Monday, May 31, 2010

Echoes Of British Raid Of "Exodus 1947"

The media war is in full swing following Israel's deadly commando raid on a flotilla that attempted to break the blockade of Gaza, as seen in the videos presented by Turkish television and the Israel Defense Forces. Meanwhile, Robert Mackey, in "Echoes of Raid on 'Exodus' Ship in 1947," notes that some Israelis see a bitter historical irony:

To some Israeli observers, it was impossible to miss the parallels between Monday’s killing of pro-Palestinian activists by Israel’s military in international waters, as commandos intercepted a flotilla of ships trying to break the Israeli naval blockade on Gaza, and a seminal event in the Jewish struggle for an independent homeland.

Noam Sheizaf, an Israeli journalist who is rounding up reports and commentary on the attack on his blog, “Promised Land,” points to a post in Hebrew by Rafi Man of the Israel Democracy Institute which asks: “Will This Be the Palestinian Exodus?”

Mr. Man was referring to the story of the “Exodus 1947,” a ship filled with Jewish Holocaust survivors who wanted to immigrate to Palestine in July 1947. That month, the British Navy intercepted the ship to enforce a ban on Jewish immigration to the territory, which was then under British control.

Mackey cites an account of the violent British seizure of the "Exodus 1947" (shown above), the resistance of the passengers and the worldwide reaction:

The refugees had no legal authority to enter Palestine, and the British were determined to block the ship. In the battle that ensued, three Jews aboard the Exodus were killed. The ship’s passengers — more than 4,500 men, women and children — were ultimately deported to Germany.

...Several hours of fighting followed, with the ship’s passengers spraying fuel oil and throwing smoke bombs, life rafts and whatever else came to hand, down on the British sailors trying to board, The Times reported at the time. Soon the British opened fire. Two immigrants and a crewman on the Exodus were killed; scores more were wounded, many seriously. The ship was towed to Haifa, and from there its passengers were deported, first to France and eventually to Germany, where they were placed in camps near L├╝beck.

The parallels are not exact, of course; for one thing, the occupants of the ships bound for Gaza will not be sent to concentration camps. Still, in view the current worldwide response, one can't help but think that Rafi Man above is asking the right question:

Large protests erupted on both sides of the Atlantic. The ensuing public embarrassment for Britain played a significant role in the diplomatic swing of sympathy toward the Jews and the eventual recognition of a Jewish state in 1948.

Beinart: "The Failure Of The American Jewish Establishment"

Peter Beinart (left), associate professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York, senior fellow at the New America Foundation and senior political writer for the Daily Beast, has caused quite a stir in the blogosphere with his essay, "The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment." The piece appeared in the New York Review of Books and focused on the increasing disaffection of liberal, non-Orthodox Jewish youth from an Israel and an American Jewish establishment that they perceive as contradicting liberal values. From the essay:

Among American Jews today, there are a great many Zionists, especially in the Orthodox world, people deeply devoted to the State of Israel. And there are a great many liberals, especially in the secular Jewish world, people deeply devoted to human rights for all people, Palestinians included. But the two groups are increasingly distinct. Particularly in the younger generations, fewer and fewer American Jewish liberals are Zionists; fewer and fewer American Jewish Zionists are liberal. One reason is that the leading institutions of American Jewry have refused to foster—indeed, have actively opposed—a Zionism that challenges Israel’s behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and toward its own Arab citizens. For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.

Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral. If the leaders of groups like AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations do not change course, they will wake up one day to find a younger, Orthodox-dominated, Zionist leadership whose naked hostility to Arabs and Palestinians scares even them, and a mass of secular American Jews who range from apathetic to appalled. Saving liberal Zionism in the United States—so that American Jews can help save liberal Zionism in Israel—is the great American Jewish challenge of our age. And it talking frankly about Israel’s current government, by no longer averting our eyes.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Texas Board Of Education Approves Right-Wing Curriculum

The majority on the Texas Board of Education has revised the social studies curriculum with the aim toward raising a new generation of right wingers. This is especially alarming due to the fact that Texas schoolbooks reach other states.

The board made certain concessions that actually showed how extreme their agenda is: President Obama will not be referred to as "Barack Hussein Obama"; the "slave trade" will not be renamed the "Atlantic triangular trade." What they left intact makes it clear that history is being subordinated to right-wing propaganda:

In what looks like an effort to justify injecting more religion into government, [the board] voted to require students to examine why the founding fathers protected religious freedom — and how that approach contrasts with “separation of church and state.” The board also required third graders to “explain how government regulations and taxes impact consumer cost,” presumably to get them off to an early start in fearing government. Older students will have to “evaluate efforts by global organizations to undermine U.S. sovereignty” and, under an earlier change, analyze the “unintended consequences” of such programs as the Great Society and affirmative action.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Krugman: Right-Wing Populism Channeled By Corporate Interests

Paul Krugman, in "The Old Enemies," points out what's at the root of corporate opposition to President Obama–and who is behind right-wing populism. He explains why commercial banks, securities and investment firms, and oil and gas companies are contributing to the Republicans in record numbers:

One answer is taxes — not so much on corporations themselves as on the people who run them. The Obama administration plans to raise tax rates on upper brackets back to Clinton-era levels. Furthermore, health reform will in part be paid for with surtaxes on high-income individuals. All this will amount to a significant financial hit to C.E.O.’s, investment bankers and other masters of the universe.

Corporate interests are raging against regulations even when they're more warranted than ever:

From the outside, this rage against regulation seems bizarre. I mean, what did they expect? The financial industry, in particular, ran wild under deregulation, eventually bringing on a crisis that has left 15 million Americans unemployed, and required large-scale taxpayer-financed bailouts to avoid an even worse outcome. Did Wall Street expect to emerge from all that without facing some new restrictions? Apparently it did.

Right-wing populism is, as always, supported by corporations that ultimately have their own interests in mind:

If this sounds familiar, it should: it’s the same formula the right has been using for a generation. Use identity politics to whip up the base; then, when the election is over, give priority to the concerns of your corporate donors. Run as the candidate of “real Americans,” not those soft-on-terror East coast liberals; then, once you’ve won, declare that you have a mandate to privatize Social Security. It comes as no surprise to learn that American Crossroads, a new organization whose goal is to deploy large amounts of corporate cash on behalf of Republican candidates, is the brainchild of none other than Karl Rove.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Roberts Supreme Court Tilts Toward Conservative Judicial Activism

Conservatives have repeatedly raised the charge of "judicial activism" against court rulings that support liberal positions. In "Activism V. Restraint" (The New Yorker, 5/24),  Jeffrey Toobin comments on how the conservative majority on the Supreme Court under John Roberts (left) has a record of legal decisions that favor right-wing ideology:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and his conservative fellow-Justices...are engaging in what’s known as judicial activism. A few weeks ago, on Air Force One, Obama, a former law professor, gave a useful definition of the term, saying that “an activist judge was somebody who ignored the will of Congress, ignored democratic processes, and tried to impose judicial solutions on problems instead of letting the process work itself through politically.” This is, indeed, what the Roberts Court is doing. Local elected officials in Seattle and Louisville created complex and nuanced strategies to achieve racial diversity in their schools; in 2007, in a decision written by Roberts, the Court overturned the plans. The elected city council of the District of Columbia passed a strict gun-control law; in 2008, in a decision by Antonin Scalia, the Court vetoed it. Most notoriously, Congress passed the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance bill, which President Bush signed into law; earlier this year, in a decision by Anthony M. Kennedy, the Court eviscerated that legislation and decreed that corporations have the right to spend unlimited funds to elect the candidates of their choice. In that case, known as Citizens United, the majority also reversed two recent Court decisions. Roberts and his allies, like the conservatives of seventy years ago, profess to believe in judicial restraint (the opposite of activism) and respect for precedent, but their actions belie their supposed values. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rand Paul Defends British Petroleum: "Accidents Happen"

Rand Paul, who won the Republican state primary in Kentucky and is popular with the Tea Party, would have modified the 1964 Civil Rights Act to give private businesses the right to discriminate. Regarding the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Paul again is unreservedly on the side of business, contending that the Obama administration's crackdown on British Petroleum as "un-American." Watch:

Paul: What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, you know, “I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.” I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it’s part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault. Instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen. I mean, we had a mining accident that was very tragic and I’ve met a lot of these miners and their families. They’re very brave people to do a dangerous job. But then we come in and it’s always someone’s fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen. (h/t Think Progress)

Paul is in an awful rush to exonerate BP, despite the fact that it is responsible for an explosion that killed 11 workers and is spilling millions of gallons of oil. In addition, independent scientists doubt BP's estimates of how much oil is being spilled, regardless of Paul's belief that the oil giant is ready to pay.

One also must be struck by the fact that while he finds it "un-American" to criticize business, it's at least legally acceptable in Rand Paul's America to deny food and lodging to black people.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Harry Chapin Live On W.O.L.D.

Harry Chapin's "W.O.L.D." is a tale about a disk jockey who "just had to run around" and left his wife and children. Years later, he feels the same emptiness that prompted him to take flight and, in a call to his wife, expresses the desire to return–but it's too late. His desolation is reflected in the lines, "Sometimes I get this crazy dream, that I just take off in my car, but you can travel on 10,000 miles and still stay where you are." Like other Chapin compositions such as "Taxi," "Dreams Gone By" and "Cat's In The Cradle," "W.O.L.D." is essentially a poignant short story set to lyrics whose theme is the gap between dreams and reality. Chapin's death in 1981, at age 39, in a car crash on the Long Island Expressway deprived the world of an outstanding singer-songwriter and philanthropist.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rand Paul Would Have "Modified" 1964 Civil Rights Act

Speaking on the Rachel Maddow Show, Rand Paul, winner of the Republican Senate primary in Kentucky, elaborated on his opposition to enforcing the 1964 Civil Rights Act in terms of private businesses. In the following video, Paul starts by explaining that he would have tried to "modify" that part of the bill. Watch:

The most telling point exchange comes at the end:

Maddow: Should Woolworth lunch counter been allowed to stay segregated? Sir, just yes or no.

Paul: What you have to answer when you answer this point of view, which is an abstract, obscure conversation from 1964 that you want to bring up, but if you want to answer it you have to say then that you decide the rules for all restaurants and then do you decide that you won't allow them to carry weapons into restaurants.

Actually, the question of the sit-in at the Woolworth lunch counter on February 1, 1960, is not "abstract" at all. It strikes at the heart of what we determine about American values and human dignity. Paul's attempt to dodge a direct answer is its own answer. He believes that Woolworth should not have been forced to serve the four college freshman, real individuals and not abstractions, shown in the following photo:

One of the protesters, Joseph McNeil, looked back and spoke of principles other than Paul's cherished "right" of businesses to operate according to racism:

“We were quite serious, and the issue that we rallied behind was a very serious issue because it represented years of suffering and disrespect and humiliation. Our parents and their parents had to endure the onus of racial segregation and all that it did in terms of being disrespectful to human beings and the difficulties it places in so many ways of life, not just public accommodations, but in areas like employment and education. Segregation was an evil kind of thing that needed attention.”

One more point: what does it say about the Tea Party movement that Paul is one of their favorites?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rand Paul Disagrees With Banning Discrimination By Businesses

Rand Paul, Tea Party favorite who won the Republican Senate primary in Kentucky, disagrees with the 1964 Civil Rights Act's effect on private business. Paul explained his views in an interview with the editorial board of the Louisville Courier Journal:

Interviewer: Would you have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
Paul: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I’m all in favor of that.
Interviewer: But?
Paul: You had to ask me the “but.” I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners—I abhor racism. I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant—but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership. But I absolutely think there should be no discrimination in anything that gets any public funding, and that’s most of what I think the Civil Rights Act was about in my mind. (h/t Think Progress)

Paul upholds the "freedom" of businesses to bar fellow citizens based on skin color. He doesn't uphold the freedom of all citizens to patronize whatever business they want without fear of discrimination. The government enforced federal law to prevent such mistreatment. Regardless of the fact that he does not likes the idea of discrimination, Paul upholds it. The Louisville Courier-Journal put it well in an editorial:

The trouble with Dr. Paul is that despite his independent thinking, much of what he stands for is repulsive to people in the mainstream. For instance, he holds an unacceptable view of civil rights, saying that while the federal government can enforce integration of government jobs and facilities, private business people should be able to decide whether they want to serve black people, or gays, or any other minority group.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Buchanan Complains Possible Kagan Confirmation Means Too Many Jews On Supreme Court

Pat Buchanan complained in a recent column that the possible confirmation of Elena Kagan would mean too many Jews on the Supreme Court:

Indeed, of the last seven justices nominated by Democrats JFK, LBJ, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, one was black, Marshall; one was Puerto Rican, Sonia Sotomayor. The other five were Jews: Arthur Goldberg, Abe Fortas, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.

If Kagan is confirmed, Jews, who represent less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, will have 33 percent of the Supreme Court seats.

Is this the Democrats' idea of diversity?

...not in nearly half a century has a Democratic president nominated a white Protestant or white Catholic man or woman.

If Kagan is confirmed, the Court will consist of three Jews and six Catholics (who represent not quite a fourth of the country), but not a single Protestant, though Protestants remain half the nation and our founding faith.

Buchanan has made a series of offensive comments about Jews, African-Americans, immigrants, gays and women, so this is nothing new. What's curious, though, is that he brings up "diversity," something he has never supported. Affirmative action, in Buchanan's view, is "reverse discrimination against white folks." If Buchanan is against discrimination, why is he bringing up Kagan's religion?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

U.S. Jewish Leaders Launch Online Petition To End Israeli Settlement Building

Recently thousands of European Jewish intellectuals signed an online petition, "Call for Reason," calling for the end to Israeli construction in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem.

Now Jewish American leaders, including rabbis, judges, writers, academics and philanthropists, have launched an online petition, "For the Sake of Zion," also calling for the end of construction in the two areas and the implementation of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The petition refers to the European letter:

Encouraged by the recent European “Call For Reason,” signed by more than 5,200 Jewish citizens of European countries, we, American Jews passionately devoted to the safety and welfare of the State of Israel, now add our voices to those of our European kinsfolk. They recognize, as do we, that Israel faces existential threats, both from without and from within. We do not take these lightly, but we reject the view that they are Israel’s inevitable destiny.

Affirming that Israel is "the national home of the Jewish people" and "categorically condemn[ing] terrorism," the petition criticizes ongoing settlement construction and its implications for Israel's future:

...we abhor the continuing occupation that has persisted for far too long; it cannot and should not be sustained. As our European counterparts correctly point out, “[T]he occupation and the continuing pursuit of settlements in the West Bank and in the Arab districts of Jerusalem . . . are morally and politically wrong and feed the unacceptable de-legitimation process that Israel currently faces abroad.” They go on to say, “Israel will soon be faced with two equally disastrous choices: either to become a state in which Jews are a minority in their own country, or to establish a regime that would be a disgrace to Israel and lead to civil unrest.” We agree.

The signatories support the Obama administration's efforts to advance negotiations (in the AP photo above of a peace rally in Jerusalem, May 15, a sign states, "Barak (sic) Obama: Please Force Peace On Us"). In addition to calling for the reversal of the Israeli policies noted above, they also call for an end to Palestinian terrorism, along with demands for the "right of return" and incitement against Israel.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Education Is Dangerous: Arizona Restricts Ethnic Studies

Following her recent signing of a law that gives the police leeway to detain anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant, Governor Jan Brewer (R) of Arizona (left) signed a bill to restrict ethnic studies in state schools:

Under the law signed on Tuesday, any school district that offers classes designed primarily for students of particular ethnic groups, advocate ethnic solidarity or promote resentment of a race or a class of people would risk losing 10 percent of its state financing.

The law has been pushed by Tom Horne, state superintendent of public instruction, who is running as a Republican candidate for state attorney general. Horne believes that ethnic studies "teach students to feel oppressed and to hate whites."

Education sure can be dangerous. Learning one's cultural history, including the ways in which one's ethnic group has been oppressed, apparently fills one with hostility. Doesn't education also teach one to employ critical faculties in order to approach history with a sense of perspective? According to two educators, ethnic studies impart positive lessons:

Judy Burns, president of the governing board of the Tucson schools, said the district’s ethnic studies courses did not violate any of the provisions of the new law and would be continued because they were valuable to the students.

“From everything I’ve seen, they empower kids to take charge of their own destiny, gain a sense of the value of their own existence and become more determined to be well-educated contributing members of society,” Ms. Burns said.

...Sean Arce, director of Tucson’s Mexican-American studies department, said the ethnic studies courses do teach students about the marginalization of different groups in the United States through history.

“They don’t teach resentment or hostility, in any way, shape or form,” Mr. Arce said. “Instead, they build cultural bridges of understanding, and teach the skills students need to understand history.”

Furthermore, Mr. Arce said, the ethnic studies courses have been highly effective in reducing students’ dropout rates and increasing their college matriculation well above the national average for Latino students.

Does Mr. Horne have first-hand knowledge of what goes on in ethnic studies classes?

Mr. Arce and Ms. Burns said that they had repeatedly invited Mr. Horne to visit the ethnic studies classes, but that he had declined the invitations.

“We wish he’d come see it, so he’d know what we do, and not just go on hearsay,” Ms. Burns said.

Mr. Horne acknowledged that he had never sat in on a class, but said he did not believe that what he would see would be representative of what regularly took place.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Remembering Lena Horne

Lena Horne, singer, actress and civil rights activist, passed away at 92 this past Sunday. Horne made a major impact as an African-American performer signed to a major Hollywood studio, MGM. Here she sings "Stormy Weather," one of the romantic standards from her repertoire, in the 1943 film of the same name. Horne displays the emotional expressiveness that won her widespread acclaim.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Arizona: It's Not For Everybody

Governor Jan Brewer (R) of Arizona signed a law that gives the police leeway to detain anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant and to demand legal documents. Andy Cobb of the Second City Network produced a new tourism ad reflecting the new reality that Arizona is "not for everybody." Watch:

GOP Candidate Mocked For Belief In Evolution, Questioning Biblical Literalism

Bradley Byrne, Republican candidate for governor of Alabama, said that " explains the origin of life" and "parts of the Bible are...true and parts...are not." These are apparently blasphemous views, according to this ad produced by the True Republican PAC based in Linden, Alabama. Supporting the teaching of evolution is a reason not to vote for a candidate? If American students fall behind in science scores, it's attitudes like this that are in great part to blame. Watch (h/t MyDD):

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Supreme Court Nominee Kagan No Counterweight To Scalia

Does President Obama's selection of Elena Kagan as a Supreme Court nominee mean that we have a potentially strong liberal challenger to the court's increasingly rightward drift? A New York Times analysis points to a fundamental difference in the nominees chosen by Republican and Democratic presidents:

The selection of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to be the nation’s 112th justice extends a quarter-century pattern in which Republican presidents generally install strong conservatives on the Supreme Court while Democratic presidents pick candidates who often disappoint their liberal base.

Ms. Kagan is certainly too liberal for conservatives, who quickly criticized her nomination on Monday as a radical threat. But much like every other Democratic nominee since the 1960s, she does not fit the profile sought by the left, which hungers for a full-throated counterweight to the court’s conservative leader, Justice Antonin Scalia.

Indications are that Kagan will not be that "full-throated counterweight":

Where exactly Ms. Kagan would fall on that scale is unclear since she has never been a judge. She has been a forceful critic of the ban on openly gay men and lesbians serving in the military, but has argued for strong executive power, a hot issue since the Sept. 11 attacks. Some analysts even say Ms. Kagan would actually shift the court somewhat to the right when compared with Justice John Paul Stevens.

...[Conservative leader Leonard A.] Leo said he assumed she would be a reliable liberal but not a Scalia for the left. “Kagan’s probably a vote,” he said, “but probably not the full package."

As Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) put it, “Why do the conservatives always get the conservatives, but we don’t get to get the liberals? What the hell is that all about?”

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Anti-Gay Activist Took European Trip With Gay Prostitute

George Alan Rekers, an anti-gay Christian activist and minister, took a trip to Europe with a gay prostitute:

Baptist minister George Alan Rekers, a co-founder in 1983 with James Dobson of the right-wing Family Research Council, was spotted leaving Miami International Airport on April 13 with a 20-year-old he met on a gay escort site, the Miami New Times reports.

Rekers' first explanation concerned luggage:

Contacted by the newspaper, Rekers claimed he was ignorant of his traveling companion's profession when he hired him to accompany him on a 10-day European vacation.

"I had surgery," Rekers told the Miami New Times, "and I can't lift luggage. That's why I hired him."

He allegedly maintained he learned he was traveling with a prostitute halfway through their trip, but did not deny he'd met the man on, a Web site for connecting gay escorts with clients, the Miami New Times reports.

Rekers had a more spiritual explanation in a Facebook interview with Joe.My.God:

"I seek to lovingly share two types of messages to them [homosexuals], as I did with the young man called 'Lucien' in the news story: [1] It is possible to cease homosexual practices to avoid the unacceptable health risks associated with that behavior, and [2] the most important decision one can make is to establish a relationship with God for all eternity by trusting in Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins, including homosexual sins," he allegedly wrote.

According to the blog, Reker's name was removed from the Family Research Council's web site. After Rekers and Lucien denied it, Lucien said that the two did have sex:

​The male escort hired by anti-gay activist George Alan Rekers has told Miami New Times the Baptist minister is a homosexual who paid him to provide body rubs once a day in the nude, during their ten-day vacation in Europe. The massages included Rekers’ favorite move, Lucien said, which he dubbed “the long stroke.”

...Lucien decided to speak out after a heart-to-heart with a friend, Michael, who alerted him to the grim realities of his client's anti-gay activities. Lucien, who had originally declined to speak about the trip, now says he can do little good by protecting his erstwhile, fundamentalist client.

Photo: Salon

Remembering Israeli Painter Avigdor Arikha

Avigdor Arikha, one of the most remarkable representational painters of our time, passed away on April 29. A survivor of a Nazi labor camp in the Ukraine, Arikha studied art in Jerusalem and was severely wounded in Israel's 1948 war of independence. After recovering, he left for Paris to continue his studies. Arikha lived in Paris and Jerusalem.

Arikha's paintings of domestic objects have a haunting immediacy. A longtime friend of playwright Samuel Beckett, he paid tribute to him in a painting of "Sam's Spoon" set against a white napkin:

His keen sense of light and detail are seen in this study of cracks in a wall:

Arikha emphasized honesty in his portraits, particularly in self-portraits:

His portraits also have a sense of mystery, as in this painting in which the face is revealed in a mirror:

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Traffic Live, 1972

Traffic, an English rock band formed in 1967 by Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason (who was recently showcased here), perform "Forty Thousand Headmen" in Santa Monica, 1972. This trippy tune about a thief who travels to a golden shrine while pursued by 40,000 headmen is complimented by Wood's haunting flute solo and Winwood's vocals.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Lieberman Calls For Selective Revocation Of Citizenship And Due Process

Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) is one of the lawmakers who opposed the reading of Miranda rights to Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in the attempted Times Square car bombing, despite the fact that the suspect reportedly admitted his role and is talking to authorities. Lieberman would go further, though, explains a New York Times editorial, "Fear Itself":

To get around the inconvenient fact that Mr. Shahzad is a citizen, Mr. Lieberman is even calling for a law allowing Americans accused (not convicted) of unspecified crimes to be stripped of their citizenship and retroactively deprived of due process under the law.

This is not Mr. Lieberman’s first foray into this dark territory. He is co-author with Mr. McCain of a bill that would require that anyone arrested on any terrorism-related charge, including American citizens, be declared an enemy combatant and tried in a military court.

A comparison between the track record of Federal as opposed to military courts makes it clear that we need not abandon the former:

There is no evidence that vital intelligence has been lost, or a terrorist attack allowed to happen, because a suspect was questioned lawfully. The men who interrogated top-ranking terrorist suspects following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks said the prisoners gave up their valuable knowledge before being subjected to waterboarding and other illegal acts.

Federal courts have convicted hundreds of people on terrorism-related charges since 2001. The tribunals have obtained one guilty plea from a prisoner who may not have done anything and was subsequently released.

Senators McCain and Lieberman say military trials will show strength. Abandoning democratic institutions in the face of terrorism is an act of surrender. It will not make this country safer. It will make it more vulnerable.

The country would also be better off if McCain and Lieberman would stop the tough-guy grandstanding and show that they believe in our democratic legal system. Even House Republican leader John Boehner doubted the viability of Lieberman's proposal, stating, "If they're a U.S. citizen, until they're convicted of some crime, I don't know how you would attempt to take their citizenship away. It would be pretty difficult under the U.S. Constitution." Senator Charles Schumer, originally a supporter of Lieberman's bill, now also doubts that it is constitutional and asserts, "There are much better ways of obtaining information from terrorists."

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bloomberg Defends Reading Miranda Rights To Shahzad

Conservatives are complaining that Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in the attempted Times Square car bombing, was read his Miranda rights. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said, "Obviously that would be a serious mistake...Don't give this guy his Miranda rights until we find out what it's all about." Representative Peter King (R-NY) warned that Mirandizing Shahzad would make it harder to get information from him. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) and the Police Department to help him devise a way to avoid giving Miranda rights to terror suspects.

First, Shahzad was not given his Miranda rights until investigators determined that there was no imminent threat to be headed off, under a public safety exception. Second, he is an American citizen; the Military Commissions Act of 2006 ruled that only non-citizens can be tried in a military commission. Third, Shahzad has reportedly admitted his role in the attempted attack and is talking to authorities. So how does McCain assert that reading Miranda rights to Shahzad is a "serious mistake"?

Mayor Bloomberg (shown above), who certainly has a stake in the safety of New York City, disputed King's warning:

I disagree with the congressman. I've always thought democracy is strong enough. There is an exemption, a public safety exemption which was used here. The police officers in the court don't have to read you your rights if they think there's information they get right away. Then they do it afterwards. In this case, that's what they did. They got some information. The guy was either read or offered to have read to him his Miranda rights and he's continued to be helpful and giving us information.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Right Wing Wonders If God Or Conspirators Caused Oil Spill

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has not shaken the support for offshore drilling among many prominent right wingers. Proving once again their imperviousness to reality, conservative politicians and pundits have resorted to novel theories that include the following:

• Governor Rick Perry (R) of Texas asked whether the disaster was “just an act of God that occurred” and said that any “politically driven” decisions could put the U.S. in further economic peril. He added, “From time to time there are going to be things that occur that are acts of God that cannot be prevented."

Rush Limbaugh wondered whether "environmental whackos" blew up the oil rig to "head off more drilling." On April 29, he stated, "Lest we forget ... the cap and trade bill was strongly criticized by hardcore environmentalist whackos because it supposedly allowed more offshore drilling and nuclear plants. ...[W]hat better way to head off more oil drilling and nuclear plants then by blowing up a rig? ...I'm just noting the timing here."

• Former George W. Bush press secretary Dana Perino stated, "I don't want to introduce a conspiracy theory" but then introduced one, asking, "...was this deliberate? ...Was it sabotage?" 

• After his false premise that it took "nine days" to address the spill, Fox Business Network host Eric Bolling continued, "The question is ... why the delay in the response? ...did they let this thing leak? I mean, BP said maybe a thousand barrels a day, it went to five thousand. ...The conspiracy theorists would say, 'maybe they'd let it leak for a while, and then they addressed the issue.' ...That would be a humongous accusation...but if they're going to try and pull drilling, that may be the way they do it."

Watch as Perino and Bolling pose their dark imaginings on Fox, of course:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Schwarzenegger: Drilling In California Not Worth The Risk

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) of California has adopted a common-sense, responsible approach to coastal oil drilling in the wake of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: just say no. Reversing his prior support for drilling to help close the state deficit, the governor announced at a news conference that the undertaking is just not worth it.

Schwarzenegger stated, "I see on TV, the birds drenched in oil, the fishermen out of work, the massive oil spill, oil slick destroying our precious ecosystem. That will not happen here in California. ...If I have a choice to make up $100 million and what I see in Gulf of Mexico, I'd rather find a way to make up that $100 million. ...You turn on the television and see this enormous disaster, you say to yourself, 'Why would we want to take on that kind of risk?' "

Sunday, May 2, 2010

George Bush's "Decision Points": This About Covers It

Crooks and Liars displayed this revised cover of George W. Bush's new book, "Decision Points," and pointed out that one can find further renditions at Mock, Paper, Scissors; FGAQDemocratic Underground and the Huffington Post.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Ray Charles Delivers The Evening Blues, 1963

Savor classic piano blues and vocals as only Ray Charles can deliver them. This 1963 rendition of "In The Evening," a lament about lost love as the sun goes down, also features fine guitar and trumpet solos.

Is Obama Still Ready To "Drill, Baby, Drill"?

The dimensions of the catastrophe resulting from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are much greater than initially thought:

...Eight days after the first explosion on the rig, which left 11 workers missing and presumed dead, the tenor of the response team’s briefings changed abruptly Wednesday night with a hastily called news conference to announce that the rate of the spill was estimated to be 5,000 barrels a day, or more than 200,000 gallons — five times the previous estimate. By Thursday, it was apparent that the cleanup operation desperately needed help, with no indication that the well would be sealed any time soon and oil drifting closer to shore.

The disaster is leading some to question President Obama's decision to allow offshore drilling:

Opponents of President Obama’s plan to expand offshore drilling have also called for a halt. Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, called Thursday for a moratorium on all new offshore oil exploration while the cause of this rig explosion is under investigation. Mr. Nelson, a longtime opponent of oil drilling off the coasts of Florida, said in a letter to Mr. Obama that the spreading oil spill threatened environmental and economic disaster all along the Gulf Coast.

Obama hoped that by compromising on this issue, he would gain Republican support for a comprehensive climate and energy bill. Hoping for anything other than filibusters from today's Party of No is a dubious notion at best. One hopes that the president will recover his past opposition to this hazardous and ineffective practice. On September 15, 2005, he said the following:

“The days of running a 21st century economy on a 20th century fossil fuel are numbered – and we need to realize that before it’s too late. ...The truth is, an oil future is not a secure future for America. ...We could open up every square inch of America to drilling and we still wouldn’t even make a dent in our oil dependency.”