you are culpable. If you still support their enablers in Congress, you are culpable. If you keep putting these warmongers back in office, you are culpable.

We put the man who authorized this in charge. If you don't do anything to fix that, you have blood on your hands. We're a democracy; we're responsible for the actions of our leaders. If you keep voting for politicians whose only solution is more war, then you might as well have dropped the bomb yourself.

We can bomb the world to pieces but we can't bomb it into peace

It's hard to support people who think it's good strategy to bomb civilians.

Which is why I cannot take sides in this current conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. Unfortunately, it is the people of Lebanon who are paying for their foolishness.

Although I would agree that Israel has a right to defend itself, two numbers explain why I am not an Israeli sympathizer: 600 and 60. 600 is about the number of people who have died in Lebanon in the last few weeks as the result of the Israelis aggression, and a majority of them are civilians. 60 is the approximate number of Israelis that have died, and 2/3 of them are soldiers.

Clearly, the Israeli leadership is lacking in wisdom. First, Lebanon had recovered well from years of civil war. It's economy was rebuilding, and it was a popular tourist stop. Beirut was even described as the Paris of the Middle East.

Now it's all blown to hell, literally. Hezbollah needs to be diminished and disarmed. To do so, the Israelis and the international community needed to work with the Lebanese. Instead, the Israelis have destroyed key components of the country. What motivation would the Lebanese have for working with the Israelis now?

Worse, the war that is being fought today is planting the seeds for the war that will be fought 20 years from now. I recently watched the documentary Hamas: Behind the Mask on the Discovery Times Channel. The leader of Hamas was 11-years-old in 1967, and his family lived in Gaza, which Israel occupied after the Six Day War. He said that the experience left a permanent mark on his psyche.

Last night on Larry King Live Queen Noor of Jordan noted that 70% of the population of the region is under the age of 30 and 60% is under the age of 20. Children in Lebanon are living through this (and dying in this). What marks are the Israelis leaving on them today that will last into the coming decades?

In an op-ed in yesterday's WaPo, President Carter said
It is inarguable that Israel has a right to defend itself against attacks on its citizens, but it is inhumane and counterproductive to punish civilian populations in the illogical hope that somehow they will blame Hamas and Hezbollah for provoking the devastating response.

At this point, this sounds like an anti-Israel rant. Well, frankly, I feel the Palestinians are an oppressed people. Unfortunately, Palestinian, Hamas, and Hezbollah leadership isn't wise enough to recognize that a) they cannot go toe-to-toe with Israel and b) bombing pizzerias and malls in Tel Aviv wins you few friends. Where would the Palestinians be if they didn't carry out these foolish missions? Where would they be if they chose the route of non-violent resistance to Israeli oppression?

Politicians are rarely visionaries, and it shows in the current climate. Martin Luther King, Jr., said that we must live together as brothers or perish together as fools. Clearly, those in the Middle East and their enablers around the world have chosen the latter.