James Edward Johnson

my thoughts from right to left

Archive for August 2010

1040 WHO’s Jan Mickelson loses his argument with me.

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Jan Mickelson

Jan Mickelson

It appears that my smack down of 1040 WHO’s Jan Mickelson on the issue of gay rights did some good.  On Friday, the Des Moines Register reported on the response of Clear Channel Communications, which owns WHO, to Mickelson’s ridiculous remarks.  Although some of his remarks preceded my call, it is clear from the related reporting and commentary that my interaction with him is what provoked the strong rebuke. One Iowa, the gay-equality organization, was aggressive in calling Mickelson on his errors during my call.

Here is the full transcript of 1040 WHO’s retraction of Mickelson’s comments:

Jan Mickelson, an acknowledged conservative commentator with strong political views, is entitled to his opinions on a wide range of current topics.  However, his comments on August 19th regarding HIV/AIDS and public awareness campaigns regarding this disease confused strong opinion with medical fact and contain factual errors regarding HIV/AIDS, its spread, and current efforts to inform the public about this disease.

Mr. Mickelson’s comments do not reflect the opinions of Clear Channel, nor do they reflect the ongoing support Clear Channel provides to public service campaigns, such as Greater Than AIDS that works to convey the message that, indeed, AIDS does not discriminate. We regret any confusion about HIV/AIDS that may have resulted from Mr. Mickelson’s remarks


Written by JamesEJ

Saturday, August 28, 2010 at 7:30 pm

שבת שלום

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שבת שלום! My apologies for not posting more this week. It has been a busy one and I have earned my Shabbat rest. I will, however, have a new post on Sunday.

Written by JamesEJ

Friday, August 27, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Posted in judaism

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CUFI, Grassley, and being pro-Israel.

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Grassley @ CUFI

Senator Charles Grassley addresses Christians United For Israel on August 19 in Clive, Iowa.

On Thursday, I had the privilege of meeting with a lot of Christian supporters of Israel affiliated with CUFI, Christians United for Israel.  The degree of love and support I felt from these people presents a challenge to the center-left.

I am a Democrat and a liberal on a large number of social policies.  But, even when I acknowledged this fact, I was answered by the recognition that it makes our mutual interest in supporting Israel all the more awesome.

Christians for Israel support Israel and the Jewish people because of their Christian faith.  The believe they honor God by honoring Jews and Israel.  Unlike some Christians, they do not merely see Jews as part of some end-times story or desire dragging Jews into a war in order to provoke Armageddon.  They pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the security of Israel and the Jewish people.

Senator Charles Grassley addressed the group of at least a few hundred people in Clive, Iowa.  His expression of support for Israel and the Jewish people is a challenge.  It is a challenge because, as a Democrat, I do not experience such expressions of support in my own party.  I hear support, but it is often explicitly narrow support.  In offering his unyielding support (not necessarily uncritical – but certainly unyielding), Grassley challenges Democrats like me to do better.

And, indeed, we must do better.  Current polling shows that Jews are increasingly Republican.  Indeed, one third of Jews report being Republican today compared to 20% in 2008 and 26% in 2006.  Weakness on Israel among Democrats must be a factor in this shift.

How many of my fellow Democrats, for example would say, as Grassley did, that, “God commands me that I must pray for Jerusalem’s peace”?  How many would say that, “Judaism can stand alone without Christianity but Christianity cannot stand alone without Judaism”?  Among Democrats, would that line about Christian dependence on Judaism get the tremendous applause that these overwhelmingly Republican Christians gave?  How many Democrats would join the echoes of Isaiah 62 that, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet”?

Now, I know people who work with Grassley’s general election opponent in November, Democrat Roxanne Conlin.  They have assured me that she stands with Israel.  But, when Grassley expresses his support with such passion, it makes voting with my party a little more difficult.  For less active Democratic Jews, it might make standing with the Democratic Party much more difficult.

We Democrats must meet this challenge.  It is a strategic necessity that we not allow Republicans to capture voters on this issue.

Written by JamesEJ

Saturday, August 21, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Schooling 1040 WHO’s Jan Mickelson on gay rights.

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1040 WHOI had the chance to talk to Jan Mickelson on 1040 WHO yesterday and lecture him on gay rights.  My call begins at 58:40.  You can listen to it at this link.

Written by JamesEJ

Friday, August 20, 2010 at 8:10 pm

The lynching of Leo Frank.

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Leo and Lucille Frank during his trial, 1915

Leo and Lucille Frank during his trial, 1915

Jews have it pretty good in the United States.  Indeed, it is the only place where large numbers of Jews have lived as a minority with equal rights  and without having faced genocide or ethnic cleansing.

Even so, Jews have had reason to fear persecution in America.  General Ulysses Grant issued his infamous General Order 11 in 1862, expelling all the Jews of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.   It was revoked within one month – after President Lincoln ordered its revocation.

Even today, hate crimes are disproportionately perpetrated on the basis of an anti-Jewish bias.  Only anti-gay bias is more disproportionate as a motivation for hate crimes in the US.

But, perhaps the worst (certainly the most notorious) hate crime perpetrated against a Jew in the US was the lynching of Leo Frank, 95 years ago today.

Frank was a pencil manufacturer in Atlanta and was accused of murdering a young girl who was an employee at his factory.  He was convicted in a show trial and sentenced to death.  Reports of the trial describe antisemitic outbursts in the courtroom.  There is little doubt that the conviction was the result of an antisemitic animus and that exculpatory evidence was ignored in the trial.

The governor of Georgia commuted Frank’s sentence to life in prison.  In an unsuccessful attempt on his life, Frank’s throat was slit by another inmate.

A group that would later form the (second) Ku Klux Klan began openly planning the lynching of Frank.  Dozens of people were involved.  They went to the jail where he was being held, removed him, and drove him in a motorcade 150 miles to near the home town of the murdered girl.  There he was hanged before a large crowd of onlookers.  No one was charged with his murder.

Frank’s lynching led to many things.  The perpetrators re-established the Ku Klux Klan.  Jews established the Anti-Defamation League.  Half of Georgia’s Jews fled the state.

Thankfully, no Jew has been lynched in America in the interceding 95 years.

Written by JamesEJ

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 5:30 pm

The growing regional alliance against Iran.

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Although most fear an Israeli attack on Iran, Smith lays out the case for much broader support for an attack.

Although most fear an Israeli attack on Iran, Smith lays out the case for much broader support for an attack.

Note: This piece is cross-posted at View From Damavand.

Lee Smith, a rising star in the Middle East analysis world, has an excellent exploration over at Newsweek of the alliance against an Iranian bomb in the region.

Although most fear an Israeli attack on Iran, Smith lays out the case for much broader support for an attack.  Indeed, he presents an Israeli attack as a backup to a far more compelling case for an American-led attack on behalf of Arab states.  In the final paragraph he notes:

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal explained to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that sanctions against Iran did not offer the immediate solution required to stop the revolutionary regime’s push for a nuclear weapon. This sentiment was echoed a few weeks back by the United Arab Emirates’ ambassdor to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, who calculated that bombing Iran was preferable to an Iranian bomb. Even as the ambassador later backtracked, the Middle East’s worst-kept secret was now in the public record: the Arabs are even more concerned than the Israelis about an Iranian bomb.

via Our Proxy War in the Middle East – Newsweek

The Persians have a history of being closer to the West than do the Arabs.  The alignment of so many disparate interests against Iran is a sad reflection of the disastrous course that the Ayatollahs and Ahmadinejad have taken.  They have converted the Persian nation into a uniter of some of the world’s most bitter enemies … and against Iran.

Read the rest of Lee Smith’s Our Proxy War in the Middle East.   If you want to read more of his insights, he writes a regular column for Tablet Magazine.

Written by JamesEJ

Monday, August 16, 2010 at 1:44 am

Posted in international

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My column in the Press-Citizen: No valid objection to Park 51

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My column on the Park 51 project (the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”) is in today’s Iowa City Press-Citizen.  Here is the opening:

The so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” is not planned for anywhere on the 16-acre World Trade Center site in Manhattan. It is in the Financial District, but it is at least two blocks from WTC 7 — the nearest part of the massive WTC site.

via No valid objection to Park 51 | press-citizen.com | Iowa City Press Citizen.

Read the whole thing.

Written by JamesEJ

Sunday, August 15, 2010 at 12:08 pm