Sunday, September 11, 2016

 

In Honor of Patriot Day

In 2001, Congress designated September 11th as "Patriot Day". In honor of the day here are some thoughts from one American statesman on patriotism, war, and civil liberties:

The true patriot … rejects the notion that patriotism means obedience to the state. Unquestioned loyalty to the state is especially demanded in times of war. Lack of support for a war policy is said to be unpatriotic. … Yet, it is dissent from government policies that defines the true patriot and champion of liberty ... we must not forget that the true patriot is the one who protests in spite of the consequences …

We are continually being reminded that 9/11 has changed everything.

Unfortunately, the policy that needed most to be changed, that is, our policy of foreign interventionism, has only been expanded …

The record since September 11th is dismal. Respect for liberty has rapidly deteriorated. Many of the new laws passed after 9/11 had, in fact, been proposed long before that attack. The political atmosphere after that attack simply made it more possible to pass such legislation. The fear generated by 9/11 became an opportunity for those seeking to promote the power of the state domestically, just as it served to falsely justify the long-planned invasion of Iraq …

Though opposition to totally unnecessary war should be the only moral position, the rhetoric is twisted to claim that patriots who oppose the war are not supporting the troops. The cliché 'Support the Troops' is incessantly used as a substitute for the unacceptable notion of supporting the policy, no matter how flawed it may be.

Unsound policy can never help the troops. Keeping the troops out of harm's way and out of wars unrelated to our national security is the only real way of protecting the troops. With this understanding, just who can claim the title of 'patriot'?

Before the war in the Middle East spreads and becomes a world conflict for which we will be held responsible, or the liberties of all Americans become so suppressed we can no longer resist, much has to be done. Time is short, but our course of action should be clear. Resistance to illegal and unconstitutional usurpation of our rights is required. Each of us must choose which course of action we should take: education, conventional political action, or even peaceful civil disobedience to bring about necessary changes.

But let it not be said that we did nothing …

Source: US Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas). "Patriotism." Congressional Record 153:84 (May 22, 2007; 110th US Congress) pp. H5609-H5612.

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Monday, August 08, 2016

 

Video: Clinton vs. Comey



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Fethullah Gülen

US resident and Turkish expatriate Fethullah Gülen has been fingered as a coup plotter by the Turkish regime. It's hard to know exactly who was behind the events in Turkey earlier this month but Gülen certainly has an interesting background. In 2012, when Gülen was still reckoned as an ally of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, he was discussed at length in a New Yorker profile of Erdoğan. Citing the work of indicted Turkish journalist Ahmet Şık, author Dexter Filkins writes:
Gülen is considered one of Erdoğan’s most powerful allies but is reviled and feared by much of Turkey’s population. Born in either 1938 or 1941—publications distributed by his organization cite both dates—Gülen fled to the United States in 1999, as Turkish authorities were preparing to arrest him, for “trying to undermine the secular system.” He now lives in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, in the Poconos, and has emerged as the leader of one of the world’s most important Islamic orders, surpassed only by the Muslim Brotherhood in its reach and influence. His public message, in the books and glossy pamphlets his acolytes distribute, is almost entirely apolitical, but his critics suspect that his ambitions are deeply political.

Gülen’s followers operate a network of schools in a hundred and thirty countries. They also run a network of for-profit college-prep courses, which some Turks say earns tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue. (A prominent Gülenist in Turkey told me that the courses were not that profitable.) Turkish businessmen donate money to build Gülenist schools in countries whose markets they are trying to enter, and the schools serve as beachheads of good will. According to the movement’s followers, Turkish businessmen who are Gülenists often make deals with one another, sometimes in Turkey, sometimes in faraway lands that have nonexistent or weak governments. In person, Gülenists often come across as amalgams of Dale Carnegie and Christian missionaries: clean-cut, polite, and relentlessly cheerful.

In Turkey, Gülen’s followers own the newspaper Zaman and the TV channel Samanyolu, which editorialize on behalf of the A.K. Party and the Ergenekon prosecutions. (While Erdoğan himself is not believed to be a Gülenist, President Gül is said to be one, as are several other senior members of the government.) Gülen is thought to have between two and three million followers in Turkey, including as many as sixty members of parliament—about ten per cent of the total.

The Gülenists insist that the organization is too diffuse to function as a political movement. But many Turks say that the Gülenists have ambitions and that these may or may not include Erdoğan. A former member of parliament who was once a confidant of Erdoğan’s told me that, in 1999, he met Gülen in Pennsylvania. Gülen, he said, told him that he had a twenty-five-year plan to take control of the Turkish state, and that this would be accomplished by a group of followers he referred to as “the Golden Generation.” “There isn’t any question that Gülen wants political power,” the former legislator told me. (A spokesman for Gülen denied that he had ever advocated “regime change.”)

The most widely held perception in Turkey is that the Gülenists have taken control of the Turkish National Police—and that they are behind the arrests in the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases. James Jeffrey, a former Ambassador to Turkey, wrote in a cable to Washington, revealed by WikiLeaks, that at least part of that proposition appeared to be true: “The assertion that the T.N.P. is controlled by the Gülenists is impossible to confirm, but we have found no one who disputes it.”

Gülen has cultivated some powerful friends in the United States. When U.S. officials were trying to expel him to face criminal charges in Turkey, he was able to call on Graham Fuller, a former senior official in the C.I.A., to help him remain. When he applied for permanent residency, Morton Abramowitz, another former Ambassador to Turkey, wrote a letter on his behalf. Fuller’s relationship with Gülen, in particular, has prompted conspiracy theories in Turkey about the C.I.A.’s involvement in Gülen’s rise.
(Abramowitz also teamed up with neo-con Eric S. Edelman, another Jewish former US ambassador to Turkey, to rise to Gülen's defense in 2014 in a Washington Post op-ed). In 2013, The Economist also took note of a possible Israeli dimension in the Gülen-Erdoğan split: "A source of enduring speculation is why Mr Erdogan has chosen this moment to go after the Gulenists. The most likely answer is that Mr Erdogan wanted them to show their hand well before the presidential elections. An increasingly paranoid prime minister is said to believe that a 'Gulen-Israel axis' is bent on unseating him. His suspicions were fuelled by Mr Gulen’s very public criticism of Turkey’s rupture with Israel in 2010."

Earlier this month, just days after the attempted coup, Raphael Ahren wrote a piece in the Times of Israel mentioning Gülen at length. He writes:
[Efrat] Aviv, who teaches at Bar-Ilan’s Middle Eastern studies department and is a fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, has done extensive research into the moderate Islamic Gülen movement and its connection to Israel and the global Jewish community.

In an article she published in Turkish Policy Quarterly six years ago, she researched Fethullah Gülen’s interfaith outreach, which included meetings with several Jewish groups both in Turkey and the US.

“Gülen sees great importance in disseminating tolerance because of the fact that the world is a global village, and it is imperative to lay the foundation for communication without making distinctions between Christians, Jews, Atheists or Buddhists,” she wrote.

“Because of this approach, of perceiving dialogue as both a religious and a moral-national-social obligation, Gülen met with countless leaders and key people from the three religions during the 1990s. He met with Jewish leaders, both secular and religious, inside and outside of Turkey, in order to promote dialogue between Judaism and Islam.”

In the late 1990s, the reclusive imam met at least twice with senior delegations from the Anti-Defamation League, which at the time was headed by Abraham Foxman, according to Aviv.

“Gülen talked about his moderation regarding Islam, the Jews, Israel, and expressed reasonable and non-extremist views,” Kenneth Jacobson, who currently serves as the ADL’s deputy national director, recalled in 2005 about his first personal encounter with Gülen in New Jersey. “It was a very good meeting, very friendly.”

Jacobson’s second meeting with Gülen took place in 1998 at Gülen’s initiative — and at his Istanbul residence — and was also attended by then-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Leon Levy, Aviv writes.

“We met, and it was another pleasant encounter. We were given gifts,” Jacobson recalled, adding that Gülen reiterated his message of moderation. “He presented himself as someone that cares about moderation in Turkey and cares about a moderate Islam and as someone interested in good relations with Israel and the Jews.”
In 1998, Gülen met with Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi Doron in Istanbul, a televised visit that came about at the initiative of the cultural attaché in the Israeli consulate. “This was the first time that a chief rabbi came on an official visit from Israel to Turkey, and the second visit of a chief rabbi in a Muslim country,” according to Aviv.

Israel’s consul-general to Istanbul at the time, Eli Shaked, participated in the meeting.

“The Israeli Foreign Ministry thought that a meeting with Gülen could help quell the hatred and resistance to Israel and/or Jews, and therefore they authorized it,” Aviv wrote.
More recently, Alon Goshen-Gottstein, also writing in the Times of Israel, says:
Israelis consider the Mavi Marmara a watershed point in Israeli-Turkish relations, despite gradual difficulties that had set in the relationship up to that point. Israel has recently patched things up with Turkey, more or less. But one relationship was permanently damaged and the Mavi Marmara played a major part in its unraveling. This is the relationship of Prime Minister, now President, Erdogan and Gulen. The two had been close in terms of political collaboration, even though Gulen was all the while in the United States and even though he does not represent a political party but a broad social and educational movement. When asked by a journalist about the Mavi Marmara and the Gaza flotilla, Gulen condemned the initiative, arguing for Israel’s sovereignty and urging that support for Gaza ought to be channeled through the state authority ...

He also recognizes Israel, enough to have distanced himself from Erdogan’s position on Gaza and the flotilla ... I believe Israel owes a debt of gratitude to a principled Muslim voice that recognized its sovereignty, at severe cost.
Given Fethullah Gülen's pro-Israel bona fides is it any wonder that his star seems to be rising in the West and the New York Times has given him a platform for him to profess his innocence and to critique Erdoğan as "an autocrat who is turning a failed putsch into a slow-motion coup of his own against constitutional government"? You can read Gülen's 2010 remarks on the Mavi Marmara massacre in the Wall Street Journal.

P.S. Gülen also likes Hillary Clinton.

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Bernie Sanders: Retrograde on Palestine

Bernie Sanders is no longer running for president but he still continues to inspire false hope in some folks on the matter of Palestine-Israel. Sanders' retrograde positions on Palestine-Israel should not be surprising. He is, after all, an old kibbutznik. Like Noam Chomsky, Sanders was involved with the Stalinist Hashomer Hatzair.

The Hashomer Hatzair was also "active in the Haganah, the underground army of the Jewish community in Palestine. Together with the other kibbutz federations, its members formed the nucleus of the Palmach, which served as the shock troops in the war for Israel's independence."

Sanders and his wife worked at the Jews-only Kibbutz Sha'ar Ha'amakim near Haifa. Kibbutz Sha'ar Ha'amakim was built on land inhabited by Palestinians for generations but Zionist Jews made a deal with the infamous Sursuk family, absentee landlords in Beirut, to sell the land out from under the fellaheen.

Sanders has also aligned himself with a rabid religious Zionist, the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, and his Chabad movement. According to Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, Baruch Goldstein, perpetrator of the 1994 Hebron massacre was also affiliated with Chabad (see page 61 and chap. 6 in Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel (2004)).

Chabad is also known for erecting giant menorahs on public property during Hanukkah and Sanders helped out with that, too. In County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union , the case Sanders helped advance, the US Supreme Court decided that a nativity scene had to go but a menorah was okay.

The foundations of Sanders' socialism (and Jewish identity) are troubling to say the least. If Sanders had publicly and fully repudiated his ties to Stalinism, the violent, Jewish supremacist Hashomer Hatzair/kibbutz movement, and Schneerson and Chabad or at least denounced their most problematic aspects then that would one thing. As far as I know Sanders has done nothing of the sort.

See also:

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

 

When Britons Wanted Guns


The above advertisement was published in the American Rifleman in November 1940.

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The Folly of Gun Control

Some acts, most people would agree, are intrinsically wrong and evil. Murder is one such case. Therefore, it makes a certain amount of sense for the government to have laws against murder. It makes sense not because anyone thinks making murder a crime will stop all murders but because it probably has some ex ante preventive effect and, more importantly, a law expedites punishment and that usually has an, albeit limited, ex post preventive effect.

Fewer people would agree that gun ownership is intrinsically wrong and evil and I am not one of them. In fact, I am hard-pressed to think of any gun law that makes much sense. The folly of gun control was highlighted once again in Munich, Germany where Ali Sonboly killed nine people with a gun recently. Although as the Telegraph (UK) notes, "Germany has relatively tough gun laws and there is no way the teen could legally have obtained the gun in his own country" the government there is calling for "EU-wide gun controls".

Here's the real kicker from the Telegraph:
A 2014 police inquiry found there are 5.6 [million] legally owned weapons in Germany — including shotguns and hunting rifles — but estimated there are four times as many illegal weapons in the country. Just five per cent of guns recovered from crime scenes were legally held with a license.
In other words, 95% of guns used by criminals in Germany were illegal. So, just who are the German authorities most likely to disarm? Hint: It's not the criminals. Sure, some criminals might be momentarily inconvenienced but at what expense to otherwise law-abiding Germans? You can be sure, too, the black market will expand to fill any void created by the new gun laws.

Perhaps, the German government should just make the country a gun-free zone. Have a look at the photo below to see how well that worked out last year in Chattanooga, TN.


See also: "Will Obama call for truck control after Nice attack"

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

 

One Woman's Experience of "Male Privilege"




The video above is from a 2006 ABC News 20/20 segment entitled "A Self-Made Man". Norah Vincent's experiences as "Ned" were the basis of her book Self-Made Man: My Year Disguised as a Man (Viking, 2006).

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

 

Quotable: One Book

... anyone who thinks one book has all the answers hasn't read enough books.

Source: Character of Noreen in Saga (Image Comics, 2016) vol. 6, chap. 34 by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughn.

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

 

Quotable: A Pitfall of Centralization

Where there is greatness, great government or power ... error is also great.

Source: Character of Pontius Pilate in William Wyler's film Ben-Hur (1959).

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Thursday, July 07, 2016

 

Creative Maladjustment Week

Creative Maladjustment Week is July 7 - July 14. Here is a bit about the event from cmweek.org:

Philosophy and Principles

"There are some things in our world to which I'm proud to be maladjusted." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Who are the Creatively Maladjusted?
Creative maladjustment is a natural human response to oppression, an organic and highly adaptable way to oppose injustice.

What are they creatively maladjusted to?

The Creatively Maladjusted are active on a variety of important societal issues, including:

 • Racial equality • Religious tolerance • Economic fairness • Peace • Ecological sustainability and energy security • Individual liberty • Fighting psychiatric profiling and human rights abuses in the mental health system • Transparent and corruption-free government • Community and family values

The creatively maladjusted are incredibly diverse in the societal problems they aim to solve, but they are united in their opposition to the basis of all oppression: "man's inhumanity to man."

See also:

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

 

Quotable: Wars on this, wars on that


Police officer: "Hey Major. How is the war on terror going?"

Major Thomas Egan, USAF: "Kind of like your war on drugs."

Source: Good Kill (2015) by Andrew Niccol.



See also: " 'Good Kill' Asks, 'Why Do We Wear Our Flight Suits, Sir?' "

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U. S. Grant on "Moral Courage"


The post below is by Artesian Royalty and is reposted from Daily Kos.

In conversations about US wars I often encounter puzzlement when raising the issue of the widespread lack of moral courage among US troops and their officers in failing to refuse to carry out, prevent, or punish some unethical action or failing to refuse, for example, to participate in an unjust, undeclared war initiated on false pretenses.

People seem to tend to equate courage in a military context with physical courage—the willingness to hazard life and limb in battle or some other dangerous situation. I've encountered this reaction among life-long civilians and veterans. When I was on active duty, I found it among other military personnel who seemed to think that contractual obligation, obedience, or—to put it generously—duty trumped the requirements of moral consideration.

I recently read something by Ulysses S. Grant invoking the concept. Grant is speaking, circa 1879, about "moral courage" in a military context decades before the formulation of, for example, the Nüremberg principles. Here is what he said:
I know the struggle with my conscience during the Mexican War. I have never altogether forgiven myself for going into that. I had very strong opinions on the subject. I do not think there was ever a more wicked war than that waged by the United States on Mexico. I thought so at the time, when I was a youngster, only I had not moral courage enough to resign. I had taken an oath to serve eight years, unless sooner discharged, and I considered my supreme duty was to my flag. I had a horror of the Mexican War, and I have always believed that it was on our part most unjust. The wickedness was ... in the conduct of our government in declaring war. ... We had no claim on Mexico. Texas had no claim beyond the Nueces River, and yet we pushed on to the Rio Grande and crossed it. I am always ashamed of my country when I think of that invasion.*
Grant served as a junior officer in the war and was twice promoted in recognition of his bravery in battle. He cites his oath of service and devotion to "duty" in explanation of his failure to resign rather than help wage an unjust war. Despite this, Grant clearly laments and faults himself for having insufficient "moral courage".

The Mexican American War, along with his opposition to slavery, inspired Henry David Thoreau to pen his famous essay  "Civil Disobedience". Grant and Thoreau both remind us that civil obedience is, perhaps, a greater threat to life and liberty than civil disobedience.

*Quoted in John Russell Young. Around the World with General Grant. Vol. II. (New York: American News Co., 1879) pp. 447-448.

See also: "Green Berets: Who's the Coward?"

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

 

Quotable: Religious but not Spiritual


We have to hear again and again who God is for us and what God has done on our behalf. We must free each other from bondage through our confession and forgiveness.

I think this is why we at House for All Sinners and Saints sometimes say that we are religious but not spiritual. Spiritual feels individual and escapist. But to be religious (despite all the negative associations with that word) is to be human in the midst of other humans who are as equally messed up and obnoxious and foreign as ourselves.

Source: Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People (Convergent Books, 2015) p. 170 (emphasis in original).

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Monday, June 13, 2016

 

Gays & Guns


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Quotable: Violence, American Muslims, & Guns


I wish people would promote policies that truly address the real threat we face, instead of ones that promote bigotry and prejudice. It's extremely disturbing to see people take advantage of a national tragedy to score political points or to make a profit at the expense of dividing our nation. I do believe that gun ownership is seen as a central part of American identity for a large group of people, and so by excluding Muslims from that, it reinforces the idea of Muslims as the "other." And that's a big problem. Owning guns is a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution. The Constitution either protects all of us or none of us. Our position is that you can't let our enemies win by allowing us to divide ourselves as Americans.

Source: Hassan Shibly as quoted in "This Is What It's Like to Be a Muslim-American Gun Owner" on The Trace, July 29, 2015.

See also:  "Blood, faith unite Muslims, LGBT and others after rampage" by Bethany Rodgers in the Orlando Sentinel, June 12, 2016.

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Pink Pistols Statement on the Orlando Shootings

Pink Pistols Saddened by Attack on Orlando Club

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (Philadelphia, PA) June 12, 2016: Early Sunday, around 2AM Eastern Time, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was attacked by an armed individual. Approximately 20 persons were killed and over double that wounded when the attacker, whom police have identified as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old from Fort Pierce, FL, pushed his way into the club and opened fire on patrons. Weapons carried by Mateen are reported as an "assault-type" rifle, a handgun, and a suspected explosive device. UPDATE: Reports are that the death toll is around 50, with over 50 more wounded.

"It appears he was organized and well-prepared," said Orlando Police Chief John Mina at a news conference on Sunday. Additionally, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said "This is an incident … that we certainly classify as a domestic terror incident." Authorities say the FBI is involved. Preliminary information reveals that Omar Mateen's family is from Afghanistan, though Omar may have been born in the United States. His family is reported to be distraught at the actions and loss of their son.

Gwendolyn Patton, First Speaker of the Pink Pistols, an international GLBT self-defense organization, warns people not to jump immediately to the assailant’s guns as the object of blame, but to concentrate instead on Mateen's violent acts. "The Pink Pistols gives condolences to all family and friends of those killed and injured at Pulse," began Patton. "This is exactly the kind of heinous act that justifies our existence. At such a time of tragedy, let us not reach for the low-hanging fruit of blaming the killer's guns. Let us stay focused on the fact that someone hated gay people so much they were ready to kill or injure so many. A human being did this. The human being's tools are unimportant when compared to the bleakness of that person's soul. I say again, GUNS did not do this. A human being did this, a dead human being. Our job now is not to demonize the man's tools, but to condemn his acts and work to prevent such acts in the future."

Patton's concerns are that knee-jerk gun-control efforts may make preventing future events harder rather than easier, as only the law-abiding potential victims will be affected by such laws. “It is difficult, if not impossible, to foresee such an event,” continues Patton, "But if they cannot be prevented, then they must be stopped as fast as someone tries to start them."

Some bars and other establishments that serve alcohol are difficult to protect because many states forbid the carrying of weapons where alcohol is served, but that just as one might have a designated driver who stays sober, one might have a designated carrier with a concealed-carry permit who goes armed and does not drink. "It's sad that we must consider such things, but when there are persons out there who mean us harm, we must find ways to protect ourselves within the law." Patton concludes.

The Pink Pistols is an international organization dedicated to the legal, safe, and responsible use of firearms for self-defense of the sexual-minority community. Chapters may be found across the United States and Canada. Though the Pink Pistols is for the GLBTQ community, it is not solely composed of the GLBTQ community, and all are welcome to join.

Contact:
Gwendolyn S. Patton
First Speaker, Pink Pistols International
firstspeaker@pinkpistols.org
http://www.pinkpistols.org
Ph: (610) 879-2364

See also:

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

 

The Apple Cult

About 25 years ago I was a computer technical assistant at a large public university. I remember then being struck and puzzled by the cult-like loyalty of my boss and two of my co-workers to Apple and its products. The Macintosh GUI was superior to what Microsoft had on offer at the time but the devotion to Apple exceeded what such a difference could rationally command.

Having recently watched Alex Gibney's excellent documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine I now have much greater insight as to why so many Apple consumers have invested themselves into the products of a huge multinational profit-making entity. Steve Jobs and his PR team deliberately and deftly branded Apple as a countercultural corporation (an oxymoron, to be sure) and the siren call of this manipulative marketing (a redundacy, to be sure) seduced tens of millions and helped changed society for the worse.





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The only father who came looking ...

There are some real flaws in this film but it's still well worth watching.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

 

Happy Malcolm X Day

Malcolm Little, better known as Malcolm X, was born on this date in 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska.
I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I'm a human being first and foremost, and as such I'm for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.
Source: Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz a.k.a. Malcolm X as quoted in The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Grove Press, 1965) p. 366.

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Sunday, May 15, 2016

 

Grazing in the Grass

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

 

Quotable: On Presidential Candidates

By the time a man [sic] gets to be presidential material he's been bought ten times over.

Source: Gore Vidal, Newsweek, Nov. 18, 1974, as quoted in America in Quotations (McFarland, 2003) by Bahman Dehgan, ed., p. 177, entry 3138.

See also: Ambrose Bierce's definitions of "politics" and "vote".

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Quotable: Questions & Answers

If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers.

Source: Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (Penguin, 2000) p. 255.

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Sunday, May 01, 2016

 

Quotable: The Military Threat to Liberty

A standing Army, however necessary it may be at some times, is always dangerous to the Liberties of the People. Soldiers are apt to consider themselves as a Body distinct from the rest of the Citizens. They have their Arms always in their hands. Their Rules and their Discipline is severe. They soon become attachd to their officers and disposd to yield implicit Obedience to their Commands. Such a Power should be watchd with a jealous Eye ... Men who have been long subject to military Laws and inured to military Customs and Habits, may lose the Spirit and Feeling of Citizens. And even Citizens, having been used to admire the Heroism which the Commanders of their own Army have displayd, and to look up to them as their Saviors may be prevaild upon to surrender to them those Rights for the protection of which against Invaders they had employd and paid them. We have seen too much of this Disposition among some of our Countrymen.

Source: Samuel Adams, "Founding Father" and American revolutionary, in his letter to James Warren (January 7, 1776) in the Warren-Adams Letters: Being Chiefly a Correspondence Among John Adams, Samuel Adams, and James Warren, Vol. 1, 1743-1777, (Massachusetts Historical Society, 1917) pp. 197-198.

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded ... War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. ... No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

Source: James Madison, "Father of the US Constitution" and 4th US President, from his pamphlet entitled Political Observations (April 20, 1795) in the Selected Writings of James Madison (Hackett, 2006) p. 236.

See also:  "John Adams on the Military Threat"

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

 

When you love the truth ...

And I know that it's dangerous to judge
But man you've gotta find the truth
And when you find that truth don't budge
Until the truth you found begins to change

And it does I know, I know
When you love the truth enough
You start to tell it all the time
When it gets you into trouble
You discover you don't mind

'Cause if good is finally gonna trump
Then man you've gotta take stock
And you've gotta take your lumps
Or else they trickle down
Into someone else's cup below

Source: "People" by David Bazan on the Strange Negotiations album.

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

 

On Valentine's Day

Happy Misappropriation of a Christian Martyr's Death for the Crass Commercial Exploitation of a Basic Human Need Day!

http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2012/02/saint-of-romance.html


See also:

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

 

Anniversary of the Death of Tom Hurndall

Tom Hurndall died on this date in 2004, nine months after being shot in the head by an Israeli sniper. As If Americans Knew notes:

Tom was a student and photographer who traveled to Gaza in 2003. On April 11, he watched as children playing nearby suddenly came under Israeli rifle fire. Most of the children fled, but three of them, aged four to seven, froze with fear. Tom rushed one to safety. When he returned for two little girls, an Israeli sniper shot him in the head. Despite the urgency, Israeli officials delayed his transport to specialized medical care for over two and a half hours. Tom remained in a vegetative state until his death 9 months later.

Since Hurndall's killer, Taysir Hayb, was not a Jew but an Israeli Bedouin he was actually held accountable for the killing—sort of. Hayb was released from prison after serving just five years.

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Friday, January 08, 2016

 

Rewards for the Shahid/Martyr

There are many ways to deceive—one is the lie by omission. Critics of Islamic militants often use this tactic. One common example is to highlight suicide attacks and then to strip the acts of their larger context and ascribe purely or mostly carnal motives to the attackers.

One prime example of this is the "Martyrs rewarded with 72 Virgins" trope. The most effective lies often have a kernel of truth and that is the case here but the hadith at issue says rather more:
That the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: "There are six things with Allah for the martyr. He is forgiven with the first flow of blood (he suffers), he is shown his place in Paradise, he is protected from punishment in the grave, secured from the greatest terror, the crown of dignity is placed upon his head - and its gems are better than the world and what is in it - he is married to seventy two wives along Al-Huril-'Ayn of Paradise, and he may intercede for seventy of his close relatives."
Here's a different translation of that passage:
It was reported in the hadeeth of al-Miqdaam ibn Ma'di Karb that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
"The martyr (shaheed) has seven blessings from Allaah: he is forgiven from the moment his blood is first shed; he will be shown his place in Paradise; he will be spared the trial of the grave; and he will be secure on the Day of the Greatest Terror (the Day of Judgement); there will be placed on his head a crown of dignity, one ruby of which is better than this world and all that is in it; he will be married to seventy-two of al-hoor al-'iyn; and he will be permitted to intercede for seventy of his relatives."
In English, Al-Huril-'Ayn/al-hoor al-'iyn is the term usually transliterated as "houris" and translated as "virgins". At least two more things are worth pointing out: First, it's not transparently evident that the marriage depicted in Paradise is a physical one consummated sexually. By analogy, the New Testament describes the Church—the collective body of believers—as the virginal Bride of Christ (see e.g. 2 Corinthians 11:2 and Ephesians 5:22-32). Second, there is reason to believe that this alleged motivation is exaggerated or even fabricated.

To be clear, it may very well be that the 72 houris are widely understood by Muslims as a carnal reward for the shahid in Paradise. Muslims are no less capable than Jews or Christians of ignorance or dissimulation in defense of their faith. In any case, the Western media have generally chosen to decontextualize the (rather infrequent) act of the Muslim suicide bomber and to emphasize a salacious explanation to the detriment, in my opinion, of all except those want to add fuel to the fires of conflict. For a discussion of the larger context of suicide attacks I recommend Jacqueline Rose's "Deadly Embrace" in the London Review of Books.

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Quotable: Khomeini on Islam

Islam, he [Khomeini] would always claim, was "the religion of militant individuals who are committed to faith and justice. It is the religion of those who desire freedom and independence. It is the school of those who struggle against imperialism."

Source: Ayatollah Ruhollah Mūsavi Khomeini (from Islamic Government: Governance of the Jurist) as quoted in Fields of Blood by Karen Armstrong (New York: Knopf, 2014) p. 332.

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

 

Thinking About Left-Right Convergence

I first joined Veterans For Peace well over a decade ago. As I explained earlier, one of the main reasons I recently gave up on VFP was because it finally became clear that the VFP national leadership was dead set against involving the group in the kind of broad-based effort that will be required for an effective peace movement in the US. On the contrary, their misguided idea of "broad-based" is to work with Lefties of all types and virtually no one else in pursuit of a statist, Left-Liberal agenda along with all the violence inherent in that. I cannot say that the tiny VFP rank-and-file affirmatively endorses this program as much as they acquiesce in it.

Fortunately, not everyone on the Left is as short-sighted as the leaders of VFP. Last spring Yes! magazine ran an interesting article entitled "Can the Left and Right Unite to End Corporate Rule? An Interview with Ralph Nader and Daniel McCarthy". It may be too little, too late but it is a hopeful sign nevertheless. Below are a two excerpts from the interview.

Ralph Nader: Well, liberalism and conservatism, in various ways, have been hijacked by corporatism.

Liberalism in the 18th and 19th centuries was the classic philosophy aimed at restraining arbitrary government power—then often exercised by kings and emperors. Civil liberties were the foundation of freedom of speech and due process of law, which became part of our Constitution.

Fast forward, you now have corporate liberals— like the Clintons—and you have the corporatists who call themselves conservatives throughout Congress. They're all pushing corporate welfare and bailouts for banks.

What we're trying to do here is go back to fundamental principles and un-hijack conservatism and liberalism. When we do that, we see that there's a convergence of support on a lot of major issues.

***

McCarthy: Yeah, the two parties and the bipartisan elite have had their own kind of convergence on a strategy for dominating the country, both in government and in big business.

Americans of all ideological stripes have been feeling a great deal of alienation, resentment, and anger. But it's very difficult to talk about the actual structure of government and of the economy and to explain how it is that people have been effectively disenfranchised and manipulated. It’s much easier on both the left and the right to focus on cultural issues, where you can have scapegoats and think that those are the central issues, and to ignore these more structural problems.

I think the left's embrace of identity politics in the 1960s and '70s was disastrous for the working class. It was very bad for the labor union movement, it was very bad for any number of economic issues. Which is not to say that there wasn’t a place for the civil rights movement. Of course there was. But identity-based politics went from being a necessary thing to being something that started to preclude some of the economic and other policy efforts that needed to be undertaken.

And similarly on the right. It's not just a matter of a cynical manipulation of the public by going for hot-button issues. There really was a sense among many ordinary people in the 1960s that something had gone culturally wrong in the country. Crime rates were going up, promiscuity was going up. There were changes that people found weird or disorienting. Whether or not they were right or wrong, they were unfamiliar and new, and therefore alarming.

This set of emotional complexes was turned into the so-called culture war, to the detriment of anything that would reform our economy, our self-government, or our foreign policy. Those sort of complex issues have been thrown by the wayside in favor of identity politics.

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

 

Quotable: To Defend the Empire & American Supremacy

'We're trying to defend the empire with a force about the size of the New York City police department,' said retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales Jr., former commandant of the U.S. Army War College.

***

As Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Carter, said this week, "For several decades to come there is no meaningful alternative to American supremacy, as a practical matter."

Source: "Cracks in America's Armor, or America's Will?" by David Wood, March 11, 2004. Newhouse News Service.

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Quotable: The First Story

Most people, in fact, will not take the trouble in finding out the truth, but are much more inclined to accept the first story they hear.

Source: Thucydides, Greek historian (c. 460 BC – c. 395 BC) in his History of the Peloponnesian War, Rex Warner, trans., (Penguin Classics, 1972), book 1, chapter 1.

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Sunday, November 08, 2015

 

Quotable: The Souls which would Perish

"... nothing is the way I thought it was. I went to war thinking of myself as Galahad, out to free fellow human beings from the intolerable bondage of slavery. But it wasn't as simple as that. There were other, less pure issues being fought over, with little concern for the souls which would perish for nothing more grand than political greed, corruption, and conniving for power ... I saw a man with his face blown off and no mouth to scream with, and yet he screamed and could not die. I saw two brothers, and one was in blue and one was in grey, and I will not tell you which one took his saber and ran it through the other. Oh God, it was brother against brother, Cain and Abel all over again. And I was turned into Cain. What would God have to do with a nation where brothers can turn against each other with such brutality?"

-Character of Bran Maddox in A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Crosswicks, 1978) by Madeleine L'Engle, p. 243.

"... there were many nights during the war when God withdrew from our battlefields. When the sons of men fight against each other in hardness of heart, why should God not withdraw? Slavery is evil, God knows, but war is evil, too, evil, evil."

-Character of Bran Maddox, p. 247.

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Keystone XL Update

Four years ago I wrote a post questioning the framing by environmentalists of the struggle over the Keystone XL pipeline project. Last week, the Obama administration announced it would not be approving the construction of the pipeline across the border from Canada. I would say that the major factor in the decision was the steep drop in oil prices since 2011. That, more than anything, has paved the way to block a pipeline which, for the time being, has lost much of its financial viability.

I also mostly agree with Bruce Huber's assessment of the decision. Huber is a professor of energy law at the University of Notre Dame and yesterday he told NPR:
Well, in my view, it's not really a very big decision at all. I don't think it would even make my top 10 list of the most significant events for the environment. It's not a decision that has much of an impact on our domestic energy infrastructure. And it's, frankly, not a decision that is going to have that much of an impact on the environment either ... it simply was one of a whole mass of pipeline projects that are out there that are either underway or in the inaugural stages. And furthermore, the construction of the pipeline itself was not a major determinant in whether this oil actually comes out of the ground in northern Alberta. If you didn't want to go the pipeline route, you could transport the oil by rail, as we've been doing in great quantities out of North Dakota in recent years.
Huber goes on to comment on Bill McKibben's response to the decision claiming: "it's clear that what he's [McKibben] referring to is the fact that this particular decision had assumed this larger symbolic importance." I don't know if McKibben would agree but I think it's true that the decision is "largely symbolic". Now don't get me wrong, symbolism is very important but only time will tell if the Keystone XL decision marks a key turning point in the campaign to significantly reduce the use of fossil fuels.

See also: Keystone XL: A Horse Already Out of the Barn?

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Quotable: Nasty and Brutish

War is nasty and brutish. War is no good for anyone ... but at least it's fucking real.

Source: "Brothers in Civilianland" by Max Black on Takimag.com

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Sunday, November 01, 2015

 

Quotable: Separation of Church and State in Ancient China

[The] Qin [dynasty] had arguably developed the first secular state ideology but Shang [Yang] separated religion from politics, not because of its inherent violence but because religion was implacably humane. Religious sentiment would make a ruler too benign, which ran counter to the state's best interests. "A State that uses good people to govern the wicked will be plagued by disorder and be destroyed," Shang insisted.

Source: Karen Armstrong, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence (New York: Knopf, 2014) pp. 96-97.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

 

Quotable: On Fundamentalism

Fundamentalism ... differs from traditionalism or orthodoxy or even a mere revivalist movement. It differs in that it is a movement in conscious, organized opposition to the disruption of those traditions and orthodoxies.

Tradition, orthodoxy, and revival exist within an ongoing, stable system. Fundamentalism exists in the midst of change. Clifford Geertz describes this difference in Islamic societies he has studied as the difference between "being held by" one's beliefs and "holding" those beliefs, between having faith and having reasons.In a culture in which there is a great deal of stability and agreement on the way life should proceed, beliefs are part of the fabric of life. To be part of one's culture and to affirm those beliefs are inseparable. In such situations, one is held by beliefs about ultimate reality. But once that culture is disturbed by change or outside intrusion or mobility, beliefs lose their taken-for-granted character. They must be consciously held.

Source: Nancy T. Ammerman, "North American Protestant Fundamentalism" in Fundamentalisms Observed (Univ. of Chicago Pr., 1991) by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, eds., pp. 14-15.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

 

Two Takes on Modeling




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The Children Come First


The ABC News video below tells the story of Bianca and Nick, the transgender parents of two young children. As an article in the Mirror Online explains: " 'We have the parts so we will use them,' she says. 'If we could change them we would, and they would be the other way around – but we cannot afford it and the children come first.' "

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

 

The Third Intifada?


The video below is from the Guardian (UK) and features Palestinian perspectives that are sorely missing from most Western mainstream coverage of recent violent clashes in Palestine-Israel.

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

 

Nothing But The Truth




This film is inspired by the Valerie Plame affair but it's not a retelling of that story. It is a sophisticated cinematic exploration of the clash between the imperatives of government and a free society.

See also: "L'affaire Plame" by Justin Raimondo on Antiwar.com.

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Reality, Temptation, & Nothing

Not everybody is able to see me ... I'm real and most earthlings can bear very little reality.

-Character of Proginoskes in A Wind in the Door (Crosswicks, 1973) by Madeleine L'Engle, p. 81.

The temptation ... is to stay an immature pleasure-seeker. When we seek our own pleasure as the ultimate good we place ourselves as the center of the universe ... nothing created is the center.

-Character of Proginoskes, p. 178.

When everything is nothing there will be no more war, no illness, no death. There will be no more poverty, no more pain, no more slums, no more starvation ...

-Character of Echthros-Mr. Jenkins in A Wind in the Door, p. 187.

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Agora



Although the film makers have taken some historical liberties, seemingly to paint a more negative portrait of early Christianity, this is still a film very much worth seeing and not all that far from the mark.

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Cristiada (For Greater Glory)



In the 1920s, the Cristero War took the lives of an estimated 250,000 Mexicans. When I learned this I was shocked that I had never heard of the war until I watched this remarkable film.

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

 

Founder Quits VFP

The statement below is reposted from the chemtrailsplanet.net website. Although I am not familiar with the site and I don't buy the idea that contrails are actually chemtrails I am reposting the statement because it rings true to my own VFP experience, its authenticity has been confirmed by Gerry Genesio, and because I can't find it anywhere else.

While the concerns and positions reflected in the statement below differ somewhat from my own, there is actually a considerable overlap. Although I am not a statist, I am a person of the Left broadly who sees VFP's utter failure to reach out to anti-war moderates and conservatives as an indication that its leaders and members are not serious about non-violence or working to end war. They seem very serious about pursuing a broader statist, Leftist social agenda that, at best, is questionable on the merits but also sure to preserve VFP's continung marginality. It would be one thing if we had solved that whole US militarism problem but we have not.

I also echo Genesio's concerns about the lack of transparency and democracy in VFP and the recriminations awaiting anyone who runs afoul of leadership or dogma in VFP. In my experience they are well-founded.
Why I Am Withdrawing My Lifetime Membership From Veterans for Peace

By Jerry Genesio (Website)

Ever since the Peace At Home – Peace Abroad project was introduced to the VFP rank-and-file membership at the last annual convention as a fait accompli, I’ve been corresponding with members of VFP in an attempt to determine if anyone could explain why this mission-changing project was never drafted as a resolution and submitted to the entire membership for a vote. Much less important issues certainly were. To this day I have not received an explanation other than that the Board of Directors, in its infinite wisdom, deemed it to be so, and that’s just not good enough. I should add that Ken Dalton, then a member of the Board, opposed the PAH-PA concept. In response, he was called a f***ing idiot, a racist, and told he was not being a team player and had become “suspect”, and these comments came from fellow Board members, as hard as that might be to believe. In the face of such unforgiveable intolerance, Ken resigned, and I can’t say that I blame him.

For the past seven or eight months, since the 2014 convention, I’ve been paying close attention to the VFP website and the activities of VFP’s national leadership circle. I’ve complained about much that was missing from the website such as financial reports for the past couple of years, and Board minutes since October of last year. The financial reports finally materialized, and most of the missing minutes have only recently been posted, but the minutes for November and December of 2014 are still missing without explanation. Why?
I recently saw a national roster that indicated former national Board of Directors member Margaret Stevens’ military service had never been documented (a requirement for full membership) and that her dues had lapsed in June of 2014 (also a requirement for full membership), and yet she held a seat on VFP’s Board of Directors and was certainly one of the strongest advocates of the Peace At Home – Peace Abroad project. I was told only recently that Stevens’ military service has been documented, but I have no idea when that might have happened, if indeed it has. If the roster is correct, Ms. Stevens was never eligible to be nominated for a seat on the Board of Directors, nor was she eligible to be reimbursed for travel and accommodations associated with VFP conventions and Board meetings during her tenure. But I have been told her expenses were indeed covered by VFP.

Perhaps the February 2015 Board minutes weren’t posted previously because our national leaders did not wish to reveal how they addressed my concerns during that meeting. Every VFP member should read them. The discussion not only questions why the Board should feel obligated to share information with the membership, but it gave several members, especially Tarak Kauff and Michael McPhearson, an opportunity to express their opinions of me. Tarak said of me, “the guy is a racist”, and McPhearson advised the Board to “let him reveal his racism”. Simply because I dared to challenge the membership status of Margaret Stevens during her tenure as a National Board member. Such comments are ignorant at best, and because they have been published perhaps libelous as well as slanderous at worst. This is the very same syndrome that so often manifests when one criticizes Israel for any reason: dare to do so and you are anti-Semitic.

The same roster indicates Board member Michael Prysner’s dues lapsed on January 1, 2013. According to the By-laws, that means he was not a full member of VFP at least through mid-November of 2014 and therefore ineligible to serve on the Board. I for one would like to know if expenses Prysner incurred to attend VFP conventions and Board meetings were unlawfully reimbursed, while Lifetime and regular dues paying members were required to pay their own expenses. Further, I suspect that every motion he and/or Stevens’ voted on during that period arguably could be legally challenged. On February 10, 2015, well over six weeks ago, I submitted a formal request to VFP President Barry Ladendorf for an investigation into several of these allegations which I was aware of at that time, but I have not yet received a copy of any formal investigation or its conclusions. And based on an informal e-mail response I did receive, it appears that the entire matter might well be swept under the national office rug.

While some insist Peace At Home – Peace Abroad is naught but a “lens”, it has become a major national office focus without a vote of the membership. The phrase is ubiquitous within the VFP organization. It’s even prominently displayed on the banner carried by our national leaders at the recent Spring Rising in D.C. PAH-PA rose to the top of VFP’s agenda in Ferguson, MO, where VFP national leaders chose a side during the Michael Brown protests, which in and of itself was in conflict with the spirit and intent of the VFP Statement of Purpose. I was there when it was written and it was never intended to embrace domestic social justice issues. Those who would amend the statement to include domestic social justice issues should write a proposed amendment and submit it to the full membership for a vote. That’s what democratic principles require. And that is certainly what is required of every issue, resolution or amendment that is not supported by the Board.

When the VFP Statement of Purpose was created, it was considered very unique, perhaps because VFP has always been and until very recently still was very unique. There is not now nor has there ever been another military veterans’ organization exactly like it. Our focus has been unique. VFP members have been respected, if not for their opinions, for their service, and because we have limited our projects to activities and pursuits we know something about: the military and war. We are not nationally recognized as an authority on social justice issues, or the constitution, or law enforcement, or medical indications for marijuana, or criminal psychology. In other words, VFP cannot be all things to all people. If it continues trying to be, I firmly believe it will become ineffective, insubstantial and eventually irrelevant.

According to a report titled “Body Count: Casualty Figures After 10 Years of the ‘War on Terror'” produced as a collaborative effort between Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Global Survival and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the US invasion and occupation of Iraq has thus far been responsible for the deaths of approximately 1 million Iraqis, which is 5 percent of the total population of that country. The report also tallies hundreds of thousands of casualties in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The total number of lives lost in these three countries is at least 1.3 million since the onset of the wars that followed the terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001.

How can the Board possibly justify removing VFP from its formerly enviable and unique position in the U.S. peace movement presuming that a paradigm shift will allow it to compete and not be lost among the other 3,513 U.S. organizations that result when you search the GuideStar non-profit directory for “social justice” organizations in the U.S.? But when you search the same directory for “true costs of war”, only seven organizations result and two of them are VFP National and VFP Chapter 132. This is where all of VFP’s members, time and resources are desperately needed, and this applies in particular to VFP’s national leadership.

I’m also concerned about the fact that VFP’s Executive Director Michael McPhearson is co-chair of the Don’t Shoot Coalition which includes the New Black Panther Party. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the New Black Panther Party “a virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization whose leaders have encouraged violence against whites, Jews and law enforcement officers”. It is also very troubling to me that while VFP Board members have been standing with those protesting the killing of African-Americans by white police officers, they have not protested or issued a statement condemning the deliberate and related murders of two police officers in New York and another in Ferguson, Missouri. Former National Board member Ken Dalton asked the Board to issue such a statement following the New York incident, but there was no response of which I am aware. On March 12, 2015, when I asked VFP President Ladendorf for a VFP response to the Ferguson incident, he told me the Board should issue a statement condemning the murder. That was more than a month ago but to the best of my knowledge, no such statement has yet been made public, nor do I expect to see one.

One of VFP’s directors, Michael Prysner, is also a leader, perhaps even the founder, of an organization called March Forward! Their web site states that they and “Veterans for Peace . . . are actively building a multinational, multigenerational group of veterans and service members who will stand up and fight back against the injustice perpetrated by the Pentagon against our sisters and brothers throughout the developing world, against working and poor people in the United States, and against those still serving in the U.S. military.” What exactly does that mean? After reading March Forward!’s 10-Point Program, also on their web site http://www.marchforward.org/10_point_program , I am certain I don’t wish to be associated with them any more than I wish to be associated with the New Black Panther Party.

Another of VFP’s national directors, Kourtney Mitchell, is on the Steering Committee of an organization called Deep Green Resistance. As I read their website http://deepgreenresistance.org/en/ it appears that they advocate attacks on the infrastructure of civilization in the interest of destroying civilization as we know it today so we can begin again. I simply cannot bring VFP’s Statement of Purpose and DGR’s philosophy together without encountering more contradictions than anyone could possibly explain.

It has been reported in the minutes of VFP Board meetings or teleconferences that the national leadership has given IVAW as much as $60,000.00 in loans over the past couple of years. And I understand these were unsecured loans, which means the funds were knowingly placed at risk. I have a problem with VFP asking for funds to support VFP’s work and projects and then loaning $60,000.00 of those funds to another organization to benefit them and their work, and accepting the possibility that those funds could be lost. The VFP National Board of Directors is responsible for safeguarding the organization’s assets and vested interests. Have our national leaders become such hypocrites that they hold everyone accountable but themselves?

I have asked why VFP has seen such instability and rapid changes at the national office over the past few years. Several Executive Directors have come and gone without explanation. I was told the reasons were “confidential”, which left me wondering how VFP can celebrate people like Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, when it apparently has some dark secrets of its own. Perhaps the VFP national office, or at least the membership, could benefit from a few Wikileaks as well.

For the past few months, I have subscribed to the vfp-all Yahoo list serve and at times I really can’t quite believe what I’m reading, at least not in terms of how it relates to VFP. I’ve seen insulting, angry and intolerant exchanges. Some members claim the U.S. government is working with ISIS and the Mafia…..Really? Just exactly what kind of conspiracy theorists is VFP attracting these days…..how many…….and perhaps more importantly……WHY? There was a time when VFP attracted thinkers who considered their words carefully and never made accusations they couldn’t support with sources generally deemed reliable. They believed that “Black Lives Matter” because they believed “All Lives Matter” regardless of their color. They loved no country more than their own and wanted nothing more passionately than to correct their country’s mistakes. Unfortunately, far too many of them have already left VFP in disappointment and frustration. I did the same thing some time ago but recently returned hoping to find the wrinkles had been ironed out. Instead I find the wrinkles have become folds that are hiding new and even greater problems.

Today I watched a video of Ben Swanson’s interview of Gerry Condon concerning the Bowe Bergdahl controversy on RT-TV, which is the English language U.S. satellite of Russian Television. In it Condon was introduced as VFP’s president. He is not. Condon claimed to know why Bergdahl abandoned his post in Afghanistan. He does not. Condon claimed to know what motivated President Obama and the Pentagon to bring charges against Bergdahl. He does not. And I’m not at all sure President Obama has been involved in Bergdahl’s case in any way other than to approve the terms for securing his freedom from captivity by the Taliban.

Ben Swanson introduced Gerry Condon not only as the President of VFP, but also as a deserter from the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. The VFP Statement of Purpose is clear about our military service:
We, having dutifully served our nation, do hereby affirm our greater responsibility to serve the cause of world peace.”

But veterans who were deserters, draft dodgers, or were otherwise discharged under less than honorable conditions did not “dutifully” serve their nation in the spirit of that phrase as it was written. I make no personal judgments, but I do not believe veterans who served under less than honorable conditions should campaign or be nominated for national leadership positions in VFP, for whether right or wrong, their personal status will tarnish the organization’s credibility in the eyes of most Americans. I believe it’s also the reason why VFP’s recruiting efforts have not been very successful in attracting veterans of the Afghan and Iraq wars. For good or ill, VFP derives its credibility solely from the singular claim that its members have “dutifully served our nation”. Some, perhaps even many members, will say they could not care less what most Americans think. But their attitude will paralyze the progress of VFP toward achieving its stated goals for no politician will publicly stand with us, and without politicians standing with us in agreement, we will accomplish very little in terms of policy reform.

I sincerely hope others will pick up the gauntlet where I have dropped it; continuing to ask questions and demanding answers. But I am getting on in years, my health is not what it once was, and I don’t want to spend the years I have left swimming against the tide in the company of people who are so busy fighting among themselves and casting aspersions on the organization and everyone in it that they have lost sight of the good fight altogether.

The VFP that exists today is not even close to being the VFP that was founded in 1985. I don’t really know what this VFP is, what it stands for, or what it hopes to accomplish. Radical protests appear to be its raison d’etre rather than activities like Project RENEW or the Children of War Rescue Project, which require a lot of personal sacrifice and hard work. VFP has evolved into something much different than it was when it began and I don’t wish to be a part of it any longer. Perhaps, if and when VFP should ever return to its original mission, new leaders who respect democratic principles, openness, and the rights of those who would disagree will invite those of us who have left to return, but until then I will march only with those who stand in defense of the rights of ALL others. I have been asking a lot of unsettling questions lately so I don’t doubt that some, perhaps many, will be pleased to learn of my departure. But that only serves to further define what VFP has become.

Jerry Genesio
Founder & Past President
Veterans For Peace

“(I)n America, disagreement with the policies of the government is not evidence of lack of patriotism.”     U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell (D-ME)

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

 

Quotable: Freedom, Evil, & Utopia

... to take away a man's freedom of choice, even his freedom to make the wrong choice, is to manipulate him as though he were a puppet and not a person.

Source: Character of Canon Tom Tallis in Madeleine L'Engle's The Young Unicorns (Macmillan, 2008), p. 202.

... when evil declares itself in its absolute form, it declares itself as an angel of light.

Source: Tallis, p. 237.

... Utopia ... is always a heresy, no matter how nobly conceived.

Source: Tallis, p. 241.

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

 

Scharnhorst

Ignorance of French national character was for Scharnhorst the major reason for the Allied defeat [in the War of the First Coalition]. He found it inconceivable that the princes accepted without any verification the false reports of French opinion by the Émigrés ... "It seems at first sight incredible that such a great and important enterprise could be launched on the basis of such partisan witnesses as were the Émigrés."

Source: Charles E. White, The Enlightened Soldier: Scharnhorst and the Militarische Gesellschaft in Berlin, 1801-1805 (New York: Praeger, 1989), p. 61.

One wonders if Scharnhorst ever considered the possibility that "the princes" knew the reports of the Émigrés were bogus, it seems so. The case of Ahmed Chalabi and his sham Iraqi National Congress come to mind. Chalabi has been characterized as "the powerful source who ... succeeded in persuading the Pentagon that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that the Shiites would welcome the American forces with flowers and rice, and that in a twinkling the Iraqis would manage their country without Saddam and would free the U.S. armed forces from their commitment." However, I think it would be far more accurate to characterize Chalabi as a willing partner in the deliberately trumped-up 2003 war for Israel. The neoconservatives leading the Pentagon in the Bush administration were not deceived by Chalabi and they needed no persuasion to invade Iraq, they needed plausible cover and that was what he provided.

***

The belief that in war forces must be kept together, that it is a principle of the art of war not to disperse, is therefore false. On the contrary, it is a general rule—but only to the skillful—to disperse with caution and to force the enemy to do likewise, and then to fall concentrated on a single part.

Source: Gerhard Johann David von Scharnhorst, "Ueber die Schlacht bei Marnego," Proceedings, 1:54-55 as quoted in White, op. cit., p. 71.

See also: "Wrong Tzu"

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Friday, August 21, 2015

 

Quotable: Armstrong on Religion & Myth

... our modern Western conception of "religion" is idiosyncratic and eccentric. No other cultural tradition has anything like it, and even premodern European Christians would have found it reductive and alien ... In the West we see "religion" as a coherent system of obligatory beliefs, institutions, and rituals, centering on a supernatural God, whose practice is essentially private and hermetically sealed off from all "secular" activities. But words in other languages that we translate as "religion" almost invariably refer to something larger, vaguer, and more encompassing. The Arabic din signifies an entire way of life. The Sanskrit dharma is also "a 'total' concept, untranslatable, which covers law, justice, morals, and social life." The Oxford Classical Dictionary firmly states: "No word in either Greek or Latin corresponds to the English 'religion' or 'religious.' " The idea of religion as an essentially personal and systematic pursuit was entirely absent from classical Greece, Japan, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, China, and India.

Source: Karen Armstrong, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence (New York: Knopf, 2014) p. 4.

Every polity—even our secular nation-state—relies on a mythology that defines its special character and mission. The word myth has lost its force in modern times and tends to mean something that is not true, that never happened. But in the premodern world, mythology expressed a timeless rather than a historical reality and provided a blueprint for action in the present.

Source: Armstrong, p. 24.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

 

Quotable: Slaves to Debt

As confirmed in the DVD bonus features, The International (2009) is transparently inspired by the case of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). In its heyday, the BCCI was one of the world's largest banks.

BCCI was dissolved in 1991 amidst charges of fraud, arms trafficking, money laundering, and other crimes. The bank served as a CIA conduit and according to the film's screenwriter, Eric Warren Singer, the BCCI was also a Mossad tool (for more on this subject see The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America by Peter Dale Scott (Univ. of California Pr., 2007)).

In 1992, über-Zionist Clark Clifford and his law partner Robert A. Altman were indicted by a grand jury in connection with the scandal at the behest of Zionist Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau. However, as with the fictional bank in The International, no one was ever held criminally responsible for BCCI's conduct. The charges against Clifford were dropped and Altman was acquitted.

Likewise, Bill Clinton pardoned Marc Rich. The 1992 Senate Committee on Foreign Relations BCCI report said of him:
Marc Rich remains the most important figure in the international commodities markets, and remains a fugitive from the United States following his indictment on securities fraud. BCCI lending to Rich in the 1980's amounted to tens of millions of dollars. Moreover, Rich's commodities firms were used by BCCI in connection with BCCI's involving in U.S. guarantee programs through the Department of Agriculture. The nature and extent of Rich's relationship with BCCI requires further investigation.
Three months after he was pardoned the New York Times reported: "Israeli officials disclosed in interviews that they rallied around the campaign out of gratitude for Mr. Rich's philanthropy in Israel and because of Mr. Rich's clandestine role as a 'sa-ayon,' a Hebrew word for an unpaid supporter of intelligence operations. Mr. Rich, they said, financed sensitive missions and allowed agents to use his offices around the world as cover, when Israel was isolated diplomatically." After Rich died in 2013, he was buried in Israel.

If BCCI was such a useful tool then why was it shut down? I can think of at least two possibilities: First, BCCI had become so exposed that it was a liability, a magnet for investigations; closing it was damage control. Second, at times even elites have disagreements, BCCI may have been shut down because its principals had simply made too many powerful enemies.


Below are two outtakes from the film.

Character of Italian arms manufacturer Umberto Calvini (Luca Barbareschi at 35:10): "the real value of a conflict, the true value, is in the debt that it creates. You control the debt, you control everything ... this is the very essence of the banking industry, to make us all, whether we be nations or individuals, slaves to debt."

###

Character of New York District Attorney "Arnie" (James Rebhorn at 59:30): "Do you have any idea of the shitstorm you've gotten me into?"

Character of Assistant District Attorney Eleanor "Ella" Whitman (Naomi Watts): "We're just trying to get to the truth."

Arnie: "I get it. But what you need to remember is that there's what people want to hear, there's what people want to believe, there's everything else and then there's the truth."

Ella: "Since when is that okay? I can't even believe you're saying this to me. The truth means responsibility, Arnie."

Arnie: "Exactly, which is why everyone dreads it."

See also: Puppets & Money

Post last revised: 12 September 2015 

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Monday, August 17, 2015

 

Quotable: On Guardians

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why such a large part of mankind gladly remain minors all their lives, long after nature has freed them from external guidance. They are the reasons why it is so easy for others to set themselves up as guardians. It is so comfortable to be a minor.

Source: Immanuel Kant, "An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?" as quoted in The Enlightened Soldier: Scharnhorst and the Militarische Gesellschaft in Berlin, 1801-1805 (New York: Praeger, 1989) by Charles E. White, p. 1.

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Saturday, August 01, 2015

 

Two Thoughts (and a Cartoon) on the Iran Nuclear Deal

... the agreement has a significant downside too, in that it reinforces American hegemony. It does so by the very fact that the U.S. government is regarded by the media and others as the legitimate prosecutor, judge, and probation officer of Iran's government. The U.S. government, of course, commands overwhelming military power, and in that respect alone it has the ability to impose demands on others. But that does not mean an American president has the moral authority to do so.
Source: "2 Reasons to Be Happy About the Iran Deal, and 1 Reason Not to Be" by Sheldon Richman on Reason.com, July 16, 2015.
From almost all points on the US political spectrum, the merits of the "Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action" turn on its impact and implications for Israel. If there ever could have been any doubt about that, there can be no more. Listen to any politician or look at any media coverage about the agreement. The issues are defined by Israeli interests. The "debate" is whether the deal is good or bad for Israel. For the "pro" deal faction, the agreement's removal of the "existential threat" to Israel is its marquee attraction. For the "anti" deal side, well, all we need to know is that the deal "will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven." The media attention, moreover, is dominated by the voices of Israelis and American Zionists and their apologists. Despite occasional lip service to "American interests," none of the participants in the "national discussion" explain how the agreement solves or does not solve specific US problems or implicates specific US interests. That's because it doesn't. That's because there aren't any! Indeed, the only specific "US interest" ever mentioned – repeatedly, by both sides of the argument – is protecting the Jewish state.
Source: "Where Did We the People Go?" by Peter Casey on Antiwar.com, July 31, 2015.



30 Aug 2015 Addendum: From a justice and peace perspective perhaps the best outcome of the September 17 a possible Congressional vote would be a veto-proof rejection of the Iran nuclear agreement, followed by a collapse of sanctions as European and other countries move to normalize economic relations with Iran in the face of extreme (as opposed normal, run-of-the mill) Zionist-driven American intransigence. I'm not saying this is the most likely outcome—though it is far from implausible—just, possibly, the most desirable. In this scenario, Iran would still be bound by the requirements of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Israel has never signed. They would also be bound by the reality that a nuclear weapons program—something Iranian authorities have repeatedly and credibly denied wanting—would be a strategic military liability for Iran.

05 Sep 2015 Addendum: Here's an interesting quote from Joseph Cirincione, Zionist tool and imperial nuclear policy expert: "The idea that the U.S. can impose sanctions on the rest of the world after we walk away from a deal that everyone else thinks solves the problem is the height of hubris. If the U.S. tried to sanction Chinese banks for trading with Iran, I think you would start to see a determined Chinese effort to move away from the dollar as central global currency. A view would take hold in the world that the U.S. could not be trusted anymore, and that you could not rely on the U.S. to provide stability and consistency in international relations." According to Cirincione, another selling point in favor of the US-Iran nuclear deal is: "At the end of that time, should Iran try to get a weapon, we will know with great precision where Iran’s critical nodes are located; we will have improved intelligence on their entire nuclear supply chain, and if we did have to go on a military strike, we'd be much more effective at conducting a strike after this deal than we are right now."

See also:

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