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Total number of comments: 46 (since 2013-11-28 15:36:14)

András

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  • Opportunities Abound in Iraq to Reset US Middle East Policy
  • The Death of God in Iraq: 32% of Iraqis not Sure God Exists, 11% think Not
    • The author relies on some questionable assumptions and dubious equivalences. A lack of belief in God (or as the author mistakenly calls it "secularism" -- which is not the same) is not necessarily an indicator of liberalism. Nor does atheism necessarily lead to a lesser propensity for violence, or to a greater respect for the rights of others. Recall that the Baath Party began as a secular movement, but no less bloody or repressive for all that. The Tamil Tigers, who invented suicide bombing as a terrorist tactic, were led by an atheist and were anti-religious. Some of the least liberal regimes today, from China to the repressive post-Soviet regimes of Central Asia, are stridently secular and anti-religious. In fact, neither the absence of religious belief nor its presence is a guarantee that an individual or a society will be kinder, gentler or more respectful of the rights of others.

  • US Arms Shiite Iraqi Gov't to Kill Sunni Rebels, Arms Syrian Sunni Rebels to overthrow Shiite Gov't
    • The areas colored white on the map - as well as the black and red parts - represent the Greater Syria ('Natural Syria') claimed by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, founded in 1932 by Antun Saadeh, a Syrian nationalist of Greek Orthodox background and fascist inclinations.

      The version of the Greater Syria map that Juan posted here may not have been designed with his point in mind, but it covers the countries he is talking about and works as an illustration (with the exception of the fringes colored white, the parts of Saadeh's 'Natural Syria' that extend beyond modern state boundaries). It happens to be available without copyright restrictions on Wikipedia, which is probably why he chose to use it.

  • How many American Weddings would have to get hit by Drones before they were Banned?
  • A time-lapse video map of 2,053 nuclear explosions from 1945 through 1998 (Hashimoto)
    • Like the North Korean tests, Israel's nuclear weapons testing remains shrouded in secrecy, which is why it was not included in this time-lapse video. However, Israel is widely believed to have carried out an atmospheric test in 1979 incooperation with South Africa's apartheid regime. For further details, see:

      Nuclear Weapons and Israel: Nuclear testing (Wikipedia)
      link to en.wikipedia.org

      The Samson option: Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy (Seymour Hersch)
      link to archive.org

      The Vela Incident (National Security Archive)
      link to gwu.edu

  • Top Five Objections to the White House's Drone Killing Memo
    • Bad Latin --

      Under point 2:
      FOR: Habeus Corpus
      READ: Habeas Corpus

      I know it's in a quote, but it's still wrong.

  • Bombings in Pakistan Kill over 100, as Shiites are Targeted
    • I don't have the stats, but my impression is that while there have been sectarian clashes, on the whole there have been far more attacks by Salafi/Deobandi Sunni hard-liners targeting Shiites than the other way around.

      Unlike Iraq, where Shiites are the majority population and in control of the government, in Pakistan Shiites are a vulnerable minority in most of the country and have little or no protection from the state authorities.

  • UN Security Council Condemns Further Israeli Squatting on Palestinian Land, with Rogue State US Vetoing
  • Top Five Signs of Capitalist Dictatorship in the Romney Campaign
    • Some capitalist supremos hide behind hard-to-spell names (not Mitt, but those authoritarian foreigners).

      The late South Korean strongman rejoiced in the name Park Chung-hee not in the (more manly?) name "Park Hung Chee" that you gave him... while his Afrikaner colleague went by the name P.W. Botha (not "Boetha").

      Know your enemy.

  • Tax Deadbeat Romney Calls Working People Leeches
    • "I know some believe the government should take from some to give to the others," Romney told Fox News. "I think the president makes it clear in the tape that was released today that that's what he believes. I think that's an entirely foreign concept.

      COMMENT: So Romney believes that "redistribution" -- such as the progressive income tax, which taxes the wealthy at a higher rate than the poor -- is a "foreign concept." In fact, the first progressive income tax law in the US was the Revenue Act of 1862, which was signed into law by our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln. The idea that government services should be supported by all, with wealthy taxpayers paying a larger share of the taxes than the poor, is as American as apple pie. It's Romney and his billionaire friends who are un-American.

  • Ayatollah Cameron Threatens to invade Ecuador Embassy re: Assange (or, Whitewashing Iran for the US National Security State)
    • True, Sweden could not legally hand over Assange to the United States unless the U.S. government gave a commitment to Sweden that it would not to seek the death penalty when it brings Assange to trial (on whatever the charges in that sealed indictment may be). But even without the prospect of an execution, Julian Assange says he has reason to fear mistreatment if he is handed over to the United States. The treatment accorded in detention to the alleged source of the Wikileaks documents, Pfc. Bradley Manning, suggests those fears may be justified.

      If Assange does end up in Sweden, the Swedish authorities will likely be asked by the U.S. government to surrender Assange. If they comply with that U.S. request, it would not be the first time that Swedish authorities responded to American pressure by agreeing to violate their own and international legal norms.

  • "A View Toward Hamamet" Tunisia (Paul Klee Painting)
  • Is Michele Bachmann an agent of the Muslim Brotherhood?
    • Same basic incompatibility between (Godless) Marxism and Christianity (the opium of the people), yet liberation theology managed to somehow meld the two during the last decades of the Cold War.

      But the MEK is weird in ways that go beyond its strangely hybrid ideological roots, its terrorist activities, or its bizarro right-wing backers. The MEK is also a cult in the classical sense -- members are isolated from their family and non-MEK friends, made to sign over their worldly goods and to work without pay, subjected to indoctrination and sleep deprivation, told by the cult leader whom and when to marry and divorce, etc. It would be interesting to track where the MEK's funds come from, and how much they're shelling out to those public figures who lobby on their behalf.

  • Supreme Court declines to take US Health Care in direction of Sub-Saharan Africa
    • The southeastern corner of Europe should be colored orange. Balkan countries where universal health care is guaranteed by law include:

      Macedonia

      Serbia

      and

      Bulgaria

      Meanwhile neighboring Turkey deserves at least a yellow color.

      Please correct the map.

  • Top Ten Reasons Romney Shouldn't Arm Syrian Rebels
    • Alawi (not "Allawi")

      The 'folk-Shiite' sect in Syria are the Alawis (علويون); in the mandate period between the two world wars, the French called them Alaouites..

      Allawi (علاوي), with a double "l" and a long second vowel, is the name of the former Iraqi prime minister.

  • US Pentagon Trained Iranian terrorists in Nevada: Hersh
  • Basic Facts on Clothing and Murder for American Bigots
    • HOMICIDE RATES (publ. statistics for 2008)

      USA -- 5.22 per 100,000 population (FBI figures)

      U.K. -- 1.57 per 100,000 population (Eurostat)
      Italy -- 1.16 per 100,000 population (Eurostat)
      Germany -- 0.80 per 100,000 population (Eurostat)

      New York - 6.3 per 100,000 population (FBI figures)

      London - 2.2 per 100,000 population (Eurostat)

      Of course there are countries with higher homicide rates than the U.S., such as South Africa (36.54 per 100,000 population) or Colombia (40 per 100,000 population). And Moscow has a homicide rate of 9.6 per 100,000, one and a half times that of New York. Is there reason to believe that any of those places would really lower their murder rates by following the US example and making firearms more widely and readily available?

  • Is Anti-Immigrant, Islamophobic Campaign Rhetoric fomenting Antisemitism in France?
    • The appeal to xenophobia -- in the name of laîcité and "Frenchness" -- does not lend itself to subtle distinctions. Muslims and religious Jews alike can be targeted as the "other" as long as they remain visible minorities. If they dress, eat, or worship differently, they're viewed as a threat to French identity. In recent weeks, French President Nicolas Sarkozy
      and his prime minister, François Fillon have tried to appeal to the xenophobic far-right in France by calling for Muslims and Jews in France to abandon halal and kosher ritual slaughter.

      Of course, even if French Muslims or French Jews of North African descent tries to become invisible, they can still be targets of prejudice. As we've found out in the past decade here as well, one does not have to actually be an Arab or a Muslim to attract unwelcome attention (from random bigots or at security checkpoints). It's enough to look physically like one might be from that part of the world. Those murdered French paratroopers of North African and Caribbean origin weren't wearing any kind of religious or ethnic garb when they were killed. "Whiteness" -- like "Frenchness" -- is in the eye of the prejudiced beholder.

  • Libya Seeking Qaddafi Assets Abroad: Mathiason & Serle
    • I don't know much about this British intelligence company, but if the reference to the "oil-rich Fazzan in the Gulf of Sirte" really came from Exclusive Analysis (rather than some confused journalist) it doesn't speak well for their intelligence, let alone their analytic skills. The Fezzan (a.k.a. Fazzan or Fizzan) is a region in southwestern Libya, far from the Cyrenaica (Barqa) and nowhere near the Gulf of Sirte. The Fezzan is not noted for its oil resources.

      As to the reliability of their other assertions, who knows?

  • Qur'an-burning Protests Spread, Santorum calls Obama Weak for Apologizing
    • Just for the record, Juan Cole's account of the shooting of the American advisors in the Afghan interior ministry seems to be base, at least in part, on this report by
      Agence France-Presse from Kabul. As usual, there are conflicting accounts of the incident being circulated. Whether we'll ever get to see an (unedited) version of the CCTV footage and find out for sure what really happened remains to be seen. The Afghan government, the U.S. military and the Taliban all have reasons to fudge the facts, as do their spinmasters and the media that end up repeating what they've been told by various named and "unnamed" sources. There was no neutral observer present to see what actually happened, except perhaps for that CCTV camera.

  • Afro-Asia, Global South Reject Boycott of Iran
    • I note from the map that the northern half of Chile is colored green, indicating its refusal to boycott Iran. But according to the map the southern half of Chile has yet to take a stand on the boycott. A divisive issue?

  • Top Ten Ways Iran is Defying US, EU Oil Sanctions and How You are Paying for It All
    • The old Mubarak regime -- like the current regime in Egypt -- would have had no choice in the matter. Egypt is obliged to allow Iranian warships to pass through the Suez Canal. Under the terms of the international treaty respecting the free navigation of the Suez Maritime Canal, which has governed the Canal's operation since 1888, the Canal "shall always be free and open, in time of war as in time of peace, to every vessel of commerce or of war, without distinction of flag."

      Iranian warships last passed through the Suez Canal just a year ago, in February 2011. The Americans and the Israelis weren't pleased, but there was nothing they or the Egyptian authorities could do to stop the vessels from proceeding. All the Iranians had to do was to provide 24 hours' advance notice of their intended passage.

  • Likud Government takes Revenge on Palestinians for UNESCO Membership
    • Following the successful test of an Israeli long-range missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, the Netanyahu government is reported to be planning an Israeli preemptive military strike against Iran.

      The news is being greeted with macho displays of bravado in Tehran and in Western capitals. But the Iranian minister and his evil twins in Israel aren't the ones who will die if they get their way. Unfortunately.

  • Qaddafi's People's Temple
    • While sectarianism in Libya is not a major divisive factor as it is in Iraq or Lebanon, it's misleading to say that "almost everyone is a Sunni Muslim." In fact Libya's Berber tribes and some of their Arab neighbors in Libya's Jabal Nafusa region, southwest of Tripoli, are Ibadhi Muslims, who traditionally view Sunnis as "ingrates who deny God's grace" (kuffār al-ni‘ma). But their theological rejection of Sunni Islam did not stop the Ibadhi tribes of the Jabal Nafusa from joining the resistance. As Juan points out, the people of the Jabal Nafusa played a key role in the overthrow of Qaddafi and his regime. In the Middle East, as in many other parts of the world (including the US), religion is an important factor in politics and society -- but it does not explain everything.

  • Al-`Awlaqi Should have been Tried in Absentia
    • Not a dream act success story. Two points of fact:

      (1.) Anwar Awlaki was a US citizen by birth (born in Las Cruces, NM, April 22, 1971).

      (2.) The law on loss of US citizenship cited on the Cornell website is still on the books, but it has not been enforceable since 1967. In that year, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case
      Afroyim v. Rusk that "Congress has no power under the Constitution to divest a person of his United States citizenship absent his voluntary renunciation thereof."

      As a result, since 1967 American citizens could no longer be deprived of their US citizenship solely on the basis of having performed the 'expatriating acts' enumerated in §1481(a). Were it otherwise, thousands of US citizens who have acquired foreign (Israeli) passports since 1967 under the "Law of Return," have voted in Israeli elections, have served in the Israeli armed forces, etc., would have automatically forfeited their US citizenship. As we know, that has not happened -- it's neither constitutionally nor politically feasible. In order to lose one's US citizenship, whether acquired by birth or through naturalization, one has to voluntarily relinquish it; in most cases that means one has to go to a US consulate and sign a document formally renouncing it.

    • A close parallel to the case of Anwar al-Awlaki in recent history was the case of William Joyce, a.k.a. "Lord Haw-Haw," an Irish-American fascist who broadcast Nazi propaganda to Britain from Germany during the Second World War. In the final days of the war he was captured by British troops in Hamburg. It's worth noting -- given Lord Haw-Haw's notoriety, his unrepentant dedication to the Nazi cause, the fact that the war was still underway, and the politically and emotionally charged circumstances of the time -- that he was not executed on the spot. Instead, he was brought to London, where he was put on trial and convicted of treason (a controversial ruling, since there's some question as to whether Joyce really was a British citizen at the time of his offenses) and sentenced to death. His execution in 1946 was the last time anyone was put to death for treason under British law.

  • Muslim Brotherhood Rebukes Erdogan for Advocacy of Secularism
    • The proposed (and later withdrawn) Turkish parliamentary bill to make adultery a criminal offence sounds to me more like an appeal to conservative "family values."

      On a similar basis, we've often seen attempts to legislate sexual behavior and morality by Christian conservatives in North America and Western Europe, by the Orthodox Church in Greece and by Orthodox Jews in Israel.

      I'm glad the Turkish government withdrew the bill to outlaw adultery. But had Turkey enacted such a law it would not have been alone, even in the non-Muslim world. Adultery remains a criminal offense in countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, India, and the Philippines. In the United States, the crime of adultery remains on the statute books in about two dozen states. While prosecutions are rare they do occur. As recently as 2001, Virginia successfully prosecuted an attorney for adultery, a case that ended in a guilty plea and a fine. A 1997 poll showed that 35% of Americans believe adultery should be a crime, and efforts to decriminalize adultery have met with opposition in states such as Illinois and Minnesota. In the U.S. Armed Forces, adultery is a potential court-martial offense. In Western Europe, adultery (quaintly named "criminal conservation") remained a criminal offense in the Republic of Ireland until 1976. Even in those countries where adultery is no longer a criminal offense, adultery can still have serious legal and financial consequences in cases involving divorce, and disputes over custody and property settlements.

      Not every social conservative attempt to use legislation to enforce "family values" is necessarily a sign of the coming imposition of "Sharia" (whether in Turkey or in Oklahoma).

  • Israeli Likud Gov't Buffeted by Turkish Suit, Massive Protests
    • Turkey has a strong case and may indeed prevail at the International Court of Justice, if the court ever gets as far as hearing the facts and the legal arguments. But bringing the case before the Court may be turn out not to be simple in practice.

      The following comes from the website of the International Court of Justice:

      Only States (States Members of the United Nations and other States which have become parties to the Statute of the Court or which have accepted its jurisdiction under certain conditions) may be parties to contentious cases.
      The Court is competent to entertain a dispute only if the States concerned have accepted its jurisdiction in one or more of the following ways:

      • by entering into a special agreement to submit the dispute to the Court;

      • by virtue of a jurisdictional clause, i.e., typically, when they are parties to a treaty containing a provision whereby, in the event of a dispute of a given type or disagreement over the interpretation or application of the treaty, one of them may refer the dispute to the Court;

      • through the reciprocal effect of declarations made by them under the Statute whereby each has accepted the jurisdiction of the Court as compulsory in the event of a dispute with another State having made a similar declaration. A number of these declarations, which must be deposited with the United Nations Secretary-General, contain reservations excluding certain categories of dispute.

      [...]

      Proceedings may be instituted in one of two ways:

      • through the notification of a special agreement: this document, which is of a bilateral nature, can be lodged with the Court by either of the States parties to the proceedings or by both of them. A special agreement must indicate the subject of the dispute and the parties thereto. Since there is neither an "applicant" State nor a "respondent" State, in the Court’s publications their names are separated by an oblique stroke at the end of the official title of the case, e.g., Benin/Niger;

      • by means of an application: the application, which is of a unilateral nature, is submitted by an applicant State against a respondent State. It is intended for communication to the latter State and the Rules of Court contain stricter requirements with respect to its content. In addition to the name of the party against which the claim is brought and the subject of the dispute, the applicant State must, as far as possible, indicate briefly on what basis - a treaty or a declaration of acceptance of compulsory jurisdiction - it claims the Court has jurisdiction, and must succinctly state the facts and grounds on which it bases its claim. At the end of the official title of the case the names of the two parties are separated by the abbreviation "v." (for the Latin versus), e.g., Nicaragua v. Colombia.

      Israeli officials have already indicated that Israel will not agree to submit the dispute to the ICJ's jurisdiction and have shrugged off Turkey's threat to take Israel before the World Court as "pistol firing blanks.". That display of bravado may be a bit of whistling in the wind, since a case may be brought before the Court against its will if the case involves the violation of international treaties and conventions to which both states are parties.

      Turkey's government has announced it intends to act promptly, initiating proceedings before the ICJ next week. We'll find out in due course whether the court will agree to take the case. Since oroceedings before the ICJ usually proceed at a stately pace, this may take a while.

  • Qaddafi reportedly South of Tripoli as Algeria offers Family Members Safe Passage
    • Those broken stones with the Arabic-script inscriptions that you saw around the Fethiye Mosque, built in the 15th century by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, are Ottoman gravestones uprooted from the mosque's graveyard. The one in your photo is the gravestone of a young man named Murad. Except for the Arabic pious invocation in the first line ("He is the Everlasting [God], the Creator"), the rest of the gravestone inscription is in Ottoman Turkish:

      "One who did not [live to] fully enjoy his youth,
      Murad ... the son of..."
      (bottom of stone broken off)

      For more on Ottoman-era Athens and its Classical, Christian and Islamic legacy, see --
      Evliya Visits the Acropolis

    • Make that Bani Walid southeast of Tripoli.

  • 50 US & NATO Troops Killed in Afghanistan in Past Week
    • You wrote:

      "No wonder that Afghanistan's new US ambassador, Ryan Crocker ..."

      Shouldn't that be:

      "No wonder that the new US ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker ..." ?

  • How the No Fly Zone Can Succeed
    • Diana Johnstone and Nebojsa Malic are not reliable sources on the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, or on anything else. They're crude propagandists -- dishonest and astonishingly careless with the facts. For critiques of their output, see the links at Balkan Witness
      link to glypx.com

      ...and Eric Gordy's "East Ethnia" blog
      link to eastethnia.blogspot.com

  • Qaddafi threatens to Join al-Qaeda as his Forces advance on Rebel Strongholds
    • But wait -- what about Qaddafi's claim that the rebels based in Benghazi are really acting on behalf of Al-Qaeda? So if Qaddafi joins forces with Al-Qaeda, does that mean he is rallying to the same cause as his opposition? What has Colonel Q. been putting into his morning Nescafé?

      In Libya, history is being played as both tragedy and farce at the same time. The farce may be surreal, but the bloodshed and the destruction are real enough. And aside from scattered boos and applause from a safe distance, the world seems content to sit back and watch to see how it'll play out.

  • 30% of Libya in Hands of Youth Movement
  • Christians, Muslims "One Hand" in Egypt's Youth Revolution
    • Joshua Stacher, a long-time observer of Egyptian affairs, has a sobering take on how far the Jan 25 protests have come in shaking the foundations of the regime. His assessment --
      "Egypt's Democratic Mirage: How Cairo’s Authoritarian Regime Is Adapting to Preserve Itself"
      link to foreignaffairs.com

  • Million-Person Marches and the Army Backs Off
    • Somehow the link to the Pew Center study didn't make it in -- it can be found at link to people-press.org

    • Events in Egypt may have the potential to transform the Middle East, a region that is of vital strategic and economic importance to the United States, but members of the great FOX-watching American public are not paying very close attention.

      According to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, only about one-in-ten (11%) respondents cited news about protests in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries as the story they followed most closely last week. By contrast, more than three times that number (38%) followed news about the aftermath of the January 8 Arizona shooting rampage most closely in the past week. These figures reflect the results of the Pew Center's latest News Interest Index survey, conducted Jan. 27-30 among 1,007 adults.

  • Mubarak's Response to Demand for end of Military Rule
    • My impression was that Al Jazeera was simply reporting that the Americans and the Israelis favored the security chief. If you read this Al Jazeera interview with Clayton Swisher, it does not paint a very flattering picture of Suleiman -

      Suleiman selection reassures Western allies
      link to blogs.aljazeera.net

      ------------------------
      *From CNN reporter Ben Wedeman twitter feed in Cairo:
      link to twitter.com

      deanprocter @monaeltahawy @cynthiashearer: [Omar] Suleiman ran the renditions for the CIA. Sources: Jane Mayer book and Stephen Grey "Ghostplane" book.

      ------------------------

      Despite the hopes he arouses in certain quarters in Washington and in other foreign capitals, Suleiman's political future in Egypt - like his unsavory past - is tied to a regime whose days are numbered.

  • New Wikileaks: US Knew Tunisian Gov. Rotten Corrupt, Supported Ben Ali Anyway
  • The Rumors of Multiculturalism's death Are Exaggerated (Against Merkel)
    • Findings of a new study on right-wing attitudes in Germany, presented last week in Berlin by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation:

      A new study has revealed that far-right attitudes are deeply rooted in German society. One-third of Germans would send foreigners home if there weren't enough jobs, while one-sixth think Jews have too much influence.

      "Germany is in serious danger of being overrun by foreigners." It's a sentence one would expect to find on an election poster for Germany's far-right NPD party. As it happens, it's a view that is held by over one-third of the German population -- a new survey has revealed that 35.6 percent of Germans agree with the statement. [...]

      For the first time, the pollsters asked whether the practice of Islam should be significantly restricted in Germany. A total of 58.4 percent of respondents said that it should be, even though such a restriction would violate Germany's constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion. There was a difference between responses from the east and west of Germany. In western Germany, 53.9 percent thought Muslim religious practice should be restricted, while in the east, 75.7 percent felt it should be -- even though there are far fewer Muslims living in the states of the former East Germany.

      What is particularly pertinent is that 55.5 percent of respondents who tended to otherwise reject right-wing extremist statements agreed with the statement on the practice of Islam. The study's authors characterized this as a "modern racism," which is based on cultural differences rather than on supposed genetic differences.

      Just over 55 percent of respondents agreed with the statement "I can fully understand why some people find Arabs unpleasant," a result that was about the same in the east and the west. Again, over half of respondents that agreed with that statement tended to disagree with traditional right-wing extremist views. The researchers warn that right-wing extremist parties or right-wing populists could exploit this kind of resentment for political gains. [...]

      COMMENT: As would Chancellor Angela Merkel, judging by her recent remarks.

  • Dear Rev. Graham: Obama was not born a Muslim and neither is anyone else
    • In addition to the Koran, Muslims are guided in matters of belief and practice by the sayings (hadith) and the lived example (sunna) of the Prophet Muhammad. One prophetic hadith among several that refer to this question:

      "Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The mother of every person gives him birth according to his true nature. It is subsequently his parents who make him a Jew or a Christian or a Magian (Zoroastrian). Had his parents been Muslim he would have also remained a Muslim. Every person to whom his mother gives birth (has two aspects of his life) ; when his mother gives birth Satan strikes him but it was not the case with Mary and her son (Jesus)." [Source: Sahih Bukhari, Book 33, no. 6429]

  • An Israeli Attack on Iran would reduce Barack Obama to a One-Term President
    • The logistics seem to stymie the Israelis?

      The logistics pose a problem only if one imagines border lines on maps to be impenetrable obstacles. But in fact neither Jordan nor Saudi Arabia have the military might or the political will to stop Israeli planes from crossing their airspace on their way to and from an attack on Iran. That would be sufficient.

      The Americans remain in de facto control of Iraqi airspace and presumably would have something to say about any Israeli overflight. The use of Iraqi airspace would not be essential to an Israeli attack on Iran.

      But whatever the route chosen, Israel could not proceed with an attack on Iran without first getting a nod from Washington.

  • Mosque Building and Gay Marriage vs. Mob Rule by the Right
    • The problem lies in the confusion in the public mind of civil marriage (a legal contract) with marriage as a religious ritual/sacrament. There's nothing inherently sacramental about a civil marriage; all that matters is that it be legally valid.

      In most countries around the world, civil marriage is the only one that counts in the eyes of the law. After a couple has entered into a civil marriage before a government official (such as a town clerk or justice of the peace), a couple who wishes to do so can then go on to have a religious marriage ceremony performed by a minister, priest, rabbi or imam. However, the religious ceremony carries no legal force and can only be performed after the couple has already been legally married in a civil ceremony.

      I believe the time has come to separate the two here in the US as well. There's no compelling reason why the state should delegate its authority to perform marriages under the law to members of the clergy (or to "ministers ordained for the occasion").

      Religious denominations are free to impose their own norms on their own members. As such, they're free to impose preconditions for performing a religious marriage (for example: many denominations discourage or bar intermarriage; Roman Catholics don't recognize divorce; some denominations will not perform religious marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples, others have no problem doing so). these religious considerations are relevant to their own followers, but they have nothing to do with the state and its laws.

      Civil marriage is a legal matter, and should not be governed by religious rules. Equal access to and equal protection of the law means that civil marriage, which confers a change in civil status, should be accessible to all consenting adult couples who qualify under state law, without regard to the couple's religious denomination, gender or race.

  • Repubs Plot Israel-Iran Apocalypse and the Collapse of the US Economy
    • July 25th, 2010 -- the drumbeat quickens:

      Michael Hayden, a CIA chief under President George W. Bush, said that during his tenure "a [US air] strike [on Iran] was way down the list of options." But he tells CNN's State of the Union that such action now "seems inexorable."

      "In my personal thinking," Hayden said, "I have begun to consider that that may not be the worst of all possible outcomes."

  • Palin on the Ground Zero Mosque vs. the Founding Fathers
    • "The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it was the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily, the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support."

      --- President George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport Rhode Island (August 21st, 1790).

  • Obama Launches Green Equivalent of Moon Mission

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