Why not?

Originally posted on Why Evolution Is True:

From Facebook via Israellycool comes a picture that, with the caption below, brings tears to my eyes:
Screen shot 2014-07-07 at 6.01.32 AM

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The taller man is Rabbi Yakov Nagen (his Facebook page is here), and the other man is his friend Ibrahim, a Palestinian. I’m no fan of religion, as it’s divisive and wrong, but if those divisions can be breached with a hug, that is a good thing.

Israellycool provides a translation of Nagen’s words:

Translation:

The families of the boys – a return call

A short time after they found the bodies of the three boys, my friend Ibrahim from East Jerusalem called me to express his deep sorrow over the killings, and to convey that his heart is with the boys’ families.

I never imagined that a few days later, I would have to call him to express my deep sorrow for the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir from East Jerusalem, and to convey that my heart is with…

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Bush’s Legacy is more than Iraq . . . *facedesk*

Yesterday, Kathleen Parker had posted on the Washington Post web site an article titled: “Bush’s legacy is more than Iraq.” In it she argues that W was

. . . more than a composite of swagger and smirk. He was also a kind man with a gentle heart who should be remembered as such.

To bolster her argument she writes about

. . . how he really did feel others’ pain.

and offers as examples how

Bush often met privately and without fanfare with the families of fallen soldiers.

By the time I finished the article, I incredulous and was ready to puke. Literally. I have only one observation to make: I just cannot see how visiting the families of people whose blood he had on his hands could be interpreted as an act of kindness. Were it not for his manufactured war with Iraq, these families would still be intact. Hubris, yes. Kindness? You’ve got to be kidding me. There could not be a greater insult or a better example of how unkind Bush is . . .

I take hubris back. No. To hubris I’d just add complete, utter, stark, total lack of awareness and conscience. The more I think about it, the more incensed I get . . .

I don’t know who’s worse . . . W for doing it or Parker for not appreciating the irony of what she said. How many ways can one say “insensitive?”

At least I’m not alone. Reading the 1300 or so comments made be feel better . . .

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Authoritarians At the Gate

“Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.” – Robert A. Heinlein

Andrew O’Hehir recently posted an article on Salon [1] and Alternet [2] titled “Hey Liberals: You Haven’t Won the Culture War” in which he argues that the extreme political polarization that currently exists:

. . . involves values or mores that people hold on a primordial or unconscious level, which are not easily expressed in language and not readily subjected to rational inquiry. Translated into the political realm, these fundamental cultural mores become entrenched ideological positions, modes of expressing the unshakable conviction that my side is right and yours is wrong.

He is definitely onto something. He has identified the aspect of the political environment which has created and will perpetuate its current toxicity . . .

Since the subject has been broached, lets see how it’s played out over the past 40 years or so . . . The Republican party has alienated moderates to the point that even some moderate Republicans have changed their party affiliation to Independent and moderate Congressional Republicans who had the respect of their peers from both sides of the aisle have elected not to return. (Think Olympia Snowe). It now exhibits a significant redshift. Or as Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein in their book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism [3] put it:

. . . the Republican party, has become an insurgent outlier – ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the center of American politics, it is extremely difficult to enact policies responsive to the country’s most pressing challenges.

and

In every chapter of this book, we have documented the ways in which the Republican Party has become the insurgent outlier in American politics and as such contributes disproportionately to its dysfunction.4 If the case we have made about the GOP is accurate, then the culture and ideological center of the Republican Party itself, at the congressional, presidential, and, in many cases, state and local levels, must change if U.S. democracy is to regain its health. The contemporary GOP, to the horror of many of its longtime stalwarts and leaders like former senators John Danforth of Missouri and Alan Simpson of Wyoming, has veered toward tolerance of extreme ideological beliefs and policies and embrace of cynical and destructive means to advance political ends over problem solving. These tendencies have led to disdain for negotiation and compromise unless forced into them and rejection of the legitimacy of its partisan opposition (as manifested especially in the continuing drumbeat questioning the birthplace of President Obama, and the refusal of major party figures to condemn the birthers).

More after the fold . . .

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Molly Ivins did not exaggerate . . .

From TPMMuckraker: Texas GOP’s 2012 Platform Opposes Teaching Of ‘Critical Thinking Skills’

Actually, the title is a bit sensationalist . . . but not by much. And from my  perspective, the author missed one of the most juicy parts . . .

The article is about several planks in the 2012 Republican Party platform. It quotes the plank on “Knowledge-Based Education” as saying:

We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

The author of the article contacted the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) to ask for comment. The reply was:

“[The chairman of the Education Subcommittee] indicated that it was an oversight of the committee, that the plank should not have included ‘critical thinking skills’ after ‘values clarification,’” [The RPT Communications Director] said. “And it was not the intent of the subcommittee to present a plank that would have indicated that the RPT in any way opposed the development of critical thinking skills.”

Juicy part after the fold . . .

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The Wikileaks Brouhaha: Shooting the Messengers and Ignoring the Elephants, Part 5

In this series, we looked at the incompetence and negligence in the Departments of Defense and State that provided an operating environment that enabled Bradley Manning to copy hundreds of thousands of documents without ever being detected. The intent was not necessarily to present this as exculpatory evidence (but it would be really great if it did), but to assign culpability and responsibility for the criminal negligence that allowed this to happen with the idea of holding those who are culpable accountable.

In the earlier sections, I pointed out holes in the systems that made it inevitable that something like this would happen sometime. The only reason we know about them now is that Manning turned over his trove to Wikileaks. Recalling Scott Bradner’s observation:

The surprise about this latest series of leaks is not that it happened, but how it had not happened long before. Actually, maybe it has — not everyone who would like a copy of such information would be interested in publishing it.

Keep that in mind as you are reading. Brass tacks after the break . . .

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The Wikileaks Brouhaha: Shooting the Messengers and Ignoring the Elephants, Part 4

So far in our story, we have focused on the role of the Department of Defense in facilitating Bradley Manning’s opportunity to acquire and export so much classified information. In Part 4, we will shift focus to the Department of State and meet the matriarch of the herd.

In many ways, the plot doesn’t change, but in other ways, the only way to describe what went on at State is that it was a leviticusly deuteronomous Charlie Foxtrot.

Way past Epic Fail . . .

The tale picks up after the break . . .

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The Wikileaks Brouhaha: Shooting the Messengers and Ignoring the Elephants, Part 3

In Part 2, we looked at the security environment at FOB Hammer and discovered that there was effectively none. That was the first component of the “perfect storm” that enabled Pfc. Manning to collect the video and documents that were published by Wikileaks. There were two dimensions that interacted there. One was lax-to-completely-absent physical security at the site. The other was the failure on the personnel management side to detect all of the indicators that Manning was a candidate for being an insider threat. In Part 3 we will shift attention to the other components of the perfect storm that Manning described and show that they were there not for lack of information or institutional awareness, but because of negligence. The rest of the herd after the fold: Continue reading

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