Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
During the past few days, there has been a growing push from a number of blogs to get the Los Angeles Times to release a videotape of Barack Obama honoring Rashid Khalidi, the Mideast scholar, critic of Israel and alleged former mouthpiece of the PLO.
The tape, which contained footage of Obama and others bidding Khalidi farewell when he left Chicago for New York, had been referenced in an April article titled “Allies of Palestinians See a Friend in Obama,” and on it the Times reported, were the goings-on of an evening railing against Israel:
At Khalidi’s 2003 farewell party, for example, a young Palestinian American recited a poem accusing the Israeli government of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians and sharply criticizing U.S. support of Israel. If Palestinians cannot secure their own land, she said, “then you will never see a day of peace.”
One speaker likened “Zionist settlers on the West Bank” to Osama bin Laden, saying both had been “blinded by ideology.”
Obama adopted a different tone in his comments and called for finding common ground. But his presence at such events, as he worked to build a political base in Chicago, has led some Palestinian leaders to believe that he might deal differently with the Middle East than either of his opponents for the White House.
Bloggers have wanted to see the tape, to know what else Obama said that evening and to what he sat idly by as others said. Was he silent when and if a pro-Palestinian voice, like Khalidi’s, attacked Israel?
“Barack Obama wouldn’t possibly let something like that pass without a spirited defense of the Israel he tells us he so staunchly supports … would he?” Andrew McCarthy asked in a column for NRO. “I guess to answer that question, we’d have to know what was on the tape.”
I considered blogging about this yesterday but I decided that the reason the tape hadn’t been released was likely because the Times had acquired it from a confidential source who didn’t want to be identified, and knew they would if the tape got out. Today, when John McCain’s campaign piled on and demanded the tape be released to the public, I was proven correct.
“The Los Angeles Times did not publish the videotape because it was provided to us by a confidential source who did so on the condition that we not release it,” the Time’s editor, Russ Stanton, said in a statement. “The Times keeps its promises to sources.”
That may seem like a cop out, but it’s not. It’s a legally binding contract. And we know more information because it was entered into than we would if it hadn’t been. This story, indeed, is one the rest of the media missed, and for that the Times shouldn’t be given the same old song and dance.
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October 28, 2008 | 8:06 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Responding to that post I wrote this morning about continued efforts to demonize Barack Obama, a friend e-mailed that at her son’s elementary school—a top-shelf private school in Los Angeles—some of his friends have said that, if elected, “Obama will kill the Jews.”
“We were horrified!” she wrote. “I don’t remember anyone saying that about Kerry or Gore so I see some ignorance and racism here. We’re upset, not just because we are Democrats supporting Obama but because talk like that is absolutely scary to young children. And the boys saying it are hearing this from their highly educated and very wealthy parents. Unbelievable!
“Even though I believe this outcome of this election will be one to celebrate—I can’t wait for this election to be over!”
October 28, 2008 | 5:44 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Used to be you had to draw devil horns on the president to get the Secret Service’s attention. But this tacky Halloween display in West Hollywood—hanging Sarah Palin in effigy—has done the same.
“The sheriff made this clear: This is a country that has freedom of speech, and we protect that right even when we think it’s idiotic and stupid and in bad taste and wrong to do,” Steve Whitmore, L.A. County Sheriff’s spokesman, told the Times. “If it is nonviolent and doesn’t cause any problems, then they have the right to do it.”
The display, which has drawn many complaints, including from the WeHo mayor, was the work of Chad Michael Morrisette and his partner, Mito Avilas, who hung the effigy from the roof of their home on the 1200 block of North Orange Grove Avenue.
“If it’s a political statement, it’s that their politics is scary to us,” Morrisette said. “This is our palette and this is our venue of expression.”
Yes, but it is offensive. Not as offensive as the students who hanged Barack Obama in effigy at George Fox University—that context is historically abhorrent. But still offensive. And that’s coming from someone who is no Palin fan.
A video report is after the jump:
October 28, 2008 | 2:57 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Before the whole Clarion controversy, I only knew a few things about the Jewish outreach organization Aish HaTorah: they offer private Torah study at a hefty price and one of their rabbis considered Luke Ford “one of the Torah weirdos.”
But then the organization got caught up in the production and distribution of “Obsession,” a video about Islamic jihad that was distributed to 28 million American via newspaper inserts. Aish’s involvement remains a bit murky, but a lot of shoe leather has been expended drawing dark lines.
Aish HaTorah denies any direct connection to the film, which is designed to make naive Americans believe that B-52s filled with radical jihadists are about to carpet-bomb their churches, and are only awaiting Barack Obama’s ascension to launch the attack. But the manifold connections, as laid out in this article, among others, make it clear that high-level officials of Aish are up to their chins in this project. The most disreputable flack in New York, Ronn Torossian, who represents Aish, makes an appearance in this story, which was to be expected: Torossian last made the news when he employed sock-puppetry in defense of one of his many indefensible clients, Agriprocessors, Inc., the Luvavitch-owned kosher slaughterhouse that treats its employees nearly as badly as it treats its animals, which is saying something, because Agriprocessor slaughterers have been filmed ripping out the tracheas of living cattle.
But I digress. It’s said of Ronn Torossian that he represents “right-wing” Israeli politicians, but this description does not do his clients justice. “Right-wing” is Bibi Netanyahu. Torossian represents the lunatic fringe. Several years ago, in one of my only encounters with him, he introduced me to Benny Elon, a rabbi and settler leader who was then Israel’s tourism minister, and who, at various points in his career, has more or less advocated the ethnic cleansing of Israel of its Arab citizens. At one point, when Elon had gone to take a telephone call, Torossian and I started talking about Israel’s right to reprisal for terrorist attacks. I was arguing in favor of some sort of proportionality (this was after Jenin, in which the Israeli army chose to root out terrorism block by block rather than bomb the city from the air) but Torossian interrupted: “I think we should kill a hundred Arabs or a thousand Arabs for every one Jew they kill.” I was somewhat taken aback, of course, because this is a Nazi idea, rather than a Jewish idea. I asked him to explicate: “If someone from a town blows himself up and kills Jews, we should wipe out the town he’s from, kill them all. The Israelis are suckers. They should have destroyed Jenin.” He went on like this for some time. I would only note that Torossian, to the best of my knowledge, never volunteered for the Israeli army, so he seemed to me by definition a chickenhawk.
Torossian’s attitude toward Arabs and toward the peace process are echoed in the approach of Aish HaTorah, which is just about the most fundamentalist movement in Judaism today. Its operatives flourish in the radical belt of Jewish settlements just south of Nablus, in the northern West Bank, and their outposts across the world propagandize on behalf of a particularly sterile, sexist and revanchist brand of Judaism. Which is amusing, of course, because “Obsession” is meant to expose a particularly sterile, sexist and racist brand of Islam.
The tragedy of “Obsession” is not that it is wrong; the tragedy is that it takes a serious issue, and a serious threat—that of Islamism—and makes it into a cartoon. Its central argument is that the “Islamofascism” of today is not only the equivalent of Nazism, but worse than Nazism. This is quite a thing for a Jewish organization to argue. One of the featured speakers in “Obsession” is a self-described “former PLO terrorist” named Walid Shoebat, who argues on film that a “secular dogma like Nazism is less dangerous than Islamofascism is today.”
This is lunacy, of course. Islamism isn’t Nazism. It’s bad enough without being labeled Nazism. Martin Gilbert, the biographer of Churchill, shows up in the film as well, and doesn’t cover himself in glory: “History has an unfortunate habit of always repeating itself,” he says. Always? Does this mean that the Arabs are right now constructing death camps for the Jewish citizens of Israel?
Just unbelievable, but the most unbelievable part of the “Obsession” campaign is its timing: What does this film have to do with Barack Obama? The film is meant to suggest that Obama will provide aid and comfort to Islamism, or is an Islamist himself. There is not one shred of proof on this planet that Barack Obama is anything other than an Israel-supporting Christian. Yes, he went to party with Rashid Khalidi. So did I. Does that make me a member of Hezbollah?
If Goldberg—the former IDF soldier who Norman Finkelstein falsely accused of torturing Palestinians—is a member of Hezbollah, then I’m Kim Jong Il.
October 28, 2008 | 2:14 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
I found this image on Bill Lobdell’s blog. Lobdell’s no nut, but he does live in Orange County, so it goes without saying that he is surrounded by many. (Come on, some of my best friends live in Orange County.) A friend of his wife evoked the cartoon with this e-mail:
“I just finished with a client whose 9yr old is going as Obama for halloween with his machine gun because he believes that he is linked to pakistan and his muslim roots. Did I also mention that she is a born again christian, lives in [an affluent neighborhood in Orange County] and her hubby is CEO of a major bank! What is up with some people?”
Such scary sentiments about Barack Osama are what I thought made that controversial New Yorker cover so funny. They say so much more about our prejudices and fears than they do about who he really is.
I mean, 28 percent of Kentucky Republicans still—still, despite months of stories dispelling the Obama rumors—believe the Democratic presidential candidate is Muslim. He’s not—not that there’s anything wrong with that. At least ... there shouldn’t be.
October 28, 2008 | 12:20 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
No, the Great Atheist wasn’t fired.
In light of his departure, Dawkins spoke with The Guardian about his assessment his appeal to reason over religion. He’s a bit of a negative Nancy:
In Dawkins’ view, there is a battle taking place in Britain between the forces of reason, and religious fundamentalism and it is far from won. He is one of its most famous and prolific combatants - but the question might be whether he is among its most effective. The God Delusion’s stated aim was to “convert” readers to atheism - but he admits that as a proselytising tool it has broadly failed. “Yes,” he smiles. “I think that was a bit unrealistic. A worthwhile aim, but unrealistic.”
In fact, Dawkins has been described as “the biggest recruiter for creationism in this country”. Critics accuse him of an imaginative failure when it comes to human nature’s susceptibility to the comfort of irrational thought. They say his intellectual intolerance alienates people, and have questioned his wisdom in attacking a target such as the comedian Peter Kay, for admitting to finding faith comforting. “How can you take seriously,” Dawkins notoriously scorned, “someone who likes to believe something because he finds it ‘comforting’?”
When Sherine approached him about funding for the atheist bus, the wording he preferred for the advert was “There is almost certainly no God”. Wouldn’t this just infuriate believers, and put off potentially sympathetic agnostics? In the end they agreed on “probably”.
“Yes, yes, I know,” Dawkins interrupts. “I know. People say I’m shrill and strident.”
Dawkins has a theory about this, which is very persuasive. “We’ve all been brought up with the view that religion has some kind of special privileged status. You’re not allowed to criticise it. And therefore, if you offer even a fairly mild criticism, it really does sound strident, because it violates this expectation that religion is out of bounds.”
But even so, from a purely strategic point of view, why doesn’t he therefore take more care to be ...
Well, yes. If people find the certainties of his intellectual style off-putting, why doesn’t he try and make himself seem a little less intimidating
“Well, this is a thing that worries me,” he says earnestly. “Yes. And I meet it all the time. And it’s by far the most intelligent criticism that I meet. I suppose there are two different ways of doing it, and I’m extremely happy if other people do it that way. Dan Dennett’s Breaking The Spell at least sets out to do that, to be seductive - is that the word? Not quite, but to seduce the reader in. And I can do that. I know how to do it.” He pauses to reflect. “But I seem - I seem to have lost patience.”
Indeed, Dawkins has a difficult time with those who don’t share his worldview. As we learn in the “Go God, Go XII” episode of “South Park,” Dawkins came to the concluson that “using logic and reason isn’t enough. You have to be a dick to everyone who doesn’t think like you.”
So what’s next for anti-God crusader? Not entirely sure, though he’s working on a “God Delusion” picturebook. (That’s not really true.)
October 27, 2008 | 5:27 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
This news alert came across the AP wire four minutes ago:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The ATF says it has broken up a plot to assassinate Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and shoot or decapitate 102 black people in a Tennessee murder spree. In court records unsealed Monday, agents said they disrupted plans to rob a gun store and target an unnamed but predominantly African-American high school by two neo-Nazi skinheads.
*Updated: More info from The Washington Times:
Jim Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the Nashville field office for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the two men planned to shoot 88 black people and decapitate another 14. The numbers 88 and 14 are symbolic in the white supremacist community.
The men also sought to go on a national killing spree, with Obama as its final target, Cavanaugh told The Associated Press.
“They said that would be their last, final act _ that they would attempt to kill Sen. Obama,” Cavanaugh said. “They didn’t believe they would be able to do it, but that they would get killed trying.”
And more from WBTV:
According to the Complaint, approximately one month ago, Cowart and Schlesselman met via the internet through a mutual friend and both claim to have very strong beliefs regarding “White Power” and “Skinhead” philosophy. Cowart and Schlesselman began discussing going on a “killing spree”. The Complaint further alleges that Cowart and Schlesselman discussed robbing a gun shop (Federal Firearms Licensee) in order to gather weapons and ammunition. The Complaint notes the defendants were in possession of a sawed off shotgun.
On October 20, 2008, Cowart allegedly traveled from Tennessee to Arkansas to pick up Schlesselman in order to carry out their plan. The Complaint states that at this time, the defendants further discussed their killing spree to include targeting a predominately African American School and to continue their spree until their final act of violence which would be to attempt to assassinate Presidential Candidate Barack Obama. “The United States Secret Service takes all threats against Presidential Candidates seriously and is actively investigating the allegations,” said Richard Harlow, Special Agent in Charge of the Secret Service-Memphis Field Office. “The Secret Service does not comment on this type of investigation.”
The Complaint further notes that the defendants stated that they would be willing to die during this attempt. According to the Complaint, after soliciting a friend, to drive their car, between 11:00pm on October 21, 2008 and 2:00am on October 22, 2008, the defendants made plans to rob a house but were diverted when they arrived and observed a dog and two cars at the location. Cowart and Schlesselman then dropped Stafford back off at her residence and then went to a local retail store and allegedly purchased nylon rope and two ski masks.
“It is critical that the alleged plot was interrupted,” said James Cavanaugh, Special Agent in Charge of ATF. “We give credit to the Deputies of Crockett and Haywood Counties. All forces of law enforcement have come together to stop this threat.”
The Defendants were arrested on October 22, 2008 by the Crockett County Sheriff’s Office. “Once we arrested the defendants and suspected they had violated federal law, we immediately contacted federal authorities, ” said Sheriff Troy Klyce of Crockett County. “The Sheriff’s Department is committed to keeping Crockett County a safe place for our all of citizens.”
Cowart and Schlesselman had their Initial Appearances in Federal Court today and are scheduled to be back in court for a Detention Hearing on October 30, 2008 in Memphis, Tennessee.
@NewsHour is doing a great job tweeting updates.
October 27, 2008 | 5:07 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Can a private university kill your degree years after you graduate? I wouldn’t have thought so, but, then again, I’m not too well-versed in the behaviors of dogmatic religious schools. Take for instance Brigham Young University, the flagship of Mormon academia and the alma mater of Chad Hardy.
If religious exile wasn’t enough, Hardy has now been told by BYU that the university won’t honor his degree. His diploma has been placed on hold, pending reinstatement into the church:
A Sept. 30 letter from BYU Executive Director of Student Academic & Advisement Services Norman B. Finlinson states that a nonacademic hold was placed on Hardy’s record after the university learned of the excommunication.
‘If in the future you are reinstated as a member of the church in good standing, you are invited to contact my office regarding your possible eligibility for the awarding of a degree,’ Finlinson wrote.
Hardy said he’ll challenge BYU’s position. ‘I intend to fight this tooth-and-nail,’ the 31-year-old entrepreneur said.
This is ridiculous. If Hardy’s transgressions had occurred while he was a student and verifiably violated a student conduct policy, then I could understand, though not agree with, BYU giving him the boot. But how can the university take such an action after the fact. A degree is earned, not maintained.