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The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
Today the Israeli parliament voted to ban Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens from becoming Israeli citizens themselves. The measure effectively prevents Arab's from becoming Israeli citizens and living peacefully with their spouses. How is thisnot pure racism? The law only applies to Palestinians too, non-Palestinians can marry Israel citizens just as before. It's a direct measure to purify the make-up of Israeli society on little more than racial grounds.
"Yuval Steinitz, a parliamentary leader from Likud, accused the governing Palestinian Authority of encouraging Palestinians to marry Israeli Arabs and move into Israel. "It's not a humanitarian case — or not only humanitarian — but a deliberate strategy by the Palestinian Authority to change the demographic balance in Israel in order to destroy us," he said in a telephone interview.
He said that if, as envisioned by a new peace plan, a Palestinian state is to be created in the West Bank and Gaza, then "Palestinians should be unified there."
Oh, like "separate but equal," except without the "equal" part? Does Likud really think that its those who seek to be Israeli citizens that want to destroy the state of Israel? It may indeed change the demographic balance [read: eternal Jewish supremacy] but why is that feared so much? Those who want to be a part of Israel are not the ones that need to be worried about. Hamas and aspects of the PLO should be the real concern. Any Arab willing to become a citizen of Israel should be welcomed with open arms. That is what Israel should encourage - Arabs who want to live and work side by side with Israeli Jews. Isn't that the whole point of the peace process?
"Orna Kohn, a staff attorney for Adalah, a legal organization for Arab minority rights in Israel, said her group would petition the courts to overturn the law as violating basic rights. She noted that it did not apply to non-Palestinian foreign spouses of Israelis, and she said that it was also aimed at Israel's Arab citizens.
"You have an Israeli citizen who is an Arab, and you won't allow him to live with his spouse?" she said. "If this is not racism, then perhaps we need to have a new definition."
Way too many people are using the institution of marriage as an excuse for their otherwise intolerant goals. It's time to stop being afraid of what will make ultimately make our societies better.
The economy is rebounding! According to the latest economic data the annualized GDP increased by 2.4%. That sure sounds impressive doesn't it? It would be, except it includes the one-time war costs of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Doh!
When the roughly $40 billion in one-time defense spending is taken out of the equation, the growth of annualized GDP is a meager 0.67%. That doesn't sound too good to me. In fact, according to the Washington Post graph below, GDP growth is actually declining when the war costs are taken out. The White House certainly has nothing to gloat about in these numbers.
Kevin Drum has all the stats on this, and asks a good cynical question:
"So, um, are we going to have another war this quarter to keep the numbers up?"
I have yet to see an instance of the Bush administration actually making the "homeland" any safer. From underfunded port security, to the shortage of federal air marshalls, the administration has done nothing to actually improve the security of Americans in the United States since September 11. The news that the Department of Homeland Security has been forced to reduce the number of air marshalls due to a lack of funding then, is of no surprise. It's troubling, but it's not a surprising development from an administration that wraps itself in the American flag, but does little to live up to its responsibilities.
"The Transportation Security Administration wants to reduce the number of air marshals to save money, even as the government is warning about the possibility al-Qaida may try more suicide hijackings.
"The TSA is seeking approval from Congress to cut $104 million from the air marshal program to help offset a $900 million budget shortfall. It's unclear how many of the estimated several thousand air marshal jobs would be affected.
"When we are faced with more priorities than we have funding to support, we have to go through a process of trying to address the most urgent needs," TSA spokesman Robert Johnson said."
Urgent needs abound, for few of the needs have been addressed other than with a fascade of faux patriotism. It's curious that a tax cut for the wealthy would be a greater priority than actually making the American people safer. When the FBI states that they see the potential of a repeated September 11-style attack, how is that evidence of progress?
It's almost as if the administration always wants to have something else out there that has not been accomplished so it can continue on it's crusade and convince the public that it can't possibly consider replacing it for that would ruin the noble goal of "winning the war on terror," or "making America safer," or "stimulating the economy through tax cuts." All of these things are goals with no ultimate end, but the administration insists on framing them as conquerable. Not everything is black and white like that. These goals can only get better, they can't be completely triumphed over.
It's time for the administration to level with the American people. The nation isn't any safer than it was before September 11 no matter what the administration claims. Reducing the number of air marshalls at a time when the specific threat requires a response from those very air marshalls is a travesty for our national security. If we don't have the money to pay for the air marshalls program, maybe, just maybe we should stop giving tax cuts.
Why won't Bush declassify the portion of the September 11 report that deals with Saudi Arabia? At this point the only group that doesn't want it released is the White House itself.Even the Saudis want it released! What is the administration hiding?
It really is sickening that our government still deals with Saudi Arabia in such a docile manner. This is the state that spawned Osama Bin Laden, the kingdom that produced 15 of the 19 hijackers, and one which openly supports groups that act, sometimes violently, against American interests. There is no reason the Saudi royal family should enjoy such preferential treatment from the United States. Images like this should just never happen. A kingdom rooted in anti-Americanism should not be an ally. Does this look like an administration with nothing to hide?
Today in only his 8th solo press conference, Bush came out strong in support of the bigotted views of his right-wing constituency. While such remarks from Sen. Santorum or even Senate Majority Leader Frist can be sighed at and relegated to their intolerance, remarks like these from the president show just how afraid Republicans are of equal rights for all Americans.
"I believe marriage is between a man and a woman and I believe we ought to codify that one way or the other and we have lawyers looking at the best way to do that."
First off, "codify"?? When did they teach him that one? But seriously, why are Republicans so afraid of gay Americans? If they fear for the institution of marriage, they might want to take a look at heterosexual marriage first. With over 50% of marriages ending in divorce, I wouldn't say the institution is exactly an example of upstanding relationships. In fact, gay marriage would no doubt increase the longevity of marriages. Recent studies have indicated that gay and lesbian individuals in committed relationships are more devoted to their relationship and put a higher stake in its success. Perhaps that has to do with the very backlash from the Right that unites them, but the fact remains.
Frankly I see all of conservatives' arguments against gay marriage as being cover for their own ignorant fear. Every person I've met who's expressed homophobic views has always admitted, upon questioning, that they don't know any gay people and they don't know much about the issues. Their argument always returns to some variation of, "because the Bible says so." This is a copout argument and carries little weight anyway, for the Bible also tells us we should offer animal sacrifices, stone to death anyone who utters profanity and proclaims it clear for a man to have a sexual relationship with his slave, for she is only property. Is this really the best evidence of moral superiority the Right has?
The Right needs to stop running in fear of something they have no reason to be afraid of. Marriage is not going the way of the Dodo, heterosexuals will still marry and find worth in doing so, and families will still carry on with 2.3 children as they always have. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, indeed.
Things are beginning to get to a point where Tom Clancy will be out of a job because reality will outpace his far-fetched fantasies. In the latest installment of Bush administration fantasy, the Pentagon was preparing a futures market for terrorism. That's right, a place where people could profit off of accurate predictions of acts of terrorism. The program was cancelled after congressmen on both sides of the aisle found out about the horrific game that the Pentagon had dreamed up, but the fact that anyone would think this would be a good idea is deeply troubling.
"The program, called the Futures Markets Applied to Prediction (FutureMAP), would have involved investors betting small amounts of money that a particular event -- a terrorist attack or assassination -- would happen.
"It has been part of the Total Information Awareness program under retired Adm. John Poindexter, a prominent figure in the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan administration."
Poindexter, huh. Why is that not at all surprising? How are people that are this creepy and obviously devoid of a moral conscience still active in such high levels of government?
"Investors who successfully predict, for example, a missile attack by North Korea, the assassination of Palestinian Authority chief Yasser Arafat or the overthrow of the king of Jordan would profit financially, said the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency."
Simply frightening. The Bush administration needs to start keeping an eye on what it's agencies are up to and force them to grow a sense of empathy. I know it will be hard for this administration, but a little compassionate thought wouldn't hurt from time to time.