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Author Archive

Turkey Can Teach Israel How to End Terror – NYTimes.com

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Mustafa Akyol Author…The Kurds were not angry at Turkey because they were innately prone to violence. They were angry because Turkey had done something grievously wrong to them. And a peace agreement became possible only when the Turkish public and the state acknowledged this fact.

If Israel is ever going to achieve peace, Israelis will have to overcome their own self-righteous hawkishness as well — and abandon the intellectually lazy reflex that explains Palestinian militancy as the natural product of Arab and Islamic culture’s supposedly violent nature.

It’s true that Hamas is a violent group and that it must stop firing rockets into Israel and calling for the destruction of the Jewish state. The ugliness of anti-Semitism in Palestine and the Arab world (and even in Turkey) must also be confronted. But these phenomena didn’t occur in a vacuum. They were created — and are kept alive — in part by Israel’s continued oppression of Palestinians….

via Turkey Can Teach Israel How to End Terror – NYTimes.com.

Koch High: How The Koch Brothers Are Buying Their Way Into The Minds Of Public School Students

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

koch-industries“The official mission of Youth Entrepreneurs is to provide kids with “business and entrepreneurial education and experiences that help them prosper and become contributing members of society.” The underlying goal of the program, however, is to impart Koch’s radical free-market ideology to teenagers. In the last school year, the class reached more than 1,000 students across Kansas and Missouri….

Charles Koch had a hands-on role in the design of the high school curriculum, directly reviewing the work of those responsible for setting up the course. The goal, the group said flatly, was to turn young people into “liberty-advancing agents” before they went to college, where they might learn “harmful” liberal ideas.

…In recent years, through private charitable foundations, the Koch brothers have funneled tens of millions of dollars to colleges and universities — most recently, a $25 million donation to the United Negro College Fund. They are also funding advocacy groups that are waging a widespread campaign to fight the Common Core State Standards, a set of benchmarks for public K-12 education adopted by most states. But YE is the most direct example of their growing imprint on American classrooms.

…Koch-funded think tanks provide many of YE’s course materials. Teachers are trained at Koch Industries headquarters and are required to read Charles Koch’s book The Science of Success.
The focus on high school students is a key part of the Kochs’ long-term effort to create a libertarian-minded society from the ground up.
…platform proposed a drastic revision of the American education system: “We advocate the complete separation of education and state. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be”

via Koch High: How The Koch Brothers Are Buying Their Way Into The Minds Of Public School Students.

Obama Gets Real — Climate Science Jokes – NYTimes.com

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

President Obama-snapshotWASHINGTON — President Barack Obama lampooned congressional skepticism over climate change on Wednesday, saying that lawmakers who balk at tackling air pollution are either blind to science or cowed by extremists.

“In most communities and work places, et cetera, when you talk to folks, they may not know how big a problem, they may not know exactly how it works, they may doubt that we can do something about it, but generally they don’t just say, no, I don’t believe anything scientists say,” he said, to laughter.

via Congress the Butt of Obama’s Climate Science Jokes – NYTimes.com.

 

Key Supreme Court Decisions in 2014 – NYTimes.com

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Supreme Court Justices 2014Key Supreme Court Decisions in 2014

The Supreme Court on Thursday released two key decisions—one on abortion protests, and one on presidential recess appointments. Below, how the justices decided on these and other major cases this term and the implications of their decisions. UPDATED June 26, 2014…

(more…)

A More Nuanced Breakdown of the Supreme Court – NYTimes.com

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Supreme Court Liberal to ConservativeThere is no dispute that the court has a four-member liberal wing and a four-member conservative wing, with Justice Anthony Kennedy somewhere in the middle.

But not every liberal is liberal in the same measure….

What’s liberal and what’s conservative? Our conclusions are drawn from the Supreme Court Database, which codes decisions as liberal or conservative. Examples of liberal decisions are ones favoring criminal defendants, unions, people claiming discrimination or violations of their civil rights. Decisions striking down economic regulations and favoring prosecutors, employers and the government are said to be conservative.

via A More Nuanced Breakdown of the Supreme Court – NYTimes.com.

Lap Dancers, the CIA, Pay-offs, and BP’s Deepwater Horizon

Friday, April 18th, 2014

 

 

Earlier this month, the Obama Administration officially OK’d BP’s right to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. And two weeks ago, just to assure the company that all is forgiven, the U.S. Department of the Interior gave BP a new contract to drill in the Gulf of Mexico––right next to where the Deepwater Horizon went down. At the same time, the forgive-and-forget U.S. Justice Department has put the trial of David Rainey, the only BP big-shot charged with a felony crime in the disaster, on indefinite hold. [more]

Only Reason For Climate Denial

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

…There is only on leg on which climate denial stands: Money.

The polluters give and spend money to create false doubt. The polluters give and spend money to buy political influence. the polluters give and spend money to keep polluting. that’s it. Not truth, not science, not ecomonics, not safety, not policy, and  certainly not religion, nor morality.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, 2013

Rural Americans have inferior Internet access — High Country News

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Does it matter that broadband quality varies so widely?

“As the Internet becomes a more integral part of daily life, people with shoddy connections are at an economic disadvantage. Fast Internet is necessary to take video-based online classes and to sign up for health care. (Imagine the horror of trying to navigate Healthcare.gov with dial-up.) Rural hospitals use it to video-conference with urban medical specialists, and schoolteachers increasingly record lectures that students can watch at home.”

via Rural Americans have inferior Internet access — High Country News.

.:Middle East Online::Hypocritical Righteousness on Syria:.

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 11.49.40 AMHypocritical Righteousness on Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry waxed eloquent about the need to punish national leaders who violate international law. He meant Syria’s Bashar al-Assad but his lecture could have applied to American officials who enabled the invasion of Iraq, including himself, just one of many US hypocrisies, as Lawrence Davidson notes.

Middle East Online

President Barack Obama sidestepped the political hole he had dug for himself (what we might call the “red line” hole) over his proposed attack on Syria. Having insisted there must be “consequences” for a breach of international law, specifically the alleged use of banned chemical weapons by the Syrian government, he was faced with both popular American reluctance to support military action and congressional pique over not being included in the decision process.

As a consequence President Obama announced on Aug. 31 that he now supports a congressional debate and vote on the issue of attacking Syria. Then he told us how he sees the situation, “This [Syrian chemical] attack is an assault on human dignity. … It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. … Ultimately this is not about who occupies this [White House] office at any given time, it’s about who we are as a country.”

For all I know, the President really believes his own words, but I am pretty sure his implied question of “who we are as a country” is meant to be rhetorical. If one was to give an evidence-based answer to that inquiry, as it relates to chemical weapons, it would be embarrassing in the extreme.

Lest we forget, the US. defoliated parts of Vietnam with a chemical weapon called Agent Orange and by its use killed a lot more than large swaths of jungle. Agent Orange killed and maimed an estimated 400,000 Vietnamese and an estimated half a million children have subsequently been born deformed. It also did a fatal job on many of the American troops that handled the stuff.

Later, the US. sold chemical and biological weapons-grade material to Saddam Hussein and followed up by helping his army aim the stuff accurately at Iranian troops. Saddam also used it on the Iraqi Kurds. Then there is the fact that our “very special friend,” Israel, used phosphorous bombs (a banned chemical weapon) on the civilians of Gaza. At the time Israel did this, President Obama occupied the Oval Office.

I don’t remember him displaying any moral angst or positioning US. ships in the eastern Mediterranean with cruise missiles aimed at Israeli airbases. The truth is that during all of these episodes no one in the government worried (at least publicly) about what our actions or lack thereof, said about what sort of country this is.

However, this question does deserve a direct answer. What sort of country is the US. in relation to the use of chemical weapons? The kindest answer one can give is it is a bloody hypocritical nation.

Back to Congress

Nonetheless, sending the issue of a possible attack on Syria to Congress is a timely political move for the President. It puts off having to face the dilemma of taking military action that cannot both constitute meaningful punishment for the violation of international law and, at the same time, keep the US. from becoming ever more deeply embroiled in the Syrian civil war.

It also could be a good political move for the US. as a whole because it creates a good precedent. Having Congress debate and vote on the issue of military action against Syria could help resuscitate the moribund War Powers Act. Although Obama claims he has the authority to launch an attack no matter what Congress decides, he would be politically hard pressed to do so if the legislators said don’t do it.

Thus the maneuver might narrow the otherwise rapidly expanding powers of the imperial presidency. Of course, none of this means that Congress can’t be scared or otherwise bamboozled into giving the President the power to do something militarily stupid. Vietnam and Iraq stand as powerful precedents in that regard.

There is another very interesting potential consequence of the President’s going to Congress. It might create a situation where there is a publicly noticeable difference between the express desires of a majority of the voting population and the special interests now encouraging military action against Syria.

In my last analysis, I laid out the idea that in the interim between elections, influential special interests have much more to say about policy than do the voters, most of whom pay little attention to foreign policy. Now, however, we have a rare moment when the populace is paying attention and polls indicate that a healthy majority do not want further intervention in the Middle East.

Who will the Congress respond to in the upcoming debate and vote, their special interest constituents or the voting kind?

Of course, the notion that the President of the United States, with or without congressional approval, has the authority to act as the world’s “policeman” and punish violators of international laws, that it itself flaunts, is offensive and dangerous.

There are international institutions in place such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) that, imperfect as they are, can be used to prosecute violations such as the use of banned weapons. (It is to be noted that the cause of “human dignity” would be greatly advanced if the US. would stop refusing to ratify the treaty empowering the ICC).

How do you characterize a situation where one or a small number of community members takes it upon themselves to go outside the law to punish alleged wrongdoers? Here in the US. this is known as “vigilante justice.” Most often this sort of behavior results is a “lynching” based on little or no reliable evidence.

President Obama’s going to Congress will not change the vigilante nature of US intentions. Let’s just hope that Congress listens to the people this time around and tells the President to keep his cruise missiles to himself. And then, let’s hope he does just that.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest;America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions fromBalfour to Israeli Statehood; andIslamicFundamentalism.

Consortiumnews

From: .:Middle East Online::Hypocritical Righteousness on Syria:..

E.J. Dionne Jr.: Justice Scalia should resign – The Washington Post

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

ej-dionne-114x80

Justice Antonin Scalia needs to resign from the Supreme Court.

He’d have a lot of things to do. He’s a fine public speaker and teacher. He’d be a heck of a columnist and blogger. But he really seems to aspire to being a politician — and that’s the problem.

E.J. Dionne Jr. Writes about politics in a twice-a-week column and on the PostPartisan blog.

So often, Scalia has chosen to ignore the obligation of a Supreme Court justice to be, and appear to be, impartial. He’s turned “judicial restraint” into an oxymoronic phrase. But what he did this week, when the court announced its decision on the Arizona immigration law, should be the end of the line.

Not content with issuing a fiery written dissent, Scalia offered a bench statement questioning President Obama’s decision to allow some immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children to stay. Obama’s move had nothing to do with the case in question. Scalia just wanted you to know where he stood.“After this case was argued and while it was under consideration, the secretary of homeland security announced a program exempting from immigration enforcement some 1.4 million illegal immigrants,” Scalia said. “The president has said that the new program is ‘the right thing to do’ in light of Congress’s failure to pass the administration’s proposed revision of the immigration laws. Perhaps it is, though Arizona may not think so. But to say, as the court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of federal immigration law that the president declines to enforce boggles the mind.”

What boggles the mind is that Scalia thought it proper to jump into this political argument. And when he went on to a broader denunciation of federal policies, he sounded just like an Arizona Senate candidate.

“Arizona bears the brunt of the country’s illegal immigration problem,” the politician-justice proclaimed. “Its citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrants who invade their property, strain their social services, and even place their lives in jeopardy. Federal officials have been unable to remedy the problem, and indeed have recently shown that they are simply unwilling to do so.

“Arizona has moved to protect its sovereignty — not in contradiction of federal law, but in complete compliance with it.” Cue the tea party rally applause.

As it happens, Obama has stepped up immigration enforcement. But if the 76-year-old justice wants to dispute this, he is perfectly free as a citizen to join the political fray and take on the president. But he cannot be a blatantly political actor and a justice at the same time.

Unaccountable power can lead to arrogance. That’s why justices typically feel bound by rules and conventions that Scalia seems to take joy in ignoring. Recall a 2004 incident. Three weeks after the Supreme Court announced it would hear a case over whether the White House needed to turn over documents from an energy task force that Dick Cheney had headed, Scalia went off on Air Force Two for a duck-hunting trip with the vice president.

 

 

Scalia scoffed at the idea that he should recuse himself. “My recusal is required if . . . my ‘impartiality might reasonably be questioned,’ ” he wrote in a 21-page memo. Well, yes. But there was no cause for worry, Scalia explained, since he never hunted with Cheney “in the same blind or had other opportunity for private conversation.”

Don’t you feel better? And can you just imagine what the right wing would have said if Vice President Biden had a case before the court and went duck hunting with Justice Elena Kagan?Then there was the speech Scalia gave at Switzerland’s University of Fribourg a few weeks before the court was to hear a case involving the rights of Guantanamo detainees.

“I am astounded at the world reaction to Guantanamo,” he declared in response to a question. “We are in a war. We are capturing these people on the battlefield. We never gave a trial in civil courts to people captured in a war. War is war and it has never been the case that when you capture a combatant, you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts. It’s a crazy idea to me.”

It was a fine speech for a campaign gathering, the appropriate venue for a man so eager to brand the things he disagrees with as crazy or mind-boggling. Scalia should free himself to pursue his true vocation. We can then use his resignation as an occasion for a searching debate over just how political this Supreme Court has become.

ejdionne@washpost.com

E.J. Dionne Jr.: Justice Scalia should resign – The Washington Post.