How did we, as a society, lose the ability to formulate questions about the feasibility of a political alternative? How did it happen that a person who suggests a nonviolent solution is the delusional one, the traitor, and the one who calls for the leveling of Gaza is the true patriot? How did peace become the enemy of the people, and war always the preferred option? How did it happen that dialogue and treaties cause more public fear than a volley of missiles? And how did these dehumanizing processes seal us off from the suffering of others? How did we lose the capacity for empathy? What does it mean that a girl from Gaza—whose school was bombed and her best friend was killed before her eyes—has to remind us that they, too, are human beings? And how has a nation that has occupied other people’s territory for forty-five years continued to tell itself, with such deep conviction, that we are the single and ultimate victim in this story? And the evil of the occupation has become so banal that no one sees the evil anymore.
Does this reflect a dominant view? No but it does reflect the divide that exist within Israel. The political divisions within Israel are along secular and sectarian lines as well as where they immigrated from to Israel.
Like any man, he had his strengths and weaknesses, his triumphs and failures. Over the next few days all this will be examined for noble and decent purposes as well as for petty and vindictive ones. Such is the nature of our society. I never knew the man or worked for him, but he was the speaker at my MOTC graduation dinner in 1988. I didn't hear a word he said. I was "all likkered up" and far too cynical at the time to pay attention. I didn't even remember he was there until someone reminded me several years later.
However, one particular incident in his career is enough to show me he was an honorable man and an officer worthy of those he commanded and the nation he served. This occurred in 1970 while serving as a battalion commander during his second tour in Viet Nam.
"One of the most remarkable incidents in a distinguished career happened on this tour. When Colonel Schwarzkopf received word that men under his command had encountered a minefield, he rushed to the scene in his helicopter. He found several soldiers still trapped in the minefield. Schwarzkopf urged them to retrace their steps slowly. Still, one man tripped a mine and was severely injured but remained conscious. As the wounded man flailed in agony, the soldiers around him feared that he would set off another mine. Schwarzkopf, also injured by the explosion, crawled across the minefield to the wounded man and held him down so another could splint his shattered leg. One soldier stepped away to break a branch from a nearby tree to make the splint. In doing so, he too hit a mine, killing himself and the two men closest to him, and blowing the leg off of Schwarzkopf's liaison officer. Eventually, Colonel Schwarzkopf led his surviving men to safety. He was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery but, more importantly to Norman Schwarzkopf, he cemented his reputation as an officer who would risk anything for the soldiers under his command." (Academy of Achievement)
Pastor Nazir Alam smiles as he
talks to a journalist at the church
This Christmas, pastor Nazir Alam will stoke up a fire, lay a fresh cloth on the altar and welcome parishioners as they arrive at his church in Waziristan, a Pakistani tribal area known as an al-Qaeda haven.
"The lights are all up, and the choir boys are ready. The church is looking its best," said 60-year-old Alam, a former missionary who has celebrated his last ten Christmases there. "There's not much left to do but to pray and rejoice."
Outsiders might see little cause for joy. Pakistan is the sixth most dangerous country in the world for minorities, says London-based watchdog Minority Rights Group International. Christians, Shiite Muslims and Ahmadis are victims of a rising tide of deadly attacks.
But Alam's church, and the homes of most of his 200 parishioners, are nestled inside a Pakistani army base in South Waziristan, a mountainous region that was a hotbed of militancy until a military offensive in 2009.
"When the US went into Kabul, things became bad for everyone. But we are safe here. The army protects us," says Shaan Masih, who helps clean the church and likes to play the drums and sing carols.
"The charter states that the principles of sharia, Islamic law, are the main source of legislation and that Islamic authorities will be consulted on sharia - a source of concern to the Christian minority and others. Mursi's government, which has accused opponents of damaging the economy by prolonging the political upheaval, now faces the tough task of building a broad consensus as it prepares to impose hugely unpopular austerity measures." Daily Star
Someone wrote here on SST that the provision in this constitution that gives the 'ulema of Al-Azhar a decisive voice in legislation to ensure that law conforms to their view of sharia is similar to the political influence of the Catholic Conference of Bishops in the US.
That is incorrect. The conference of bishops may have influence but they have no legal power at all.
Under this new Egyptian constitution, Islamic law will "color" everything that happens in the country. Egypt largely lives on tourism. What will Al-Azhar have to say about tourists drinking in the hotels and cruise boats? What will al-Azhar say about mixed sex bathing in hotel swimming pools as well as women's attire in public?
What will Al-Azhar have to say about current commercial law in Egypt? This law code is largely European and it allows for commercial finance that allows the use of contracts that pay interest. Such interest is considered usury in sharia law. Will Al-Azhar demand a revision of Egyptian commercial law? Saud Arabia has a non-Western commercial banking system, but the change would be a mghty "wrench" on the Egyptian economy.
This is all foolishness. pl
On this day in 1776, General Washington led his cold, ill fed and ill equipped army across the Delaware River to attack and decisively defeat the Hessian garrison at Trenton, New Jersey. It was a morning of bloody footprints in the snow and supreme audacity.
My son captioned the image above after we joked about the idea. Some may find this inappropriate black humor, but we like it. There are a number of inaccuracies. The Hessians were not sleeping off a night of holiday merriment. They were stone cold sober. Washington crossed the Delaware in the dead of the night, not in the light of dawn. That particular flag was not created until six months after the battle. Nevertheless, I like it. It stands for the Army that I remember and love. The Army of the FIDO attitude. (Look it up if you don't understand.) This is the Army that Churchill aptly described when he said, "We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us."
"When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise,
Than when we first begun."
“Twas in the moon of wintertime, when all the birds had fled,
That God the Lord of all the earth sent angel choirs instead
Before their light the stars grew dim
and wandering hunters heard the hymn
Within a lodge of broken bark, the tender babe was found.
A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped his beauty round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
the angel song rang loud and high
The earliest moon of wintertime is not so round and fair,
As was the ring of glory on the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt
with gifts of fox and beaver pelt
Jean de Brebeuf, S.J. Martyr and Author of
Christmas in Vietnam.
"The war went on in the central highlands. At Christmas time I decided to hold a detachment Christmas party. I mentioned this to the battalion commander of 3/525, MI Group, LTC Paul Langford during a visit by Langford to Song Be. As we discussed this, a five gallon water jug of home made “hootch” bubbled happily in a corner of my office under the beneficent warmth of an electric light. Pineapple juice, brewer’s yeast and a daily “feeding” of sugar were creating something within that obviously was alive. The application of sugar invariably produced a tempest in the bottle. The men began to think of it as a pet.
Langford ignored the bottle. “Are you going to leave someone to man each station?” he asked. “That’s all right then,” he said when assured. “Let’s not tell Group. They already think you and I are nuts.” I bought cases of Mumm’s Cordon Rouge and other goodies in Saigon, and on the appointed day mysterious personages began to arrive from all over the Border on Air America’s scheduled service. All in all, there were about twenty party goers. The province senior advisor, LTC Ray Suarez and the local CIA boss attended. There was much singing of Christmas carols, as well as a ham, a turkey and such cooked by the kitchen in the Special Forces "B" camp in town. The bald headed, middle aged light weapons man in the team was also mess sergeant. He had been a feldwebel in the Grossdeutschland and later an adjutant-chef in the 2nd REI. Like most of the men in that B Team he felt sorry for me in my exile from SF. He and several others from the B Team were at the party.
The guests sang the "Huron Carol" (in English) to humor me.
“For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for flames.
For a child is born to us, a son is given...”
Isaiah, 9:1-3, 5-6
At midnight, celebration was interrupted by the sound of machine gun fire in the distance. The revelers trooped outside to see if they were going to have to fight on Christmas Eve. There were hard words concerning the ancestry of the enemy. Across the wire, across the outpost line, across the valley of no-man’s land were the crests occupied habitually by the “opposition.” From these heights there rose a stream of green, Soviet made “tracer.” The celebrants contemplated this for a minute, and then Suarez suggested a reply. An M-60 machine gun emerged from the house, and while one man fired red tracer into the air, another held the bipod above his head and another fed the gun its belted ammunition. The streams of bullets crossed in the black, star-studded sky. The VC gun fell silent, as did the American. There was a hush as warriors waited for some sign that the hope of common humanity yet lived. The VC fire resumed. Now there were three guns shooting green stars into the blackness. The MI men’s gun chattered merrily, spilling a river of shell casings into the street. Red and green filled the night. " pl
Every Christmas I post this excerpt from an autobiographical sketch I wrote once. I will try not to next year. It will be interesting to see if I can do that. This incident is reminiscent of the legendary football game in no man's land in 1914. The men at the party were of the Third Combat Battalion, 525th Military Intelligence Group, MACV CORDS Advisory Team 94 and the 5th Special Forces Group. The place was Song Be, Phuoc Long Province. It was 1968.
There is a statue in Charlottesville, Virginia. On the pediment is inscribed, "Love makes memory eternal."
The party-goers are long gone. Some never saw another Christmas. Some died a couple of months later when the men across the way nearly took the town.
They tried for what seemed an eternity but was actually less than a week. We killed six hundred of them in repelling their valiant effort. Some died around my house and in the streets. We buried four hundred bodies found in front of and in our (US and ARVN) positions. The Second Brigade of the First Cavalry Division was ordered into the fight halfway through the battle. Without them the VC would have killed or captured us all. PW survivors told us how many the enemy lost. They were of the 211th, 212th and 156th VC battalions under VC Military Region 10. By that time these units were mostly North Vietnamese in their manning. They were "foemen worthy of our steel."
God rest all these worthy gentlemen. pl
No doubt the Christmas spirit is upon me. I volunteered yesterday at Dulles airport where the traveling families were thick on the the ground. I saw a young lady, perhaps five years of age. She was dressed to the nines with a pair of tall boots that incorporated some flashing lights that created new random patterns with each step. I watched her walk by with my red plaid shirt, Christmas tie and Santa Claus hat.
I said, "you have cool boots."
Her head snapped around in a classic double take and she hustled to catch up with her mom. She didn't speak to me, no doubt remembering that thing about "strangers," but I could lip read when she tugged on her mom's jacket. With big, blue eyes wide she said, "was that Santa?"
It maide my whole day.
From all of us to all of you, wherever you are. Merry Christmas.
Pat Lang to
This was always sung at Midnight Mass in Sanford, Maine when I was a boy. The man who sang it had an even more haunting voice. pl
It was snowing heavily in Alexandria, Virginia when I wrote this. This moment reminds of the time in the '80s when I was in Jerusalem and Amman on government business at Christmas time. It had snowed heavily there as well, an unusual but not unknown event. People were trying to cope with the white, slippery stuff. In Amman I was staying at a very modern hotel with a large circular atrium that went way up into the distant heights surrounded by the balconies that led to bedrooms. The coffee shop was tiered around the well of the atrium. I think the hotel was the Marriott. I arrived at night. In the morning I I went down to the lobby to meet the Jordanian Army driver who was to take me to army headquarters. An enormous, decorated Christmas tree filled the atrium. It must have been fifty feet tall. It looked a lot like the tree in the picture. After looking at it for a bit I went to the Qiyada. Among the people I met with there was His Highness, Field Marshal Zeid bin Shaker, Commander in Chief of the Jordanian Army (al-jaysh al-'arabi). When we had finished our business, I told him what I had seen in the hotel. He said he must see it. We got into his car and drove back to the hotel so that he could.
The hotel had covered the tree with star shaped ornaments each inscribed with the name of one of its staff. There were stars with names of all kinds. There were; Marys, Gunters, Muhammads, Seans, Josephs, Ahmads, 'Issas, Pierres, Ivans, Abdullahs, Muhsins, etc. There were hundreds of names.
The prince and I sat at the foot of the tree, drank coffee and chatted. He sent for the manager of the hotel to tell him what a good idea the tree was. His bedouin soldier driver sat a couple of tables away staring at the tree.
Zeid bin Shaker was one of nature's noblemen. He was also an 'Alid, a descendent of the Prophet, a Hashemite cousin of King Hussein, a Muslim gentleman and one of nature's noblemen.
God rest you, merry gentleman. pl
I listened to Wayne Lapierre's statement today. The transcript is linked below.
His basic point was that no amount of legislation will suffice to disarm Americans. We are not the UK. Nor are we Canada. The federal structure of the Republic and the rejection by many Americans of further federal gun control legislation will ensure that the 145 million gun owners in the US will not be disarmed.
Having said that he continued that "monsters walk among us." Whether these monsters are created by chemical poisoning, endemic violence in the media, the publicity given to people like the Newtown killer or whatever, he could not say, although he seemed sure that all those things contributed to the phenomenon.
Lapierre pointed to the fact that just about everything in the US that is of any value is protected by armed guards. He listed the president, the congress, banks, big buildings, airports and our homes as among thing so protected. He asked a rhetorical question. If you awake in the middle of the night to the sound of glass breaking and you place a 911 call, do you want the people who respond to be armed or unarmed?
The NRA proposes that every schools in the US be protected by armed police, either regular police or retired policemen, soldiers and other qualified, trained volunteers. Lapierre asked the question of whether it would not have been better for Lanza to be faced by an armed policeman rather than the noble teachers who gave their lives in unarmed defense of their children.
To support their concept NRA has hired Asa Hutchinson a former deputy secretary of homeland defense to head a two part effort to harden school security:
- A design/build project to find and install the latest and best passive building defenses for schools. NRA offers to pay for much of that program.
- NRA calls on the congress to vote the money for school police guards. NRA offers to train the guards gratis.
Neither Lapierre nor I expect a positive response from the Obama Administration nor the anti-gun fanatics, but NRA will win this fight at the state and school district levels in much of the country.
At the same time the president should consider what the scale of his defeat may well be in congress over the kind of law that he is clearly contemplating. pl
"Chuck Hagel is the Neoconservatives' worst nightmare. A decorated combat veteran who disdains promiscuous war-making. A conservative Republican who rejects a foreign policy of wandering the globe bombing, invading, and occupying other nations. A supporter of Israel who won't subcontract his judgment to the demands of Israel's Likud Party. No wonder the usual suspects responded in the usual way. By calling Hagel an anti-Semite." Bandow
Been there, done that, experienced that...
Hagel is a good man who thinks of soldiers as "his people." He remembers that he is an American, first, last and always.
Now, the gay people are against him as they march towards their goal of absolute equality in marriage and all other "rights."
Can there be any doubt that BHO will abandon the idea of nominating Hagel? The president probably doesn't want the distraction of a fight in the senate. He is fully occupied with joining in the national hysteria over guns. pl
I have it on good authority that this is the day the world ends, so don't worry about those Christmas credit card bills, and forget the fiscal cliff. On the other hand, we are five or so hours into this day on the East Coast of the United States (did the Maya use Greenwich time?) and I think we're still here.
Just in case it's all over I might as well publish this little story over on the Athenaeum. It does, after all have a perfectly appropriate name. Read A Car for the End of the World
"Will Egypt's new Pharaoh Mohamed Morsi use his dictatorial powers to turn his country of 80 million into the next Iran? Anything is possible in the Middle East in particular and the Arab world in general. What seems impossible as far as any crystal ball can see is the Israeli-occupied West Bank becoming an independent Palestinian state. Hamas' influence is spreading from Gaza to the West Bank. And its idea of a Western frontier is the Mediterranean."
"... Nusra aims to revive the Islamic caliphate, which dates back to the Prophet Mohammad’s seventh-century companions, forerunners of the large empire that once stretched into Europe. That prospect alarms many in Syria, from minority Christians, Alawites and Shiites to traditionally conservative but tolerant Sunnis who are concerned that Nusra would try to impose Taliban-style rule. Fear of religion-based repression has already prompted Kurds to barricade their quarter of Aleppo city and was behind fierce clashes between Kurdish and Nusra fighters in the border town of Ras al Ain in November." Reuters in the Daily Star
What part of this do the boys and girls at Foggy Bottom not understand? Nusra does not want Syria without Assad. What it wants is no Syria at all. Salafi Islamists of this type think that anything other than a world-wide theocracy is simply impious. They see the future of the region now known as Syria to be as an integral part of that theocracy. The borders and laws of present day Syria mean nothing to them.
Would they win control post Assad? We do not know. pl
One of nature's noblmen has passed from the scene. I first knew him when he was head of IDF general staff intelligence. His quiet intelligence and personal grace was always notable in a service not always memorable for the kind of restraint and moderation that he he typified.
In retirement from the army he tried to found a centrist political party that would have a real hope of finding peace with the Palestinians and the Israeli government often asked him to act as a communication channel to the PLO and in particular to Yasser Arafat.
I remember walking on the Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem with him. It was a pleasant afternoon. Stores were open. I stopped to chat with several shopkeepers. One of them asked me what I was doing with HIM, meaning Amnon. I told the man that this one was different and then began to include General Shahak in the conversation. I acted as his interpreter. A group gathered around us as we talked of business from tourism, conditions of life and hopes for the future. One man said that he could not get the city government to deal with his electricity supply for the store. Amnon made a note and said that he would call Teddy Kolleck, the mayor.
When we walked away the first shopkeeper sad to me, "yes, he is different." pl
"... Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who said after the shootings: "If now is not the time to have a serious discussion about gun control and the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our society, I don't know when is." Or CNN's Piers Morgan who, on his show, asked a defender of the Second Amendment: "How many more kids have to die, before you guys say, 'We want less guns, not more'?" Or New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently demanded that Congress pass gun-control legislation and said this: "If this moment passes into memory without action from Washington, it will be a stain upon our nation's commitment to protecting the innocent, including our children." Intending to capitalize on the tragedy, the antigun crowd insists that this is precisely the time to talk about toughening the nation's gun laws. After all, they say, you want to have such a dialogue when people are thinking about the issue." San Francisco Chronicle
Piers Morgan is a "no-class" carpetbagger from the UK and the other two are, after all, New Yorkers, so what can one expect?
This author, who is from the Washington Post writers group, has a valid point. This level of tragedy should demand something other than the crude hucksterism of perpetually weeping TV "newsies" intent on bull-dozing their way to their goal of a disarmed US public. pl
"... misperception of the reality on the ground in Syria is fuelled in part by propaganda, but more especially by inaccurate and misleading reporting by the media where bias towards the rebels and against the government is unsurpassed since the height of the Cold War. Exaggerated notions are given of rebel strength and popularity. The Syrian government is partially responsible for this. By excluding all but a few foreign journalists, the regime has created a vacuum of information that is naturally filled by its enemies. In the event, a basically false and propagandistic account of events in Syria has been created by a foreign media credulous in using pro-opposition sources as if they were objective reporting. " Patrick Cockburn in "The Independent"
Yes, the demise of the Syrian government exists mainly in the "minds" of a couple of vendu think-tank analysts in Washington, the corporate media bandwagon, and the enfants terribles Wilsonians now riding high in the Obama Administration. The attempt is being made to simply BS Assad out of power. Obama is now functioning fully as the reincarnated Lincoln and sees himsef as "clothed in a great power." Well, pilgrim, he has placed the US in the position of an alliance with an AQ affiliate (al-nusra). The Syrians that he recognised as government are demanding that he stop condemning their AQ ally and are coming to Washington to tell him and the Wilsonians that he must de-list al-nusra as a terrorist group.
Group Think and the desire to be loved by colleagues and the powerful account for a lot of the intellectual irresponsibility on display but it is also the fact that many of those "running their mouths" over Syria are simply ignorant, callow creatures created by ten years of war and the super-abundance of government money that allowed the hiring of the pitifully under experienced.
The only real question in my mind is whether or not Syria actually wasted a few SSMs last week. Let's see some evidence, some wreckage, statements by Clapper about heat signatures at launch, something.
The civil war appears to be a stalemate. Having painted himself into a corner BHO will eventually have to opt for intervention of some kind. pl
I am a "life member" of NRA. IMO the organization would be wise to propose and support a presidential commission on violence committed with firearms. Such a panel should study the causes of crimes committed with guns as well as suicides, accidents, etc. The panel should state its views with regard to desirable legislation. NRA should participate in the work of the panel. The panel should meet for a year and issue a report. pl
"The social division in Egypt was made clear by the breakdown of the votes. In Cairo, by far Egypt's biggest urban centre, the constitution was opposed by 57 per cent to 43 per cent, according to the Brotherhood's own figures. However, the "yes" campaign won by proportionally much larger majorities in less populated but more conservative areas of Upper Egypt and the Sinai. This urban-rural split has played into the deeply divisive propaganda of both sides. Opposition figures and newspaper editors allege that the Brotherhood relies for support on a less well-educated, more narrow-minded base easily manipulated by local clerics, while Islamists claim the "no" vote is led by a corrupt and wealthy elite, often with ties to the old regime, out of touch with the "real Egypt". " The Telegraph
Even in relatively "modern" Cairo nearly half of voters cast their ballots in favor of Mursi's political Islam as a basis for running Egyptians' lives. Outside the capital the MB/salafi written constitution carried the day everywhere. Can we doubt that this will not be repeated in the next round of voting.
Once the new constitution becomes the law of the land there will be a gradual process of abrogation of human rights as Egypt becomes a country much like Iran. In the end there won't be a dime's worth of difference between Shia Iran and Sunni Egypt.
Christians, modern women, Shia (there are a few), secularists, all these should look to their exit routes.
The Army? vendu, and likely to remain that way so long as the institution 's autonomy is not threatened.
William Pitt said that the map of Europe could be put away because Bonaparte had prevailed and the map would not be needed.
It will be the same for Egypt. pl
"Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it."
James Madison (Publius) in Federalist Paper #46
arguing for the ratification of the present Constitution including the Second amendment.
To "sweeten" the medicine of an insistence on individual gun rights in the US, it is usually claimed now that Americans want guns for; hunting, target shooting, home defense, collecting...
In fact "Publius" argues here that the possession of firearms by the citizens and the potential for resistance to tyranny implicit in that possession is necessary as part of the system of checks and balances that holds tyranny at bay.
As one of the three authors of the Federalist Papers Madison is engaged in trying to persuade the states to ratify the present constitution. Without such assurances as this one, it is quite possible that the constitution might never have been ratified. In fact, two states, North Carolina and Rhode Island had voted against ratification by the time that Virginia voted in favor by the slimmest of margins thus establishing a majority.
NB that the private possession of weapons is mentioned by Madison BEFORE he mentions the similar effect of armed militias belonging to the states. It is stated as an absolute good. This explains the structure of the clauses in the second amendment. The militia clause is intended to stand as an example of what in Madison's view was an absolute right of the citizens.
For those who would reply that an armed citizenry could have no effect against a modern army, it is only necessary to direct their attention to the history of the last years.
To those on the left or right who think an unarmed citizenry is a good idea, consider your true thoughts regarding the scruples of government servants and possible future regimes. pl
"My goal in writing what I did was to direct attention to the kind of personality that allows one human being to murder another in cold blood -- the defects in emotional make-up, the dearth of imagination, and the inability to insert yourself with compassion into another’s situation. My comments were aimed at people who harbor pet opinions in spite of the fact that those may lack any intelligible logic; people were are so intent on having their narrow positions triumph, they vehemently disdain the ideas they have in common with others; people who have their own pet hobby horses that they are addicted to riding at all costs; people who have such an exaggerated sense of their own value, that they would trample the world beneath their feet in order to gain their own ends. " Richard Sale
This time of year I always think of the smell of coal fires burning in the East, of Glüwein, Berliner Curry wurst and the bracing effect of a shot of Steinhager. It's been a long time but the memories are strong.
"A murder is always the work of a violent, irritable self-will working in perverse directions from the bulk of ordinary, hard working, persevering human beings. A killing embodies the principle of hostility. It has its roots a disease of self-exultation that ridicules efforts and the stature of ordinary humans and disdains their welfare. Killers have had no sound notion of anything. They look down on all others because of their fictitious merits which leads them to believe that they are superior to anyone else on Earth. Killers have no honest or reliable way of measuring values. The ones I knew had crude, coarse, repulsive personalities that looked at ordinary people with no aerial perspective. By narrowing their views and shrinking their capacity for sympathy, killers build a structure in which their figure towers above everybody else. They have no common humanity. Besides them, there is nothing. They are diseased dwarfs that think themselves as mighty and as invulnerable as Everest." continue reading this piece by Richard Sale
In honor of the approach of Christmas festivities and such like that I offer this recipe which I "inherited" from a friend's grandmother down in Southside Virginia. Over the years I have tinkered with it a bit here and there and would welcome suggestions. I won't necessarily take them, but I WILL welcome them.
The culinary influence of the South seems to be growing. "Miz Paula's" show on the cooking channel is an example, but sometimes people don't know where the dishes come from.
I once had a friend (Northern) express surprise when informed that "Biscuits and Gravy" are not a new thing developed in LA. Oh, well.
Remember: After it is all cooked, including baking, put it in the refrigerator over night. It is ALWAYS served cold. SLICE IT THIN!!!!"A country ham can be hung up in your basement indefinitely before it is re-hydrated. Pay no attention to any signs of mold, etc. To cook a dry-cured country ham from Madison County in God's own Commonwealth, you first take it out of the net bag, then soak it in a big cauldron in which the ham will be covered with cold water. You soak it for anything from 10 to 18 hours, depending on how much salt you want to get out of it. I would recommend about 15 or 16 hours, changing the water 2 or 3 times. Throw the water away, fill with new water to cover the ham. In the water put a medium sized quartered onion studded with six or eight cloves, a dozen black pepper corns, half a dozen Allspice berries, a bay leaf, a quartered apple, and some cider. I would put in a cup of Bourbon whiskey, but maybe you won't. Incidentally, the alcohol will all cook away, so all that will be left is the taste. Bring the water to a boil, and then reduce the heat so that the ham simmers in all this wonderful stuff. Simmer 20 minutes a pound plus another twenty minutes to be sure. Take it out of the pot and let cool until "just warm." Skin it with something like a really sharp "boning" knife. Work the blade parallel to the surface of the ham to take off the skin and then the thick layer of fat underneath. Take the fat off in thinnish layers. You will be surprised at how much fat there is. Be careful you don't get into the meat underneath. The fat is translucent. The meat is, well, not translucent. Once you get all the fat off, score the ham lightly and stud with cloves. Coat this marvelous object with a glaze. We use one made of real maple syrup, brown sugar, dry mustard, and a cup of Bourbon whiskey. Remember. The alcohol will be gone after cooking. Put the ham in a preheated 350 degree oven for an hour. Let it cool completely and you are ready to carve. The ham has two flat sides and two curved sides. Using a very sharp ham slicer with a long, narrow blade, slice some very thin slices off the less curved of the two curved sides to make it flat. Then stand the ham on that side and start carving off the more curved side. Start down near the hock by making a vertical cut to the bone, then slice paper thin slices, working your way toward the big end of the ham and gradually inclining the knife so that after a while you are cutting long, very thin slices that are six or eight inches long. This ham will keep in the refrigerator two or three months, wrapped in aluminum, and is an endless source of sandwiches (turkey and country ham is one great possibility), snacks, etc. Make sure you slice it as near to paper thin as you can manage. Otherwise, the full flavor of the ham will overwhelm you."
"How Santa Claus Came To Simpson's Bar"- Bret Harte
"What worries me, of course, is that careless use of language will convince people that the war is rising rapidly up some sort of “escalation ladder” and strengthen the chorus of voices demanding that the United States get more heavily involved. Reasonable people can disagree about that point, but the mere fact that Assad has now used Scuds is largely irrelevant. This decision may be a sign of growing desperation on his part; if so, I hope that some creative diplomacy can convince him to blow town before the entire country is destroyed. But unless he puts chemical warheads on top of them or starts attacking a new category of targets, the fact that Scuds are involved is not in fact very significant." Walt in FP
Walt is correct. Is the Syrian government actually firing these enormously expensive and not very accurate weapons systems at small groups of guerrillas? If they are, then the decision to do so is incredibly stupid, but it is not an "escalation" of the war. Air weapons already in use in the civil war are more effective as are the vehicle bombs used by the rebels. SCUDs are nuclear weapons delivery systems. That is why they don't need to be extremely accurate. Syria has no nuclear weapons and never did have any or any real propects of having any.
Michael Gordon's by-line should tell us what this is all about. Maybe he can find a WMD factory somewhere in Syria as he and Judy Miller did in Iraq. "All the news that's fit to print." pl
"The Australian" wrote today that the thingies in this picture are SCUDS. The newspaper writes that these "SCUDS" are being fired at rebels in northern Syria. These are not SCUDS.
The real SCUD in its various models has a significant CEP and conventional warheads no bigger than aerial bombs that can be carried on the aircraft that Syria possesses, but "desperation" is said to be driving Assad to use these against an enemy who has no anti-aircraft capability except heavy machine guns and MANPADS.
Tonight the Honorable Fred Hof (Paul Bremer in waiting?) and Murhaf Jouejati (resident Syrian rebel at NDU?) beat the war drums on the Newshour. Gwen Ifill did her best to inject some note of realism into the discussion, but to little avail.
The propaganda preparation of the American people for another military adventure is now approaching a climax. US recognition of the rebel coalition sets the stage for legal intervention.
Shall we start a war "pool" as to the date? pl
"If the US Government must have a paramilitary drone capability, then it should be lodged somewhere in the military establishment or in an organization completely separate from our CIA and its human collection operations. To put it anywhere in the CIA is risky, foolhardy and ultimately counterproductive, serving neither our covert human collection nor our paramilitary operations.
"Haviland Smith is a retired CIA Station Chief who served in Prague, Berlin, Beirut, Tehran, Langley and Washington working primarily in Soviet and East European operations, as Chief of the Counterterrorism Staff and as Executive Assistant in the Director's Office."
"... research by a British historian, Professor Stephen Ellis, has unearthed fresh evidence that during his early years as an activist, Mr Mandela did hold senior rank in the South African Communist Party, or SACP. He says Mr Mandela joined the SACP to enlist the help of the Communist superpowers for the ANC's campaign of armed resistance to white rule. His book also provides fresh detail on how the ANC's military wing had bomb-making lessons from the IRA, and intelligence training from the East German Stasi, which it used to carry out brutal interrogations of suspected "spies" at secret prison camps. " The Telegraph
I suppose that the chapter on him in "Lives of the Saints' will have to be revised... pl
" Syrian rebels backed by radical Islamists captured a northern regimental command center of President Bashar al-Assad's army, activists said on Sunday, as Russia dismissed speculation that it is preparing for its ally's possible exit from power." Reuters
I recently spoke to a friend who is an Israeli consultant to the IDF General Staff. He says that Israel's policy with regard to the fate of the Assad government is "paralysed."
IMO, it is in this position because Israel's interests conflict in the matter.On the one hand, Israel has pushed for many years for the removal of Bashar Assad on the general principle that he is what they call "a near enemy." On that basis they encouraged the Bush and Obama administrations to have nothing to do with him in spite of his repeated efforts to start negotiations with Washington over improved relations. On the other hand, the rebel forces in Syria are increasingly dominated by jihadists. This is true both of the foreign AQ associated groups who do much of the fighting, and the supposedly secular FSA. In the case of the FSA, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and private Islamists "funnel" money to the FSA through people farther down the chain of command than the uniformed "colonels" who appear in Western media. Israel understands that in a post-Assad Syria the fiercest will prevail in the struggle for political control.
On FNS today the Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, declined to endorse, Mike Wallace's suggestion that Assad has been preparing to use chemical weaponry in the civil war. He said "we are not sure about the truth of these reports" or something to that effect. Instead he stated that what worries Israel is the possibility that Assad's government might lose control of chemical weapons and they could end up in jihadi or Hizbullah hands.
Wallace looked crestfallen and surprised. It seemed that Wallace actually believes the manufactured meme about Assad and chemical warfare. pl
"Clinton is said to envision an “economic NATO” — a comprehensive agreement covering trade in goods, services, investment and agriculture. Indeed, a joint working group of U.S. and E.U. officials is about to release a final report arguing for such a comprehensive deal. " Ignatius
Later in this piece Ignatius says that NAFTA did not result in job losses in the US. What do you think of that? pl
The opposition to Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood was, until last week, fragmented.
The ‘revolutionaries’. Savvy, networked activists, graffiti artists, hardened leftists, football hooligans, democratic idealists, frustrated people with nothing to lose. The unifying element is a rejection of both the old regime and political Islam, and a willingness to go into the streets, protest, clash, and risk one’s life in the cause of radically transforming society. They are revolutionaries all too painfully aware that what has happened in Egypt since January 2011 is not a revolution (it is those who do not want to see a revolution, who insist that it has already happened). This is the street force that set Mubarak wobbling, spearheaded resistance to SCAF in running battles in places like Mohammed Mahmoud St., and is now taking on Mursi and his supporters in the streets. They are at once the most influential and most powerless element: influential in their ability and determination to instigate crises and set the agenda; but losers in the post-Mubarak struggle for legitimate power in the new political system. They are a vanguard, with quality and energy, but not yet numbers and organization, on their side - hence a leading role in events, along with complete failure at the ballot box.
The ‘remnants’. In this category fall, firstly, the decapitated leftovers of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. These remnants visible in political life, however (capturing perhaps 7% of the vote in parliamentary elections) are complemented by business interests, long-established systems of patronage, and a large slice of traditional officialdom, particularly the police. ‘Remnants’ networks were popularly believed to be engineering crises such as fuel shortages and violent incidents with the aim of destabilizing the country and returning to power. At the grassroots level, there are very many ordinary people who have started to feel that things were better under Mubarak. This started out as mere grumbling, but culminated in the surprise entry of Ahmad Shafiq, a ‘remnant’ if there ever was one, into the presidential runoff. This result can be seen as, firstly, discontent with the economic consequences of the ‘revolution’, secondly, fear of the Brotherhood, and thirdly, the continuing efficacy of NDP networks.
The ‘liberals’. The people we like to call ‘liberals’ in the Middle East are often not very liberal at all. Indeed, to impose liberal ideas in Egypt would require a very illiberal dictatorship. ‘Liberal’ in this context is better understood as secular and capitalist. In this category you will find Western-educated intellectuals, re-branded old-regime billionaires, Christians fearful of Islamist domination, as well as professionals and businesspeople preoccupied with the dire state of the economy. Some parties in this category are distinctly ‘Western oriented’; others, like the Wafd, have more of a nationalist aftertaste. They have considerable means at their disposal and a strong media presence. Nonetheless, ‘liberal’ parties did not receive more than around 20% of the vote in parliamentary elections.
Mursi’s actions are molding these disparate forces into an increasingly coherent secular opposition. The frontline street activists, the old-regime patronage networks, and the ‘liberal’ money and media are making common cause against the threat of MB domination.
It is Pearl Harbor Day. All too often remembrance is confined to the attack on Pearl Harbor. That attack was immediately followed by a Japanese invasion of the Phillippine Islands, an American possession at that time. After months of heroic but futile resistance US and Filipino forces surrendered to the Japanese Army. There ensued three and a half years of unmitigated brutality and murder inflicted on American prisoners of war by Japanese soldiers.
One of those POWs was Chaplain John McDonnell who was captured on the Bataan Peninsula, survived the Death March and years of abuse only to die on board the Enoura Maru, a Japanese merchant vessel en route to Japan.
Chaplain McDonnell baptised me in the post chapel at Fort Devens, Massachusetts in 1940.
Transcript of official record follows. pl
SUPREME COMMANDER FOR
THE ALLIED POWERS
25 Feb. 1947
File No. 014.13
Informational Summary No. 510
vs Junsaburo TOSHINO, Shusuke WADA, Kazutane AIHARA, Shin KAJIYAMA, Suketoshi
TANQUE, Jiro UEDA, Hisao YOSHIDA
On 9 January in mid-morning, during the completion of the morning meal, anti-aircraft fire was heard on the Enoura Maru and all ships in the harbor. Soon the drone of planes was heard and almost simultaneously the whistle of bombs was heard. The Enoura Maru rocked violently from a near miss, causing a flail of bomb fragments and steel fragments from the sides of the ship which killed about 300 outright and injured a considerable number. After the bombing such first aid as could be rendered to men was made available by the Prisoner of War doctors and corpsmen aboard. This aid consisted of collecting dirtytowels, undershirts, or anything that could be used for bandages that the other prisoners would contribute. Outside of a few first aid kits which the doctors and corpsmen may have had, there were no medicines made available by the Japanese. In fact, no aid was rendered until 11 January when two Japanese enlisted hospital corpsmen announced they would treat those with minor injuries or wounds only. Treatment consisted of dabbing injuries with mercurochrome. The dead bodies in the holds were stacked in the center of the hatch area like stacks of cord wood. They remained there until the 12th of January. During this time, a majority of the men who were wounded and who soonthereafter died from those wounds could have been saved with proper medical attention, but with lack of bandages and medicines it was impossible for thedoctors to do much for them. Finally in mid-morning of 12 January, permission was granted to remove the dead bodies from the ship. The bodies were removed by placing them into cargo slings and lowering over the side of the ship into barges. Some of the dead were removed individually by tying ropes around the legs or arms and hauling them up onto the deck, then lowering them into the barges. The scene in the holds was like a page from Dante’s Inferno—dark, but one could see the wraithlike figures wandering dazedly through a maze of stacked corpses.
"On Wednesday, thousands of Muslim Brotherhood thugs, armed with rifles, shotguns, knives, chains, bludgeons and remarkably, tear-gas were bussed into the vicinity of the presidential palace to attack the few hundred peaceful protesters that had staged a symbolic sit-in before the palace following Tuesday march.
As the footage and testimonies of protesters, bystanders and journalists kept coming onto the airwaves and the social media, we seemed to have been hurled back in time and space, to the rise of Nazism in Germany, Fascism in Italy, Francism in Spain.
The mutation of the Muslim Brotherhood into its ugliest caricature: a gang of fascist thugs was complete.
They shall not pass!" Ahram on line.
"No pasaran!" This kind of language is so directly evocative of the Spanish Civil War with its bloody trail of battles, foreign interventions and massacres of civilians that we should hesitate to use such speech.
In those days the revolutionaries fighting and killing under the republican flag decorated whole streets in many cities and towns with the corpses of priests and nuns hanging from lamp posts.
Is that where Egypt is going? Is this the fruit of the Arab Spring?
Chuck Todd, who leaves little doubt of the depth of his feelings for Israel, today on "Morning Joe" chided a Republican congressman from Florida for sponsoring a bill to withdraw foreign aid from Egypt. The congressman's agenda was altogether about a sense of betrayal over the received wisdom involving the Jeffersonian transformation of Egypt and Mursi's supposed betrayal of the ideals of the revolution. IMO Mursi never believed in that idea system and always saw the revolution as a vehicle to be used to trick the West and establish an Islamist state. The congressman is a fool. Nevertheless, Todd's reaction was intense and completely centered on adverse effects that a withdrawal of US sid to Egypt might have on Israel, nothing else, just that. pl
For the past week, the Obama Administration, joined by the entire neocon and Israeli Lobby apparatus has been engaged in an information warfare campaign to pave the way for the final overthrow of the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria. The centerpiece of the campaign is the claim that Syrian military units are prepared to launch chemical weapons attacks against their own population, and possibly against Turkey, a NATO country. The North Atlantic Council, the policy-making body of NATO, has approved the rush deployment of Patriot missile batteries to southern Turkey to protect against the so-called Syrian chemical weapons attacks. Such outright propaganda outfits as Israel’s DEBKA, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), and Atlantic magazine’s resident IDF voice, Jeffrey Goldberg, are all putting out claims that the Syrian Air Force has already assembled sarin gas weapons and armed fighter planes to launch attacks at any moment.