Sunday, April 23, 2017


Quotable: On Money

Look, this is Turks and Caicos ... It's a home to dirty money, which, as T. S. Eliot would observe, is a tautology, because there isn’t any other kind these days.

Source: Character of CIA agent Curtis Pelissier (Christopher Walken) in David Hare's Turks & Caicos (2014)

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Saturday, February 25, 2017


On Diagnosing Trump

A large segment of the Left seems eager to advance the idea that Donald Trump is mentally unfit to be president of the US. I don't respect or admire Donald Trump, I never voted for him, and I never expected him (or Clinton) to be what I would consider a good or successful president.

However, I regard the public attacks on Trump's mental fitness as far more revealing of the depravity of some of his critics than of anything else. The public questioning of Trump's mental health by lay people and professionals who have never examined him in a clinical setting is little more than a scurrilous ad hominem attack in service of an unprincipled attempt to wield a tool of social control for for political purposes.

With respect to social control, people inclined to take seriously the ill-informed, politicized pronouncements of unethical mental health professionals that Trump is "mentally ill" may want to pause to reflect that it was not so long ago that these professions accepted surgical lobotomy and electroconvulsive "therapy" as common, if not routine, "treatments" for "mental illness". Despite a documented history of widespread and selective abuse they are far from rejected even today.

Psychiatry also gave us such enlightening concepts as "drapetomania"—the mysterious illness which caused slaves to try to escape their bondage. The wit who gave us that term was Samuel A. Cartwright, a physician who apprenticed with Benjamin Rush, the "father of American psychiatry". Then there's "The eugenic legacy in psychology and psychiatry". And don't forget that homosexuality was, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), also a mental illness until in 1973 (sort of) it wasn't. Finally, readers would do well to reflect on the weaponization of psychiatry in the Soviet Union and its correlates in the US.

Below are some thoughts of others who are concerned with the politicization of mental health by Trump opponents. The first excerpt is from Allen J. Frances who made his first appearance in this blog in 2013. I think Frances overstates the case against Trump and in so doing betrays his political bias nevertheless his main points are well-taken.
Fevered media speculation about Donald Trump's psychological motivations and psychiatric diagnosis has recently encouraged mental health professionals to disregard the usual ethical constraints against diagnosing public figures at a distance. They have sponsored several petitions and a Feb. 14 letter to The New York Times suggesting that Mr. Trump is incapable, on psychiatric grounds, of serving as president ...
Bad behavior is rarely a sign of mental illness, and the mentally ill behave badly only rarely. Psychiatric name-calling is a misguided way of countering Mr. Trump's attack on democracy. He can, and should, be appropriately denounced for his ignorance, incompetence, impulsivity and pursuit of dictatorial powers.
His psychological motivations are too obvious to be interesting, and analyzing them will not halt his headlong power grab. The antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological.
The second excerpt is from a defense in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law by Redinger et al. last September of the APA's "Goldwater Rule".
... diagnosing public figures via observations culled from the media represents poor diagnostic methodology ... Public figures, especially politicians, intentionally cultivate a public persona that may not accurately reflect their psychological state. Given the risk and potential harm of error, it would be imprudent for any psychiatrist to render an opinion of a public figure's subjective thoughts or motivations, conscious or unconscious, in the absence of a personal and value-free diagnostic interview.

The APA's Goldwater Rule exemplifies a necessary and justifiable professional norm that is intended to temper the potentially imprudent and self-indulgent motivations of psychiatrists to use the cloak of their profession to further a particular political ideology and neutralizes a fallacious appeal to their own authority. Justifications based on freedom of speech, conscientious objection, or the public interest fail to offset the likely harms to the psychiatrist, profession, and public figure.
The final excerpt is by Sera Davidow from the web site of Robert Whitaker, author of the illuminating Mad in America. Davidow underscores the mental health professions as instruments of social control along with the inherent subjectivity of the whole concept of mental illness.
[Trump]'s not 'mentally ill,' because this whole manner of categorization of human beings is just that subjective.

In other words, Trump is not 'mentally ill' because he is not a member of any of society's groups for which tools of control (like our diagnostic system) are most specifically designed. His brand of dangerous is party to some other kind of measure. A different set of standards. And while this tells us something about Trump, it tells us much more about ourselves ...

We need to stop calling Trump 'mentally ill' because it suggests that emotional distress and trauma (and all the rest that often gets wrapped up in and confused with this idea of 'disorder') are somehow scarier and worse than what Trump is actually doing. It's a distraction of the worst kind from what we can actually see and know.

We need to stop calling him 'mentally ill' because it misdirects us away from holding ourselves accountable for his election and the societal ills that led us to this point. We're far better off learning from our mistakes, and figuring out a way to back off of this crumbling ledge.

And we need to stop calling Trump 'mentally ill' because such labels are routinely applied inequitably and in ways that have harmed so many, and this present maelstrom only further encourages that trend. Psychiatric labels tell us little to nothing about how to be with or support one another, and give almost no information about what's actually going on. This is true of both president and neighbor. Friend or lover. Child or parent. Human being.

It certainly tells us nothing about how to get us out of our current bind.
See also: "Friday Feedback: Questioning A Leader's Mental Health" on MedPage Today.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2017


Trump & ENDA

Based in part upon his campaign remarks, several weeks ago I began telling friends that Donald Trump's presidency may represent an opportunity to finally get a federal LGBT Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) through Congress. His selection of Jackie Evancho to sing the national anthem at his inauguration was a hopeful sign in this vein.

An even more positive action came yesterday when the White House issued a statement that: "The executive order [by Barack Obama] signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump." This was not a universally popular move with Trump's base. Just as only Nixon could go to China, it may be that the Left's bête noir Trump is the president who can get ENDA passed.

Assuming Trump has any interest in doing this, one pitfall would be bringing Republicans on board. That might be accomplished if Democrats would compromise and agree to a religious exemption for people who have religious scruples against participating in same-sex marriage. There is no principled reason why a florist in Washington or a baker in Oregon, for example, should have their livelihoods ruined or jeopardized merely because they don't want to participate in a same-sex wedding.

While I disagree with their theology, some folks consider marriage to be a holy sacrament ordained exclusively for the joining of a man and a woman. I don't think the government should compel them to violate their conscience in this regard. I voted for same-sex marriage when it appeared on the ballot in my state and I think Obergefell v. Hodges was properly decided but liberty means that we can't always turn to the government to impose our values on others.

If Trump did signal his willingness to support passage of ENDA, I regard it as more likely that Democrats and LGBT activists (rather than Republicans) would belligerently torpedo any possible deal by refusing to compromise on religious accommodations. In fact, given the current overheated, often dishonest anti-Trump rhetoric, "progressives" would probably try to block an ENDA deal on partisan grounds alone. I hope I'm wrong.

Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign rally at the University of Northern Colorado.

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Interpreting the Second Amendment

This image comes via Reddit.

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Saturday, January 28, 2017


Fulbright & the Israel Lobby

On October 7, 1973, the day after Egypt and Syria launched the Yom Kippur War against Israel, J. William Fulbright, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, appeared on the television program Face the Nation. Fulbright biographer Woods states:
He called for the United Nations to intervene, militarily if necessary, to end the bloodshed and impose a peace settlement. "They should take action, they should meet the legitimate security requirements of Israel — and at the same time approach as closely as possible the principles of the resolution of '67," he told George Herman. Asked by Peter Lisagor if it would not be best if the United States and the Soviet Union simply agreed to stop supplying their client states in the Middle East, Fulbright assented but declared that that would never happen "because the Israelis control the policy in the Congress and the Senate."[1][2]
As if to prove Fulbright's point, the Israel Lobby mobilized to replace him for publicly highlighting their political power: "Following Fulbright's October appearance on Face the Nation ... American Jewish leaders had begun actively soliciting candidates, Democratic or Republican, to oppose their nemesis in the 1974 election ... American Zionists ... pinned their hope on Dale Bumpers."[3]

The Lobby relies on more than mere "hope".
Fulbright's positions on the Middle East have not endeared him to American Zionists who have, according to Fulbright money raisers, declined to contribute "a single dime" to his campaign.

But a Bumpers' lieutenant, whipping his gray Lincoln down Highway. 40, confided to a reporter that he had many offers of donations from American Jews who would like to see the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee unseated.

"I could have bought the central part of Arkansas with it [offers of money from the Jewish community]. But I politely explained that the surest way to beat Bumpers would be to have him tagged a Jewish candidate. But the Jews are obviously very unhappy with Fulbright, starting with Golda Meir."

"The offers of assistance," he said, "came from people in New York and California who have raised a lot of money in the Jewish community for political purposes." He declined to name them.[4]
The Lobby's efforts paid off when Bumpers defeated Fulbright in the 1974 Democratic primary and proceeded to handily win the general election.

1. Randall Bennett Woods, Fulbright: A Biography (Cambridge UP, 1995), p. 648 citing Face the Nation, Oct. 7, 1973, Series 48:15, Box 41:1, SPF.
2. Smith puts a finer point on Fulbright's remarks, paraphrasing from the transcript, he writes: "Fulbright accused the Israeli lobby of having the ear of up to eighty United States senators, as well as a large percentage of the House of Representatives. Because of the power and influence of the lobby, Israel enjoyed unparalleled and unquestioned American military and economic aid." Mitchell Smith, "Woes of the Arkansas Internationalist: J. William Fulbright, the Middle East, and the Death of American Liberalism" (2013), Theses and Dissertations, 773. p. 61.
3. Woods, p. 659 citing inter alia "Jewish Leaders Seek '74 Opponents for Fulbright, " Arkansas Democrat, Oct. 19, 1973.
4. Harry Kelly, "Arkansas race: Running hard, but Fulbright looks like loser", Chicago Tribune, May 12, 1974, sect. 2, p. 1. See also Woods, p. 661, 665, and Smith, ch. 3.

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Friday, January 27, 2017


Trump, the Evancho Sisters, & Transgender People

Many transgender Americans are concerned about how the Trump administration may impact their lives and with good cause. However, a week ago at Donald Trump's inauguration something occurred that may be a harbinger of good (or at least indifference). I'm referring to Trump's choice of singers for the national anthem, that choice was Jackie Evancho.

Jackie has been very publicly supportive of her transgender sister Juliet since at least 2015. So, people in the incoming Trump administration undoubtedly knew what they were doing when they selected an inaugural singer who has a transgender sister involved in a bathroom access lawsuit. And on this choice it seems that the Left has been more intolerant* and dished out more grief to Jackie for agreeing to singing at the event than the Right has. Juliet has been supportive of her sister's decision.

Below is a 2015 "All of the Stars" cover video Jackie made in support of her sister and transgender people, in general. Below that is the explanatory text that appeared on Jackie's web site.

The video is very close to Jackie’s heart as it was inspired by her own personal experience of someone close to her who is going through transitioning and are transgender. It’s a tribute to the bravery and personal journey that people go through as transitioning transgender teens. The video features a girl and a boy, looking into the mirror and confronting images of themselves that are very different from reality. When Jackie looks in the mirror, staring back at her is a beautiful and glamorous version of herself. When the boy gazes into the mirror, a girl stares back…the girl he has always felt like on the inside. “I was inspired to make this video after witnessing personally the struggle that people go through as young transitioning teens. The person they see in the mirror doesn’t match the person they feel inside. And while our struggles are different, I could relate to their insecurities as I have my own issues with self-image…as I think most teens do at one point or another. This video is about empathy, communication and self-appreciation. For me, it has been learning to love myself, flaws and all. For others, it is about being true to the person that they always wanted to be. Everyone wants to feel accepted but I think that starts from within, even if people don’t always agree with your choices. We are all unique stars in the sky and what makes us unique makes us beautiful,” says Jackie.
* "Intolerant" is one of those terms I think functions mainly as an epithet. It is overused and usually inappropriately so. I use it here hesitantly but I think it is apt for a situation such as this where people are telling a 16-year-old entertainer that: "those who aid and abet transphobia like Trump have the blood of our wounded and murdered sisters, brothers and kindred on their hands ... For that reason, there's no way for someone to sing for Trump, stand with him or otherwise support him without some of that blood sticking to them."

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Tuesday, November 01, 2016


"General Cartwright is paying the price for Hillary Clinton’s sins"

The Obama administration Justice Department has investigated three senior officials for mishandling classified information over the past two years but only one faces a felony conviction, possible jail time and a humiliation that will ruin his career: former Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman General James E. Cartwright. The FBI's handling of the case stands in stark contrast to its treatment of Hillary Clinton and retired General David Petraeus — and it reeks of political considerations.

Source:  Josh Rogin. "General Cartwright is paying the price for Hillary Clinton's sins." Washington Post. Oct. 18, 2016.

Elsewhere in the opinion piece quoted above, Rogin asserts: "Cartwright's greatest mistake was not talking to reporters or lying about it; he failed to play the Washington game skillfully enough to avoid becoming a scapegoat for a system in which senior officials skirt the rules and then fall back on their political power to save them." Perhaps, but it may also be the more compelling case that Cartwright was hammered because his "leak" about the source of Stuxnet virus was perceived as harmful to Israel. Rogin makes no mention of this.

It is also perhaps telling that Cartwright is out of step with the avaricious DC scumbags—I'd call them "hawks" but hawks are graceful creatures who kill only to stay alive—backing Obama's trillion dollar nuclear weapons expansion plans. Contra the Nobel Peace Prize laureate-in-chief, Cartwright has publicly called for major cuts in nuclear weapons and a path to their elimination.

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Time to Look in the Mirror

Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics by Ari Rabin-Havt and Media Matters has an important and, I submit, true premise. Namely that, on a host of issues, Americans and US politicians face manipulation by orchestrated, well-funded campaigns of deliberate misinformation. No surprise there, right?

However, readers should be aware that Rabin-Havt and Media Matters are themselves part of the propaganda machine they call Lies, Inc. I'll give just one glaring example.

In the epigraph to the book a "lie" is defined, in part, as "to create a false or misleading impression". This is exactly what the authors do in their hit on firearms researcher John Lott.

On page 116, they write: "When a group of researchers convened by the National Academy of Sciences examined Lott's thesis that the liberalization of concealed-carry laws leads to a decrease in violent crime, fifteen of the sixteen panel members found 'no credible evidence' to support this theory" (emphasis added) In support of their claim, the authors cite a 2015 article in Mother Jones magazine by Julia Lurie.

Here's the problem: Lurie is clearly engaged in an attempt "to create a false or misleading impression". In short, she's a liar. Given that the authors of Lies, Incorporated are aware of the methods of deceptive propagandists and yet take no care to correct Lurie's false narrative and tell the truth, I conclude they, too, are liars, especially since they took the liberty of slanting Lurie's statement even more strongly against Lott's position.

Here's Lurie's version: "The National Research Council, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, assembled a panel to look into the impact of concealed-carry laws; 15 of 16 panel members concluded that the existing research, including Lott's, provided 'no credible evidence' that right-to-carry laws had any effect on violent crime" (emphasis added).

I claim Lurie, Rabon-Havt, and Media Matters are liars because, years ago, I read much of the NRC report in question—Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review—and it was a real eye opener. Here is the full sentence from which Lurie (and Rabon-Havt and Media Matters) lifted the "no credible evidence" phrase: "For example, despite a large body of research, the committee found no credible evidence that the passage of right-to-carry laws decreases or increases violent crime, and there is almost no empirical evidence that the more than 80 prevention programs focused on gun-related violence have had any effect on children’s behavior, knowledge, attitudes, or beliefs about firearms."

The sentence in question is from page 2 of the report, in the Executive Summary (Lott's name appears nowhere in the Executive Summary). Here is one glaring and misleading omission by Lurie et al.: "the committee found no credible evidence that the passage of right-to-carry laws ... increases violent crime". Lurie et al. do not include this information or draw it to the attention of their readers because it does not serve their gun control agenda.

They also fail to note that the NRC panel takes a decidedly more judicious—though hardly uncritical—approach to Lott and his work. Readers interested in forming their own opinions on the matter are advised to read Chapter 6 and Appendices A  and B of the report along with the links below. My point here is not to defend Lott and his work—I leave that to others—but to highlight the hypocrisy of Ari Rabin-Havt and Media Matters.

See also:

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016


You Have the Right to Remain Innocent

"[O]ne of the Fifth Amendment's basic functions is to protect innocent men who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances. ... [T]ruthful responses of an innocent witness, as well as those of a wrongdoer, may provide the government with incriminating evidence from the speaker's own mouth."

Source: Ohio v. Reiner, 532 U.S. 17 (2001) (per curiam) as quoted in You Have the Right to Remain Innocent by James Duane (Little A, 2016) p. 63.

As Duane persuasively explains in his book, the 5th Amendment has steadily been hollowed-out with the support of Democrats and Republicans alike and he therefore advises readers: "Don't plead the fifth" but "Plead the sixth".

See also: "Innocent? Don't talk to the police" by James Duane in the Los Angeles Times (Aug. 26, 2015). 

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Monday, October 03, 2016


In the People's Best Interest

... I can do anything I want, whenever I want, if I feel it's in the people's best interest.

Source: Character of US gov't. agent Kent Mansley in The Iron Giant (1999)

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Naked Generals

Marc Antony: Queens! Queens! Strip them naked as any other woman, they're no longer queens.

Rufio: It is also difficult to tell the rank of a naked general. And generals without armies are naked indeed. 

Source: Cleopatra (1963) with Richard Burton as Mark Antony and Martin Landau as Rufio.

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Lesser evilism 2016

If you vote for the good, evil wins.

Source: An avowed Bernie Sanders supporter (and supporter of evil) on why she's voting for Hillary Clinton.

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The Zionists & Justice Holmes

In 1927, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote the infamous majority opinion in Buck v. Bell, which gave the US Supreme Court's imprimatur to compulsory eugenic sterilization. While reading about Holmes in Adam Cohen's less-than-groundbreaking Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck (Penguin Pr., 2016) I was surprised to learn about Holmes' ties to prominent American Zionists.

Holmes' Zionist coterie included Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter, both of whom eventually became US Supreme Court Justices. According to Alison Weir, author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of how the United States was used to Create Israel (CreateSpace, 2014), quoting Peter Grose, Brandeis and Frankfurter were both members of "an elitist secret society called the Parushim, the Hebrew word for 'Pharisees' and 'separate,' which grew out of Harvard's Menorah Society." Also according to Weir, quoting Sarah Schmidt, membership in the Parushim required candidates to give "specific assurances regarding devotion and resolution to the Zionist cause ..."

According to Cohen (p. 228), it was Brandeis who raised the money to fund Holmes' law professorship at the Harvard Law School in 1882. Cohen also reports (p. 238) that Frankfurter and Walter Lippman, co-founder of the New Republic, formed the core of "the House of Truth", an "influential group" that "adopted Holmes" as their "progressive champion" on the Supreme Court. Once so adopted, "the pages of the New Republic and the Harvard Law Review began to fill up with accolades" for Holmes.

According to American Zionism: Missions and Politics by Jeffrey Gurock, ed., (Routledge, 1998, 2013) Lippmann was among those "co-opted to leadership or special assignments for the regular and emergency Zionist organizations" Brandeis "controlled" (p. 25). When Brandeis and Chaim Weizmann became embroiled in dispute following an international Zionist leadership conference in London in 1920, Lippmann tried to mediate (p. 66, n. 110).

Lippmann was also a key member of Col. House's "Inquiry," an unofficial post-war foreign policy planning group created to bypass the State Department. The secretive Inquiry was the brainchild of Felix Frankfurter (Godfrey Hodgson. Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House (Yale UP, 2006) p. 158).

When a journalist publicly revealed the existence of the Inquiry "A furious Wilson suspected Frankfurter" and although Lippmann tried to provide cover for Frankfurter, "Colonel House was not dissuaded. 'The Jews from every tribe have descended in force, they seem determined to break in with a jimmy if they are not let in,' House complained to the President" (Ronald Steel. Walter Lippmann and the American Century. (Transaction Publishers, 2008) pp. 129-130).

One of the most important things that came out of the Inquiry was Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, which Frankfurter claimed was "drafted more or less" by Lippmann (Howard Grief. The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel Under International Law (Mazo Publishers, 2008) p. 297). Instead of promoting Arab self-determination, the twelfth point help lay the basis for the permanent dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire and the splitting off of Palestine, under a pro-Zionist British mandate, from Syria, under a French mandate.

Cohen describes Zionist Harold Laski as a mere "friend" of Holmes (pp. 245, 282). Laski was, in point of fact, Holmes' close confidant. When the extensive correspondence of the two men was published in 1953 (Harvard UP) as the Holmes-Laski Letters: The Correspondence Of Mr. Justice Holmes And Harold J Laski, 1916-1935, it contained a foreword by Felix Frankfurter.

It appears from Cohen's book that none of the Zionist members Holmes' "progressive claque" ever publicly criticized Buck v. Bell although Lippmann had written a series critiquing intelligence testing in 1922. Judging from their published letters, Laski apparently said nothing privately either even though Holmes referred to the case in three letters in 1927.

For his part Brandeis voted with Holmes in the majority to allow the State of Virginia to surgically sterilize Carrie Buck against her will. About a year later, Brandeis would cite Buck v. Bell affirmatively in his dissent in Olmstead v. United States. Brandeis cited the case in support of an argument for expansive state power, asserting the "general limitations on the powers of Government, like those embodied in the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, do not forbid the United States or the States from meeting modern conditions by regulations which, 'a century ago, or even half a century ago, probably would have been rejected as arbitrary and oppressive.' "

Buck v. Bell would later be cited affirmatively in Nuremberg, Germany:
Karl Brandt was the chief Nazi medical officer; he was also Adolf Hitler's personal physician. Brandt's attorney introduced documents quoting extensively from the eugenics literature. He cited Harry Laughlin's 1914 proposal calling for the sterilization of fifteen million Americans, and also quoted a translation of the Buck opinion from a German text on eugenics. Other Nuremberg defendants also cited Buck, and a translation of the Holmes opinion appeared again as a defense example in the exhibit "Race Protection Laws of Other Countries."
See also:

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Quotable: Home Invasion

Think about -- putting into context -- somebody moves in and decides to take your house over. You know, you're going to fight for it and that's exactly what they did.

Source: US Army Staff Sergeant Kevin Rice speaking (at 5:57) in the 2014 documentary film Korengal on Afghani resistance to US forces in the Korangal Valley. US forces maintained a presence in the "Valley of Death" for about five years. In April 2010, US forces abandoned the outposts there. By the time commanders decided the valley wasn't so vital after all, forty-two American troops had died in fighting and hundreds more were wounded along with uncounted Afghani and other casualties.

A U.S. Army soldier watches as U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter jets destroy "insurgent" positions with a
bomb, after a 20-minute gun battle in Kunar province, Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, Aug. 13, 2009.

See also: "My Worst Nightmare and the Korengal Valley" from the On Violence blog.

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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

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.

Gwendolyn S. Patton
First Speaker, Pink Pistols International
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!

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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