Thursday, April 17, 2014

Condoleezza Rice Is A 23-Year-Old White Male

Writing in Politico magazine (which I praised, apparently prematurely, yesterday), the National Review's Rich Lowry, perhaps still seeing starbursts, is exorcised because Condoleezza "Rice’s speaking gigs on college campuses and her ascension to the board of the Internet company Dropbox have sparked protests calling for her to be disinvited, cashiered and generally isolated and shamed."  Lowry argues that some students and faculty at the University of Minnesota, where she was invited to give a lecture, and at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where she has been invited to give the commencement speech, have been mean to her.

You will remember "Condi," as the mainstream media has affectionately called her for years, as a supporter of the (nationally and internationally) illegal torture regimen carried out by the federal government during the GW Bush administration.   She also was a co-conspirator in ginning up support for the Iraq war, one of convenience conducted, as Rachel Maddow explained in March (partial video of program below), to provide access to Iraqi oil fields to national oil companies.

Thanks to author Ron Suskind, we know that at the first national security meeting held by Bush 43, Secretary of Treasury (not former NY Yankee outfielder) Paul O'Neill and Secretary of State Colin Powell were startled when the President asked Ms. Rice "Well, what do you think the big issue in the region is, Condi?", to which she responded "I think Iraq is the big issue, the destabilizing force and that's going to be our focus."

Soon thereafter, President Bush assigned Vice President Cheney to lead a secret task force, which met privately with energy industry lobbyists and executives of oil companies.   He ordered the National Security Council- headed by "Condi"- to coordinate national security and energy policy with Cheney's task group. Eventually, the task force began to divvy up oil fields among, as Suskind put it, "foreign suitors along with American suitors meaning major oil firms and oil contractors like Halliburton."  As Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6) once said, "mistakes were made."  But Rice was not blissfully unaware.

Though her agency was intimately involved with establishment of the economic rationale for going to war against a sovereign nation, National Security Adviser Rice that summer would warn "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."   Four years later, Rice still was making things up, then claiming "There were ties going on between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime," though she later denied ever saying it.

The same foreign policy genius who now criticizes President Obama over Putin policy would at one time summarize her post-Iraq invasion advice as "Punish France, ignore Germany, forgive Russia.”  A good way to energize NATO.

Lowry complains because "The Minnesota professors say that it is 'in the spirit of free expression' that they ask for the reversal of Rice’s invitation. Because nothing says free expression like shutting down someone’s lecture."  To his enduring credit, Lowry has invented a constitutional guarantee: the right to give a speech at a public university.  Perhaps next spring, you too can invoke that right by demanding that your state's public university allow you to speak, for a fee.

Nearing the conclusion of his piece, Lowry contends

If the typical rules applied, the fierce opposition to Rice would be attributed to racism, sexism and any other handy -ism. The stunt by the University of Minnesota Students for a Democratic Society of referring her to the campus police as “dangerous” and including a physical description of her as a “59-year-old African American woman” would prompt a rant by TourĂ© on MSNBC about the dehumanization of a woman of color and a high-flying essay by Jamelle Bouie on The Daily Beast about the hidden racist tropes embedded in japery at the expense of former secretaries of state.

Oh, yes, because the physical description of an individual must exclude age, race, and gender. Perhaps Condi could have been described as a 23-year-old white male, notwithstanding reaction by conservatives who would ridicule liberals as loathe to admit the object of their criticism is young, female, or black. Some conservatives, who accuse liberals of throwing around the charge of "racism," are themselves fond of the tactic.  In the case of Rich Lowry, he has to find something.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Too Few Dare Call It Terrorism

It's a good point Max Abrahms makes in Politico magazine (which has proven to be far superior to Politico itself)- not great, but good.  Three indiviudals were murdered Sunday in two incidents in Kansas, at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park and the other at the Village Shalom Retirement Community in Leawood. Abrahms notes

From the earliest reports, the killings bore all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack.

There is still no consensus over the definition, but terrorism usually denotes a nonstate actor attacking civilian targets to spread fear for some putative political goal. And here we had a 73-year-old lone wolf opening fire on a Jewish community center and retirement home on Passover eve yelling “Heil Hitler.”

With time, it’s become even clearer that the alleged perpetrator is a terrorist.

He asks- and not rhetorically- the most fundamental question about the event: "yet, the word terrorism wasn’t mentioned “in a single bit of news coverage,” as one observer noted. Why?"

He continues

But what does it take for a hateful act to become a full-fledged terrorist attack? You might think the distinction hinges on lethality. A year ago this week, though, the Boston Marathon bombings killed the same number of bystanders, and Americans had little trouble fingering the incident as terrorism.

Lethality, like size, matters, but as Abrahms maintains, it's not only lethality.  It's also how something is characterized. Words and phrases can obfuscate, confuse, and even propagandize, such as referring to Social Security as "entitlements" (understood by Americans as the other guy wanting something for nothing) rather than earned benefits (or simply "Social Security.") And people labeling them "entitlements" will claim to want to "preserve and protect" benefits rather than, as they're proposing, cutting them.

But words can also clarify and explain.  And here Abrahms is swinging and fouling the ball off while much of the left is swinging and whiffing. He notes.

As founder of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party, Frazier Glenn Miller has a long history of militant anti-Semitism. The Southern Poverty Law Center described him as a “raging anti-Semite” known for posting online rants, like “No Jews, Just Right.” The Institute for Research & Educationon Human Rights has also noted, “His worship for Hitler and Hitlerism is real.” According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, Miller is “one of the pioneers in the modern hate world, he’s been entrenched in the hate movement his entire adult life.”

That at least is technically accurate. The Anti-Defamation  League released a statement similarly contending

While it is too early to label these shootings as a hate crime, the fact that two Jewish institutions were targeted by the same individual just prior to the start of the Passover holiday is deeply troubling and certainly gives us pause.   We have reached out to local, state and federal law enforcement and stand willing and able to offer guidance and assistance to the community if this incident turns out to have been motivated by anti-Semitism.

So what was the first hint this was a hate crime? A hearty "Heil Hitler" is always a good clue. But it was something much more than a hate crime which, truth be told, goes on in the streets of America daily. It was terrorism: t-e-r-r-o-r-i-s-m.

Terrorism does not go on every day. Ask any American when the last act of terrorism was in the nation, and he or she might cite the Boston Marathon incident. And if needed to be reminded of the crime there, the individual surely would describe it as terrorism.

And that is why we read on (from which the photo below is taken)::

One year after the deadly bombings took place at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the people of Boston appeared stronger than ever. The well-known saying 'Boston Strong' could be seen everywhere, from banners and signs to t-shirts and storefronts. The anniversary drew a stream of onlookers, from tourists who wanted to lend their support, to last year’s runners who had returned to remember, some wearing the bright blue and yellow marathon jackets that became a symbol of solidarity.

Walking down Boylston Street, crowds of hundreds of people huddled together under umbrellas while the rain poured down. At 2:49 p.m. ET, the time the first bomb exploded, there was a moment of silence. Nothing could be heard except the gentle sound of rain falling on umbrellas and, soon after, the strong and supportive sound of bappipes. The mood was somber, yet uplifting, while the victims of the bombings were remembered, as well as the courage and compassion of those who ran toward danger to help, rather than away.

Will the events of April 13, 2014 be remembered in the same way one year from today? Not likely, considering the shootings have been nearly- if not completely- expunged from the news already, other than presumably in Missouri and Kansas.

They are not being ignored because the target was the Jewish community (and the victims one Roman Catholic and two Methodists). But labeling them "hate crimes" has made it more likely they would be.  Message to the Southern Poverty Law Center and others: to many Americans, hearing of "hate crimes" precedes a "ho, hu." They've heard it all before and it sounds ideologically motivated, unlike the class of offenses known as "love crimes."

The attacks in eastern Kansas on Sunday will be known as hate crimes or as terrorism. If concerned organizations start labeling them accurately- as terrorism- the response from the American people and their government will be far more vigorous. As an added benefit, we might stop thinking of terrorism as the exclusive province of Muslims.  And that would be an important start in chipping away at hate.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bill Clinton Was Raised In Hope. So Were Others.

It has been four days, and Mike Huckabee is not surprised. A little disappointed, probably, but not surprised. Igor Volsky reported

Mike Huckabee questioned President Obama’s support for marriage equality during an appearance on Fox News on Friday, suggesting that Obama was not genuine in his belief that gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry.

Describing his own opposition to equal marriage rights, Huckabee explained, “The position that I hold is the position that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden held in 2008. Barack Obama held it until 2012.” “And my question that I would love to pose to the president is this: Mr. President, please explain that when you said in 2008 at the Saddleback Church forum that you stood for traditional marriage and you did so because you were a Christian and because it’s what the Bible taught, please answer: Were you lying then, are you lying now, or did the Bible get rewritten?”

Volsky had begun by assuming "Mike Huckabee questioned President Obama's support for marriage equality during an appearance on Fox News on Friday, suggesting that Obama was not genuine in his belief that gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry."

You might think: one must be right and the other wrong. But, no, both are wrong. Surely, the former Arkansas governor realizes- as did most of America, even at that time- that Barack Obama supported gay marriage. Rather, Huckabee is asking- rhetorically, but still hoping for a response: "Did the Bible get rewritten?"  He posed a question he knew Barack Obama could not respond to because "no, the Bible did not get rewritten" would sound almost as silly as "yes, the Bible did get rewritten."  Additionally, it is not wise to get into a debate about Scripture with an ordained Protestant (in this case, Southern Baptist Convention) minister. Politically, especially, the odds are not good playing on someone else's turf.

But don't blame Obama (though I generally like to). Huckabee's (false) challenge is based on a faulty premise.  Immediately below, the transcript of the relevant portion of the interview of Senator Obama by Reverend Rick Warren during campaign 2008:

WARREN: There's a lot more I'd like to ask on that. We have 15 other questions here. Define marriage. 

OBAMA: I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian -- for me -- for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God's in the mix. But -- 

WARREN: Would you support a Constitutional Amendment with that definition? 

OBAMA: No, I would not. 

WARREN: Why not? 

OBAMA: Because historically -- because historically, we have not defined marriage in our constitution. It's been a matter of state law. That has been our tradition. I mean, let's break it down. The reason that people think there needs to be a constitutional amendment, some people believe, is because of the concern that -- about same-sex marriage. I am not somebody who promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions. I do believe that we should not -- that for gay partners to want to visit each other in the hospital for the state to say, you know what, that's all right, I don't think in any way inhibits my core beliefs about what marriage are. I think my faith is strong enough and my marriage is strong enough that I can afford those civil rights to others, even if I have a different perspective or different view. 

Admittedly, Obama did say "I think my faith is strong enough and my marriage is strong enough that I can afford those civil rights to others, even if I have a different perspective or different view," which has the advantage of being incomprehensible.  If his "faith is strong enough" to believe "civil rights" should be extended to others, does that mean that that he believes those rights are contrary to his faith?   And in contrast to what does he "have a different perspective or different view?"  If anyone but a politician said something so obviously ambiguous, you would say "Huh?"

Huckabee was, though, probably referring to the statement in which Obama confirms he believes "marriage is the union between a man and a woman."   But the candidate immediately followed that with "Now, for me as a Christian- for me- for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union."     As Huckabee pretends not to notice, Obama here is saying merely that marriage is "a sacred union," in recognition that no one in American politics ever lost a vote by proclaiming marriage as a "sacred union," even among those who are on their third or fourth. (It additionally allowed him to "evolve" into supporting same-sex marriage, which now becomes among the sacred unions.)  And give him extra points for mentioning God, always helpful with the electorate, even if he added "is in the mix" in a somewhat patronizing reference which evidently went over the heads of the right.

But Mike Huckabee knew that Barack Obama could not safely answer his rhetorical question, which was akin to throwing a Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half. It wasn't likely to succeed, but could not backfire, and meanwhile he continues to ingratiate himself with the Obama-hating wing of the Repub Party.... which is almost everyone.

"Mama didn't raise no fools," the old saw goes. In the case of Mae Huckabee, who raised Mike in Hope, Arkansas, the saying applies.  Her son (photo from says he won't decide until after the midterms whether he'll make another bid for the GOP presidential nomination.  Notwithstanding conventional wisdom, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton would do much better to hope she's facing Jeb Bush than Mike Huckabee down the road.

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