Views of Terrorism in Europe

We are often faced with conservatives justifying dreadful policies, ranging from suppression of civil liberties to the Iraq war, based upon the threat from Islamic extremists. We’ve often seen reports of Muslim terrorists in Europe being used to justify their beliefs, often exaggerating the danger or extrapolating it to situations in the United States which are not analogous. I think that frustration at such writings from the right migh have led Cernig at NewsHoggers to accept an interpretation from the far-left Counterpunch as being a valid account of this Europol report (in pdf form).

The truth is probably somewhere in between what is claimed by the far left and the right. Michael P.F. van der Galiën fills in some of the gaps to show that there is another a real problem. Van der Galiën argues that, “a significant part of the European Left, conveniently ignore the elephant in the room and cherrypick facts to back up their claims that everyone who thinks that Europe has an immigration and integration problem is just making it up.”

I hope that readers note he is referring to the “European Left.” I cannot speak for such Europeans, but this does not reflect the view of many American liberals, who were warning of the problem of terrorism well before the 9/11 attacks, and now object to the manner in which Republcan policies increase this risk. As for liberal American bloggers, this might be a lesson that Counterpunch should be used as a source about as often as we would use Human Events. There are writers on the right who do exaggerate the problem, but there are also writers on the far left who write just as inaccurately based upon their own biases.

The War on Chocolate


The Modesto Bee is warning of a threat to our chocolate:

The federal Food and Drug Administration is proposing to redefine the very essence of chocolate and to allow big manufacturers such as Hershey to sell a bar devoid of a key ingredient — cocoa butter. The butter’s natural texture could be replaced with inferior alternatives, such as vegetable fats. And consumers would never know.

Chocolatier Gary Guittard said it best: “No one can afford to sit back and eat bonbons while America’s great passion for chocolate is threatened.”

For every defender of traditional chocolate, there are powerful proponents who want to replace cocoa butter with vegetable oil: the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Snack Food Association. These industry titans have filed a “citizens petition” to the FDA, as the Los Angeles Times recently reported, as if there were some groundswell in society to water down chocolate.

At the moment, chocolate requires two basic ingredients — cocoa and cocoa butter. Cocoa provides much of the flavor; cocoa butter, the texture. So if, say, Hershey wanted to make a chocolate bar without cocoa butter, it can under today’s rules. The product has to be labeled “chocolate flavored” (for it still has the cocoa in it) rather than “chocolate.” That gives the consumer a signal that something less than chocolate lies beneath the wrapping. To help defend chocolate, visit and learn how to submit feedback to the FDA.

Posted in Food and Drink, Op-eds. Tags: . 1 Comment »

Media Covers Obama’s Wife, But Questions on His Experience Are Not Forgotten

The Chicago Tribune has a lengthy feature on Michelle Obama today, referring to her as Barack’s Rock.

One of its most formidable tasks, after all, is to win over Democratic-leaning women tempted to help make Sen. Hillary Clinton the first woman president, and Michelle Obama figures prominently in the promotion strategy. She’s a charismatic public speaker, an accomplished professional whose life as a working parent looks familiar to all kinds of women.

More than just a spokeswoman, she’s a crucial part of the Obama package itself, complementing and shaping her husband in ways that are both politically and personally significant.

The daughter of a tight-knit nuclear family, she’s an anchor for a spouse who grew up all over the world and barely knew his own father. Her background, deeply rooted in a working-class South Side neighborhood, lends credibility to her husband, who has consistently battled questions from some African-Americans about whether the son of an African father and a white American mother is authentically black.

While her South Side background might lend credibility to Obama among more traditional Democratic groups, there is an increasing number of professionals such as myself who do not fall into such categories, but who are voting Democratic in response to the Republican Party’s move to the far right, as well as the GOP’s willingness to undermine our national security for political gain. Michelle Obama also has characteristics which might appeal beyond traditional Deomcratic groups, such as her professional successes which include becoming vice president of The University of Chicago Medical Center. This experience may also be of value in formulating Obama’s ideas on health care: (more…)

Edwards Political Judgement Questioned

Ezra Klein appears to be the only liberal blogger besides myself who, despite realizing that haircuts are not the important issue of 2004, Maureen Dowd’s criticism of Edwards does indicate real problems. I argued in a previous post that the stories such as this on John Edwards hurt as Edwards has no substance to fall back on, following in the tradition of Dan Quayle and George W. Bush as candidates who are unqualified for national office. Defending Edwards by dismissing the stories on his harcut misses the point. Arguing that stories on his haircut shouldn’t be held against him will no more change how Edwards is viewed than an explanation for Dan Quayle misspelling potato would have changed the way in which he was viewed. While being labeled the Breck Girl by Republicans might have hurt, Edwards received another insult from George Bush in 2004 which was far more serious as it was valid, when Bush compared Edwards to Cheney by saying that Dick Cheney was qualified to be President. While there are more considerations that a candidate’s qualifications, making Edwards preferable to Cheney, Bush, or Qualye, Democrats should be able to do far better than this.

Ezra Klein doesn’t go as far as I do in questioning whether Edwards is qualified to be President, but does question his political judgement, arguing that Edwards should have realized that this would turn into a negative story:

What I don’t understand is John Edwards. A presidential campaign demands so many sacrifices. It rips you from your family, forces a ceaseless travel schedule, demands constant kowtowing to parochial primary voters, demands endless humiliating fundraising calls, and imposes a thousand indignities and inconveniences, some major, some minor. So why, in all that he is giving up, did he not eschew the big house or the costly cut?

To be clear, for all I care, Edwards can live in Versailles and give Alan Greenspan gold bricks to cut his hair. But every Democratic presidential candidate since Clinton has been tagged for expensive haircuts. Everyone knows appearances matter, and populist credibility is harmed by accusations of opulent personal habits. To blame Maureen Dowd for this controversy is like watching a drunk slam into a divider and blaming the divider. The divider is always there, folks just have to avoid it. And Edwards could have avoided this. Why he didn’t, honestly, baffles me. And so much as I’d like to say — and genuinely believe — it’s a completely useless subject for inquiry, given that such inquiries will be made, the question of why he showed such poor political judgment is a legitimate one for Democratic primary voters to ask.

With only an undistinguished single term in the Senate, which Edwards used primarily as a stepping stone to run for the 2004 nomination, all Edwards really has on his resume is his smile and the belief that he would make a good candidate. He does a good job of working a crowd, just as he worked a jury, but being a slick talker is hardly enough to make one a good President. Lacking real substance, when his political judgement is also questioned in this matter, this doesn’t leave anything left for Edwards.

Gore May Run–But Don’t Be Surprised That Kerry Supporters Are Holding Out and Not Supporting Edwards

The London Telegraph believes that a shadow campaign staff for a Gore Presidential campaign is being formed:

Friends of Al Gore have secretly started assembling a campaign team in preparation for the former American vice-president to make a fresh bid for the White House.

Two members of Mr Gore’s staff from his unsuccessful attempt in 2000 say they have been approached to see if they would be available to work with him again.

Mr Gore, President Bill Clinton’s deputy, has said he wants to concentrate on publicising the need to combat climate change, a case made in his film, An Inconvenient Truth, which won him an Oscar this year.

But, aware that he may step into the wide open race for the White House, former strategists are sounding out a shadow team that could run his campaign at short notice. In approaching former campaign staff, including political strategists and communications officials, they are making clear they are not acting on formal instructions from Mr Gore, 59, but have not been asked to stop.

His denials of interest in the presidency have been couched in terms of “no plans” or “no intention” – politically ambiguous language that does not rule out a run.

One of his former campaign team said: “I was asked whether I would be available towards the end of the year if I am needed. They know he has not ruled out running and if he decides to jump in, he will have to move very fast.

They report that many of these are former Kerry supporters, such as Michael Whouley, an expert at the “ground game” who has received much of the credit for Kerry’s come from behind primary victory in 2004.

Many of his supporters helped to run the unsuccessful presidential campaign of John Kerry in 2004. But since Sen Kerry abandoned his presidential aspirations this year, many of his leading advisers have yet to align themselves with any of the other candidates.

They were expected to join the campaign of Sen Edwards, who was Sen Kerry’s running mate last time.

The former aide, who has himself signed up with Sen Edwards, said: “The question is: where have all the Kerry people gone? The answer for most of them is nowhere. Now ask yourself why.”

The expectation that Kerry supporters should be expected to support Edwards is mistaken and should not be taken as evidence that Gore is setting up a shadow campaign. Those of us who respected both Kerry’s intellect and experience have a very difficult time taking John Edwards seriously as a candidate. While many Kerry supporters were disappointed by the votes of both Kerry and Edwards for the IWR, Kerry’s strong opposition to going to war before the war began has erased that mistake far more than Edwards admitting he was wrong only after this was the politically popular course. There is also a lack of respect for Edwards among Kerry supporters for the weak manner in which he campaigned, especially for refusing to assist in responding to Republican attacks and go on the attack himself, as is conventional for a running mate, presumably to preserve his nice guy image for a run of his own. (more…)

Hillary Clinton Would Send Bill Out of Country if Elected

If Hillary Clinton is elected, she said she’d send Bill Clinton out of the country. Well, maybe that’s not exactly what she said, but I could’t resist the headline. Here’s what she actually said:

Hillary Rodham Clinton said Saturday that if she is elected president, she would make her husband a roaming ambassador to the world, using his skills to repair the nation’s tattered image abroad.

“I can’t think of a better cheerleader for America than Bill Clinton, can you?” the Democratic senator from New York asked a crowd jammed into a junior high school gymnasium. “He has said he would do anything I asked him to do. I would put him to work.”

If she’s looking for a cheerleader, perhaps she could get some tips from the current President. Afterall, Bush has experience both as a cheerleader and in influencing the opinion of the United States held by those in other nations. Unfortunately he has generally influenced it in a negative way.

The other Clinton news of the day doesn’t sound very good, even without the snarky spin used for the first story. Hillary Clinton went to Rutgers to meet with the members of the women’s basketball team, but the players decided to skip the meeting.