Sunday, June 26, 2011

Galloway calls Rushdie a coward

Former politician George Galloway has issued a statement denouncing author Salman Rushdie as a "renegade" and "sneaky". Galloway's statement also challenged Rushdie to a debate, stating that a refusal would indicate that Rushdie lacks "moral fibre".

Salman Rushdie, one of the world's greatest living novelists, famously survived years in hiding after Iran's ruling clerics issued a death sentence for him, literally offering a massive bounty for his murder.

George Galloway, a former Member of Parliament, has worked on behalf of a number of brutal dictatorships, including those of Iran, Syria, Gaza and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the latter, allegedly, at Galloway's great personal benefit and in contravention of a British ban on doing business with Saddam's regime.  Galloway has, for a number of years, worked as a broadcaster for Iran's state propaganda television station, Press TV.

It is bad enough that Galloway, a braggart, bully, liar and hater who works as a professional toady of tyrants should slander Salman Rushdie in this manner.  But the gist of this recent comment arguably represents something far worse about him.  Is it too much to ask that those who would serve in Britain's government not defend those who would murder its greatest artists? 

Twitter / @georgegalloway: I challenge the renegade R ...

Afterthought:  A comment at Harry's Place rightly points out that, by "renegade", Galloway means to say that Rushdie is an apostate.  The terms are both used to translate the Arabic term for what Muslim religious law considers a very serious crime, one which is commonly punishable by death.  (Read more about that here.)  As I see it, by using this term, Galloway implicitly argues in favor of the fatwa authorizing Rushdie's murder.  He is saying that Rushdie did exactly what the ayatollahs accused him of.

Now, with that, lets take a walk down memory lane with video of Galloway praising some of of his friends.

Friday, June 24, 2011

'They Can Only Kill and Hope': Journey Through a Divided Syria


It was not the resistance to the system itself that drove people to the barricades, but the regime's immoderate, brutal reaction, says the Damascus political insider, who did not want to be identified by name. The "closeness to the people" that Assad liked to invoke apparently represented nothing but the distance between the soldiers' weapons and the protesters, the informant says bitterly. "There are no longer any policies. Other than violence, they have no solution. They can only kill and hope."

Back in 1970, Hafez Assad, the current president's father, who was defense minister at the time, had the rest of the cabinet arrested and staged a coup in the name of what he called a "corrective movement." Hafez Assad became Syrian president in 1971, a position he would hold until 2000. Ever since the 1970 coup, violence has consistently been the ultimate tool of power in the country. But in the days of Assad senior, there was no Internet, and neither YouTube nor camera phones existed, so that the killing remained invisible.

When the Muslim Brotherhood engaged in armed resistance in the city of Hama in early 1982, killing dozens of party officials, intelligence agents and their families, Hafez Assad had the city surrounded and bombarded as if it were enemy territory. Between 10,000 and 30,000 people died in the massacre, which went largely unnoticed by the rest of the world. Assad pursued his policies like a game of chess -- coldly, intelligently and methodically. He positioned Syria as a "front-line state" against Israel, and in 1991, he effortlessly switched sides and supported the Americans in their campaign against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. He had planned everything carefully, but his succession didn't quite go according to his plans.

The first-born son Basil was his intended successor. But he died in a car accident in 1994 when he tried to drive his Mercedes around the tight curves in front of the Damascus airport at 200 kilometers per hour.

As a result, the second-eldest son, Bashar Assad, was chosen instead. After having been brought home to be groomed as the heir to the throne, he assumed the presidency in the summer of 2000, after the death of his father. He was in the unusual position of being a dictator who had not had to shoot his way to power, but simply took over his father's position.

Even after a decade in office, Bashar Assad still looks like someone who became president by mistake. He always seems a little uncertain or confused, sometimes overcompensating with exaggerated gestures. On the largest poster displayed on a wall near the university, he looks as if he were giggling in his medal-laden uniform, while his father, on the next poster, merely shows his predator's smile.

Assad junior promised to put an end to the personality cult surrounding his father and remove the ubiquitous presidential portraits. He was the most prominent member of the Syrian Computer Society. But the "Damascus spring" of small freedoms and great hopes ended after only a year. The system simply continued, as if it had been set on autopilot by a dead man.

Senate investigates whether CIA tried to smear Juan Cole

The Senate Intelligence Committee is reviewing whether the CIA and the Bush White House may have tried to smear Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who writes a popular blog on Middle Eastern issues.

"Depending on what we find, we may take further action," U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who heads the committee, said in a statement.


Cole told the Free Press that the reported spying "was criminal."

"The Bush White House request that the CIA spy on me to discredit me clearly violated the American Constitution, U.S. law, the CIA charter, and my civil and human rights," he said.

As first reported by the New York Times last week, Carle said his supervisor at the CIA asked him: "Does he (Cole) drink? What are his views? Is he married?" And, "What do you think we might know about him, or could find out that could discredit him?"

But a spokesman for the CIA, Preston Golson, told the Free Press last week that: "We've thoroughly researched our records, and any allegation that the CIA provided private or derogatory information on Professor Cole to anyone is simply wrong."

Is Andrew Sullivan the "wicked son"? No.

Entering into the fray over Jeffrey Goldberg's dialog with Alison Benedikt concerning her conversion from naive Zionism to naive anti-Zionism, Andrew Sullivan raises a question worthy of a conversation at my family's mulitcultural seder table. He asks:

I have struggled with it much of my life as a gay Catholic. Am I a "wicked son" for dissenting?

The answer to his question is a resounding "no". The Passover Hagadah's wicked son was not wicked because he dissented. He was wicked for rejecting his connection to his people and asking why he should care about "them". In fact, the Hagadah specifically condemns him for use of that pronoun. The rabbis instruct Jews to regard ourselves as having been liberated from slavery in Egypt. That's why they tag the Jewish child who refuses to do so as the bad guy.

Sullivan, in spite of all the difficulties he has encountered as a gay Catholic, still calls himself a gay Catholic. Far from rejecting the community of Catholics, he takes on the burden of bridging what must seem a very wide gap between Catholic religious law and his personal views. It might be argued that he is actually in the majority of Catholics whose practices vary from those proscribed by the church. He may be a better Catholic than he thinks. He's trying to find a way to reconcile institutional Catholicism with the real world Catholicism of his fellow believers. In this sense, his form of dissent shows more loyalty than does the passive non-resistance of those who agree with him in their personal lives but avoid public conflict with the church.

Sullivan's dissidence differs from Benedikt's rejection of Israel in that, where Sullivan fights against a critical flaw in his community while maintaining his identity with it, Benedikt instead sleepwalks away from her community, barely recognizing her own thoughts on the subject as relevant. For those who haven't read her exchange with Goldberg, she portrays herself as a passive figure, swayed as a child by Zionist summer camp counselors, and as an adult by her anti-Israel husband. She does not advocate dissidence so much as she tries to rationalize her apathy.

In a way, isn't it apathy that the Hagadah condemns as the wickedest thing of all?

Sullivan's column is here: Jews In America And Israel - The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan - The Daily Beast. Benedikt's column can be read here. The exchanges between Goldberg and Benedikt can be read here and here. Rabbi Andy Bachman writes about the subject here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Galliano's fortunes vary by country after his racist rants

(H)is new fragrance, Parlez-Moi d’Amour, has achieved mixed results. Since Mr. Galliano imploded, sales have been slow in England, but stronger in France, Italy, Asia and the Middle East . . . The introduction of the perfume in Germany was canceled initially, but revived again with demand from fashion bloggers. In the United States, the company is laying plans to distribute Parlez-Moi d’Amour through online sales . . . Sales have ended in Israel.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Salonika Holocaust Memorial Vandalized

Vandals daubed the memorial for the 50,000 Salonika Jews killed in the Holocaust with the words "That's a lie", a Star of David and a swastika.

The Holocaust Memorial of Thessaloniki, in northern Greece, was vandalized with swastika and anti-Semitic slogans.

Unidentified perpetrators daubed the bronze plaque in memory of the 50,000 Jews killed during the Holocaust with the words "That's a lie", a Star of David and a swastika.

This act coincides with the decision of the City Council of Thessaloniki to bestow on Monday the City’s highest decoration to 30 Holocaust survivors still living in Thessaloniki.


The city's memorial service for the about 30 survivors still living in Greece's second city was said to be the first in 65 years.

Jewish community of Salonika being registered for deportation by SS, July, 1942.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Libyans barred from Cynthia McKinney speech hosted by ANSWER (VIDEO)

Cynthia McKinney has started a nationwide tour sponsored by the ANSWER coalition centering on opposition to the NATO intervention in Libya.  Although ANSWER may deny it, McKinney supports Qaddafi and her tour is an expression of that support. On June 16, she gave the first of the talks in L.A. Not everyone on the ANSWER mailing list was allowed to enter, however. Members of the Libyan community of the L.A. area were barred from attending by a bouncer who told them that they "seemed like they might cause trouble". The smirking bouncer was unmoved as the Libyans told him of unarmed family members who had been shot by Qaddafi's thugs before the NATO intervention started. When the Libyans told him that they have supported both McKinney and ANSWER in the past (specifically with respect to their anti-Israel activism), but now differ with them on Libya, the bouncer expressed skepticism, muttering "I've never seen you before at any of our events".

McKinney seems to be carrying out her promise to bring Qaddafi-style democracy to the U.S.

Video: Libyans prevented from entering Cynthia McKinney's talk hosted by ANSWER LA |

Friday, June 3, 2011

Libyan rape victim violently deported from Qatar

A witness who met with Eman al-Obeidy after she was forced back to Libya from Qatar said the alleged rape victim appeared battered and bruised. Nasha Dawaji, a U.S.-based Libyan pro-freedom activist, said she was with three key members of the National Transitional Council, the rebels' government, when they first learned that al-Obeidy was forced from Doha and arrived in Benghazi on Thursday.
Al-Obeidy had a black eye, like she had been punched, Dawaji said. She also had bruises on her legs and scratches on her arms. The council members were upset upon seeing al-Obeidy's condition and vowed to open an investigation, Dawaji said.

CNN also reports that Qaddafi's forces appear to be using mass-rape as an instrument of war. (Read here.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Weiner joke of the day: Fill in the blank

Considering that Anthony Weiner is in trouble over a tweeted photo of his weiner, it's a good thing his name isn't ________.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Iran minister accused of planning Argentina Jewish center bombing told to leave Bolivia

from Haaretz

Bolivia said on Tuesday it had taken steps to ensure that Iran's defense minister, who is accused by Argentina of planning the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center that killed 85 people, leaves Bolivia immediately.

The statement came in a letter from Bolivia's foreign minister to his counterpart in Argentina, which said the Iranian minister, Ahmad Vahidi, was in Bolivia at the invitation of the country's Defense Ministry.


The Jewish communities in both Argentina and Bolivia had protested the visit, calling it a provocation.

Vahidi enjoys diplomatic immunity, which complicates efforts to bring him to trial although in 2007 Interpol notified law enforcement bodies in other countries of an Argentine arrest warrant against him.

Bolivia's leftist president, Evo Morales, has close ties with Argentine leader Cristina Fernandez, who last year proposed that a third country be nominated by Tehran to host the trial of those accused of being involved in the bombing.

Iran rejected the idea, saying none of its citizens were involved. Iran's state news agency IRNA said Vahidi had visited Mauritania and held talks with the African state's president before traveling to Bolivia.

Guillermo Borges, the AMIA's current president, called Vahidi's visit to Bolivia "a provocation."

Ahmad Vahidi - Reuters - April 18, 2011

Is this what they mean by "death panels"? California police dept. refuses to rescue drowning man, blaming "budget cuts".

A crowd of Alameda, CA police and firefighters stood by and watched for an hour as a suicidal man threatened to drown himself and then did so. They not only failed to rescue the man, they actually asked a civilian at the scene -- a 20-year-old woman -- to retrieve the dead man's body, claiming that they were legally forbidden from doing so.

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Their reason for not intervening to help the man or retrieve his body? They were concerned that the town would be liable for any injury to the man or to town employees which might have happened during a rescue or recovery attempt. The town's mayor and police chief continue to defend this decision, although they now say that they intend to reinstate a marine rescue training program which would bring future rescue attempts under their insurance coverage.


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