Political MoJo

Is Lebanon in for "Prolonged Instability"?

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 6:59 PM EDT

A few brief comments on the war in Lebanon. This article by Michael Young in Slate and this piece in The Jewish Week both make what seems to be the most crucial point: Israel simply cannot disarm—or even significantly weaken—Hezbollah through military force alone. Hezbollah is massively popular among the country's large Shiite minority, its rockets are hidden in thousands of homes across southern Lebanon, and even the upcoming "limited" ground offensive by Israel looks like it will be about as effective at uprooting Hezbollah as the flattening of Fallujah was at crushing the Iraqi insurgency. In other words, not at all.

So it's hard to imagine what the end result will be. Presumably Israel will cease its offensive at some point. Lots of civilians will be dead. Hezbollah will still exist, it will still have many of the 13,000 rockets it had before the war began, and it will likely be more popular than ever. The much-weakened Lebanese government isn't likely to confront Hezbollah now (especially if its army ends up fighting alongside the militia while trying to repulse an Israeli ground invasion). An international peacekeeping force might be deployed on the southern border, but if Hezbollah keeps its missiles hidden and refuses to disarm, then this gets us nowhere. No wonder Young predicts that "Lebanon is in for prolonged instability."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

"I understand that many African Americans distrust my political party"

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 6:51 PM EDT

Bush's address to the NAACP goes down...as you might expect.

Bush's remarks met with largely lukewarm applause from the crowd and at one point near the end of his speech, two hecklers threatened to disrupt the address. The president pressed ahead undaunted, though.

Apropos, Mike Davis wrote this piece for us a couple of years ago noting that on the fortieth anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, both Democrats and Republicans--indeed, the American people at large--seemed to have returned to "degree zero of moral concern for the majority of descendants of slavery and segregation."

Judge threatens illegal immigrant seeking a restraining order against her husband with deportation

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 5:26 PM EDT

Sam Quinones of the LAT reports that:

A substitute judge hearing the case of an illegal immigrant seeking a restraining order against her husband threatened to turn her over to immigration officials if she didn't leave his courtroom.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Pro Tem Bruce R. Fink told Aurora Gonzalez during last week's hearing that he was going to count to 20 and that if she was still in his courtroom when he finished, he would have her arrested and deported to Mexico.

In an interview Wednesday, Fink said that the woman had admitted in court that she was in the country illegally and that he didn't want her to get in trouble with immigration officials.

"We have a federal law that says that this status is not allowed," Fink said. "You can't just ignore it. What I really wanted was to not give this woman any problems."

He said he thought the couple "obviously wanted to get back together" and that he was trying to avoid granting a restraining order that would keep them apart for at least a year. He said he also thought the court order might lead to Gonzalez's deportation, because her husband would not be able to continue helping her get legal residency.

You can read the rest here.

Thanks to Charles Bowden for pointing this story out.

Executing Gays in Iran

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 5:02 PM EDT

If their nuclear ambitions and support for Hizbullah weren't enough, here's another reason to despise the regime in Teheran: they're one of a handful of countries where homosexuality is punished by death. Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the public hanging of two gay teenagers in the city of Mashad. Human Rights Watch reports that police commonly tap phones and raid private homes to catch gay men and lesbians, and LGBT activist groups (based outside Iran, natch) estimate that as many as 4,000 such sexual malefactors have been executed since the 1979 Iranian revolution.

The Stem Cell World Remains Flat

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 4:49 PM EDT

From the Center for American Progress:

Yesterday was a sad day for millions of Americans as President Bush and 193 Representatives in the House voted against the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, a bill which would allow for the advancement of life-saving embryonic stem cell research. The House vote and presidential veto followed the Tuesday vote where 37 Senators voted against the legislation.

President Bush’s first veto of his presidency thwarts the will of bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate, countless state governors, former First Lady Nancy Reagan and more than 70 percent of the American people.

The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act sought to change outdated federal policy to reflect new scientific developments. Under President Bush’s policy, only 21 stem cell lines are eligible for federal research funding and non of them can be used in humans due to contamination by mouse feeder cells. Researchers have since developed techniques to derive uncontaminated and better stem cell lines, which scientists in other countries are already using. The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act would have expanded eligibility for federal funding to research using uncontaminated stem cell lines derived from excess embryos in fertility clinics, allowing American scientists to more readily access to the best research tools available.

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) pleaded with his colleagues and President Bush to support the research, saying, “We have seen in our historical perspective where Galileo was imprisoned because he believed that the Earth was not flat...and a century from now, people will look back on what we are doing today in wonderment at how there could be any doubt about using these stem cells to save lives and save human suffering.”

Unfortunately for the millions of Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s, ALS, diabetes and countless other diseases that embryonic stem cell research might cure, President Bush, 193 Representatives and 37 Senators want the stem cell world to stay flat.

Amen. Read Mother Jones current cover package for more on the United States' frozen embryo glut and the (as yet) wasted promise of stem cell research.

Wanted: the Ryan White of Stem Cell Protests

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 4:10 PM EDT

This is something that my colleagues and I have been puzzling over for the last couple of days: why didn't the sick and the disabled march on Washington?

The question inevitably leads to a few really bad jokes, but let's move on. Despite any inherent problems in mobilizing the population at hand, it could have been done, and maybe, were Christopher Reeves still alive, it would have been done.

But so far as I can tell, neither his foundation, nor any of the big disabled/disease groups did any real organizing in advance of the vote. Even ACT-UP was muted.

Which is a shame, since everybody knew there was vote coming and everybody knew it would likely pass and everybody knew the president would veto and everybody knew that there wouldn't be enough votes to override the veto.

Some portion of that equation might have changed had the disabled, the sick, their friends and family (and, while we're at it, the scientific community) filled the Mall and the Capitol steps.

So why didn't they? I can think of a few reasons:

Funding. Disease organizations and/or non-profit foundations are afraid of losing their federal funding and/or donor support.
Fiefdoms. All these organizations compete with each other for public attention and money. They don't have experience working together. Nor, too often, are they inclined to do so.
Lack of a point person/group. It's not a pure party issue, the net roots community didn't do much on this front, and with Reeves dead, there's as yet been no one to step into his breach.

(Note to larger left: Does this sound familiar?)

There's no doubt that the Republicans feared the notion of a huge protest—why do you think they held the override vote so quickly? Now maybe the Democratic Party is happy to have this issue for the fall elections. But it is an issue that transcends party lines and interests. If Bush is going to trot out the "snowflake babies" at every turn, I can only hope that somebody puts a real face on the millions of Americans that are hurt by impeding valid scientific inquiry. That's the real way to "race for a cure."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Information: Bush Puts It Where the Sun Don't Shine

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 4:04 PM EDT

Karen J. Greenberg, co-editor of The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib, has a great piece on Bush administration secrecy up on MotherJones.com (courtesy of Tomdispatch). She describes eagerly awaiting two new government reports on detainee policy, both promising to contain important new information. "Imagine my disappointment," she writes:

Blackened page followed blackened page; introductory sentences led nowhere; subsection titles introduced nothing; elaborating details were rendered invisible along with most of each report's conclusions. If one were to treat the pages of each report like a flip-book, visually the story line would be a solid mass of black.

Tom Engelhardt, in an introduction to the piece at Tomdispatch, points out that the Bush administration's "most essential 'sunshine' policy" is this: "if at all possible, offer nothing to anyone, any time, anywhere, for any reason," a point Greenberg develops:

Withdrawal of information has been a deeply rooted tactic of the Bush administration. The urge not to tell, never to reveal, has been at the heart of its approach to government, whether what's at stake is court records, statistics on Iraq, or information about detainees. In 2001, 8 million government documents were classified per year. That number has now expanded to 16 million. Moreover, the rate of declassification has decreased significantly. On average, only one-sixth as many documents are declassified each year as during the Clinton administration.

Read the piece in full here.

Bush's Strategy for Fixing This Shit

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 3:35 PM EDT

Click on the image to find out what it is!

The Immorality of Congress On the Middle East War

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 3:15 PM EDT

Okay, so yesterday was the deadliest day yet in the Israel-Hezbollah-Lebanon war, with Lebanese civilians bearing the brunt of Israeli attacks. Beirut residents believe anyplace might be bombed. Diplomats are predicting weeks of fighting. The U.S. has given Israel a green light to do whatever it sees fit. The U.N. is warning both sides in the conflict of war crimes liability. And the U.S. Congress? It's giving Israel "a vote of confidence."

Democratic and Republican congressional leaders are rushing to offer unalloyed support for Israel's offensive against Hezbollah fighters, reflecting a bipartisan desire to not only defend a key U.S. ally but also solidify long-term backing of Jewish voters and political donors in the United States, according to officials and strategists in both parties. (WP)

Outrageous. Immoral. Pathetic.

Bombs: Not So Popular

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 3:00 PM EDT

Greg Djerejian clears his throat to point out that, contrary to what some hawks seem to believe, people in Lebanon don't actually like being bombed. More to the point, the Lebanese government is genuinely worried that all this death and destruction will only increase popular support for Hezbollah, both within Lebanon and without, thereby making everyone's life a little more unpleasant. Indeed, most Arabs across the Middle East—even our pro-democracy friends—are blaming Israel, rather than Hezbollah and Hamas, for the violence (with the curious exception of the House of Saud).

Now I'm willing to believe that Israel can probably achieve most of what appear to be its main military objectives in this offensive—namely, to push Hezbollah away from the border, degrade the militia's missile-launching infrastructure, and reduce the group to a guerrilla army once again—but that doesn't mean there won't be serious unexpected consequences to deal with afterwards.