Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Limits to Suveillance. By David Ignatius.

The Limits to Surveillance. By David Ignatius. Real Clear Politics, May 3, 2013. Washington Post.

How Israel Is Driving Out the Palestinians.

Squeeze them outThe Economist, May 4, 2013.

As Jewish settlements expand, the Palestinians are being driven away.

The Increasingly Egalitarian Nudity on Game of Thrones.

Ygritte (Rose Leslie). Wildling spearwife and lover of Jon Snow.

The Increasingly Egalitarian Nudity on Game of Thrones. By Ross Douthat, Spencer Kornhaber, and Christopher Orr. The Atlantic, April 29, 2013.

Game of Thrones Recap: A Song of Ass and Fire. By Nina Shen Rastogi. Vulture, April 29, 2013.

Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington on Jon Snow’s Wet-and-Wild Moment. By Jennifer Vineyard. Vulture, April 29, 2013.

“Game of Thrones” cast talks tonight’s steamy hot tub scenes. By James Hibbard., April 28, 2013.

Game of Thrones Season 3: Ygritte and Jon Snow Romance Is “Unique.” By James Hoare. SciFiNow, March 30, 2013.

Game of Boners: Jon Snow Knows Something After All. By Madeleine Davies. Jezebel, April 29, 2013.

Game of Thrones: Honor, Betrayal, and Oral Sex. By Kristin Iversen. The L Magazine, April 29, 2013.

Discussion of Game of Thrones Season 3 Episode 5: “Kissed By Fire.” Panel with Ben Mankiewicz, Ana Kasparian,  John Iadarola, and Cenk Uygur. Video. What the Flick, April 29, 2013. YouTube.

More on Game of Thrones here, here, here, and here.

Game of Thrones 3x05: Jon Snow and Ygritte in the Cave. Video. Jaqen H’ghar,  April 29, 2013. YouTube.

Game of Thrones 3x05: Jaime Lannister and Brienne Bath Scene. Video. ygrittesnow, April 29, 2013. YouTube.

Game of Thrones Ygritte: Rose Leslie Interview. Video. RedCarpetNewsTV, July 8, 2012. YouTube.

Voters Don’t Like Political Class Bossing Them Around. By Scott Rasmussen.

Voters Don’t Like Political Class Bossing Them Around. By Scott Rasmussen. Real Clear Politics, May 4, 2013

Too Late for Syria. By Ralph Peters.

Too Late for Syria. By Ralph Peters. New York Post, May 1, 2013.

Radicals now rule the rebellion.


To borrow the climactic line from “Easy Rider,” “We blew it.” Or, to be fully accurate, President Obama blew an unprecedented chance to aid Syria’s then-moderate opposition back in 2011.
We could have helped end the monstrous Assad regime, gaining good will and practical advantage in a hopeful new state.
Now it’s too late. And Obama may be ready to act at last. The result could be disastrous.
Strategy isn’t only about doing the right thing, but about doing the right thing at the right time. Doing what appears to be the “right thing” too late often makes things worse.
How did the window for aiding the Syrian rebels close?
As our president looked away month after month, a hopeful, homespun revolution to overthrow a dictatorship hardened into a sectarian bloodbath. Unwilling to aid genuine freedom fighters seeking inclusive government, Obama handed off the mission to the Saudis and Gulf Arabs.
But the Gulf Arabs and Saudis don’t want a rule-of-law democracy in Syria that might give their own people ideas. They need Syria to be another Islamist state without women’s rights, press freedom or anything resembling tolerance.
So these repressive states we claim as allies armed hardline jihadi factions, while wealthy individuals sponsored involvement by terrorist outsiders (including al Qaeda), giving their governments deniability.
The result? A brave freedom struggle morphed into a vicious pan-Arab and Iranian struggle over Syria’s future. This is now a regional war fought by proxies.
On the insurgent side, moderates have been marginalized in the military sphere. If Assad falls, Sunni Islamist gunmen will rule. On the Baathist regime’s side, Iran is Assad’s key backer and Hezbollah supplies Shia thugs.
Nor is the insurgency unified. Abhorring the Muslim Brotherhood, the Saudis back Wahhabi extremists. For their part, the Qataris and others back the Muslim Brotherhood, with quiet support from the non-Arab Turks.
Now we’re reduced to choosing between devils: Do we aid an insurgency increasingly dominated by extremists and outright terrorists, or do we accept the continued rule of Baathist fascists buttressed by Shia fanatics?
Maybe it’s time to come to our senses and see that this isn’t our fight. The human suffering in Syria is appalling, but Arabs are doing this to each other. If the Saudis, with their impressive US-supplied arsenal, won’t intervene directly, why should we? If our NATO-partner Turks, with the region’s most-potent military, won’t stop the butchery, why is doing so our responsibility?
In the brutal light of Realpolitik, is it a bad thing to have the last Baathists, Hezbollah, and Salafist fanatics killing each other? Yes, the suffering’s deplorable. But consider what happened when we leapt into the endless Afghan civil war.
Do we have the sophistication to get this right? No.
As for Israel’s supporters — of which I am one — shouldn’t we recognize that, with Israel’s mortal enemies busy slaughtering each other, they’re not killing Israelis? Might it not be useful if Syria remained a Vietnam for fanatical Islamists, Hezbollah and Arab nationalists alike?
At this point, is the odious Assad regime faintly preferable to a radical jihadi state? As someone who long backed the rebels, I have to put this question to myself honestly.
What are our security interests? The key issue is the safety of the regime’s chemical weapons. Our military contingencies should focus solely on preventing the dissemination of weapons of mass destruction to fanatics.
Syria’s complexity is daunting: A major regional struggle for hegemony waged as a proxy war; a showdown between Sunni and Shia, with minorities trapped in the middle; a parallel contest between modernizers and fundamentalists; and the bloody dissolution of the artificial borders imposed by Europeans at the Versailles peace conference nine decades ago.
This is a titanic struggle. We have to make sure we’re not the ultimate losers.
Has Obama backed himself into a corner with his red-line braggadocio? He suddenly seems to see 50 shades of red; let’s hope that caution continues: We must be wary of letting chemical-weapons use lure us into abetting the rise of a terrorist state in Syria.
If Arabs will not help their brothers and sisters, why should we? The Syria crisis is an Arab failure. Let’s not make it America’s failure, too.

How Syria Ruined the Arab Spring. By Marc Lynch. Foreign Policy, May 3, 2013.

With or Without Us. By Fareed Zakaria. Time, May 13, 2013. Video at GPS.

Inside America’s Dirty Wars. By Jeremy Scahill.

Inside America’s Dirty Wars. By Jeremy Scahill. The Nation, April 24, 2013. From the May 13 edition.

Erik Prince, You’re No Indiana Jones. By Jeremy Scahill. The Nation, May 16, 2011.

Jeremy Scahill: The Secret Story Behind Obama’s Assassination of Two Americans in Yemen. Video. Democracy Now, April 23, 2013. Also at The Nation.

Jeremy Scahill: Killing Anwar al-Awlaki. Video. videonation, April 22, 2013. YouTube.

It’s Time for Democrats to Ditch Andrew Jackson. By Steve Yoder.

It’s Time for Democrats to Ditch Andrew Jackson. By Steve Yoder. Salon, May 3, 2013.

The American Indian and the Origin of the Second American Party System. By Fred S. Rolater. The Wisconsin Magazine of History, Vol. 76, No. 3 (Spring 1993).

Abuse of Power: Andrew Jackson and the Indian Removal Act of 1830. By Alfred A. Cave. The Historian, Vol. 65, No. 6 (Winter 2003).

Tales of Angola: Free Blacks, Red Stick Creeks, and International Intrigue in Spanish Southwest Florida, 1812-1821. By Canter Brown, Jr. Go Sound the Trumpet! Selections in Florida’s African-American History. Edited by David H. Jackson, Jr., and Canter Brown, Jr. Tampa, Fla, 2005.


Spring means that appeals for money are bursting forth from both major political parties. It also means Democratic officials in states and counties around the country are busy getting people out to their major fundraiser, the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. And they’re bringing in the big guns: Vice President Joe Biden will keynote the South Carolina Democrats’ dinner tonight.

But after an election in which Democrats rode a wave of minority support to keep the White House and Senate, party activists should wonder about one of the founders for whom that event is named. If branding matters, then the tradition of honoring perhaps the most systematic violator of human rights for America’s nonwhites should finally run its course.

Renowned journalist T.D. Allman’s gripping “Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State” argues that brutality was a habit of mind for party icon Andrew Jackson long before he laid the groundwork, as president, for the Trail of Tears, the thousand-mile death march that killed 4,000 Cherokees in 1838−39.

Allman takes us back to July 1816 at a place called the Negro Fort in Florida’s Panhandle, the site of modern-day Fort Gadsden. Florida then belonged to Spain, and the area around the fort was home to Spanish-speaking black and Choctaw Indian farmers who had settled along the Apalachicola River with permission from the Spanish. Unfortunately for them, then-U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson hated the idea of a free colored community across the border that might serve as a magnet for runaway slaves.

So he invented a pretext for doing away with them, telling his subordinates they were villains bent on “rapine and plunder.” In reality, they were guilty of nothing more than raising crops, and Allman says no historian has ever produced a shred of evidence to the contrary.

No matter; Jackson illegally ordered troops into Spanish territory to destroy the fort, a wooden affair a little larger than a modern-day high school basketball court. Alerted to the attack and crowded into its walls for self-protection were about 330 civilians, more than 200 of them women and children. On July 27, 1816, Jackson’s troops attacked the fort, slaughtering 270 of them. Mainstream histories claim that a single cannon shot blew up the structure, though Allman finds that account hard to square with the evidence, calling it one of the worst massacres in U.S. history. Jackson’s forces then set off on a terror campaign along the river, kidnapping free blacks and marching them back into U.S. territory, where they turned them over to friends and associates to keep as slaves.

Jackson wasn’t finished with Florida. In 1819, with its power waning, Spain traded the territory to the United States as part of the Adams-OnĂ­s Treaty. Florida historian Canter Brown documents how Jackson, appointed Florida’s provisional governor in 1821, proceeded in short order to violate the treaty’s terms guaranteeing the rights and privileges of Florida’s free blacks. He had Native American allies launch a raid into western Florida to destroy the village of Angola, where black and mixed-race people lived, some of them descendants of escaped slaves. After razing the town, the allies seized 300 prisoners. No one knows exactly what happened to those captured, but Brown’s evidence indicates Jackson and the raid’s commander well may have profited personally by selling them back into slavery.

Seven years later, as president, Jackson would make way for the slave-based cotton empire in the South by forcing native tribes off their land. That he did so by violating the terms of his own Indian Removal Act, the precursor to the Trail of Tears, should matter at least a little. Indian tribes actually had the right under that law to voluntarily choose to give up their land in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia, as University of Toledo history professor Alfred Cave demonstrated in a 2003 article in the journal the Historian. What the law didn’t authorize Jackson to do was precisely what he did — allow the Indians to be removed from their land at bayonet point.

But is it unfair to hold Jackson to today’s standards? It would be — had Jackson’s contemporaries not tried their best to stop him. Cave documents a campaign against Jackson’s Indian removal policy that continued throughout the 1830s; one signature petition from New York City was 47 yards long. From 1830 to 1842, 85 percent of opposition Whig Party congressional votes on removal were cast in opposition to Jackson’s policy, according to a 1993 journal article by historian Fred Rolater. And Allman describes an 1837 investigation by congressman William Jay concluding that Jackson’s destruction of the Negro Fort constituted an illegal use of taxpayer funds to support slavery.

Today, Democrats sound open to reconsidering whether honoring Jackson still makes sense. In Jackson’s home state of Tennessee, party spokesman Brandon Puttbrese says, “I think we welcome these kinds of conversations about our history. What he did in office … these are not things we should be proud of, but they’re definitely things we must learn from.” But if so, why keep Jackson as the party’s brand? “One explanation might just be inertia — it’s been that way forever, so it’s still that way,” says Puttbrese.

In Arkansas, party representative Candace Martin acknowledges that “If you look at the overall values of the Democratic Party, then Andrew Jackson probably would not be representative … It’s maybe something that we should be debating.”

And a Democratic official in one state who didn’t want to be named thinks Jackson’s days are numbered as a fundraising brand: “When I think of Andrew Jackson, I automatically think ‘Trail of Tears’ …” the official says. “If a bunch of people in my generation were creating this dinner, I don’t think we would name it the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner. I think a lot of things that happen in politics are just like, ‘Well that’s the way it’s always been.’”

Mississippi party chairman Rickey Cole does offer a robust defense of Jackson, the namesake of that state’s capital. Cole argues that Jackson was committed to public investment, a value that carried through Democrats from Woodrow Wilson to Franklin Roosevelt and today’s party leaders. And it was Jacksonians who got rid of the requirement that white men had to own property to vote, he says. “For that day, for that time, it was progressive,” Cole says.

But the historical record casts doubt on even those parts of Jackson’s legacy. His states’ rights, small-federal-government philosophy led him to veto much-needed federal money for transportation improvements like one extending the National Road in 1830. And Allman doesn’t buy the idea that Jackson’s expansion of suffrage to all white men eventually led to freedom for everyone else. That cover story papers over Jackson’s violent expansion of slavery into the Southeast, which dramatically strengthened the Southern slave powers and fueled the Civil War. “I don’t accept the argument that Jackson’s main contribution to history was expanding freedom,” Allman says. “His main contribution was expanding slavery.”

Should Jackson’s history matter to Democrats? If not, it’s hard to explain why Republicans went to such lengths before the presidential campaigns in both 2008 and 2012 to paint themselves as the historic defenders of minority rights by recounting the crimes of Southern Democrats before the civil rights era. Today’s Democrats play into their hands by continuing to embrace Jackson; in the battle for minority votes, branding could prove to be the difference.

State parties have dumped Jackson before. In 1978, Minnesota Democrats renamed their Jefferson-Jackson dinner for Hubert Humphrey. Oklahoma Democrats replaced him with former Majority Leader Carl Albert in the 1990s. And in 2010, the North Dakota party picked legendary Sen. Quentin Burdick as the fundraiser’s namesake instead.

With Republicans also raising money with Lincoln-Reagan dinners this spring, Democrats have to take a harder look at what the past means for their future. If so, they’ll find it’s not hard to do better. Roosevelt-Kennedy has a nice ring to it.