Monthly Archives: March 2005

Sodom & Gomorrah

Religious leaders met on Wednesday in Jerusalem in a united protest against a gay pride festival planned there in August. From left: Sheik Abed es- Salem Menasra, deputy mufti of Jerusalem; the Rev. Michel Sabbagh, the Latin patriarch; the Rev. Aris Shirvanian, the Armenian patriarch; Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic chief rabbi; and Rabbi Yona Metzger, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi. The man at right was not identified.

European Pressphoto Agency

Religious leaders
met on Wednesday in Jerusalem in a united protest against a gay pride
festival planned there in August. From left: Sheik Abed es- Salem
Menasra, deputy mufti of Jerusalem; the Rev. Michel Sabbagh, the Latin
patriarch; the Rev. Aris Shirvanian, the Armenian patriarch; Rabbi
Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic chief rabbi; and Rabbi Yona Metzger, the
Ashkenazi chief rabbi. The man at right was not identified.

Here they are, busy preventing the pollution of Jerusalem.  And here’s what the various denominations above had to say about the planned gay pride festival this August in the Holy City…

[first from the left, above] Sheik Abed es-Salem Menasra, deputy (Muslim) mufti of Jerusalem: "God destroyed those cities and everyone in them.  I’m warning everybody, God will destroy Jerusalem together with the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims."

[fourth from the left, above] Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Sephardic chief rabbi: "They are creating a deep and terrible sorrow that is unbearable.  It hurts all religions.  We are all against it."

[fifth from the left, above] Rabbi Yona Metzger, Ashkenazi chief rabbi: "Please do not damage the holiness of Jerusalem, preserve its character, preserve its peace…cancel your plans."

[not pictured] Sheik Abdel Aziz Bukhari, a Sufi representative: "We can’t permit anybody to come and make the Holy City dirty.  This is very ugly and very nasty to have these people come to Jerusalem."

[not pictured] Rabbi Yehuda Levin, of the Rabbinical Alliance of America (claiming to represent more than 1000 American Orthodox rabbis: called the festival "the spiritual rape of the Holy City…This is not the homo land, this is the Holy Land."  He’s also quoted as saying, "This is not a parade, this is a 10-day radical, militant, anti-family, anti-God celebration of sodomy and pornography.  Are we crazy that we need to provoke God again?"

[quotes are from an NYT story by Laurie Goodstein and Greg Myre, an AP dispatch, and an article from Haaretz]

Made in California

What links this post to the previous one about the Middle East roadmap and millenarian dispensationalism is the interesting figure of Pastor Leo Giovinetti.  Img_pastors_leoSeems the impetus for this highly unusual agreement amongst all the major religions of Jerusalem comes from him and his Mission Valley Christian Fellowship mission.  Pastor Leo’s ministry has a special relationship with Israel (this is from their website):

Each year a team from Mission Valley Christian Fellowship travels as ambassadors to Israel to share the blessings and hope that come from God.  The ambassor group has grown from 20 to 100 travelers and tours the country enjoying the amazing history and fellowship.  Mission Valley Christian Fellowship has been blessed with the ability to share financially with this nation in need.  Substantial donations have been given to the Ministry of Defense, the Russian Absorption Program of Ariel, and to numerous schools.  Most recently, a gift of $100,000 was presented to the Mayor of Jerusalem, to help those who have been directly affected by the campaign of terror.

On their top page, they have a graphic link to a (or perhaps the) gay pride protest site.  This site, http://www.israelblessgod.com, is designed by San Diego Web Concepts, with a number of links at the top back to Pastor Leo stuff.  It presents a narrative under the rubric "A Chosen Nation".  For example,

I’m not sure if many of you who are Jewish know who you really are and what your Grand heritage is!  It began so many years ago and so much has happened since, but if you are curious and you are sensing a call to seek out and know who you really are, please continue to read on and discover the grand pedigree of your family tree.

Furthermore,

Is the Modern State of Israel still the same as the original Nation of Israel?

According to the Scriptures, The modern State of Israel is the continuation of all that God began to do. The Scripture foretold of the time when Israel would be scattered throughout the world and of the times when Israel would be re-gathered back into the ancient land of Israel!

Then on to the Abrahamic Covenant:

This Covenant Is So Important that all of the rest of the promises of God are tied into it!

All that God has done throughout history, that which he is doing in our generation, and most importantly, what he is about to do so that we can all finally move onto Heaven is wrapped up in this Covenant!

"what he is about to do so that we can all finally move into Heaven"…this is the critical point where we connect to millenarian dispensation.  Although nowhere on the site that I can see is Armaggedon mentioned, if you know your Apocolypse you don’t need prompting. 

Further evidence of the political orientation of Pastor Leo and his flock is available if you follow the israelblessgod site’s "articles" link.  At the top you can then go to Benny Elon’s Peace Plan site, where the Elon peace plan is outlined.  (Benny is in the Sharon Cabinet as Tourism Minister and is head of the Moledet Party.)  The main points of this plan are

  • Immediate dissolution of the Palestinian Authority
  • Uprooting of the Palestinian terror infrastructure via arms collection, dismantling of all refugee camps, and deportation of terrorists and their "direct supporters"
  • International recognition that Jordan must be the Palestinian state
  • Isreali sovereignty over Judea, Samaria and Gaza, where Arab residents will become citizens of Jordan, with "their connection to the two states and the manner of administration of their communcal lives…decided in an agreement between the governments of Israel and Jordan (Palestine)"
  • Allocation of resources by Israel, the US and the international community "for the completion of the exchange of populations that began in 1948"
  • Peace and normalization between Israel and "Jordan-Palestine"

In a way that is too amazing to really be surprising, Benny introduces his plan by claiming that the current US roadmap to a two-state solution will only lead to war.  But how close to war would we be if Israel and the US immediately dissolved the PA, and attempted to collect Palestinian arms, dismantle their camps, and deport their leadership?  And that’s only covers points one and two of the Elon "peace" plan.

Just as I previously asked whether DeLay might be trying to hasten the day by blocking the Bushrovers’ funding request for the PA, I am wondering whether there is not a devious (and well-understood) confluence of agendas between the Dispensationalist Christians and rejectionist Jews in Israel.  Fascist movements don’t need to be majority movements to be dangerous if they are tightly focused and well funded.  We have seen before this the baptismal use of fire as a political organizing principle.  I cannot imagine anything good coming from war in the Middle East, but I have to consider that a mixture of American and Israeli fundamentalists seem to believe, even if for differing reasons, that something much better will emerge from that particular fire.  I’m certainly not going to be there bowing down in the Final Days—I’ll get fried with the rest of the Jews and other infidels—but are we not also running some risk from these people that we’ll be fried well before G-d has anything to do with it?

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DeLay hastens the day?

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a piece in Forward, the New York Jewish weekly, about far right obstruction of proposed US funding of the now Abbas-led Palestinian Authority.

Defying the wishes of the Bush administration, Congress approved a
foreign-aid package this week forbidding any direct assistance to the
Palestinian Authority and, in a rare snub, denying the president the
authority to waive restrictions in the interest of national security.

The legislation was approved 388-to-44 in the House of Representatives
and is expected to sail through the Senate. The House approved $200
million in aid, to be channeled to nongovernmental projects outside the
control of the P.A., as part of an $81 billion in emergency spending
bill to help pay the costs of military operations in Iraq and
Afghanistan.

…Sources also said that the driving force behind the rejection of direct
aid was House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, who at one
point threatened to cut all aid to the Palestinian territories out of
the bill.Hallindsey_me_ready_for_war_with_text_1

I don’t see where this little legislative passage of arms has been much noticed outside the US Jewish press.  As it turns out, the waiver authority is thought to be coming out of the bill in House/Senate negotiations, and Bush has other slush funds to go to if he wants to reward the P.A. and Abbas, but its still an interesting wedge on the right.  Condi testified in mid February (see the AP story carried in Ha’aretz dated 2/17) in support of the aid payments.  Nita Lowey, the Democratic congresswoman from New York’s 18th district for almost 20 years (parts of Westchester and Rockland counties for you homies), helped write the aid langauge from her position as ranking minority member of the appropriations subcommittee on foreign affairs.  Judging from her website, specifically here, she wants to appear tough on Palestinians while aligning with the Bushrover’s roadmap, including Palestinian aid:

Lowey
believes strongly that the U.S. must continue to hold Palestinian
leaders accountable for their actions. She has secured provisions in
the foreign aid bill restricting U.S. funding for the Palestinian
Authority, requiring strict oversight of humanitarian assistance
provided to the Palestinian people, and condemning the Arab economic
boycott of Israel. Lowey also co-authored a provision included in the
most recent foreign aid bill specifying that there will be no financial
assistance for a future Palestinian state unless and until the
conditions included in the President’s roadmap are met.

Lowey, according to one source, was point on the intra-House negotiations on aid for the P.A.  But at some point, and operative from Aipac was brought in to try to keep DeLay at bay.

Many Jewish lawmakers with an interest in the bill relied on Lowey to
handle the negotiations, said a staffer for one Jewish lawmaker who
opposed direct aid.

According to well-positioned sources, members of the appropriations
subcommittee tapped Esther Kurz, who directs Aipac’s legislative
department, to broker compromise language that would satisfy DeLay’s
demands while allowing the administration to have the money. Aipac, up
to that point, had only been marginally involved in the Palestinian aid
package. Now it was requested to exert its authority on Israel-related
issues and to broker compromise language. The assumption, one source
said, was that DeLay would be hard pressed to oppose language that the
chief pro-Israel lobby has endorsed.

But perhaps Aipac’s involvement was not that simply motivated.  Aipac has been involved in an FBI/grand jury investigation for some time—seven months ago Pentagon Iran analyst Larry Franklin was accused of passing government documents to two members of the pro-Israel lobbying firm.  Laura Rosen has been following this story solidly in warandpiece.com, including her most recent citation of an Ha’aretz article by Nathan Guttman yesterday.  According to Guttman,

AIPAC is considered one of the five most powerful
lobbies in Washington, alongside giants like the American Association
of Retired Persons and the National Rifle Association, whose budgets
dwarf AIPAC’s.

…Some in D.C. political circles said that AIPAC’s main
problem now was not the investigation in which it has become embroiled,
but rather the political change going on in Israel. "AIPAC is simply
lagging behind developments," said a congressional staffer close to the
issue. According to the staffer, the fact that most of the AIPAC board
is hawkish on the Israel-Palestinian conflict makes it difficult for
the lobby to accommodate itself to Israel’s new policies.

The
issue of AIPAC getting used to the thawing of Israeli-Palestinian
relations was put to the test last month during Congressional
deliberations on a bill submitted by President George W. Bush to give
$200 million in aid to the Palestinians to strengthen reforms and
Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas’ government. Congress approved the
bill in the end, but only after adding some serious strictures.

Who
was behind the failure to pass the bill in its original form?
Democratic supporters of the legislation said that AIPAC tried to
torpedo it and that its lobbyists were behind the restrictions placed
on the aid. AIPAC presented a totally different picture, saying that it
was House Majority Leader Tom DeLay who had taken a hard-line on the
bill, and that AIPAC had saved the day by suggesting compromises which
had allowed the bill to pass.

Not even everyone in Congress
knows who put the restrictions in the aid bill. After the vote, someone
at a meeting of senior congressional staff asked who had been
responsible for the limitations. "I don’t feel comfortable discussing
it here," a staffer from the allocations committee is said to have
replied. Others present at the meeting said they thought he did not
want to point a figure at AIPAC.

And there is this pair of grafs from a JTA wire story carried in the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California (from the moment in 2002 when he became Speaker):

While some question DeLay’s motives, many Jewish leaders have chosen to embrace
his support. After his election as House majority leader last week, most
pro-Israel activists were celebrating.

"Tom DeLay is a true leader and has a time-tested record of being a dear and
valued friend of the pro-Israel community," said Melvin Dow, a fellow Texan and
former president and chairman of the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee.

DeLay’s possible motivations are probably more bizzare than Aipac’s, if they can be at all seperated.  According to Ori Nir’s Forward article,

DeLay’s success in blocking direct aid has some lawmakers and Jewish
communal officials worried about the degree to which the Texas
Republican, an evangelical Christian who opposes the creation of a
Palestinian state, will go to undercut American and Israeli attempts to
achieve a two-state solution.

Non-christians like me who travel in Israel may be surprised to see large tour groups of American Evangelicals at Israeli and Jewish (as opposed to the obvious Christian) sightseeing venues.  In fact, there are people called Christian Zionists.  See this article of unknown provenance but apparent comprehension, or the Wikipedia entry.  In the latter, we read 

Christian Zionism is the belief among some denominations of Protestant Christians, mainly in the United States, that the return of the Jews to
the Holy Land, through the estabishment of the State of Israel in 1948, is in accordance with Biblical prophecy, and is a necessary precondition for the return of
Jesus to reign on Earth.

This belief should be distinguished from a general political belief that the Jews have a right to a national homeland in
Israel. […] Indeed since Christian Zionists believe that the Jews must eventually accept Jesus as the Messiah for Biblical prophecy to be fulfilled, some Jews see Christian Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism.

…American Christian Zionist theology was developed by the 19th century
evangelical Cyrus Scofield (18431921), who popularised the doctrine that Jesus could not return to reign on
Earth until certain events occurred: The return of the Jews to the Holy Land and particularly to Jerusalem, where they would destroy the Islamic holy places in the city and rebuild the Temple, the battle of Armageddon, in which millions of
people would be killed, and the conversion of the Jews to Christianity.

According to Hal Lindsey, a prominent American Christian Zionist, "the
valley from Galilee to Eilat (a town in
southern Israel) will flow with blood and 144,000 Jews would bow down before Jesus and be saved". According to Lindsey, the rest
of the Jews, and presumably all non-Christians, will perish in "the mother of all Holocausts".

Christian Zionism appears to have grown out of the older vein of evangelical eschatology known as premillennial dispensationalism.  Premillennialism is the belief, long held as a basic tenet of Hallindsey_1948_with_text_1Christianity, that Jesus will return to earth before establishing and reigning over a millenial kingdom.  John Nelson Darby, an early proponent, defined periods of historical "dispensation", as milestones along the path that could be understood through the predictive power of scripture.

Again, from the Wikipedia:

Dispensationalism teaches that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will
be a physical event, by which a world-wide kingdom will be established in human history, geographically centered in Jerusalem. Many, but not all,
dispensationalists teach that the Second Coming will be a two step process. In the first step, Christ returns to resurrect the blessed dead and rapture
the living believers from the Earth. After this, a seven year period of tribulation occurs, climaxing in the Battle of Armageddon. In
the second step, Christ intervenes at the Battle of Armageddon and establishes his kingdom on earth. As such, dispensationalism
is associated with the circulation of end times prophecy, which professes to read omens of the Second Coming in current events.

Can it be that DeLay, and other pro-Israel evangelicals like him, are trying the hasten the day? 

There is no question that 9/11 and the subsequent so-called war on terrorism have greatly heighten the sense of apocalypse amongst those leaning that way, and have appeared as a milestone on the way to the End of Days.  On that roadmap, the forces of righteousness will destroy the Islamic holy places and establish the Third Temple.  This kind of "faith"-based decision making and motivation at the top of our government is not something we can look at any more as aberrant. 

In July, 2002, the "D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship" (self-described as "a spiritually based outreach to men and
women in positions of influence and authority in our
nation’s capital") awarded DeLay its Distinguished Christian Stateman award for 2002.  This interesting vignette is part of the news item on its web site.

On the day following the 9/11
attacks on America, Rep. DeLay called his Washington staff together. At
this unscheduled meeting, the Texas congressman very deliberately
shared the Gospel with his staff. He told them how he knew that he
would spend eternity with God in Heaven and how they could know that
too. “In light of what happened up this way yesterday, we all need to
be sure of that,” he said.

What I can tell is that DeLay is a Baptist.  I don’t know about his personal orientation to Christian Zionism or premillenarial dispensationism.  But his many statements on matters of Christian belief make it clear that he is pretty sure how things should go.  Americans United for Seperation of Church and State reports on a DeLay speech from a 300-person "Worldview Weekend" meeting at the First Baptist Church in Pearland, Texas, just before his ascension to the Speaker’s chair.  In his kickoff, DeLay

noted
that he got interested in running for state office in Texas because he
was fed up with government interference in his pest extermination
business. His wife prodded him to attend a local Republican Party
meeting, where someone suggested he run for the legislature.

"It
was the first time the Lord talked to me in very meaningful terms,"
DeLay said. He said he became "obsessed" with running for the office
and worked so hard he successfully defeated a Democrat at a time when
Republicans were weak in Texas.

DeLay,
a Baptist, spent six years in the Texas legislature and ran for
Congress successfully in 1984. Despite the divine intervention in his
earlier campaigns, DeLay told the crowd that he was still not a
committed believer when he went to Washington.

"I
was into the other worldview like you wouldn’t believe," he said,
noting that in the nation’s capital he drank too much, stayed out late
and ignored his family.

Invited
to a Bible study by U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), DeLay soon "found
Christ again." […]

"He
[God] has been walking me through an incredible journey, and it all
comes down to worldview," DeLay told the crowd. "He is using me, all
the time, everywhere, to stand up for biblical worldview in everything
that I do and everywhere I am. He is training me, He is working with
me."

A Christian as muscular, and a politician as anti-pluralist and anti-democratic as DeLay cannot be a real friend of Israel.  There is something behind that agenda.  How could a born-again American Christian be more anti-Palestinian than Ariel Sharon, who stood by as his Lebanese Christian allies butchered Muslims in the camps of southern Lebanon during the Israeli invasion twenty years ago?  Why would an exterminator from Sugarland, Texas (want to figure out how many Jews live there?) care so much about the same things that the hard-right Gaza and West Bank settlers with the funny clothes and hairdos care about? 

I suspect it is a marriage of convenience, a means to an end (in fact, to The End).  I suspect that for a number of devout evangelicals in this administration and its legislature, the driving motivation for Middle Eastern policy is their sure knowledge that for those Jews who won’t bow down and be saved, its gonna be "the mother of all holocausts".

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Right, To, Life

I’ve been working in Israel for the last two weeks, for really long hours, so I’ve had to store up a number of blogs to come, including some reflections on what is now the "old" Yad Vashem, replaced by a spanking new museum (its Israel’s Holocaust museum); some thoughts about oppression, the oppressed, and fascism in their midst; and where some of my friends on the American Left are on or off track about Israel.

But meanwhile, having finally gotten a bit of time to dip into my favorite blogs, I can see that l’affair Schiavo is burning the wires.  I feel real kinship in view with Rude Pundit, Oliver Willis, DCMediaGirl, but I’d like to suggest a couple of points to keep in mind as this theatre of the absurd continues to unroll.

One, the salient point amidst all the congressional blather and bullshit is that 70% of the citizens think Congress is outta line, and almost as many that (think about the imputed cynicism of this) their keeping Schiavo alive is just politics:

Meantime, 70% of Americans say
Congress’s action was inappropriate and 67% thought the elected
officials were trying to keep Schiavo alive were doing so more for
political advantage than out of concern for her or the principles
involved, according to a poll conducted for ABC News. The poll was
conducted by telephone on March 20, among a random national sample of
501 adults. The results have a 4.5-point error margin. The sampling,
data collection and tabulation were done by TNS Intersearch of Horsham,
Pa.

Summary: something is damaging Congressional brains (as well) but doesn’t seem to be affecting Americans too much (especially considering the single-minded fanaticism of the Right’s messaging on this case).

Two, the avatars of life until the bitter end, including the unspeakably hypocritical DeLay and the unhypocratical Frist, will be hoisted on their own petards, and sooner rather than later.  The hysteria of their moment here masks a deeper vacuum of issues, starting with the the black hole that is the Bushrover’s current social security initiative. 

I don’t mean to be mindlessly optimistic.  But guys, this case won’t destroy the constitution.  Do you think judges across the country are pleased to see 17 courts (perhaps 18 by Monday) flipped a massive bird by mere congresspunks?  These people have serious egos too, and a lot of them don’t need to be reelected.  I sympathize with the utter disgust of close observers—the torrent of bullshit from the right is truly amazing.  But this too shall pass—unlike DeLay’s ethics problems, and Iraq, and private accounts, and the deficit, and high medical costs (I guess except in extreme cases in Florida)…

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Tweedledee & Tweedledumb 2

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Slide16_600_scaled_1One of the problems with demonizing W and his band of BushRovers
is that those they themselves demonize start to look angelic.
Bolton, for example, has a personal mission to get rid of Mohamed
ElBaradei, the Director General of the IAEA, the atomic energy agency
within the UN.  (See his IAEA bio,
which features a 6M downloadable picture of himself.)
ArmsControlWonk noted
in late 2004 that Bolton, representing the BushRovers, had mentioned
the problem directly to ElBaradei:

The Nelson Report claims that Undersecretary of State for
Arms Control John Bolton has informed IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei
that “the US will not support his candidacy for a third term, even
though both of his predecessors served four terms (12 years) each”.

Reuters, however, is reporting
that despite having urged ElBaradei to step down, “the Bush
administration may be unwilling to undertake an all-out political
battle to oust him, U.S. officials and diplomats say.” Powell
previously suggested
a third term for any international official was “problematic” in
principle, but declined to be specific about ElBaradei. Instead,
Powell claimed the US would make
our judgment on specific cases
..

The Nelson Report also mentions tension between Bolton
and ElBaradei following revelations from the IAEA and Iraqi Interim
Government that 350-tons of high explosives were looted from a
previously secure site in the early days of the US occupation in
2003. This material is believed to be the primary source of the
lethal car bomb attacks. The failure to secure the explosives will
likely prove a major embarrassment for the Bush Administration.

ElBaradei is not a babe in the woods.  With almost perfect
timing, he very neatly revealed the theft of highex from the
unguarded bunkers, just before the election—Kerry made very good
use of that fiasco.  For me, it’s hard to escape the suspicion
that they’re all players. 

I also know that the UN is a huge bureaucracy, and very likely as
corrupt in its own humble way as W’s BushRover administration.
Does this mean that I should feel really secure with ElBaradei on the
case?  In a larger sense, do I really believe that the UN is an
effective vehicle for multilateral peacemaking?  Do they wear
halos just because John Bolton thinks they are devils?

I can understand the appeal of the unilateralist message W and
his gang are hammering.  On the left, we have to recognize why
this critique has resonance.  I am not asserting for a minute
that W and the BushRovers are consistent with their own philosophy,
if you can call it that.  But during the Iraq debate at the UN,
whatever your position on US policy and options, how could anyone
take the self-righteous posturing of the French, Russian and even
German delegations seriously?  They supplied Saddam just as
thoroughly as the US did, and I couldn’t escape the strong suspicion
that they were more concerned with losing that high-margin custom
than anything else.

So I’ll agree with some of the overt argument.  The UN is
corrupt and clogged up with its own weary process.   Our
"allies" are just as avaricious as us and certainly no more
morally estimable.  There is a hardcore terrorist network in the
world that aims to repeat disruption on at least the scale of 9/11.

How should our government respond to these challenges from a
policy perspective?

I seems to me that the BushRover’s fear is that if they start the
discussion, they will eliminate their options and support for
unilateral action.  But when everyone knows you will do what you
like anyway (and that, in addition, there is no effective domestic
control on your actions) why is it more pragmatic to be an
in-your-face hard-on like Bolton?  They’re
intent on the injury, why the need to also add the insult?

A religious assurance of rectitude leads to a simple, reflexive
implementation.  We know that W gets right with God and then
he’s set—no further doubt is necessary.  I don’t know what
Bolton’s spiritual life is about, but it is easy to see that there
are people, institutions and countries that he doesn’t like, and he
isn’t shy about letting them and everyone else know about it.
As a private person, I suppose this is a consistent kind of
behavior. 

But Bolton is more than a private citizen.  He is an
international diplomat, and he and his boss and his boss’s boss have
the responsibility of protecting the welfare of the rest of the
private citizens.  Here we have the difference between
epistemology and appearance that is so difficult for the BushRovers
to exploit. Whatever they think about multilateral players’ true
motives, to give up the leverage of appearance is pure
self-indulgence.

There are a number of directions to go with this question that I
will explore in further posts.  One is to ask what it tells us
about BushRover-World that this unilateralist extremism is necessary
to them.  Another is to ask what we need to recognize as
resonant and realistic in their analysis.  Finally there are an
important set of questions for the left. How do we avoid the
fruitless converse of W’s Manichean exposition?  How do we
recognize genuine insights and the valuably focused purpose of the
current administration (necessary in a dangerous world—nothing new
about that state of affairs) while building a public understanding
that the implementation are wrongly or even fraudulently conceived?
How do we speak like a Truman (plainly) about something other than
fear itself?

 

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Tweedledee & Tweedledumb 1

07bolton_5Standing to the (our) right of Condi, as he does in fact, is J.R. Bolton, W’s pick for new UN ambassador.   He follows in a line of appropriate choices for this post by the BushRovers, including the peripatetic John Negroponte, now designee for intelligence czar.

Recently returned from a brief stint as ambassador to Iraq, Negroponte is well known for somehow not noticing the overactive government- and CIA-supported deathsquads in Honduras when he was there in the early 80’s.  From a Scott Shane piece in the NYT about Negroponte’s most recent nomination:

Jack R. Binns, who preceded Mr. Negroponte as ambassador to
Honduras, said he opposed the confirmation because he believed that Mr.
Negroponte had misled Congress in past testimony and because he might
slant intelligence to suit administration policies.

"Based on his
performance in Honduras, there’s that possibility," said Mr. Binns, who
was ambassador from 1980 to 1991 and is now retired and living in
Arizona.

Just as Negroponte at the UN could support the world’s hope that an American-controlled Abu Graib would never again be a place of savage torture, so I guess Bolton will reassure the world that W is truly interested in multilateral diplomacy.

His appointment surely indicates that the conflict in the Bush League between the Right Wing and the Far Right Wing is continuing.  A Reuters story by Carol Giacomo, with a 6 January dateline this year, stated that Bolton,

a leading hard-liner on nuclear nonproliferation who has raised
hackles among America’s allies as well as its adversaries, is
expected to quit the Bush administration, sources said on
Thursday.

His departure may signal a shift in U.S. diplomacy to a
less confrontational approach as President Bush begins a second
term in which he has pledged to reach out to allies estranged
by the Iraq War and other policies.

Bolton, an outspoken and controversial policymaker, often
provoked strong negative reactions from European allies and was
identified more with the sticks than the carrots of U.S.
diplomacy when dealing with countries like North Korea and
Iran.  He had hoped for a promotion in Bush’s second term, perhaps
to deputy secretary of state, but the word went out that U.S.
Trade Representative Robert Zoellick would get the No. 2 spot
under Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state designate.

"My understanding is that Mr. Bolton will move to the
private sector," said one source, a friend who spoke on
condition of anonymity.

The perfidity of Bolton from the left wing point of view is fully detailed in a COHA press release, picked up via Scoop (which is an interesting media outlet in its own right), headed "John Bolton’s appointment would destroy State Department credibility".  You might find it interesting to read this analysis as it touches on Bolton’s rejection of the International Criminal Court (ICC), along side his own analysis of the ICC, from a speech in 2002.  Right, left or center, it is clear that Bolton is not what you would call diplomatic.

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Read my lips

I have to admit I’ve been trying to see behind the screen that is the Administration’s Social Security so-called reform.  I’ve come to expect such a high level of political killer instinct from the Bush Rovers that the apparent flop of the social security initiative, after its announcement from the bullpit of the State of the Union speech,  makes me twitchy.  What is Rove’s strategy within this strategy?  Its hard for me not to expect him to pull a silk purse out of such a wretched pig’s ear.

Could it be that they really misread their own voodoo on this?  Perhaps they thought only the old crusts who inhabit AARP remember the story of the boy who cried wolf (though it appears these geezers are in need of a good dose of Joe McCarthy themselves).  The whacked logic we’ve already learned goes
    1.  alleged terminal threat
    2.  huge expenditure of blood and riches on my friends
    3.  nevermind

In the case left over from the first term, we are alas unable to wreak adequate political vengeance because to do so would not be supportive of the troops.   (Here the whack logic is a syllogism: 1. the troops are valorously putting their lives on the line;  1b.  the troops are fighting in Iraq;  2.  Iraq is a valorous effort.)   

Spending lives is a permanent get-out-of-political-lies-jail-free card for W.  Like a strange twangy spider, he seems to have gotten fat and smarmily self-satisfied on such pickings.  From his mouth comes a sticky web of misdirection and cant, but the magic words of war make him invulnerable to criticism.  That smirk is also part of it—I can well imagine that the stories of it being difficult to deliver the bad news in the oval office might be true.

An example of this sense of presidential infallibility comes from a news conference after meeting EU leaders on 22 Feb, during W’s recent tour to see his buddies  Tony, Jacques and Gerhart.  A European reporter asked, in part, about whether W would attack  Iran.  Here’s the full question (transcript here):

Q    A question for President Bush.  President, you came to Europe
with a very constructive speech.  And, indeed, you said very few things
the Europeans couldn’t agree with.  But actions speak louder, so do you
actually commit to taking more into account the European position on
international matters?  And do you actually commit to, for instance,
prevent from launching action, strikes against a sovereign member
state, state like Iran, without a mandate from the United Nations
Security Council?

After rambling on a bit about European negotiations with the Ayatollahs, the two state solution, and other free association,  W delivered the punch line:

And finally, this notion that the United States is getting ready to
attack Iran is simply ridiculous.  And having said that, all options
are on the table.  (Laughter.)

I originally heard this last clip on the radio.  W’s voice is raised in mock vehemence about how ridiculous it is—then there is a beat—then the "all options" tag. ( The "(Laughter)" is in the official transcript.)

Only an overwhelming sense of rectitude equips a man to threaten an entire nation with invasion, in the form of a joke, based on the actual reality of thousands and thousands of previous casualties (including the slaughter of 1500 of his own troops).

What I am wondering now and watching closely to see is the moment that Nixon emerges from behind the Reagan mask.  W sounded a bit edgy today in New Jersey, even among his chosen people.  If somehow the machine has run uniquely and strangely off a high cliff, I think we will get to see the W of the second presidential debate a lot more often.

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