Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich drew intense fire from the Palestinian Authority for declaring that the Palestinians are an "invented" people:
"I believe that the Jewish people have the right to have a state," Gingrich said in the interview. "Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we've had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, who are historically part of the Arab community."
Gingrich likes to present himself as a scholar and a historian. He's got a Ph.D. from Tulane University and has actually taught history at the college level. In this light, his ignorance as a historian is almost as troubling as his lack of diplomacy as a politician.
Gingrich, who has taught history lessons to supposedly less enlightened students, apparently needs one himself. Here's a news flash for you Newt: The Palestinians did have a state before the Israelis (then more commonly known as Hebrews) ever arrived on the scene. All you have to do is check your Bible, a book that a man who converted to Catholicism after being a Baptist for most of his life should know pretty well.
Some Republican lawmakers are blasting the Obama administration for labeling the Fort Hood massacre a case of workplace violence, without referring to it as an act of terrorism.
Is anyone surprised by the strident tone of the Republican response to this simple statement? Ever since 9/11, the threat of terrorism has been a linchpin of the party's political strategy: Portray terrorism as the No. 1 threat to Americans, and portray themselves as those best qualified to protect Americans.
How long will it be before overzealous lawmakers don their McCarthy masks and begin engaging in witch hunts to round up all Muslims and their associates as potential terrorists? It may have begun already. There are doubtless some people who would love to incarcerate Muslims en masse, just the way Japanese Americans were rounded up during World War II.
A police officer in North Miami Beach has been fired after hatching a nefarious plot to scatter birdseed around the offices of the city manager. People have been prosecuted for sending anthrax through the mail, trying to ignite shoe bombs and plotting to shoot up school campuses. But as terrorist plots go, this one is ... well ... for the birds.
Barack Obama has said repeatedly he’s a person of faith – a Christian, in fact. People of faith don't typically make war on religion. That’s why Rick Perry’s latest commercial, where he accuses Obama of doing just that, sounds almost slanderous to me. But of course, this is political speech, where virtually anything short of a threat on someone's life is protected as a form of free expression.
Need more proof that the religious right is interested in forcibly imposing its views on the rest of the nation? They've happily provided it in the form of a video game. It's called Left Behind: Eternal Forces, but I've got a better name for it: Immoral Combat.
Whether any of the latest charges against Herman Cain have any validity or not, his decision to publicly announce he's “reassessing” his campaign is a death blow. Part of Cain's appeal to his supporters has been his no-nonsense, decisive (some would say arrogant) style. His latest announcement is anything but decisive. Voters want a commander-in-chief to be in command of a situation. They don't like candidates who crack under pressure.
Cain must know that by issuing this sort of announcement, he's all but guaranteeing that his fundraising will dry up. And maybe that's exactly what he wants - a seemingly graceful exit. Few other explanations really make sense here. If he's out of the race, he's out of the spotlight. The issues might not go away, but they'd sure become a lot less interesting to the public at large - and a lot less embarrassing to Cain.
Wishing a non-Christian a merry Christmas is like an American wishing everyone in Beijing a happy Fourth of July. It’s like telling someone who doesn't like football to "enjoy the Super Bowl!" Or buying a litter box for someone who doesn't own a cat.
Recently, some in the Occupy movement have been promoting another tactic that could be a huge mistake: Black Friday protests. Such protests at brick-and-mortar sites are likely to be perceived as nuisances at best - how many people enjoy being waylaid (or even distracted) by people selling candy, waving petitions and picketing outside storefronts? The protesters risk coming off as enemies of the consumer rather than the corporations they're supposed to be targeting.
"Know thyself." You might be surprised to learn that these two words were prominently displayed in the Greek temple at Delphi, home to the famous oracle. Good advice for anyone seeking advice from an oracle. If you don't know yourself going in, you're liable to believe anything an oracle tells you. In today's capitalist society, we might do well to inscribe an additional warning: Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.
Pope Benedict XVI is in Africa, where his agenda calls for warning the people about witchcraft and calling on them to turn away from the practice.
The pope's response to the African witch hunts is nothing short of unbelievable: He's warning people against witchcraft. If anything will fuel the superstitious paranoia that exists within African communities, this is it. The problem isn't witchcraft, it's the attitude toward it. Yet here's the pope feeding the fire by referring to witchcraft as a "scourge" and telling people to turn away from it.
The Occupy movement has been under increased pressure from police from across the country, with officers in riot gear moving in to dismantle encampments, arrest protesters and forcibly evict them from public places. That's as true in Fresno, Calif., as it is in New York City.
Protesters gathered Friday night after dusk in Courthouse Park on Tulare Street, just east of Van Ness Avenue. About 30 people gathered for a "general assembly" meeting to share news about legal matters, upcoming events and other subjects pertinent to the Occupy effort.
They came together under an illuminated monument to Purple Heart recipients that reads, in part, "If I could be seen by all of mankind, maybe peace will come in my lifetime." It's a message that could easily be echoed by the people who meet here. The Occupy encampments are intended, in part, as visible signs that something is wrong in America, symbols that are intended to be seen by as many people as possible.
The New York Police Department has unceremoniously deposited 5,000 books from the Occupy Wall Street encampment into a Dumpster. It’s in good company. It now can proudly place its name right alongside the Spanish Inquisition - which burned not only books but people, too.
Why should police behave like this? You could get the answer very easily by asking one Philip Zimbardo, professor emeritus at Standford University. Zimbardo, a psychologist, created an experiment in which 12 students were chosen to play prison guards and 12 others were selected to simulate inmates. The students were selected entirely at random. Before it could run its course, however, it had to be abandoned because the "guards" started acting like fascist dictators on a power trip. They internalized their roles to such an extent that, within six days, those overseeing the experiment said that one-third had begun to act in a downright sadistic manner.
Bullying has been in the news a lot lately, with gay and lesbian teens often being among its targets. Their unspoken mantra: "You're different than we are. Conform, or else!" It can just as easily be aimed at people who are deemed too shy, too heavy, too quiet, the wrong color, the wrong religion or from the wrong side of the tracks.
It would be nice to say to the bullies: "You're the ones who are different. The rest of us are civilized. You conform, or else!"
Unfortunately, I'm just not sure that's accurate. Bullying is so pervasive in our culture that it's almost expected. Many people even view it as a "rite of passage" for teens and a tool to help them become better socialized. That's like blocking a doorway with a gigantic stone and proudly declaring that you've made it easier for someone to enter the room. Bullies don't help people socialize, they isolate them.
And they do so by placing them in no-win situations.
Hold on just a minute there. It turns out there won't be any cleanup at Zuccotti Park, after all. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this morning the company that operates the park, Brookfield Office Properties, had withdrawn its request for police help with the cleanup ... and had canceled the operation.
Brookfield, whose board of directors includes Bloomberg's girlfriend, called off its plans after supposedly being "inundated" with threats from public officials, CNN reported. Interestingly, no officials were named specifically.
The claim that unnamed public officials had threatened the company seems, in many respects, like a face-saving tactic to make it seem as though the protesters themselves had nothing to do with the decision to back off. Heaven forbid these people who have been described in the press as vagrants, hippies and malcontents should actually be credited with acting responsibly. Yet that's exactly what they did.
Michael Bloomberg has done another about-face. Now he's telling Occupy Wall Street protesters they must leave Zuccotti Park tomorrow, ostensibly to clean the park.
Just three days ago, we reported that Bloomberg had told the protesters they could stay as long as they wanted. His words seemed clear enough: "The bottom line is - people want to express themselves. And as long as they obey the laws, we'll allow them to," Bloomberg said. "If they break the laws, then, we're going to do what we're supposed to do: enforce the laws."
But we also asked, at the end of that sentence, the following question: Whether this amount to a tacit green light for police to crack down on the most insignificant of alleged violations remains to be seen.
It doesn't remain to be seen anymore. Our skepticism, it seems, was more than warranted: Police aren't cracking down on insignificant violations; they're cracking down without even bothering to allege that any violations took place. One should hardly be surprised, given that Bloomberg - just days before vowing to let the protesters stay - condemned them on the basis that they were "trying to take the jobs from the people working in the city."
When Bloomberg was asked this week how long the Occupy Wall Street protesters would be allowed to stay at Zuccotti Park, he said, "I think part of it has probably to do with the weather." Now we know exactly what he meant. He’s ordering them out. And he's trying to force them to quit protesting altogether by depriving them of any protection against the elements - tents, sleeping bags, etc. – when they return.
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