Friday, August 22, 2014

“The pornographic violence of religious killings”

The beheading of James Foley. Photo via NYDailyNews.

The phrase, “the pornographic violence of religious killings,” jumped out at me as I read David Ignatius’s column titled The Hooded Face of Evil. Ignatius is commenting on the beheading of journalist James Foley, which the Islamic State has been boasting about lately. As a seminary graduate, I appreciate that Ignatius makes clear that “no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day."

Ignatius provides a reasoned account of the developments culminating in Foley’s death and President Obama’s response so far:

WASHINGTON -- The propagandists of the Islamic State must have imagined that their brutal video of the beheading of journalist James Foley would intimidate and terrorize the world. But people aren't built that way, not in Muslim countries or anywhere else. When they see sadistic, uncivilized behavior, they are disgusted -- and angry.

President Obama spoke with special precision and moral clarity in reacting to the video's release Wednesday. The Islamic State, he said, "speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day."

The videotaped beheading was a sign of the Islamic State's weakness, not its strength. "People like this ultimately fail," Obama explained. "They fail, because the future is won by those who build and not destroy." He spoke, as a president must, about the consequences of killing U.S. civilians: "We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what's necessary to see that justice is done."
 The life and death of Osama bin Laden illustrate why the terrorist strategy is destined to fail -- if civilized nations maintain their will. Obama authorized the mission that pursued the al-Qaeda leader to his lair in Abbottabad, Pakistan. But in the months before his death, bin Laden knew he had failed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

“Defanging a Hillary Basher”

Maureen Dowd, the #1 Hillary basher.
I’ve been meaning to link to Anita Finlay’s post at The New Agenda in which she “defangs a Hillary basher” since it was first published. Finlay's answer to the question, “Is Maureen Dowd Necessary?” remains acutely relevant in the run up to the 2016 election. 

Finlay has reminded me that in 2008, Arianna Huffington and Maureen Dowd were among the most vitriolic media types on the attack against Hillary Clinton. Dowd is already revving up for the next round, but Finlay, and hopefully others, have MoDo's  number:

Maureen Dowd, arguably the most powerful columnist at The New York Times, has made a career of loathing Hillary Clinton, painting her in a negative light as often as possible, whether she has anything to do with the topic at hand or not.

Dowd’s latest columns bash both mother and daughter.  First Dowd trashes Chelsea Clinton for the $75,000 fee she earns making speeches, although she donates every dollar to the Clinton Foundation.  Dowd, on the other hand, receive $30,000 per speech (giving about 12 per year).  No chump change that.  No word on how much she donates, however.

Then Dowd intimates that the only real star in the family (or in politics) is former President Bill, whom she finds equally distasteful, if charismatic…so much so, in fact, that Dowd avers he will have to drag his dull dolt of a wife across the finish line if she runs for President once more.

Since Ms. Dowd was one of the chief Hillary-bashers in 2008 and shows no sign of let up, it might be useful to deconstruct Ms. Dowd’s er, logic, as a tool to neutralize the negative effect her years of denigrating comments have on the reader’s psyche when it comes to Secretary Clinton and her family.

Herewith is a chapter from my book, Dirty Words on Clean Skin

Women will never break the highest, hardest glass ceiling when other highly regarded women use their platforms to rip each other to shreds for what can only be monetary gain or a personal vendetta:

“Unfortunately for Hillary, there’s no White Bitch Month.”[i]
– Maureen Dowd

The stinging slights offered by several women who had wielded the written word in an effort to cut Hillary Clinton off at the knees were in a class by themselves.

Read more:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Urgent: Save the Arctic Ocean from drilling

Happy Monday morning to all my friends of Katalusis,

We human beings are accountable for protecting the lives of each of the birds, bees, and beasts on this planet. Those birds, bees, and beasts need our protection from the ravages of reckless oil and gas drilling as well as all other humankind assaults on their habitats. And let us never forget that each time a species is destroyed, the quality of life for all of us is diminished.

The email pasted below from Josh Nelson at CREDO provides an opportunity for you to quickly and easily do your part on behalf of our wildlife.

Urgent: Save the Arctic Ocean from drilling
1 message

Josh Nelson, CREDO Action Mon, Aug 11, 2014 at 8:24 AM
Reply-To: "Josh Nelson, CREDO Action"
To: Virginia Bergman
CREDO action
Tell the Obama Administration: Stop reckless oil companies from drilling in the Arctic
Submit a public comment telling the Obama administration not to allow any Arctic drilling in its 2017-2022 oil and gas leasing program.
Take action now ►
Dear Virginia,
Right now the Obama administration is deciding whether to allow future oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean.
The administration has a crucial choice to make: It could give the green light to reckless oil drilling companies, like Shell and ConocoPhillips, or it could decide to protect our planet and our precious wildlife like walruses, arctic foxes and arctic seals by keeping the Arctic off limits.
This decision will impact the Arctic Ocean for generations to come, so it’s critical that the administration gets it right and protects the Arctic from dangerous fossil fuel drilling. This crucial public comment period closes this week, so we need to fight back now.
Tell the Obama administration: No Arctic drilling! Submit a public comment now.
The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet, which is already making it difficult for precious birds and marine species to survive. Offshore oil and gas drilling is a bad idea anywhere -- but it’s worse in the Arctic because no proven technology exists to clean up oil spills in icy waters.
Big Oil companies like Shell and ConocoPhillips want to drill every last drop of oil in the Arctic. But Shell has already proven with its mishaps that Arctic drilling is far too risky, and that the company is hopelessly outmatched by the extreme conditions in the Arctic.
Shell and ConocoPhillips are already lobbying the Obama administration behind the scenes. But if thousands of us demand that the administration say no to new leasing for gas and oil, we can provide a powerful counterpoint to their oil-soaked lobbyists.
We only have a few days until this crucial public comment period closes. Please submit your public comment now telling the Obama administration not to allow dangerous oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean.
Tell the Obama administration: No Arctic drilling! Click the link below to submit a public comment:

Thanks for fighting to stop dangerous oil and gas drilling in the Arctic.
Josh Nelson, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Add your name:
Take action now ►

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sexism: Hillary squelches the Neanderthals among us

Photo by Norma Jean Roy, via Glamour Magazine, Sept. issue.   

The wisdom of Hillary Clinton’s strategy for dealing with the repugnant sexists among us is to be expected. The woman has risen above sexism throughout her public career, and she brings years of experience to squelching attacks from Neanderthals in the media, government, and the public at large. She sets a good example for women of all ages trying to find their place in the world.

Sisterhood becomes even more powerful when we take a lesson from Hillary:

As her book tour winds down and she considers whether she'll make another attempt to shatter the "highest, hardest glass ceiling," Hillary Clinton spoke with Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive for the magazine's September issue

When it comes to sexists, the former secretary of state has generally maintained a policy of disengagement. Leive asked Clinton how she's managed to smile through the often malicious gender-based criticism she's received, especially during a time as tense as her 2008 presidential run. Clinton shared her "guidelines" for dealing with sexist bullsh*t.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Objective coverage of the Israeli-Hamas conflict

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D., Minn.
Late word has it the Gaza cease fire is holding, so the NY Times editorial published yesterday continues to be relevant. The Times editorial board has bent over backwards to be fair to both Israel and Palestine; the piece provides information easy to miss in day to day news coverage. For example, the Times reports the outbreak of anti-semitism occurring throughout Europe.

For the average reader in the U.S., it's likely difficult to maintain an objective appraisal of this continuing tragic conflict, what with the more heat than light responses from both the extreme right and extreme left. Should we be surprised that local lefties organized a protest against Sen. Al Franken, currently engaged in a vitriolic campaign with his Republican opponent? The lefties are mad at Franken for his supposed biased support of Israel.

But back to the Times editorial:

In the first good news in a long time, a 72-hour cease-fire appeared to be holding on Wednesday as Israelis and Palestinians tallied what was lost, and gained, during the latest war over the desperate Gaza Strip.

It was easiest to count the losses. More than 1,800 Palestinians, a majority of them noncombatants, and 67 Israelis have been killed. United Nations officials said 408 Palestinian children were killed and 2,502 injured. The physical damage in Gaza is estimated at $6 billion.

There are important but less tangible costs: the way ordinary Israelis have had to live in fear of rocket attacks; increasingly bitter strains on Israel’s relations with the United States; international criticism of Israel — and the outrage of anti-Semitic protests and violence in Europe. There seems to be little room left in Israeli politics for those who would end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and create an independent Palestinian state.

Both sides are tallying the blame. In too many cases, Israel launched weapons that hit schools and shelters and failed to adequately protect Palestinian citizens. But Hamas knowingly targeted Israeli civilian centers in violation of any civilized standard and launched weapons from populated areas in what looks like a deliberate effort to draw Israeli fire on innocents.

Both sides are claiming victory, Israel for wiping out 32 underground tunnels that Hamas intended for attacks on Israel, and Hamas for still being alive. In a mockery of its claim to have a political arm independent of its armed wing, political officials of Hamas were crowing about its determination to regroup and attack again.

Read more:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The NFL's awful message to women

Janay Palmer and Ray Rice. Rice knocked Palmer unconscious earlier this year.
Hi friends of Katalusis,

I just got this email message, and I urge you to join me in signing the petition below that holds the NFL accountable for its "awful message to women."

Awful message from the NFL to women
1 message

Heidi Hess, CREDO Action Wed, Jul 30, 2014 at 8:36 AM

Reply-To: "Heidi Hess, CREDO Action"
To: Virginia Bergman
CREDO action
The NFL's violence against women problem
Tell NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell:
"The shamefully insufficient two-game suspension of Ray Rice for his documented assault of Janay Palmer sends a terrible message about how the NFL views violence against women. You need to take a strong stand and implement guidance--including appropriate discipline--for how the league will handle domestic violence, sexual assault, and any other violence against women in the future."
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►
Dear Virginia,

NFL must stand up for women
Earlier this year, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was arrested for the aggravated assault of Janay Palmer, his fiancee. The assault was especially newsworthy because video of Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer off an elevator went viral, but it’s hardly the only incident of violence against women involving NFL players.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has complete discretion in punishing players who violate the league’s personal conduct policy. Last week, he gave Rice a two-game suspension and a $58,000 fine. His decision to dole out such a weak punishment, which is lighter than what players who smoke marijuana receive, has sent shockwaves through the league and the media. On Monday, the NFL doubled down when NFL senior vice president of labor policy Adolpho Birch went on the radio and defended Goodell's decision as "appropriate."

The NFL’s leadership is sending a clear but terrible message that violence against women doesn’t matter to the league.

Enough’s enough: Join over 50,000 CREDO activists to tell NFL Commissioner Goodell to take violence against women seriously. Click here to sign the petition.

Violence against women is an obvious, long-term problem facing the NFL.1 But as high-profile arrests of players for domestic violence and sexual assault continue, the league has done little or nothing. Most players involved in domestic violence incidents have received suspensions of one to three games. Commissioner Roger Goodell has issued longer suspensions for pot smoking, taking Adderall, DUI’s, illegal tattoos, and dogfighting.2

The commissioner has unilateral authority to punish people whose behavior is viewed as "detrimental to the welfare" of the league. But while players who are caught using marijuana or performance enhancing drugs are routinely issued serious punishments of four or more games, the NFL has consistently shied away from meaningful punishments for domestic abuse, sexual assault, and violence against women in general.
What does it tell young men and women about women's value when players receive harsher punishment for smoking pot than for violence against women? The “boys will be boys” culture that spawned the Steubenville tragedy and many a rape and abuse case in football programs around the country is reinforced by a ruling like this.

When the NFL fails to deal seriously with incidents of violence against women, it sends a message to every league employee and fan that violence against women is OK. Tell Commissioner Goodell it’s time for a change. Click the link below to sign the petition.

Thanks for standing up for women.
Heidi Hess, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►
  1. Here’s What Happens When an NFL Player Beats His FiancĂ©e Unconscious, Dave Zirin, The Nation, 07/24/2014.
  2. The NFL's Domestic Violence Problem,”Jane McManus, ESPNW, 07/24/2014.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Israel is at war with Hamas

Map showing the territory under Palestinian control and Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Source: Public Domain.

David Ignatius is an associate editor and columnist for the Washington Post. He also co-hosts PostGlobal, an online discussion of international issues at, with Fareed Zakaria. Capping several major awards in his field, Ignatius is the recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the International Committee for Foreign Journalism.

Unlike some of his colleagues in the media, Ignatius can be counted on to acknowledge at least two sides in every international conflict. In the current flare up of violence between Israel and Palestine, the press has most often portrayed Israel as the bad guy with little or no indication that Hamas, given to terrorist attacks on Israel, has played a role. Ignatius comes closer to an objective review of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East than any other media rep that I’ve come across since the conflict began.

In his analysis, Ignatius zeroes in on John Kerry’s handling of the hot-button situation:

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State John Kerry has made a significant mistake in how he's pursuing a Gaza cease-fire -- and it's not surprising that he has upset both the Israelis and some moderate Palestinians.

Kerry's error has been to put so much emphasis on achieving a quick halt to the bloodshed that he has solidified the role of Hamas, the intractable, unpopular Islamist group that leads Gaza, along with the two hard-line Islamist nations that are its key supporters, Qatar and Turkey. In the process, he has undercut not simply the Israelis but also the Egyptians and the Fatah movement that runs the Palestinian Authority, all of which want to see an end to Hamas rule in Gaza.

A wiser course, which Kerry rejected in his hunt for a quick diplomatic solution, would have been to negotiate the cease-fire through the Palestinian Authority, as part of its future role as the government of Gaza. Hamas agreed last April to bring the PA back to Gaza as part of a unity agreement with Fatah that was brokered by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Kerry has been motivated by two understandable short-term needs: First, he wants to stop the horrific slaughter in Gaza, with its heavy loss of life among Palestinian civilians, including children. Second, he seeks to fulfil the instructions of President Obama, who wants an immediate cease-fire and has become skeptical about solving the knotted Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Kerry's approach has ignited a firestorm in Israel, with commentators left and right accusing him of taking Hamas' side and betraying Israel. That criticism is unfair, and it prompted a complaint Sunday from Obama in a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Kerry's mistake isn't any bias against Israel, but a bias in favor of an executable, short-term deal. A case can be made for this "kick the can down the road" approach, as I did last week in discussing Kerry's recent diplomatic negotiations over Iran's nuclear program and with rival political leaders in Afghanistan.

But Gaza has suffered from a generation of brutal expediency. Any deal that reinforces Hamas' stranglehold -- rather than building a path toward change of government, elections and eventual disarmament -- is misconceived. In the name of stopping bloodshed this week, it all but guarantees it in the future. That's why public opinion polls show a strong majority of Gazans back the idea of returning to Palestinian Authority control -- because they want an end to the cycle of intermittent warfare.

Israel has undermined its own cause with statements that appear to be insensitive to Palestinian loss of life. One example is Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer's claim that "the Israeli Defense Forces should be given the Nobel Peace Prize" for showing "unimaginable restraint," at a time when photos and videos provide wrenching evidence of civilian casualties in the densely packed cities of Gaza.