Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Radical Jihadist Second Amendment

After its second consecutive display of judicial activism on the matter, the Supreme Court has reiterated that individual’s have a Constitutional Right to bear arms. In popular lore – as accepted by the Court’s conservative majority – individuals have a right to protect themselves against an oppressive government. As I have written before, deep in the American historical consciousness, there is this romantic notion of the Founding Fathers as revolutionaries. If in fact that is the basis on which the Second Amendment stands, then under today’s standard wouldn’t our “revolutionaries” who were insurgents and fought by guerrilla warfare, be considered today analogous to terrorists? And how different is a Jihadist than an insurgent whose reason for fighting is to defend one’s nation?

(As an aside, the term “jihad”, roughly meaning “struggle”, outside of the spiritual context was historically used to refer to an obligation to defend one’s nation against foreign attack. In modern Arabic, the term is also a common first name amongst Arab Christians).

Isn’t there something incredibly Jihadist in the psyche of the American who truly believes that the Second Amendment grants an individual the right to armed insurgency? The whole idea of “Second Amendment Remedies” is a fairly standard Republican talking point spewed from the likes of Newt Gingrich to Sharron Angle. According to Ms. Angle,

You know, our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.

As is usually the case, though, we don’t always appreciate that each of our American values be spread around the world. Also times change. For example, contrary to British protests, our closest allies, the Israelis, unashamedly commemorate the Israeli terrorist bombing that killed British and Arab citizens in 1946. And even though idealist American writers such as Hemingway and Langston Hughes, took up arms against the Franco regime during the Spanish Civil War, under the current political climate, fighting an oppressive regime is tantamount to an act of terrorism against the U.S., even when the U.S. is not a party to that conflict (as is the case of Somali Americans traveling to take up arms in Somalia). During the war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, then Senators Dole and Lieberman had proposed a bill to lift the arms embargo, so as to give the Bosnians a fair chance. Can you imagine our Second Amendment guardians in favor of exporting an American style right to bear arms to the Afghanis, Iraqis or even the Palestinians?

So for all those who believe in this radical Jihadist reading of the Second Amendment as a fundamental pillar of American democracy, should the U.S. be pushing a similar right to bear arms when promoting democracy around the world?



Filed under Essays

Do Palestinians Have the Right to Exist: Part II

I recently observed that in the face of the undeniable fact of Israeli’s existence — a country that is a member of the U.N., with embassies around the world, universal health care, 8,419 millionaires (2,519 new ones since 2008), nuclear weapons, and billions of dollars in aid from the world’s largest military power —  the real question should be whether the Palestinians have a right to exist.

Today, according to the Associated Press, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman answered that question: “As an optimist, I see no chance that a Palestinian state will be established by 2012.” In other words, not yet.


Filed under Essays

Extrajudicial Targeting of U.S. Citizens for Assassination

Here is Glenn Greenwald on the Obama Administration’s extrajudicial targeting of U.S. citizens for assassination and the Democrats’ hypocritical support thereof.

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Brasil 1982

The best doesn’t always win. And it is certainly difficult to imagine a more talented squad than the 1982 Brazilian national team, even by today’s standards. Cristiano Ronaldo has nothing on these guys hairdos (or shorts).


Filed under Digressions

Torres Should Be Sanctioned

Torres, whose athletic performance has been well below par during the first round of World Cup play, did at least successfully pull off this fine display of theatrics. The result was a red card for the Chilean player. FIFA often reviews video footage of games to determine whether to sanction players for unsportsmanlike conduct — usually limited to aggression or disrespect for the referee — but this practice should be expanded to castigate unsportsmanlike theatrics and other tactics that undermine the game.

When Thierry Henry’s undetected handball helped France qualify for the World Cup, the French public — in large numbers — actually protested the injustice (one of the first drops in the bucket leading to the popular disrespect for their national squad). It would be nice to see the Spanish press ostracize Fernando Torres for his shameful display. The Spanish should leave the cheap tricks to the Italians and Argentines.


Filed under Football/Soccer, Living la vida española

The Lamentable State of Mainstream Journalism

<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'McChrystal’s Balls – Honorable Discharge
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

This is a nice job by Jon Stewart highlighting the lamentable state of mainstream political journalism in the U.S. Particularly revealing is the comment by Celeste Headlee where she says to the Rolling Stones journalist who revealed the McChrystal story, “you were obviously not worried about access in the future; I can’t imagine you are going to get it”. In other words, in the mainstream press, you don’t report on unfavorable news, lest you not be given access to the politicians in the future. Welcome to the White House. Easy questions, easy answers, easy access; become one with the propaganda machine.

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Law & Order and the Republican Mantra

<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'Tron Carter’s Law & Order
Chappelle’s Show
Buy Chappelle’s Show DVDs Black Comedy True Hollywood Story

At the suggestion of ReWrite, here is a video from The Chappelle Show that serves as a good accompaniment to yesterday’s post on the Republicans’ cynical worldview of due process for corporations only.


Filed under Essays

The Republican Mantra Part II: Rights for Corporations Only

It is hard to think of something more cynical than the Republican reaction to President Obama’s deal with BP. Then again, it should have come as no surprise that Republicans have reiterated their official decree on the supremacy of corporations over individuals. Without getting into the merits of Obama’s $20 billion shakedown of BP(to be honest, I haven’t been paying much attention), the Republicans’ outbursts against the Executive Branch strong-arming a corporation completely ignores the reality of the entire American prosecutorial system and how it treats individuals.

As Joe Barton first said (though he later apologized),

I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday . . . I think it is a tragedy in the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown — in this case a $20 billion shakedown — with the attorney general of the United States, who is legitimately conducting a criminal investigation and has every right to do so to protect the American people, participating in what amounts to a $20 billion slush fund that’s unprecedented in our nation’s history, which has no legal standing, which I think sets a terrible precedent for our nation’s future.

Would Mr. Barton feel the same way about prosecutors who every day use the threat of the death penalty, lifetime sentences, three-strikes-you’re-out, and other means of arm-twisting at their disposal to persuade criminal suspects to reach a plea bargain? Prosecutors particularly love the death penalty because it is the most effective negotiating tool they’ve got. So where does Mr. Barton stand on terrible precedents: you plea or I’ll do everything in my power to send you to your death or “show me the money”?

This may sound exaggerated, but this is in fact what people – not corporations – are up against every time they right or wrongly face a prosecutor. Have Republicans ever seen an episode of Law & Order? Remember that prosecutors are agents of the Executive Branch, and as such their decision to prosecute a case is always a political decision; there really isn’t much of difference between Obama’s political tactic and that of your average district attorney. Apparently for Republicans, though, it is only scandalous when the poor, helpless corporation faces the prosecution.

Even though the Republicans feigned disgust at Mr. Barton’s original statement above, they quickly sent their pundits out to regurgitate their talking points about how Obama was ignoring the rule of law, denying BP due process, and of course, setting a dangerous precedent. Ignoring the obvious error in the due process claim (BP very much has the right to contest the “strong arming” in court), the Right’s sudden passion for due process is remarkably cynical.

Tony Blanky on Left, Right and Center was seriously concerned about “protecting the process of law” (even citing Thomas More), and out of the blue, David Brooks on the NewsHour felt that Obama “very brutally strong armed BP” and was worried about “the erosion of the rule of law”. He was so noble to claim that the law was there to protect “even people who do bad things.” Then George Will on This Week compared Obama to Hugo Chavez, calling his actions the “use of raw political power without recourse to courts that exist for this sort of thing without due process . . .”

Must I state the obvious? Misters Blanky, Brooks, and Will are arguing the exact opposite of what they have been fighting for for the past eight years: the president’s unfettered, unchecked power to indefinitely detain terror suspects without due process. If corporations, according to Citizens United, have the same First Amendment rights as individuals, shouldn’t individuals (even the ones “who do bad things”) have, at a minimum, the same basic rights corporations do when it comes to due process in a court that, as Mr. Will says, “exist[s] for this sort of thing”?

For example, would these gentlemen disagree with President Obama’s continued, indefinite detention in cages of Guantanamo detainees without any recourse whatsoever, even when they have been determined – as in the case of Mohamed Hassan Odaini — by the military and the courts to be completely innocent? Or would they continue to aspire to a world where corporations are free from government interference while individuals are subject to the full force of government’s brutal wrath?


Filed under Essays, Obama 44

Because of My Descent

There are always two sides to every story, at least that is what we are supposed to believe. Personally, in this story I have no stake. I am not a Christian or Muslim Arab and I am not a descendant of European or American Jews. As an American – and one who grew up amongst a large Jewish minority outside of Washington, DC, I do have a certain natural affinity for Jewish culture. As a matter of fact, I have probably been to a synagogue (for bar mitzvahs and weddings) more times than I have been in a Christian church of any denomination.

Furthermore, I – with my well-trained American olfactory sense for sniffing political incorrectness and racism – now live in Europe and can attest to the fact that Europe is not an option for Jews. Even more than a half century after the Holocaust, I cannot think of a single European country that is comfortable with sharing its society with a non-indigenous, non-Christian minority. Europeans define themselves as European, not on shared values or citizenship (in a strictly political sense), but on ethnicity alone. Full stop. It shouldn’t be surprising then that while most Europeans would not consider themselves anti-Semitic, the vast majority side with the Palestinians over the Israelis. Ironically, though, Europeans are more openly hostile to Muslims than they are to Jews.

So there you have it: regardless of what Helen Thomas may think, Jews of European descent really don’t have the option of going back to Europe. On the other hand, though, you have all of the Palestinians – both Christians and Muslims – who have spent the last half century asking themselves why they should have to pay the price for the Europeans’ brutality towards the Jews. They’re wondering why an American from New York or a Russian has more rights in and to the land they grew up in than they do. And just as I have grown up with the children of those who were forced to flee for their lives from Europe to the U.S., I also know Palestinians who have lost their family homes, quite literally, to Americans and Europeans resettling in Israel.

So without taking any sides – once again as I have absolutely no stake in the dispute – I read Rabbi David F. Nesenoff’s critique of Helen Thomas in today’s Washington Post. Rabbi Nesenoff happens to be the person to whom Ms. Thomas uttered those very unfortunate words about how the Jews should leave Palestine and return to Europe and America, inevitably causing Thomas to resign her position as a White House journalist.

Interestingly enough, what Rabbi Nesenoff finds most troublesome is that Ms. Thomas justified her comments by declaring that she was “from Arab descent”. (Ms. Thomas’ father was an Arab Christian immigrant to the U.S.)

For the next few paragraphs Rabbi Nesenoff discredits Thomas’ conclusion with a few different predictable arguments about the inherent anti-Semitism in her statement and how it denies a two-state solution to the crisis, and even how the Bible grants this land to the Jews. But in the end, he too denies the other’s right to co-exist, offering little more than the exact mirror of Thomas’ “because I am from Arab desecent”:

My grandmother used to kibitz, “Friends you choose; family you’re stuck with.” The Jew is stuck with Israel. There is no ungluing the connection. It is beyond the ambiguous term “chosen people”; they are “the people who have no choice.” It is more than a religious belief; it is a value and a moral barometer of the Earth. History, truth, integrity and the foundation of our world are not negotiable.

In other words, this land is mine because I am Jewish. And you are not.

At least both of them are comfortable in the U.S., as long as they don’t move to Arizona.

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Power Changes

<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'Respect My Authoritah
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Power changes those in power.

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