Thursday, September 30, 2021

Alternate Facts

"You're entitled to your own opinions  You're not entitled to your own facts."


                                                                - Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, circa 1994

The Jerusalem Post reports

During a discussion with students about National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday, US Vice President Kamala Harris did not challenge a comment by a student at George Mason University in Virginia who accused Israel of “ethnic genocide” and defended her right to say it.

The student, who identified herself as part-Yemeni, part-Iranian and “not an American,” also expressed outrage at US funding of the Iron Dome.

She said America affects her life “every day” due to military funding it gives to Saudi Arabia and Israel.

“You brought up how the power of the people and demonstrations and organizing is very valuable in America,” she said. “But I see that over the summer there have been protests and demonstrations in astronomical numbers standing with Palestine. But then just a few days ago, there were funds allocated to continue backing Israel, which hurts my heart because it’s ethnic genocide and displacement of people, the same that happened in America, and I’m sure you’re aware of this.”

The student questioned why money was going to Israel and Saudi Arabia instead of to social issues in America.

“The people have spoken very often of what they do need, and I feel like there’s a lack of listening, and I just feel like I need to bring this up because it affects my life and people I really care about’s [sic] life,” she said.

In response, Harris said she was “glad” the student spoke up.

“Your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth cannot be suppressed, and it must be heard,” she said.

Harris said democracy is strongest when everyone participates and is weakest when anyone is left out.

“That’s not only about being physically present but that your voice is present,” she said. “Our goal should be unity, but not uniformity. Unity should never be at the expense of telling any one person, ‘For the sake of unity, oh you be quiet about that thing.’ That’s not unity. Then we see where that ends up in a healthy debate about the issue.”

Regarding the student’s reference to Middle East policy, Harris said: “We still have healthy debates in our country about what is the right path, and nobody’s voice should be suppressed on that.”

No student has reason to believe her voice, perspective, or experience about Palestinians and Israel is "suppressed" and that she must "be quiet about that thing." Unless she has been living under a rock, she knows college students from coast-to-coast have been free to criticize, even condemn, Israel.  Truth is optional, even discouraged.

Obviously, though, the major problem with Harris' remark is ".... your truth cannot be suppressed and it must be heard." Amidst other questionable remarks, this British conservative (1:20 at the link), notes "the great Oprahism of our time- 'I've got my truth, you've got yours, let's call the whole thing off."

Thankfully, Harris referred to your truth rather than the truth. Still, "your truth " here is (dangerously) false and as Vice-President of the United States of America, serving under the leader of the Free World, Harris was responsible to correct the student.

Madame Vice President, the idea that Israel has committed genocide against the Palestinians is not someone's truth, it is someone's lie, whether they know it or not.  And it is pernicious, destructive and should not be elided or ignored by the highest officials in the land.

Kamala Harris should concede error promptly. It is insufficient to claim that she was not agreeing with the student but merely acknowledging her right to be heard.  "Continue to speak up," she could have been told, but "Israel is either not committing genocide- or is the most incompetent government in all of human history."


And, no, the fact that the Vice President is married to a Jewish man is not relevant.  Whatever bearing it might have on Harris' perspective on the Middle East, at that moment she appeared to agree with the perspective expressed, one both inaccurate and completely discordant with the policy of the nation she serves.

Quoting Daniel Patrick Moynihan's aphorism has become tiresome as it is applied to trivial matters. However, this as no trivial matter and Kamala Harris would have done well to understand that opinions are important, but facts more so.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

A Questionable Group

After Speaker Pelosi, under pressure from far-left members of her caucus, took the funding for Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system out of the continuing resolution, nine members of the House of Representatives voted against the appropriation.

Eight of these were Democrats: Omar of Minnesota; Carson of Indiana; Tlaib of Michigan; Newman and Garcia of Illinois; Pressley of Massachusetts; Grijalva of California; Bush of Missouri.

Presumably, a few had legitimate reasons. Not so this Republican, however:

If you have a good reason, an anti-Semitic tweet is not the way to go. Similarly, when the Times of Israel made "repeated requests for comment on the matter," four of the Representatives- Carson, Newman, Garcia, and Grijalva, "did not respond." 

Perhaps in this case, discretion is the better part- not of valor, but of something else. Rashida Tlaib claimed Palestinians are "living under a violent apartheid system." Cori Bush maintained that the USA shouldn't send additional funding to "an apartheid state's military," which would make sense were Israel an apartheid state or Iron Dome weren't a system intended to save civilian lives from rocket attack.  Bush brazenly equates Israel with the South Africa which institutionalized separateness and segregation, just as she has equated policing in the USA with slavery.


Expression of anti-Semitic sentiment doesn't get much more explicit than the words of Bush, Massie, and Tlaib. Some restraint is inevitable. Even King of Hate Donald Trump claimed to be the "least racist person in the world" and exclaimed "we love our Hispanics." No one outside his cult believed him, and no one should be fooled by the remarks of Cori Bush, Thomas Massie, or Rashida Tlaib.

While Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar cited legitimate concerns, four House members refused to respond to requests for comment while three others made clear their contempt, born of ignorance, about Israel.  

Democratic congressman Hank Thompson of Georgia, as well as New York's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, voted "present" on the appropriation.  Though that won't qualify them as profiles in courage, they avoided the sewer a few of their colleagues have descended into.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Hey, Look Me Over

Crashing a MET gala in New York City, NY,  Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez "wore a white off-the-shoulder gown by Brother Vellies, designed by founder and creative director Aurora James, with the words "TAX THE RICH" emblazoned down the back in bright red letters."

Lest we be tempted to assume that social conscience and tax policy was her motivation

On social media, Ocasio-Cortez said Brother Vellies created the dress. "The medium is the message, "Ocasio-Cortez captioned the photo. "Proud to work with Aurora James as a sustainably focused, Black woman immigrant designer who went from starting her dream at Brother Vellies at a flea market in Brooklyn to winning the CFDA against all odds - and then work together to kick open the doors at the Met."

That was previously recognized that as commercialism or, alternatively, drawing attention to oneself in order to draw attention to oneself.  A mere ten days later, as the House of Representatives voted to approve an additional one billion dollars in new funding for the multi-tiered, air defense Iron Dome system, Ocasio-Cortez

a member of the liberal group known as the Squad, was one of two members who voted “present” as the measure to help Israel replace missile interceptors overwhelmingly passed the House on Thursday on a vote of 420 to 9. She was seen weeping on the House floor after she switched her vote from “no” to “present.”

In a letter sent the next day to her constituents, the congresswoman complained of "a lack of substantive discussion on this matter" and maintained "the process of bringing it to the House floor was deeply unjust." She claimed it

fueled the discussion to devolve to a point where it became clear that this vote would risk a severe devolution of the good faith community fabric that allows us to responsibly join in a struggle for human rights and dignity everywhere - from Palestine to The Bronx and Queens (and) I wept at the complete lack of care for the human beings that are impacted by these decisions,

The process, known as "suspension of the rules," created "panic and horror" and damaged human rights and dignity everywhere, from Palestine to The Bronx and Queens. But Ocasio-Cortez couldn't bring herself to vote against the measure. She opted for "present.."

It is unclear why Ocasio-Cortez did not vote against a bill she believed inimical to much of what she believes in.  However, she was captured by C-Span cameras speaking to an obviously engaged, arguably agitated, Speaker Nancy Pelosi before changing her vote from "no" to "present." They probably were not arguing over whether the NY Giants' quarterback Daniel Jones is better than the 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo.

We do know, however, that the congresswoman successfully strove to be the center of attention at a gala to which she was not even invited. Soon afterward, she was shown crying about a bill she didn't vote either for or against. It's the sort of thing she does.

When John Lewis first campaigned for a seat in the House from Georgia, he described himself as "a workhorse (and) not a show horse," a "tugboat and not a showboat." Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: you're no John Lewis.



Saturday, September 25, 2021

One Or None

Following up on Friday night his remarks of two weeks earlier about "Lift Every Voice and Sing"/the Black National Anthem reinforcing disunity and promoting segregation, Bill Maher commented (beginning at :39 of the video below)

The program "The View" last week devoted a lot of time to this while somehow avoiding what I actually said. It seemed to be a lot about a need to school me on the Black National Anthem itself.

Whoopi Goldberg said we need two anthems because "we're having to re-educate people." Because nothing ever goes wrong when you start talking about re-education. Just ask Chairman Mao. Maybe we can set up some sort of camp now.

Goldberg wouldn't approve of re-education camps, of course, unless they were segregated. She stated (beginning at :56 of the video below)

I'm just going to throw my two cents in. I think because we have gone backwards a good 10-15 years, we're having to re-educate or educate people. We're going to have to re-educate people about how women want to be talked about, how black people want to be talked about, how Hispanic people want to be talked about, and yet, it's a little bit tough- Native Americans, the Asian folks. These are all things that we- I thought we all worked together and got everybody to the point where here's what you can't say and just so you know, Bill, Lift Every Voice has always been considered the Black National Anthem.

It's always been that because the separation of the anthems has been so clear to us. Now maybe other people don't feel like that but I feel like, you know, we have to re-educate and retell people. We don't thing rape is funny. We don't think, you know, talking about Native Americans in a really despicable way is funny. It's not funny. It's not funny. We have to re-educate.

This was a curious rant given that Maher was not talking about Native Americans or rape. Nor was he even commenting about black people. He was talking about "Lift Every Voice and Sing," dubbed the "Black National Anthem."

Goldberg was so determined to inform people who are not women, nor black, Hispanic, Asian, or  Native American that they need to be re-educated that she mentioned it once, then circled back and mentioned it twice. That she did not specify "non-Hispanic white males" makes it no less condescending, only less explicit and straightforward.

She stated "we have gone backwards a good 10-15 years." Also, "I thought we all worked together and got everybody to the point" of addressing people respectfully. Evidently, we've gone backwards- yet now we are enlightened.  Whoopi, please debate Whoopi.

And no, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" has not always been considered the Black National Anthem. The tipoff should have been the word "black."  Fifty years ago, the prevailing term was "Negro." Twenty years earlier, it was "colored."  (To the enlightened who will do the "educating," it now is often "people of color.")

If  "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is a black national anthem, black is erased as a race, color, or culture and becomes a nation. If not a nation, a national anthem is not an anthem.  Maher explained Friday evening

and you know, when it comes to an anthem, it doesn't have to be the one we currently use but it has to be just one. You know, because it's a national anthem and symbols of unity matter and purposely fragmenting things by race reinforces a terrible message that we are two nations hopelessly drifting apart from each other....

Notwithstanding Goldberg's claim that "Lift Every Voice and Sing" has always been considered the Black National Anthem"

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" was first written as a poem. Created by James Weldon Johnson, it was performed for the first time by 500 school children in celebration of President Lincoln's Birthday on February 12, 1900 in Jacksonville, FL. The poem was set to music by Johnson's brother, John Rosamond Johnson, and soon adopted by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as its official song.

Bill Maher's previous show "Politically Incorrect" was forced off the air after the host told the uncomfortable truth about the 9/11/01 hijackers. A couple of decades later, he is smeared by new critics, for whom honesty and accuracy are alien concepts.


Thursday, September 23, 2021

Freedom To Die

Tom Avril of The Philadelphia Inquirer reports

Seated in an ornate, columned hearing room before a panel of state legislators, the 7-year-old girl spoke with conviction.

“I love God with my whole heart,” she said. “He made our immune systems perfect.”

Therefore she — and other children from families with such religious beliefs — should be exempt from requirements to get vaccinated against measles and other infectious diseases, the girl argued.

A crowd of supporters erupted in applause. And within days, lawmakers tabled their effort to tighten the state’s school vaccination rules, leaving intact the option of obtaining a religious exemption.

A scene from a red state, perhaps? Somewhere in the Great Plains or the Deep South?

Try New Jersey, which has voted for Democrats in the last eight presidential elections.

West Virginia and Mississippi have two of the lowest rates of vaccination against COVID-19, and lately they have paid the price with jammed hospitals and school closures. Just 40% of West Virginians and 41% of Mississippians are fully vaccinated, according to Covid Act Now, a nonprofit that tracks pandemic trends.

But the states’ longtime success in school vaccination is built on firm policy, Buttenheim said: For decades, they were the only two states not to allow religious or personal-belief exemptions.

West Virginia and Mississippi are respectively, the seventh most religious state and the most religious state in the USA. The low rate of vaccination against the coronavirus therefore is not surprising. Ironically, the religiosity of the two states also may help account  for them being the only two states not to allow religious or personal belief exemptions.

There is, nonetheless, hope for New Jersey.  Avril notes

New Jersey lawmakers have reintroduced their proposal to ban religious exemptions. Democrat Herb Conaway, the bill’s sponsor in the state Assembly, where it passed in December 2019 before stalling in the state Senate, did not respond to a request for comment.

But in a floor speech to colleagues back then, Conaway, a physician, made his views clear, railing against “junk science.”

“It’s tragic that a child would die or suffer a grievous illness by a disease which is preventable by a vaccine,” he said. “Vaccines have been proven time and time again. Vaccine mandates have been proven time and time again to save lives.”

It's not only irresponsible but absurd that legislators would more highly value the testimony of a child than that of adult professionals with educational and professional achievements in the scientific or medical fields.

Avril adds

Science did not carry the day in New Jersey in January 2020, when state senators scrapped their effort to eliminate religious exemptions after the testimony from the 7-year-old girl, Emelia Walls of Cape May.

The sincerity of people leaning on a religious liberty exception to being vaccinated undoubtedly varies from one individual to another. However, the validity of their objection does not vary. Through belief or formal affiliation, Emelia presumably identifies with a specific Christian denomination or generally as a Christian.  But there is nothing in the Bible about vaccination, there is nothing in Scripture about the quality of immune systems, and the sects which have qualms about vaccination are extremely small.

It's not science vs. religion. It's science vs. emotion, and the objective is to intimidate those on the side of public health, who are expected to cower before individuals, especially little children, who claim an entitlement because of supposed religious faith.  In New Jersey, Assemblyman Conaway, as a medical doctor arguing from a position of strength, has been able to withstand the intimidation. 

Nevertheless, too few legislators in too few states are able to do so. It may be no coincidence that West Virginia and Mississippi, two states with a dominant Christian culture, traditionally have been able to withstand pleas from individuals or groups who claim a special insight into God's perspective on immunization.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Color Blind Coddling

It's time for us liberals/progressives to be honest. It shouldn't be too painful, though as Democrats it will hurt a little.

Eric Boehlert recently wrote

National Public Radio relayed more shocking Covid news on Monday: “In 2020, for the first time in recorded history, more people died in Alabama than were born in the state.” The pandemic has shrunk the red state. Yet local Republican leaders still oppose mask and vaccine mandates, leaving the Trump outpost exposed to more fatalities.

But like so many news outlets, NPR missed the real story. The pile of Alabama deaths continue to mount not simply because of Covid. But because so many people in the Trump-friendly state have been brainwashed by bad-faith partisan actors and they refuse to get inoculated. Anti-science Republicans seem determined to spread the virus among their own voters, which seems inconceivable.

Millions of conservative Americans are being brainwashed about the pandemic, and thousands are killing themselves in the process. Yet the media downplay the huge story, framing it simply as “vaccine hesitancy.".

.... the rest of the world must be looking on in slack-jawed astonishment as Trump voters lead a mad movement powered by Fox News. The network is doing what no other outlet has done in the history of television news — it’s deliberately getting people killed during a public health crisis by feeding eagerly gullible red state viewers a mountain of lies.

From PizzaGate, to QAnon, to the current anti-vaccine and anti-mask hysteria, the GOP has been brainwashed. It’s no secret — lots of victims openly admit it. Still, the press shies away, nervous about offending conservatives by portraying them as mindless zombies being easily duped about a miraculously safe and effective vaccine. (It’s the same reason news outlets refused to call Trump a “liar.”)

Instead of calling out the Covid zombies, the press coddles them, especially white, Southern ones, depicting them as merely “vaccine hesitant,” “vaccine-reluctant,” or “vaccine skeptics.”

But it's not only whites who are depicted as merely "vaccine hesitant," "vaccine-reluctant" or "vaccine skeptics."  In the study "Addressing Justified Vaccine Hesitancy in the Black Community," Carl T. Laurencin notes

Blacks are disproportionately affected by poverty, mass incarceration, infant mortality, limited healthcare access, and health-related conditions including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, kidney disease, respiratory illness, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) [1]. We are also more likely to contract the virus and spread it within our communities because we are less likely to be able work from home and physically distance ourselves due to living, working, and commuting [6]

All true and undeniable. He then states

Blacks as a community have the highest levels of individuals who state they will never get the vaccine or are not sure if they will get the vaccine, Fig. ​Fig.11 [7, 8].

Many studies have noted that Black people cite distrust in the government and in the medical profession. Black people cite our nation’s history of racism in medical research and in medical care as key reasons for their hesitancy [9, 10]. This distrust is totally justified.

Well, no, it's not.  Boehlert reflects a prominent view in the left community when he refers to a lot of whites who refuse to get the Covid-19 vaccine as "mindless zombies being easily duped about a miraculously safe and effective vaccine.." By contrast, resistant blacks are, according to Laurencin and many others on the left, "totally justified" in their distrust.

Such is "the soft bigotry of low expectations," a tendency to which blacks themselves are not immune.   Promptly upon availability of the vaccine at the end of 2020, President Biden and Vice President Harris (for whom blacks recently had voted overwhelmingly in the presidential election) and a whole host of other prominent individuals, both black and white, publicly were observed getting the vaccine. They did not die. In general, neither blacks nor whites nor others should be coddled.

In general, neither blacks nor whites or anyone else should be coddled. Many African-Americans were initially distrustful of the vaccine, and too many remain so.   They're not zombies, but neither are the whites, Latinos, and others who have refused the shot. They are foolish, a human trait possessed by a large number of whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians, and individuals of any other background.


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Popular Strategy

No, the media has not, and the American public has not. Had the media paid attention, the American people nonetheless would have not.

Speaking Monday to Tucker Carlson, Tulsi Gabbard, U.S Representative from Hawaii and former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, laid out the threat she perceives from "Islamist ideology," which she distinguished from "Islam." She stated

Militarily, we have two choices in how we do that. Number one, continue to invade and occupy and nation-build in countries around the world, just as we did in Afghanistan- at great cost. number two, we an take a targeted approach using air strikes, using our special forces to go in and go after these terror cells.

The reality is that the cost, the cost to the American people, the cost to our troops, the cost to civilians will be far less if we take this targeted approach to go after these Jihadist terrorists, that if we continue to make the very same mistakes that we saw in Afghanistan and other parts of the world of invasion, occupation, and nation-building...

Gabbard argues "the cost to the American people, the cost to our troops, the cost to civilians will be far less if we take this targeted approach." 

"Two out of three ain't bad," Jim Steinman wrote for Meat Loaf over 40 years ago, and Gabbard might have gotten two right. Obviously, the cost to American soldiers will be far less and, unless there is an increase of terrorism on American soil, the cost to the American people will drop. But the cost to civilians will not.

Drone strikes in North Africa/Middle East are likely to rise. They will do so in part because the military will not roll over and play dead.  The weapons of war must be used for something and they probably will be called upon to do more now that there will be fewer American soldiers in the region to respond to terroristic threats.

Journalist Garrett Graff is rightfully annoyed that there was little attention paid by the media to USA "targeting debacles" of the past twelve years.  Avoidance of the topic helped prevent public outrage over civilian deaths.

But this door swings both ways. One reason media generally ignored the air strikes was that there is scant interest among the public in deaths of foreign civilians. They are not Americans.  The deaths we care about are those of American men and women, the same individuals to whom we say "thank you for your service" when we are sincere and when we are not.

That's why Tulsi Gabbard can claim "the cost to civilians will be far less if we take this targeted approach,"  though she knows otherwise. She may know, too, that while numerous surveys in recent months have asked voters whether they support withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, far fewer explore sentiment about air strikes.

Those questions would raise awareness of this approach, to which the federal government has been pivoting in fits and spurts over the past three Administrations. Investigation of the role of the intelligence establishment in assisting the strategy is critical. Still, not many Americans would care- and even fewer would disapprove, especially if Gabbard and others continue to whitewash it as "targeted."


Monday, September 20, 2021

Down That Old, Ugly Road

Bill Maher on September 10 took on another sacred cow. This time it was segregation, which is dangerously insinuating itself into our national culture. In the video below, Maher is seen remarking

When people say to me sometimes like, boy, you know you go after the left a bit these days, "why," I'm like because you're embarrassing me. That's why I'm going after the left in a way you never did before because you're inverting things. I'm not going to give up on being liberal. 

This is what these teachers are talking about- that you're taking children and making them hyper aware of race in a way they wouldn't otherwise be.

I mean, I saw last night on the football game, uh, Alicia Keys sang "Lift Every Voice and Sing," which now I hear is called "The Black National Anthem." Now maybe we should get rid of our national anthem but I think we should have one national anthem. I think when you go down a road where you're having two different national anthems,  colleges sometimes now have, many of them have, different graduation ceremonies for black and white- separate dorms. This is what I mean- segregation. You've inverted the idea. We're going back to that under a different name.

These ceremonies, geared toward one or more minority groups, are not mandatory and generally not sponsored by colleges but are encouraged and endorsed by them. A more accurate term than "segregation" may be Balkanization- but segregation nonetheless is accurate.

The pernicious nature of these steps toward re-segregation are highlighted by the branding of the song, once a poem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing." There should be only one national anthem, as Maher maintains, even if we "get rid of our national anthem," the Star-Spangled Banner. If there are two national anthems, there is no national anthem.  

Labeling any tune "the black national anthem" is itself misleading at best, noxious at worse. "Black" is not a country, a continent, or even a representation of national descent, which would be African or African-American. There can be no black national anthem because black is not a country. It is a color and description of a race. Were there a "White National Anthem," it not only would be offensive but similarly silly.

Perhaps devotees of a Black National Anthem literally don't know what they're supporting. If there truly is a black national anthem, white national anthem, or brown national anthem, there is an anthem depicting that ethnic group (or color) as a separate nation. That may have been the dream of Southern separatists some 160 years ago. It should not be our dream.


Sunday, September 19, 2021

Tweet Of The Day- Taliban

It's not a tweet from today but rather of seven days ago. However, CNN's Fareed Zakaria has done what few others have done.  In the video below, he can be seen commenting

In other words, the world's most ideologically committed Islamic government has said its closest ally will be a nation engaged in what many observers call cultural genocide against its Muslims. Lesson: the Islamic militant movement has always been more about power than about religion.

Probably, and if so, it is analogous to the GOP's voter suppression in the USA. That is less (although somewhat) directed against blacks as a group than it is an expression of raw, naked power, an effort to acquire unlimited dominance and control. The party's white evangelical Christian base, a critical ally in the endeavor, also is less motivated by race than by power. Fundamentalists have a way of doing that.

Zakaria obviously continued "twenty years after 9/11, we are still not clear on how to think about radical Islam. It is real, it is evil, but it has lost the ideological argument."

In those three sentences, Zakaria has committed the sin of using the terms Muslim, Islamic, and Islam. To be sure, he specifies "Islamic militant movement" and "radical Islam," applying the accurate, and helpful, adjectives.

But in contrast to a current affectation of political correctness, he actually noted that the Taliban are Muslims. That is simply not done in polite company.

In contrast to Zakaria, there is a whole host of politicians, journalists, pundits, and activists. Included among them is Canadian Kimahli Powell, Executive Director of Rainbow Railroad.

Powell chatted on Friday with CNN's Victor Blackwell about Rainbow Railroad's efforts on behalf of LGBTQIA+ Afghans.  His Twitter timeline includes the following remarks by him and/or his organization:

With our partners, Rainbow Railroad is calling on the U.S. government to take ten specific actions to ensure the safety of #LGBTQI+ people in Afghanistan. We'll continue to post updates here as they happen.

Rainbow Railroad continues to liaise with #LGBTQI people on the ground in #Afghanistan. @KimahliPowell updated @CBCToronto and @chrisgloverCBC on our efforts to find safety for people caught in this conflict

In this seven-part thread, focusing on the Taliban's threat to LGBTQ+ individuals, from August 26, Powell addresses the "increasingly dire" plight of sexual minorities in Afghanistan, somehow without mentioning that the Taliban rationalize oppression with their religious zealotry.

There is an abject and reprehensible refusal, with serious and little understood implications, to referring to the Taliban as Islamist. Powell and others thereby are unable to characterize accurately a group which is militant, radical, and fundamentalist The Taliban are motivated by religion- but even more by power, which Zakaria is able to assert because he does what few others are willing to do: utter the term "Muslim."

Zakaria accurately characterizes the Taliban as Muslim while recognizing that they do not accurately represent the faith. They are religious fundamentalists who pose a danger to Afghanistan far greater than posed by religious fundamentalists in many societies, including our own.

Religious fundamentalists pose a danger to many societies, including our own, but especially in Afghanistan, a topic largely unexplored for fear of giving offense. However, Fareed Zakaria, perhaps because he himself is a Muslim, has had his "NIxon going to China" moment. Nonetheless, that doesn't excuse all others from ignoring the elephant in the room.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Trump Lite

At first, it might appear that freshman North Carolina congressman Matthew Cawthorn is merely ignorant.

Cawthorn has claimed that George Washington was 21 when he received his first military commission, though he was 22, and that Abraham Lincoln initially was 22 when he first ran for office, though he was 23.

Those seem like simple, trivial errors. Cawthorn attributed the famous John Adams quote "facts are stubborn things" to Thomas Jefferson, inaccurately referred to James Madison as a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and told Jewish Insider that Congress authorized the Emancipation Proclamation, though it was the handiwork solely of President Lincoln.

Cawthornalso  has claimed that George Washington was 21 when he received his first military commission, though he was 22, and that Abraham Lincoln initially was 22 when he first ran for office, though he was 23.

At first glance, they seem to be errors born of ignorance without being self-serving. But now there is this:

Constitutional scholar Madison Cawthorn says it would be illegal for airlines to require vaccines because, “you actually have a constitutionally protected right to free, unrestricted travel within the United States.”

Not in the United States Constitution and it's a safe bet it's not in North Carolina's document, either. One of the best responses to Cawthorn's ludicrous remark came from someone identifying as "TheSheaKitten," who tweeted "Free, unrestricted travel huh? WTF is a drivers license for then? Why can't 13 year olds drive? Why aren't toll roads unconstitutional? Why do you need to register boats? Snowmobiles?" Another: "I hereby invoke the Constitution to bring back my right to bring a full shampoo bottle, water, and have actual silverware when I’m lucky enough to fly business or first."

Generously speaking, vaccination has come under attack by the Republican Party because it is supported by Joe Biden, a Democratic President.   Unlike Barack Obama, Biden is white but like Obama, he plays for the other team, Team America.

Arguing a constitutionally protected right to travel anywhere, anytime, serves an ideological purpose for Cawthorn and his fellow travelers and he presumably is aware it is false. Similarly, according to the (Asheville, NC) Citizen Times, as he was running for the office he currently holds

“Madison was homeschooled in Hendersonville and was nominated to the Naval Academy by Rep. Mark Meadows in 2014,” according to the 11th District candidate’s website. “However, Madison’s plans were derailed that year after he nearly died in a tragic automobile accident that left him partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair.”   

But in a 2017 sworn deposition obtained by AVL Watchdog, Cawthorn admitted his application to the academy had already been rejected before the crash. The campaign did not comment, despite repeated requests over several days.

The Naval Academy reference is a key part of the 25-year-old’s public portrait, featuring prominently in his campaign speeches and interviews. Cawthorn is careful to say he was nominated and that his plans were “derailed” by the crash, two statements that when taken together create the impression he was headed to Annapolis to attend the prestigious academy were it not for the 2014 crash.

Cawthorn's admission came after the election. And as the CitizenTimes notes

he has not publicly corrected the misimpression that he would have entered the academy in the class of 2018 were it not for the auto crash. Nor has he attempted to correct many TV interviewers who, in their introductions, often repeat the phrase that his aspiration was “derailed” by his injuries.   

His campaign website and Instagram page include a photo of Cawthorn wearing a Navy sweatshirt and another of him participating in a training exercise with others, all in the group wearing military fatigues and inflatable jackets pulling boats onto a beach. Cawthorn calls the group “my squad.”

The lying is not random.  Even the Lincoln & Washington fibs had their purpose. At that time Cawthorn, making his first run for public office, had the same month turned a mere 21 years of age. While a little ignorant and fairly immature, Madison Cawthorn has been making a sustained bid to succeed Donald Trump as Supreme Liar of the Republican Party.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

More Rational Than Assumed

Shortly after Donald Trump was defeated by Joe Biden, The New York Times reported

Since Mr. Trump dismissed Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and other top Pentagon aides last week, Defense Department and other national security officials have privately expressed worries that the president might initiate operations, whether overt or secret, against Iran or other adversaries at the end of his term.

A range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post revealed

Fearful of Donald Trump’s actions in his final weeks as president, the United States’ top military officer twice called his Chinese counterpart to assure him that the two nations would not suddenly go to war, a senior defense official said Tuesday after the conversations were described in excerpts from a forthcoming book....

According to the defense official, Milley’s message to Li on both occasions was one of reassurance. The official questioned suggestions that Milley told Li he would call him first, and instead said the chairman made the point that the United States was not going to suddenly attack China without any warning — whether it be through diplomatic, administrative or military channels.

Milley also spoke with a number of other chiefs of defense around the world in the days after the Jan. 6 riot, including military leaders from the United Kingdom, Russia and Pakistan. A readout of those calls in January referred to “several” other counterparts that he spoke to with similar messages of reassurance that the U.S. government was strong and in control.

The second call was meant to placate Chinese fears about the events of Jan. 6. But the book reports that Li wasn’t as easily assuaged, even after Milley promised him: “We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”

Trump responded Tuesday with a sharply worded statement dismissing Milley as a “Dumbass,” and insisting he never considered attacking China.

Although, considering the source, the latter statement is of dubious validity, it might not be far off.  At about the same time General Milley was worried about an attack upon mainland China, according to the Post, President Trump "asked senior advisers in an Oval Office meeting"

whether he had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks. The meeting occurred a day after international inspectors reported a significant increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material, four current and former U.S. officials said on Monday.

A range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike.

So there was real fear that in the lame duck period, the President would launch a military strike upon one country or another.  Milley called Beijing after speaking to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who reportedly had told him "He's crazy. You know he's crazy."

However, Trump did not order an attack upon Iran, mainland China, or any nation while he was intent on remaining in office by preventing certification of the electoral votes. On January 5, he had told Pence “No, no, no! You don't understand, Mike. You can do this. I don't want to be your friend anymore if you don't do this”. On January 6 he rallied his supporters massed in Washington, using the word "peacefully" once and "fight" or "fighting" ten times.  He tweeted at Pence during the insurrection, describing it as a "time for extreme courage," for overturning the results of the election.

This is not how "crazy" behaves.  This is someone who accrued as much power as possible by shattering whatever laws and norms he could, monetized the presidency, and schemed to remain in power so he could escape the (otherwise) long arm of the law.  For the most part, he is a rational man and, far more thoroughly, an evil one.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Blue Lives, Black Lives, No Lives

Last September, an outfit obviously supportive of the summer's protests against abusive policing of the black community noted "Black Lives Matter is a peaceful movement working to recognize the importance of the lives of Black Americans and fight for racial justice and equality." It added

Similar to All Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter is often used in contrast or as an argument to Black Lives Matter. The Black Lives Matter movement is not saying that the lives of police officers (or firefighters) are not as important as Black citizens. The goal is equality. Police officer’s lives matter and Black lives matter.  Police departments provide valuable and often dangerous services to our communities and in our country. Black Lives Matter is not anti-police, but police reform is a significant element in the movement....

This was a common view at the time, popular and wrong.

Equality arguably was (and is) the goal of the black lives matter movement, apart from the organization with the same name. However, the Black Lives Matter organization was anti-police and probably still is, though its website has been scrubbed of its most radical elements.

The discrepancy between the group and its millions of followers is one of the major misunderstandings of last summer's protests. Another is "police officers' lives matter." We learn

According to a Stars and Stripes article, in the first half of 2021, 71 U.S. law enforcement officers died from COVID-19, which is just under the 76 that died during the same period in 2020. In all of 2020, 241 U.S. law enforcement officers died from COVID-19. A study by Case Western Reserve University supports the article, showing more active-duty officers died from the virus last year than from all other causes combined.

Despite the number of COVID-19 deaths and cases within law enforcement ranks, police officers and departments have largely avoided the vaccine. There are currently no statistics showing the national vaccination rate for law enforcement officers; however, individual police and fire departments across the country show vaccination rates far below the national rate of 74% of adults who have had at least one dose.

Across the country, police unions are fighting mandates from municipal governments that cops be vaccinated. They're not endangering blacks. They're not endangering whites, Asians, Latinos, or members of specific ethnic groups. They are risking the lives of all the citizens whom they purport to protect and serve. And they are endangering themselves. Fifteen months after the murder of a black man lit the fuse of the black lives matter movement, neither black lives nor blue lives matter much at all.

Monday, September 13, 2021

A Lovely Gang

If even a stopped clock is right twice a day, even a wise tweeter- as this fellow is- can be palpably wrong once in a while:


This is merely one reason recognition is currently inconceivable:


It's not as if the Taliban are opposed to all protest marches. Some they zealously guard.


Afghan women at a pro-Taliban protest on 9/11 wore full burkas and shouted “death to America” as they marched with Taliban fighters standing guard.

Was the selection of a date unintentional- or did the Taliban figure "9/11" was a nice touch?  Business Insider last week reported

The Taliban on Tuesday announced an interim government in Afghanistan that excludes women and includes the head of a militant group who's wanted by the FBI.

Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, one of the Taliban's founders, was named prime minister. He's on a United Nations blacklist.....

The Taliban named Sirajuddin Haqqani interior minister. Haqqani is the head of the Haqqani Network — a US-designated terror group in Pakistan and Afghanistan with close ties to al-Qaida — and there's a $10 million US bounty on his head.

The FBI's most wanted list says Haqqani is wanted for "questioning in connection with the January 2008 attack on a hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed six people, including an American citizen."

Sweethearts, all of them.  Times change, people change, regimes change, and the Taliban- along with Al Qaeda- is hostile toward ISIS-K. However, sometimes the enemy of our enemy is not our friend and for the foreseeable future, the theocratic fascists in Kabul cannot be recognized as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Tweet Of The Day- Constitutional Values

Republican senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas criticizes his own party's supporters:


For the record: Cotton released a statement on January 6 reading in part "It’s past time for the president to accept the results of the election, quit misleading the American people, and repudiate mob violence";  He voted for the counting of electoral votes from both Arizona and Pennsylvania in the 2020 presidential election;  against allowing the February, 2021 impeachment trial in the Senate of Donald Trump to proceed; in favor of acquitting at trial former President Trump of aiding the 1/6/01 attempted coup; against creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the 1/6 uprising. (In each, Cotton joined a majority of his GOP colleagues.)

But it's not only the insurrectionists of January  6 who apparently won't "accept our way of life here in terms of constitutional government."  One question asked of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents in a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS was "how important is each of the following to what being a Republican means to you?" "Believing that Donald Trump won the 2020 election" was "very important" to 35% of respondents and "somewhat important" to 23% of respondents.

These Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents are entitled to oppose free and fair elections. But they have no claim on "accepting our way of life here in terms of constitutional government." Maybe Tom Cotton should have a word with some of his constituents.


Friday, September 10, 2021

Tweet Of The Day- Following Lawful Orders

Servicemen and servicewomen are not like the rest of us. 

They- and usually their family members- have health benefits, life insurance, and education assistance superior to most of the general public. Additionally, they possess the honor of often being told "thank you for your service."

All such benefits, most if not all justified, come with a price.  Members of the military voluntarily subject themselves to a highly regimented lifestyle and chain of command that extends upward to the Secretary of Defense. He is in turn an appointee, and at-will employee, of the President of the USA, commander-in-chief of the armed forces when they are called into service of the nation.

And so a sarcastic Chris Hayes gets it exactly right:

Yes there is nothing more outrageous, more anathema to freedom and out traditions than for members of the military to be given commands. What have we come to

This fellow refers to President Biden as "this idiot who's in office." This "idiot" is proposing a budget with a 2.7% pay raise for active military personnel, for whom this critic professes support

There is an old saying that there are only two sure things in life, death and taxes. But there is at least four- an increase in the military budget and people with a dangerous notion of freedom.. 


Thursday, September 09, 2021

Take Them Down

Responding to a plea by Democratic governor Ralph Northam in the summer of 2020

A crowd erupted in cheers and song Wednesday as work crews hoisted an enormous statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee off the pedestal where it has towered over Virginia’s capital city for more than a century.

One of America’s largest monuments to the Confederacy, the equestrian statue was lowered to the ground just before 9 a.m., after a construction worker who strapped harnesses around Lee and his horse lifted his arms in the air and counted, “Three, two, one!” to jubilant shouts from a crowd of hundreds. A work crew then began cutting it into pieces....

Some chanted “Whose streets? Our streets!" and sang, “Hey hey hey, goodbye.” One man with a Black Lives Matter flag was escorted out by police after running into the fenced-off work area. No arrests were reported, and there was no sign of a counter protest.

Say what you wish about the right wing- and there is much negative to be said- it generally has its priorities in order, recognizing what is, and is not, important.

Removal of the statue reflects positively on the state of Virginia. But it is a relatively insignificant action because it reflects on, and affects only, one state and its residents.  At roughly the same time that Northam first raised the issue in his own state, the United States House of Representatives passed a bill

that would remove Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol as well as a bust of the former Supreme Court chief justice who wrote the 1857 Dred Scott decision that denied enslaved people the right to be citizens.

"This sacred space, this temple of democracy has been defiled for too long. We ought not to forget history. We must learn from history. But we ought not to honor that which defiles the principles for which we ... stand," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said on the House floor before the vote. "It's time to remove those symbols of slavery, segregation and sedition from these halls."

The bill passed by a vote of 285 to 120. Every Democrat present and 67 Republicans voted for it. The bill heads to the Senate for consideration, where it would need 10 Republican senators to join every Democrat to pass the upper chamber.

Democrats in the Senate soon afterward introduced their own bill to remove the statues but it has not been voted upon by the upper chamber.

The State of Virginia has removed an important symbol of treason and slavery from its prominent place.  A blight has been removed from the capital of the Confederacy.

Meanwhile, similar statues remain in the United States Capitol, which is the seat of the government of the most powerful nation in the world. There, though donated by individual states, they represent the people of the United States of America, you and me and over 300 million other Americans.

They've done the right thing in the heart of the Confederacy. In the seat of democratic government of the entire nation, fifteen(15) statues honoring slavery and treason remain.

In the 2016 election, many conservatives had their eye on the US Supreme Court when they came out to vote for Donald Trump and were rewarded with three appointments to the High Court. Many liberals and progressives voted for Democrats down ballot while declining to cast a vote for President.  Democrats emphasize the presidency to the exclusion of various other important contests, in the US House, the US Senate, and state legislatures. Republicans make no such mistake.

In Richmond on Wednesday, "there was no sign of a counter protest." Nor should there have been- not only because the Lee statue needed to come down but, in the larger scope of things, its removal is of only passing significance.

An American, Technically

The Daily Beast notes Justice Samuel Alito’s wife, Martha-Ann, once again unwitting made herself the internet’s Main Character on Tuesda...