Saturday, July 14, 2007

Partial transcript of Moyers impeachment discussion

I've transcribed the YouTube video I posted last night. Many excellent points were made throughout the program, which can be viewed here and read here.

Bill Moyers: One of the fellows you're about to meet wrote the first article of impeachment against President Clinton. Bruce Fein did so because perjury is a legal crime, and Fein believed no one is above the law. A constitutional scholar, Bruce Fein served in the Justice Department during the Reagan administration, and as General Counsel of the Federal Communications Commission. Bruce Fein has been affiliated with conservative think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, and now writes a weekly column for the Washington Times and

He's joined by John Nichols, a Washington correspondent for The Nation and Associate Editor at the Capitol Times. Among his many books is this most recent one, The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism. Good to see you both.

Bruce, you wrote that article of impeachment against Bill Clinton. Why did you think he should be impeached?

Bruce Fein: He was setting a precedent that placed the president above the law. I did not believe that the initial perjury or misstatements that came, perhaps in a moment of embarrassment, stemming from the Paula Jones lawsuit would have justified impeachment if he had apologized. Even his second perjury before the grand jury when Ken Starr's staff was questioning him, as long as he expressed repentence, would not have set an example of saying, "Every man, if you're president, is entitled to be a law unto himself." I think Bush's crimes are a little bit different--I think they're a little more worrisome than Clinton's. You don't have to have--

Bill Moyers MORE worrisome?

Bruce Fein: More worrisome than Clinton's, because he is seeking more institutionally to cripple checks and balances and the authority of congress and the judiciary to superintend his assertions of power. He has claimed the authority to tell congress they don't have the right to know what he's doing with relation to spying on American citizens, using that information in any way that he wants, in contradiction to a federal statute called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He's claimed the authority to say that he can kidnap people, throw them into dungeons abroad, dump them out into Siberia, without any political or legal accountability. These are standards that are totally anathema to a democratic society devoted to the rule of law.

Bill Moyers: You're talking about terrifying power, but this is a terrifying time. People are afraid of those people abroad who want to kill us. Do you think in any way that justifies the claims that Bruce just said that Bush has made?

John Nichols: I think that the war on terror as defined by our president is perpetual war, and I think that he has acted precisely as Madison feared. He has taken powers unto himself that were never intended to be in the executive. And frankly, when an executive uses them in the way that this president has, you actually undermine the process of uniting the country and really focussing the country on the issues that need to be dealt with. Let's be clear: if we had a president who was seeking to inspire us to take seriously the issues that are in play, and to bring all the government together, he'd be consulting with Congress, he'd be working with Congress, and, frankly, Congress, through the system of checks and balances, would be preventing him from doing insane things like invading Iraq.

Bruce Fein: In the past, presidents like Abe Lincoln, who confronted a far more dire situation in the Civil War than today, sought congressional ratification and approval of his emergency measures. He didn't seek to hide them from the people and from Congress to prevent there from being accountability. And of course Congress did ratify what he had done.

Secondly, sure, times can be terrifying. But that also should alert us to the fact that we can make mistakes. The executive can make mistakes. Take World War II--we locked up 120,000 Japanese Americans. Said they were all disloyal. Well, we got 120,000 mistakes. They lost their property, they lost their liberty for years and years because we made a huge mistake. And that can be true after 9/11 as well. No one wants to downgrade the fact that we have abominations out there and people want to kill us. But we should not inflate the danger, and we should not cast aside what we are as a people. We can fight and defeat these individuals, these criminals, based on our system of law and justice. We have a fighting Constitution--it's always worked in the past--but it remains a system of checks and balances.

Bill Moyers: Fighting Constitution? What do you mean?

Bruce Fein: It's a fighting Constitution that enables us, with the consent of Congress and the President, working hand in glove consistent with the due process of law, we have the authority to suspend habeas corpus in times of invasion or rebellion. It has enabled us to defeat all of our enemies consistent with the law.

Bill Moyers: But Congress did not stand up to George Bush for five years when it was controlled by Republicans, and I don't see any strong evidence that Democrats are playing the role you think they should be playing.

Bruce Fein: That is correct. But it does not exculpate the president that Congress has not sought immediately to sanction his excesses--

Bill Moyers: --but it enables him--

Bruce Fein: --exactly right. And this could not happen if we had a Congress that was aggressive. If we had a Congress like in Watergate when Nixon was president and he tried to obstruct justice and defeat the course of law. We have a Congress that basically is invertebrate.

The full video of last night's program can be seen (in segments) here.

Back to Square One

After five and a half years, several billion dollars, and hundreds of thousands of lives, our "War on Terror" isn't doing too well:

al-Qaida Has Rebuilt, U.S. Intel Warns
By Katherine Shrader and Matthew Lee
Associated Press Writers
WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded al-Qaida has rebuilt its operating capability to a level not seen since just before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, The Associated Press has learned.

The conclusion suggests that the group that launched the most devastating terror attack on the United States has been able to rebuild despite nearly six years of bombings, war and other tactics aimed at crippling it.

Still, numerous government officials say they know of no specific, credible threat of a new attack.

A counter-terrorism official familiar with a five-page summary of the new government threat assessment called it a stark appraisal that will be discussed at the White House on Thursday as part of a broader meeting on an upcoming National Intelligence Estimate.

The official and others spoke on condition of anonymity because the secret report remains classified.

Counter-terrorism analysts produced the document, titled "Al-Qaida better positioned to strike the West." The document pays special heed to the terror group's safe haven in Pakistan and makes a range of observations about the threat posed to the United States and its allies, officials said.

Al-Qaida is "considerably operationally stronger than a year ago" and has "regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001," the official said, paraphrasing the report's conclusions. "They are showing greater and greater ability to plan attacks in Europe and the United States."

The group also has created "the most robust training program since with an interest in using European operatives," the official quoted the report as saying.

At the same time, this official said, the report speaks of "significant gaps in intelligence" so U.S. authorities may be ignorant of potential or planned attacks.

John Kringen, who heads the CIA's analysis directorate, echoed the concerns about al-Qaida's resurgence during testimony and conversations with reporters at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday.

"They seem to be fairly well settled into the safe haven and the ungoverned spaces of Pakistan," Kringen testified. "We see more training. We see more money. We see more communications. We see that activity rising."

"Alice never could quite make out, in thinking it over afterwards, how it was that they began: all she remembers is, that they were running hand in hand, and the Queen went so fast that it was all she could do to keep up with her: and still the Queen kept crying 'Faster! Faster!' but Alice felt she COULD NOT go faster, though she had not breath left to say so.

"The most curious part of the thing was, that the trees and the other things round them never changed their places at all: however fast they went, they never seemed to pass anything. 'I wonder if all the things move along with us?' thought poor puzzled Alice. And the Queen seemed to guess her thoughts, for she cried, 'Faster! Don't try to talk!'

"Not that Alice had any idea of doing THAT. She felt as if she would never be able to talk again, she was getting so much out of breath: and still the Queen cried 'Faster! Faster!' and dragged her along. 'Are we nearly there?' Alice managed to pant out at last.

"'Nearly there!' the Queen repeated. 'Why, we passed it ten minutes ago! Faster!' And they ran on for a time in silence, with the wind whistling in Alice's ears, and almost blowing her hair off her head, she fancied.

"'Now! Now!' cried the Queen. 'Faster! Faster!' And they went so fast that at last they seemed to skim through the air, hardly touching the ground with their feet, till suddenly, just as Alice was getting quite exhausted, they stopped, and she found herself sitting on the ground, breathless and giddy.

"The Queen propped her up against a tree, and said kindly, 'You may rest a little now.'

"Alice looked round her in great surprise. 'Why, I do believe we've been under this tree the whole time! Everything's just as it was!'

"'Of course it is,' said the Queen, 'what would you have it?'

'Well, in OUR country,' said Alice, still panting a little, 'you'd generally get to somewhere else--if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing.'

"'A slow sort of country!' said the Queen. 'Now, HERE, you see, it takes all the running YOU can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!'"

--Through The Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll

Friday, July 13, 2007

Amy Jacobson: A study in independence from the MSM

Poynter Online has published a couple of article about former Chicago television reporter Amy Jacobson. The first is here, the second is here.

Although the situation is a bit confusing, if you take the time to read the articles and some of the supporting material, you can see that her situation has arisen because of rigidity in the MSM and the absence of the insistence in transparency that I believe is so common in the blogs (often, it separates the best from the rest).

What do you think? An issue or a non-issue for online news dissemination?

Poynter's Everyday Ethics column often has useful articles that apply to citizen journalism. I get it via emailed newsletters.

Bill Moyers discusses impeachment

Hat tip to Booman for alerting me that Bill Moyers will be discussing impeachment tonight. In the clip embedded here, Bruce Fein, a conservative who wrote the articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton, states that what Bush's crimes are even more worrisome than Clinton's were. Also on the program is John Nichols, author of The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism.

Bill Moyers Journal Web Site

Blogs for Lists of Important Things

Noonan is diving back into global warming, this time with a list of "things more important" than it is. Any better than his previous forays?

I'll start with my own list. It is the list of Mark Noonan's previous "there ain't no global warming" arguments.

I wonder, should we also toss in The American View's “God is sovereign, the earth is the Lord’s and, by His grace, it is being renewed and will not be destroyed”? No... lets stick to Noonan.

So how does this list fair?

1. Winning the War on Terrorism.
2. Anti-religious persecution.
3. Abortion/infanticide/euthanasia.
4. Spread of disease.
5. Slavery, especially the global traffic in sex slavery which almost invariably involves children.
6. Third world poverty.
7. Popular culture degradation of public morality.
8. Family breakup.
9. Nuclear proliferation in tyrannical States.
10. The rise of Chinese imperialism.

Mark's List of Things More Important Than Global Warming (Bumped)


1. Winning the War on Terrorism.

Crime is a problem. Terrorism is criminal. War is a problem. Fighting terrorists with the mechanisms of war is idiotic, like fighting the mafia with aerial bombardment or solving the drug problem by blowing up whole neighborhoods to get at the dealers.

2. Anti-religious persecution.

I also would like to stop the persecution of the anti-religious, Mark. Funny that we should agree.

Or maybe you mean "stop the persecution of the religious"? Well, I'd like that to stop too. I'd like to stop the persecution of all religion, though, and let that perversion of intellect die a long deserved death in peace. I wonder how you stand on that?

3. Abortion/infanticide/euthanasia.

Infanticide? That's a stretch. How much of a problem is that, really? Not counting abortion, as that has its own place in the list? Likewise with euthanasia. How much of a problem is that? Besides which, I'd rather like the option of dying if things were bad enough, and frankly, if things were bad enough it would mean I'd need help.

4. Spread of disease.

Diseases are a human scourge, but you've got to be joking?

5. Slavery, especially the global traffic in sex slavery which almost invariably involves children.

Slavery effects hundreds of thousands. Global warming effects billions. I hate to be Machiavellian but this is not a bigger problem.

6. Third world poverty.

I'll get back to this one.

7. Popular culture degradation of public morality.


8. Family breakup.

What a warped mind you have.

9. Nuclear proliferation in tyrannical States.

Yes, yes. Only the good guys get nukes. You'll never get that logic to work. Nuclear proliferation in any state is the problem.

10. The rise of Chinese imperialism.

China? China, I suspect, will fall under its own weight as did Soviet Russia. We aren't suggesting another war are we?

So how does this tie into global warming? Of the ten...

1. Winning the War on Terrorism.
2. Anti-religious persecution.
3. Abortion/infanticide/euthanasia.
4. Spread of disease.
5. Slavery, especially the global traffic in sex slavery which almost invariably involves children.
6. Third world poverty.
7. Popular culture degradation of public morality.
8. Family breakup.
9. Nuclear proliferation in tyrannical States.
10. The rise of Chinese imperialism.

... it looks like eight, at least, would be exacerbated by global warming, so how this can be a list of things "more important than" is a bit confusing. If you are concerned about these problems, you ought to be concerned about global warming.

Changes in global temperature mean, at the very least, changes in the distribution of agricultural lands, water supplies, and other food sources-- fish, say. This means that people start to go hungry (6). Hungry people get sick (4). Hungry people get desperate (3). That someone would sell themselves or their children (5) is not a stretch. It is a time honored tradition. Hungry people turn on each other (2). Hungry people try to rectify their hunger by taking from other people (1,10). Hungry people use whatever means they have at their disposal (1,9). I suspect that 7 and 8 would be made worse as well, but those are hard to quantify and kinda silly.

Making too much of this, am I?

Several generals have com out about Warming, Wars, and Security and the rest of the case I've made in Gambling with our lives and Blogs for “Prudence”. From the latter:

Consider, for example, that as temperatures rise, agriculture will shift North and into Canada, leaving the United State’s famed “bread basket” behind. Canada gains, we lose. Russia also gains considerably in the same area. Russia gains, we lose. Mexico suffers even more than the US Midwest. Tumult on the border perhaps? Hungry people get desperate.

Blogs for “Prudence”

Noonan apparently "can't get worked up over it being a little hotter than it is today" because he can't quite figure out that the Earth getting a little hotter is not quite the same thing as your house getting a little hotter. Turn up the temperature in your house by 9ºF and not much happens really, but 9ºF is the difference between now and an Ice Age. A few degrees can matter. The IPCC has predicted, depending upon the model, a rise of 3.2ºF to 7.2ºF. (I'm using Fahrenheit because Americans have no sense of Celsius.) Even at the low end, that is a significant fraction of that difference between now and an ice age.

As for there being "zero actual evidence that even a crash program to reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gasses would have more than a trivial effect on any theorised increase in global mean temperatures over the next 100 years", assuming this statement is true we would still be wise to bet on warming anyway.

Cross-posted at Hell's Handmaiden.

Bush Triangulates Himself

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

click to enlarge

One possible explanation as to Bush's unwillingness to believe the truth about the condition of Iraq is because he is triangulating himself. A feat never before known to have successfully occurred!

Yes, I know it is unbelievable, but consider this. When one part of Bush wants to cut taxes and the other part wants to kill brown people, his cerebral cortex shunts synaptic impulses in a peculiar way and a new Bush policy is created! An example of this would be to "kill brown people with tax cuts" and Katrina is a product of such policy.

Iraq is no different. The combination of "prove Daddy wrong" and "pump up my oil portfolio" came out as "invade Iraq."

The Premature Burial

N-word buried in mock funeral
By Corey Williams
DETROIT -- There was no mourning at this funeral.

Hundreds of onlookers cheered Monday as the NAACP put to rest a long-standing expression of racism by holding a public burial for the N-word.

Delegates from across the country marched from downtown Detroit's Cobo Center to Hart Plaza. Two Percheron horses pulled a pine box adorned with a bouquet of fake black roses and a black ribbon printed with a derivation of the word.

The coffin is to be placed at historically black Detroit Memorial Park Cemetery and will have a headstone.

''Today we're not just burying the N-word, we're taking it out of our spirit,'' said Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

He continued: ''Die N-word, and we don't want to see you 'round here no more.''

The N-word has been used as a slur against blacks for more than a century. It remains a symbol of racism, but also is used by blacks when referring to other blacks, especially in comedy routines and rap and hip-hop music.

''This was the greatest child that racism ever birthed,'' said the Rev. Otis Moss III of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, where presidential candidate Barack Obama worships.

The NAACP held a symbolic funeral in Detroit in 1944 for Jim Crow, the Southern system of racial segregation.

It's a important symbolic gesture, but I think it's a premature burial. The N-word won't die. It's too useful.

Years ago, I was watching a documentary on one of those you're-gonna-learn-something TV stations like PBS, and I think it was about PETA, but I'm not sure. Anyway, I saw a bunch of doctors in a lab torturing animals. I saw kittens in cages defecating themselves, dogs submerged in water tanks, monkeys with exposed brains strapped in a chair like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange. As I watched in horror, I learned something, although it probably wasn't what the guys making the film intended.

First, the doctors in the blood-stained white coats who worked with cold efficiency as they methodically killed these animals didn't call it torture. They called it "scientific research". Also, I noticed that they never called the animals by name, or even identified them by species. Instead, they gave Garfield, Benji, and Cheetah code names like "GL 6735", and I realized this was how the doctors were able to do the terrible things that they did. Before you kill, you have to turn your victim into an object.

That's exactly what bigots do.

Once you dehumanize the objects of your hatred, it becomes easy to lynch that nigger, rape that bitch, or kick that faggot's ass. Presto. Historically, we've seen this lunatic sorcery works on a larger scale, as well: Let's turn those Jews into ash, napalm those gooks, drop a nuke on those ragheads. Easy.

And it all starts with a word.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Foot Stomper in Chief Speaks

From Press Esc: I run the war, Congress only funds it - Bush

US President George W. Bush today reiterated his stand that he has the sole authority to run the war and the only job for the Congress is to fund it, after it emerged that the Iraqi government had failed half of the 18 benchmarks contained in the Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act.

"I don't think Congress ought to be running the war," Bush said at a press briefing. "I think they ought to be funding our troops."

"Congress has all the right in the world to fund. That's their main involvement in this war, which is to provide funds for our troops," he re-emphasised.
"I will repeat, as the Commander-in-Chief of a great military who has supported this military and will continue to support this military, not only with my -- with insisting that we get resources to them, but with -- by respecting the command structure, I'm going to wait for David to come back -- David Petraeus to come back and give us the report on what he sees," he said.

Bush used the term "Commander-in-Chief" seven times to refer to himself during the briefing.

He said he will disregard US citizens view on Iraq on the grounds that the troops do not want "their Commander-in-Chief making decisions based upon popularity."
That man is going to have to learn some humililty. Or have it thrust upon him.

US Army - The Death Sentence

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

click to enlarge

Recruiting goals are still not being met, mostly blamed on the fact that April through June was the heaviest causality months in the war so far. Stop-Loss, a policy that prevents soldiers who have served honorably to leave service if their time is up or to retire, is actively enforced. Some soldiers are being prevented from retiring!

From the Army Times:

Questioned by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., on the continued use and effects of stop loss, the policy under which the Army retains soldiers beyond their separation and retirement dates, Geren said there were 8,000 soldiers on stop loss and by the end of the year there would be about 6,000.

Americans, I think, can see through the smoke screen and they know, at least parents know that once you are in Bush's Army, there are two ways out - Walter Reed, or in a cheap coffin shipped air freight.

Except one solider is suing...

A Port St. Lucie Army reservist plans to sue the military after being ordered to report for a fifth deployment.

Twenty-six-year old Erik Botta signed up for the service days after the September Eleventh attacks. He did a tour in Afghanistan and three in Iraq, but he says enough is enough.

Botta plans to file suit this week asking for an exemption or delay so he can complete his engineering studies.

Since Cheney is his own branch of government, his five deferments are fine and dandy.

And somehow, I am supposed to believe this supports the troops?


Mike Lupica is a sports columist who just started writing political commentary for The New York Daily News. Surprisingly, he's very good. Here, he does a brutal and well-deserved smackdown on John McCain:

Candidate's Meltdown
Prez run dealt fatal blow as McCain sticks to his guns on Iraq
The war takes John McCain now.

McCain is not a real casualty of Iraq. He is not Spec. Roberto Causor, 21, of San Jose, Calif., who died in Samarra on July 7 from wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire. And McCain is not Sgt. Trista Moretti, 27, of South Plainfield, N.J., who gave her life in Iraq, in George Bush's war there, when insurgents attacked her unit with indirect fire on the 25th of June.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a hero of a bad war himself once, does not leave his life in Iraq the way Spec. Karen Clifton, 22, of Lehigh Acres, Fla., did on June 21 in Baghdad, when she died of wounds suffered when her vehicle was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade.

But McCain, who is just back from another visit to Iraq, effectively leaves his dream about being President there, his certainty that this was his year and his time to at least be his party's nominee.

McCain's two top aides quit him yesterday. One was his manager, Terry Nelson, and the other is one of his big game-planners, John Weaver. Nelson and Weaver quit almost at the same time McCain was defending Bush's war, defending it to the end, on the floor of the Senate.

Nelson and Weaver quit at a time when McCain had already fired some people from a campaign that was staggering around like one of those Lindsay Lohans coming out of a club, fired some and cut the pay of others and admitted that he was running a distant third in Republican money. And maybe McCain will tell himself that it was a lack of money that got him, or lack of a coherent strategy, or even old age.

The war got John McCain.

I don't get John McCain.

Bush, Cheney, Rove, and the other chickenhawks who dragged the United States into this useless war I can figure out. Since these punks never saw a day of combat in their lives, I can understand why they fucked up Iraq from the beginning and why they keep getting everything wrong. They don't know.

But John McCain, a genuine, honest-to-God veteran who served valiantly in Vietnam, should know better. And please don't talk to me about his politics, O.K.? It's a lousy excuse. Congressman John Murtha, another war hero who saw action in Vietnam and Iraq, is probably even more narrow-minded and conservative than McCain. But Murtha couldn't shut up and watch Bush send soldiers off to die in Iraq and Afghanistan anymore. Murtha knows better.

But John McCain, in spite of knowing better, betrayed both his fellow soldiers and himself. It's contemptible. I don't get it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Science vs. Silly Walks

This link popped up in my Gmail:

'Silly Walks' Dissed by Mathematicians

I decided this was simply too silly NOT to share...

Scientists have explained mathematically why the famous "silly walks" of Monty Python's John Cleese have never caught on in the long history of Homo sapiens.

The giant, leg-twirling strides of silly walks may enable a person to leap around swiftly but are simply too expensive in metabolic energy compared to conventional locomotion, according to a paper published on Wednesday by Britain's Royal Society.
Click here for more.

Or visit the Silly Walk Generator here.

I read the rest of the article, by the way, and it describes recent research into human locomotion, which illustrates that the typical models of human walking and running are the most energy efficient.

Duh. So they tricked me into reading about a fairly dull and pointless sounding study with a cheap reference to Monty Python. I'm just too easy sometimes. But I thought this would be a fun diversion in the middle of the week.

Doug Marlette 1949-2007

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

click to enlarge

From the Washington Post:

Doug Marlette, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist who recently turned his incisive wit toward a budding career as novelist, died Tuesday in an auto accident in Mississippi. He was 57.

Marlette, who split his time between Hillsborough and Tulsa, Okla., and was visiting Mississippi to help a group of high school students with the musical version of his syndicated comic strip, "Kudzu." He had just delivered the eulogy at his father's funeral Friday in Charlotte, N.C.

My first exposure to Doug Marlette (wiki) came from the Red State rag, the Winston-Salem Journal. In 1990, Marlette, a North Carolina native, put Senator Jesse Helms in his non-political cartoon strip Kudzu. Let's just say, the result was not flattering, but I couldn't come to that conclusion at that time because the Winston-Salem Journal BANNED Kudzu for that week. The paper offered to mail the strips to anyone who made a request in writing. So, being the ass that I am, I wrote the paper and DEMANDED my rights to read Kudzu!

About two weeks later, I got an envelope from the paper with the Kudzu strips and I must confess, this was the first time I had every SEEN the strip in my life. I just wanted the Journal to bend over backwards for me because they were being such sycophants for Jesse Helms.

Then I learned about Kudzu Dubose, his Mom, Maurice and the Reverend Will B. Dunn and their sleepy little town of Bypass, North Carolina.

Kudzu isn't the only strip the Winston-Salem Journal has banned. When Doonesbury debuted the character Mr. Butts, they banned it in deference to their corporate masters - the R.J.Reynolds Tobacco Company, which was then headquartered in Winston-Salem.

Today, the cartoon North Carolina town of Dobson mourns for their compatriots in Bypass, NC.

Johnny Got His Gun

You can always hear the people who are willing to sacrifice somebody else's life. They're plenty loud and they talk all the time. You can find them in churches and schools and newspapers and legislatures and congress. That's their business. They sound wonderful. Death before dishonor. This ground sanctified by blood. These men who died so gloriously.

They shall not have died in vain. Our noble dead.


But what do the dead say?

Did anybody ever come back from the dead any single one of the millions who got killed did any one of them ever come back and say by god I'm glad I'm dead because death is always better than dishonor? Did they say I'm glad I died to make the world safe for democracy] Did they say I like death better than losing liberty? Did any of them ever say it's good to think I got my guts blown out for the honor of my country? Did any of them ever say look at me I'm dead but I died for decency and that's better than being alive? Did any of them ever say here I am and I've been rotting for two years in a foreign grave but it's wonderful to die for your native land? Did any of them say hurray I died for womanhood and I'm happy see how I sing even though my mouth choked with worms?

Nobody but the dead know whether all these things people talk a;bout are worth dying for or not. And the dead can't talk. So the words about noble deaths and sacred blood and honor and such are all put into dead lips by grave robbers and fakes who have no right to speak for the dead. If a man says death before dishonor he is either a fool or a liar because he doesn't know what death is. He isn't able to judge. He only knows about living. He doesn't know anything about dying. If he is a fool and believes in death before dishonor let him go ahead and die. But all the little guys who are too busy to fight should be left alone. And all the guys who say death before dishonor is pure bull the important thing is life before death they should be left alone too. Because the guys who say life isn't worth living without some principle so important you're willing to die for it they are all nuts. And the guys who say you'll see there'll come a time you can't escape you're going to have to fight and die because it'll mean your very life why they are also nuts. They are talking like fools.

They are saying that two and two make nothing.

They are saying that a man will have to die in order to protect his life. If you agree to fight you agree to die. Now if you die to protect your life you aren't alive anyhow so how is there any sense in a thing like that? A man doesn't say I will starve myself to death to keep from starving. He doesn't say I will spend all my money in order to save my money. He doesn't say I will burn my house down in order to keep it from burning. Why then should he be willing to die for the privilege of living There ought to be at least as much common sense about living and dying as there is about going to the grocery store and buying a loaf of bread.

And all the guys who died all the five million or seven million or ten million who went out and died to make the world safe for democracy to make the world safe for words without meaning how did they feel about it just before they died? How did they feel as they watched their blood pump out into the mud? How did they feel when the gas hit their lungs and began eating them all away? How did they feel as they lay crazed in hospitals and looked death straight in the face and saw him come and take them? I! the thing they were fighting for was important enough to die for then it was also important enough for them to be thinking about it in the last minutes of their lives. That stood to reason. Life is awfully important so if you've given it away you'd ought to think with all your mind in the last moments of your life about the thing you traded it for. So did all those kids die thinking of democracy and freedom and liberty and honor and the safety of the home and the stars and stripes forever?

You're goddamn right they didn't.

They died crying in their minds like little babies. They forgot the thing they were fighting for the things they were dying for. They thought about things a man can understand. They died yearning for the face of a friend. They died whimpering for the voice of a mother a father a wife a child They died with their hearts sick for one more look at the place where they were born please god just one more look. They died moaning and sighing for life. They knew what was important They knew that life was everything and they died with screams and sobs. They died with only one thought in their minds and that was I want to live I want to live I want to live.

He ought to know.

He was the nearest thing to a dead man on earth.


U.S. Military Losses Hit 4,000 in Iraq, Afghanistan
July 9 (Bloomberg) -- Four thousand U.S. service members have died in U.S. President George W. Bush's ``war on terror'' in Iraq and Afghanistan 5 1/2 years after American forces ousted the Taliban in December 2001.

A total of 3,596 have died in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion that removed Saddam Hussein from power. Some 2,957 of that number were killed in action, according to the latest Department of Defense figures. More than 26,500 personnel have been wounded in that conflict, 11,959 of them so seriously they couldn't return to duty.

In Afghanistan, 404 American personnel have died, of which 224 were killed in action. Those deaths include 61 personnel who died in Pakistan and Uzbekistan in support of the operation. Some 1,361 have been injured; 813 of them couldn't return to duty.

In Iraq, an insurgency rages against U.S. and coalition forces. The first six months this year were the deadliest yet for the American military, with more than 580 killed.

U.S. President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. The U.S. accused the Taliban regime of hiding al-Qaeda leaders including Osama bin Laden, wanted for the worst terror attacks on U.S. soil. American and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces are currently battling a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

“Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
--Hermann Goering

“War is a poor chisel to carve out tomorrow.”
--Dr. Martin Luther King

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Another Michael Moore Fan Is Born

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

click to enlarge

I saw Moore on Wolf Blitzer last night and what a show! Moore didn't give Blitzer any place to run and hide, but above and beyond the issue of SiCKO, I think Mike was speaking for the rest of us. "Where has the mainstream media been?"

The string of lies and obstruction of justice for this White House goes all the way back to before BushCo took the oath of office (he even broke that in no time) and the MSM is now just starting to crack its eyes open and ask a hard question or two. With the exception of Lou Dobbs and Keith Olbermann, the media continues to chat about mostly nothing.

Here is something to think about. Take all of what I have said and all you have seen from this administration, take the malpractice of the mainstream media for the last 6 and a half years - take it all in and thin about it. Now imagine life and this culture WITHOUT blogs. What would you have? How hard of a life would we be living? Without the constant watchdogs in the blogosphere, what more would BushCo have gotten by with? How much farther would they have gotten without us?

Would we know about the secret prisons, non-existent WMDs, Abu Ghraib, Walter Reed, no bid contracts, Gonzo Gate? What about Katrina?

Would we even know about Michael Moore?

10 Billion

Nancy Pelosi crunches the numbers:

"Think about what $10 billion a month would mean to protecting Americans from terrorism, improving security at our ports and airports, and increasing border security. Think about what $10 billion a month would mean for the 47 million Americans who don’t have health insurance, for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, and for the education of our children. Think about what $10 billion a month would mean to lowering the deficit so that future generations are not burdened with debt.

"The American people are outraged at the Bush Administration’s misplaced priorities -- that is why Congress will hold the Administration accountable with votes this month to end the war and redeploy the troops. This will include a vote on legislation to begin redeployment of our troops within 120 days and to conclude by April 1, 2008, with the exception of those remaining in Iraq to fight terrorists and protect our diplomats.

"The date-certain legislation gives our Republican colleagues another opportunity to join Democrats in heeding the wishes of the American people, who want to wind down this war and bring our troops home."

Reality: Ten billion dollars a month. Think about how many schools could be built with that money. Hospitals. Museums. Libraries. We could send every child in the United States to college. Rebuild the railroads. Finance national health care.

George Bush's 28%: Fuck that. We're America. That would be socialist bullshit. Charity. Let's get those lazy Cadillac-driving welfare queens instead!

Reality: Here. This is yours.

George Bush's 28%: Huh? What's this?

Reality: The bill.


One more makes four
Williams bests Bartoli to earn another Wimbledon title
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- Venus Williams giggled as she clutched the championship trophy against her chest, threw back her head and whooped at the sky.

Winning Wimbledon never gets old.

Williams won tennis' most prestigious tournament for the fourth time Saturday, beating surprising finalist Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-1.

It was Williams' sixth Grand Slam title, and her first since winning Wimbledon in 2005. She was also the champion at the All England Club in 2000 and 2001.

At No. 31, Williams became the lowest-ranked women's winner in Wimbledon history. Plagued in recent years by injuries that sent her ranking sliding, she rediscovered her championship form this week on the surface that always seems to inspire her best efforts.

"It has been a long road back," Williams said during the trophy ceremony. "I brought it together here against some of the best players in the world, including Marion."

She lost 22 games in her final four matches, beating 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova on Wednesday, 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova on Thursday and French Open runner-up Ana Ivanovic on Friday.

"She loves the grass," said Williams' boyfriend, pro golfer Hank Kuehne. "And she loves the environment here."

Her father and coach, Richard, said that when his daughter was about 9, she declared she wanted to win Wimbledon more than anyone else.

"I think she can win three more," he said, "and I would be disappointed if she did not."

Williams is the fourth woman in the Open era to win four or more Wimbledon singles titles, joining Martina Navratilova (9), Steffi Graf (7) and Billie Jean King (4). King also won Wimbledon singles titles in 1966-67, before the Open era began in 1968.

When Charles Barkley defiantly said "I'm not a role model" in that infamous Nike commercial years ago, I thought he was right. Usually, African-American athletes are controversial for the wrong reasons, and I believe there's a racist element of White America that likes it that way.

I'm old enough to remember when it was different.

Back in those angry days when African-Americans were “Negroes” and white bigots didn't need to hide in the closet, a brave loudmouth like Muhammad Ali would use his fame to illuminate the dark corners in America where ugly things were happening to black people. “No Viet Cong ever called me nigger”, Ali said, explaining why he refused induction into the Army during the Vietnam War. It was a controversial statement that got folks mad. And the penalty Muhammad Ali paid for those strong words was big. Stripped of his championship title, Ali didn't fight for 2 ½ years. No, he sure didn't sell a lot of sneakers.

I don't think it's getting any better. “Today you have athletes who are told not to be political,” said Charles Farrell, president of Sports Perspectives International, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. “I think one of the things we lose sight of is that sports is a $200 billion industry. And when you consider endorsements, there's a real incentive to keep your mouth shut, play your game and keep making money.”

Thankfully, there's the phenomenon named Venus Williams.

In an era where too many alleged "heroes" in sports are brutal, foul-mouthed idiots whose skill in selling tickets help keep them out of jail, and women of color are crudely objectified, Venus is a breath of fresh civility, and a splendid exception to the vulgar and mundane rule. Articulate, intelligent, courteous, and proud, Venus has never been afraid to speak her mind about controversial issues. Maybe she doesn't want to be a role model either, but Venus Williams is a shining mirror that young African-American women can look at and feel good about themselves.

No idiotic rapper or fossilized radio DJ would dare call her a bitch or a 'ho. Not if he doesn't want to be wearing a tennis racket in his empty head. That's Miss Venus Williams, thank you very much.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Little Children

The young mothers were telling each other how tired they were. This was one of their favorite topics, along with the eating, sleeping, and defecating habits of their offspring, the merits of certain local nursery schools, and the difficulty of sticking to an exercise routine. Smiling politely to mask a familiar feeling of desperation, Sarah reminded herself to think like an anthropologist. I'm a researcher studying the behavior of boring suburban women. I am not a boring suburban woman myself.

"Jerry and I started watching that Jim Carrey movie the other night?"

This was Cheryl, mother of Christian, a husky three-and-a-half-year-old who swaggered around the playground like a Mafia chieftain, shooting the younger children with any object that could plausibly stand in as a gun-a straw, a half-eaten banana, even a Barbie doll that had been abandoned in the sandbox. Sarah despised the boy and found it hard to look his mother in the eye.

"The Pet Guy?" inquired Mary Ann, mother of Troy and Isabelle. "I don't get it. Since when did passing gas become so hilarious?"

Only since there was human life on earth
, Sarah thought, wishing she had the guts to say it out loud. Mary Ann was one of those depressing supermoms, a tiny, elaborately made-up woman who dressed in spandex workout clothes, drove an SUV the size of a UPS van, and listened to conservative talk radio all day. No matter how many hints Sarah dropped to the contrary, Mary Ann refused to believe that any of the other mothers thought any less of Rush Limbaugh or any more of Hillary Clinton than she did. Every day Sarah came to the playground determined to set her straight, and every day she chickened out.

"Not the Pet Guy," Cheryl said. "The state trooper with the split personality."

Me, Myself, and Irene, Sarah thought impatiently. By the Farrelly Brothers. Why was it that the other mothers could never remember the titles of anything, not even movies they'd actually seen, while she herself retained lots of useless information about movies she wouldn't even dream of watching while imprisoned on an airplane, not that she ever got to fly anywhere?

"Oh, I saw that," said Theresa, mother of Courtney. A big, raspy-voiced woman who often alluded to having drunk too much wine the night before, Theresa was Sarah's favorite of the group. Sometimes, if no one else was around, the two of them would sneak a cigarette, trading puffs like teenagers and making subversive comments about their husbands and children. When the others arrived, though, Theresa immediately turned into one of them. "I thought it was cute."

Of course you did, Sarah thought. There was no higher praise at the playground than cute. It meant harmless. Easily absorbed. Posing no threat to smug suburbanites. At her old playground, someone had actually used the c-word to describe American Beauty (not that she'd actually named the film; it was that thing with Kevin what's-his-name, you know, with the rose petals). That had been the last straw for Sarah. After exploring her options for a few days, she had switched to the Rayburn School playground, only to find that it was the same wherever you went. All the young mothers were tired. They all watched cute movies whose titles they couldn't remember.

Prepare To Be Assimilated

Portrait Of Unconstitutionality: La. Judge Defends Jesus Picture In Courthouse
A local judge in Slidell, La., says he has no intention of removing a religious display from his courthouse.

The ACLU of Louisiana sent a letter to the Slidell City Court on June 20, asking the clerk to remove a 16th century Russian Orthodox painting called “Christ the Savior” and its accompanying message, “To know peace, obey these laws.”

The civil liberties group argued that the display in the courthouse lobby violates established church-state law forbidding government endorsed religion. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2005, ACLU attorneys wrote, struck down a similar religious display in a Kentucky courthouse because it advanced religion.

City Court Judge Jim Lamz will have none of it. He called a press conference last Saturday to grandstand and thumb his nose at the ACLU. Lamz posed under the display and was surrounded by the town’s mayor, local clergy and at least one national Religious Right figure.

Lamz argues that the painting has a “historical place in the courthouse,” reported the New Orleans Times-Picayune. That’s surprising because the painting has hung for only a decade. The Supreme Court has occasionally grandfathered in religious displays on public property, but such displays have stood uncontested for several decades. “Christ the Savior” is also one of only two pieces of art in the courthouse’s main hall. The other is a portrait of the building’s namesake.

Slidell Mayor Ben Morris vilified the ACLU at the press conference and called for fighting “these tyrants, this American Taliban, who seek to destroy our culture and our heritage.”

"The way to deal with superstition is not to be polite to it, but to tackle it with all arms, and so rout it, cripple it, and make it forever infamous and ridiculous. Is it, perchance, cherished by persons who should know better? Then their folly should be brought out into the light of day, and exhibited there in all its hideousness until they flee from it, hiding their heads in shame.

"True enough, even a superstitious man has certain inalienable rights. He has a right to harbor and indulge his imbecilities as long as he pleases, provided only he does not try to inflict them upon other men by force. He has a right to argue for them as eloquently as he can, in season and out of season. He has a right to teach them to his children. But certainly he has no right to be protected against the free criticism of those who do not hold them. He has no right to demand that they be treated as sacred. He has no right to preach them without challenge. Did Darrow, in the course of his dreadful bombardment of Bryan, drop a few shells, incidentally, into measurably cleaner camps? Then let the garrisons of those camps look to their defenses. They are free to shoot back. But they can't disarm their enemy."

--H.L.Mencken (1880 - 1956), newspaperman, book reviewer, political commentator, and proud Grumpy Old Man.

Go to The Wall of Separation for the rest.

Net Neutrality Action Item

This arrived in my inbox from Free the Internet, and I thought it was worth sharing--Renee

Dear Media Reformer,

Save the Internet: Click here

Watch and Rate Our New Video

We have only five days left to defend a free and open Internet at the FCC. The agency needs to hear from you about Net Neutrality -- the principle that stops AT&T, Verizon and Comcast from controlling where you can go online.

Thousands of people have already told their stories (see below) urging the FCC to protect Net Neutrality. Now it's your turn:

Tell the FCC to Save the Internet

You need to act now before the FCC closes its comment period. If we flood them with comments in support of Net Neutrality, the FCC will be pressed to stand up to the giant phone and cable companies that seek to undermine free choice on the Web.

At, you can read stories from others, view photographs, and join the fight to make the Internet affordable, open and accessible to everyone. You can even create your own personal comment page to share with others. Go there now to see our new video:

Watch Our New Video and Save the Internet

This may be the best chance we have this year to demonstrate to Washington that protecting the free and open Internet is an issue that matters to millions of Americans. The FCC needs to know why Net Neutrality is important to you. Tell them how an open Internet impacts your daily life, your business and your ability to connect with others.

To save the Internet, we need to flood the FCC with stories from people around the country. Can you ask five friends to send their stories to the FCC?

Tell Your Friends to Take Action

With your help, we can send a message to the FCC that they can't ignore.


Timothy Karr
Campaign Director

P.S. Here's what others are saying:

"The greatest hope that this country has is the reconnection of American voices with our political system. The Internet is the first medium that is truly interactive, in which one person's voice can reach millions. This fundamental change would end the open Internet as we know it." Read Jennifer's full story.

"In rural America, the Internet is very important in staying informed. We read several national newspapers every day to get the news our local paper does not thoroughly cover." Read Charles & Carol's full story.

"Currently the media is not diverse at all, and the only option I have found to escape from it has been the Internet. ... If the Internet is controlled by powerful people with money, will it ever be what it has been? Will we be able to enjoy diversity?" Read Norie's full story.

To read thousands of other stories visit:

Take action on this campaign at:

Tell others about this campaign at:

If you received this message from a friend, you can click here to become a Free Press activist.

Cheney Dropped The Bomb, Now I am Fabulous!

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

click to enlarge

From the "I Kid You Not" file:

The US military investigated building a "gay bomb", which would make enemy soldiers "sexually irresistible" to each other, government papers say.
The plan for a so-called "love bomb" envisaged an aphrodisiac chemical that would provoke widespread homosexual behaviour among troops, causing what the military called a "distasteful but completely non-lethal" blow to morale.

And this jewel was a bit deeper:

A Berkeley watchdog organization that tracks military spending said it uncovered a strange U.S. military proposal to create a hormone bomb that could purportedly turn enemy soldiers into homosexuals and make them more interested in sex than fighting.

Pentagon officials on Friday confirmed to CBS 5 that military leaders had considered, and then subsquently rejected, building the so-called "Gay Bomb."
Edward Hammond, of Berkeley's Sunshine Project, had used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a copy of the proposal from the Air Force's Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio.

As part of a military effort to develop non-lethal weapons, the proposal suggested, "One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior."

The documents show the Air Force lab asked for $7.5 million to develop such a chemical weapon.

"The Ohio Air Force lab proposed that a bomb be developed that contained a chemical that would cause enemy soldiers to become gay, and to have their units break down because all their soldiers became irresistibly attractive to one another," Hammond said after reviewing the documents.

"The notion was that a chemical that would probably be pleasant in the human body in low quantities could be identified, and by virtue of either breathing or having their skin exposed to this chemical, the notion was that soldiers would become gay," explained Hammond.

I can't understand how this even became an idea? Does Halliburton hold the contract for the Cher Tour?

Editor's Note: Today some good friends of mine (which run this strip) are launching The Bilerico Project - a site with "Daily experiments in LGBTQ." This strip is for them.

What started off as a project to give the Indiana LGBT community a voice has now spilled over the border of Indiana and has gone national. Ya see? You give them gays an inch and they take the whole country! Next thing you know, I will running around in my underwear, kissing men at a showing of Rocky Horror... oh wait...

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Congressional Black Caucus getting more Toxic

More toxic political garbage from the Congressional (FOX) Caucus

I guess African American bloggers will be called "Liberal Activists" again as we continue to report and post on the stupidity of the Congressional FOX Caucus.

Let's go backwards a number of months when twenty-six members of the Congressional Black Caucus signed letters and sent them to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (DN.Y.) and former Sen. John Edwards (DN.C.) urging them to reconsider their decisions to skip the event.

The CBC also known as the Congressional FOX Caucus
claimed the debates will be an opportunity to "help educate African Americans and others on key issues of national policy. Whatever!!

Hat Tip
: and dnA for the list of CBC members who signed the letter.

Well, the Congressional Black (Fox) Caucus leadership is dropping more (excuse the language) toxic political poop on America's black communities, and based on African American blogger comments we not feel'n good about it.

Unfortunately, Sen. Joseph Biden, former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich have agreed to join in on the poop event. Many African American bloggers, thought it may be over, the CBC would give up.

It's not over as far as the Congressional Black Caucus is concerned. As reported by, prometheus6, Jack and Jill Politics and others, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick who seems to be acting like a FOX Network propaganda "stool pigeon" says, We're moving forward no matter what! We're definitely having a debate in Detroit in September," said CBC Chairwoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, who serves on the institute's board and represents Detroit in Congress.

Chairwoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (MI)
"We may change the format. We might have more than just the presidential candidates," she said.

But she is not alone, there are more stool pigeons dropping poop on the black community. Check out Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), head of the CBC Institute, who said he still held out hope that he could convince the front-runners to attend. He preferred not to dwell on the idea of a lonely stage with Biden, Kucinich and Gravel lobbing bombs at their absentee rivals.

"We're still working to get the other people to reconsider," Thompson said. "Their decision to make Fox News the issue is not a good idea. Whether you agree or disagree with [Fox], they have a viewership."

AAPP: Ok, Let me be clear, this guy Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) may be powerful in the House of Representatives, but I'm with the American public regarding congress. This guy's statement about Fox, proves he is a moron.

This guy is still in denial that Obama, Clinton and Edwards are not attending the FOX/CBC debate, even though he and the other CBC Fox News supporters are "fair and stupid" regrading this redneck shindig. We can all expect Jesse Jackson, Sr., to be there smilin' for the cameras'.

"I Guess Bennie (yes-um FOX) Thompson has gotten very comfortable to those Mississippi rednecks like racially divisive Klan supporter Trent ( the United States would have avoided "all these problems" if then-segregationist Strom Thurmond had been elected president in 1948) Lott.

As Jack and Jill Politics points out, "The CBC's defense of their partnership with conservative propaganda outlet Fox News Channel is becoming increasingly absurd."

Skeptical Brotha was so right back in May of this year about the majority of the CBC selling out to Fox Noise Channel.

African American bloggers such as The Reid Report and many, many others have been concerned for some time about the CBC's DUBIOUS FRIENDS.

We should all remember how and why Kucinich, Joe Biden, Mike Gravel attended the FOX debate when we get into that voting booth. I'm not saying vote for or against a person just because of one position or stand, but I don't think we should forget who stood with black folks, and who stood against and pooped on black folks all in the name of exposure, instead of integrity.

In the meantime, I'm getting some type of poop off (not and endorsement of the product) to fight against the Congressional Fox Caucus, and the candidates who support their efforts to poop on black communities. Because I don't like poop. I Don't l know anyone who does like poop, let alone "Toxic Political poop."

oops... there is one group that does. As a clear example: The Congressional FOX Caucus. But as they say poop happens! Can the CBC spread that toxic political poop around to some other group?

I'm tired of it. What about you?

History and Hezbollah: A Podcast Interview With Augustus Richard Norton

The topic below was originally posted in my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal as well as the the Peace Tree and Worldwide Sawdust.

Trying to make sense of tribal politics in the Middle East can’t be done with simple bumper sticker slogans. The history, entangling relationships, religious dimension, shifting alliances, geography and multiple cultures are a Byzantine maze of complexity. Specifically, the Muslim world is often regarded by people in the west, especially Americans, as a large bowl of alphabet soup. As a result, policy makers who look for quick and easy fixes by force in the region overreach and miscalculate.

One tragic example of miscalculation and overreach is Lebanon. Once regarded as the “jewel” of the Middle East, Lebanon endured a brutal civil from 1975 to 1990. Surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, Syria and Israel, this small country the size of Connecticut has flummoxed leaders in Jerusalem and Washington for two decades.

In 1982, Israel attempted to drive out the PLO from Lebanon and establish a government friendly to their interests. At the time, Yassir Arafat’s PLO had established a “state within a state” in southern Lebanon and exploited the territory as base of operations against Israel. President Ronald Reagan deployed the U.S. Marines to provide “stability” as part of a Multinational Force. A suicide bomber killed 220 marines in October 1983 and they were “redeployed’ in early 1984. Meanwhile, Israel’s occupation of Lebanon resembled America’s failure in Vietnam as well as the Soviet Union’s experience in Afghanistan and they finally withdrew in the spring of 2000.

Prior to Lebanon’s civil war ending in 1990 the country was a magnet for terrorism and kidnappings by militant Islamic groups coordinating with Iran. These activities helped contribute to the Iran-Contra scandal that plagued the final years of the Reagan Administration. Since then Lebanon has been a hotbed for proxy fights and political intrigue among Syria, Iran, Israel and the United States.

In the early eighties, a resistance movement of Shiite Muslims called Hezbollah, meaning “Party of God” was formed. With the backing of Iran as well as Syria in later years, Hezbollah helped make the price of Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon too costly and forced their withdrawal seven years ago.

Last summer, Hezbollah infiltrated Israeli territory and kidnapped two of their soldiers - provoking a brutal war resulting in heavy civilian casualties. The kidnapping was an escalation of the tit for tat engagement that had been taking place between Israel and Hezbollah since Israel’s withdraw from southern Lebanon in 2000 otherwise known as "the rules of the game." Israel however opted to use the kidnapping as a pre-text to wipe out Hezbollah and in the process deliver a strategic blow to Iran. Afterwards, Hezbollah’s prestige was enhanced from going toe to toe with Israel.

Yet most policy makers in the United States and Israel simply regard Hezbollah as a terrorist entity and nothing more. However, Augustus Richard Norton writes in his new book, Hezbollah: A Short History (Princeton University Press) that Hezbollah is a sophisticated organization combining the functions of a militia, a social services and public works provider and a political party. He postulates that as Hezbollah’s war with Israel last summer illustrates, they’re far too entrenched in Lebanese society to disappear through the use of force.

Norton, is a Boston University professor of international relations and anthropology, as well as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. An expert on Shiite political movements, including Hezbollah, Norton was also a military observer for the United Nations in southern Lebanon when Hezbollah and rival Shiite parties were forming there in the early 1980s. A former U.S. Army officer and West Point professor, Norton has conducted research in Lebanon for nearly thirty years. His previous book, Amal and the Shi'a: Struggle for the Soul of Lebanon is widely considered to be a classic account of the political mobilization of Lebanon’s Shiite Muslims.

Lee Hamilton, Vice Chair of the 9/11 Commission and Co-Chair of the Iraq Study Group said,

“Hezbollah is a timely and landmark work. Richard Norton draws on his extensive expertise to offer a comprehensive history that will be of interest to anyone who seeks a better understanding of Hezbollah, Lebanon, or current developments in the Middle East.”
Norton agreed to a podcast interview with me about his book, Lebanon and Hezbollah. Among the topics covered during our conversation was Lebanon’s civil war, Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Hezbollah’s origins, their relationship with Syria and Iran, the aftermath of the 2006 war with Israel, how the Hamas takeover of Gaza will impact Hezbollah and Lebanon and the current situation with the militant group Fatah al Islam. Please refer to the media player below.

This interview can also be accessed via the Itunes store by searching for Intrepid Liberal Journal.