Hammer-wielding monks clash at holy site

“Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me.”

–Senator Trent Lott (R-MS), September 2006

The title for this post was the headline used by the Oregonian for a story about a different religious conflict than the one Lott was referencing:

7 monks injured in clash over monastery

By COSTAS KANTOURIS, Associated Press Writer
Wed Dec 20, 5:38 PM ET

THESSALONIKI, Greece – Rival groups of monks wielding crowbars and sledgehammers clashed Wednesday over control of a 1,000-year-old monastery in a community regarded as the cradle of Orthodox Christianity, police said.

Seven monks were injured and transported by boat to receive treatment. They were released after several hours, police said. No one was arrested but three monks were banned from re-entering the Orthodox sanctuary of Mount Athos, located on a self-governing peninsula in northern Greece.

The rebel monks vehemently oppose efforts to improve relations between the Orthodox Church and the Vatican.

In October, a court in the nearby city of Thessaloniki handed down two-year suspended sentences against nine monks and former monastery members for illegally occupying Esphigmenou’s offices. Supplies to the rebel monastery are brought in by supporters using dinghies from the nearby island of Thassos.

Esphigmenou is one of 20 monasteries on Athos, where women are banned.

So, competing groups of Orthodox monks are literally fighting about whether the their own church should be making nice with Rome. I wonder if Lott could tell them apart.

The story resonates for me somewhat oddly, because a much-removed-by-marriage-and-distance relative was attacked by a man with a hammer at a convent in Germany early this month (my spotty translation):

Pensioner near death after attack in convent

02. Dez 2006 12:23

A 71-year-old floats near death after a crazed attack in a Bavarian convent. The assailant attacked several people with a hammer.

After the attack in a convent in Bavaria’s Zell-am-Main, the victim remains in critical condition. The 36-year-old attacker used two hammers to hit him on the head and in the face near the Obernzell convent.

Shortly after the attack, a policeman shot the assailant and stopped him. The man — with a history of violence — died later at the hospital. An autopsy should be performed Saturday, according to police.

The attacker first broke into the yard of the convent. The 45-year-old janitor entered, the man hit him. The janitor fled, then the man found two hammers at a nearby building site and attacked the 45-year-old again, although he remained unharmed.

The pensioner hit the attacker on the forehead with a shovel, said the investigator. The lunatic then turned on him. By the time police arrived with pepper spray, the assailant was sitting on his victim to hit him. A 28-year-old policeman shot him twice from about sixteen feet.

The attacker was already well-known to police. A year ago he attacked a woman in a hotel. A senior public prosecutor said the appraisal at the time was that he was disturbed but not insane.

Merry Impeachment!

I’ve had an interesting little back-and-forth over at Daily Kos the past few days with Major Danby, who tried to throw some of the cold water of reality on people bouncing in their seats, impatient for impeachment.

MD’s argument is fairly well-argued, and he presents it in the form of a potential defense team refutation of articles of impeachment on the grounds of intelligence fraud, domestic espionage, and war crimes. It’s a legalistic argument, establishing the requirements for charges, examining the potential legal loopholes Bush could slip through (Republicans hate loopholes when they’re for “criminals”; not so much when they’re using them themselves), and generally saying out that the whole impeachment process could be a big legal cluster____.

In our longest comment thread and a couple of others (as well as in a number of responses to yet other comments MD made), the question of non-criminal rationales for impeachment were raised by a variety of people, including myself. It was MD’s contention that “non-criminal impeachment is a taboo and a bad precedent”.

My own argument was that, based on the variety of non-criminal complaints levied against King George III by the founders of the United States in 1776’s Declaration of Independence, including:

  • Refusing assent to laws necessary for the public good;
  • Forbidding governors to pass laws and neglecting passed laws;
  • Refusing to pass laws without jurisdictions relinquishing rights; and
  • Making participation in legislative bodies difficult;

it would be exceedingly odd for many of the same men to create a Constitution just over a dozen years later that would have restricted the removal of the head of state to solely criminal issues.

The ever-wily Major Danby brought out the “current interpretation v. original meaning” discussion, where more modern legal minds than my own get trapped by the fact that we haven’t studied the past couple hundred years of U.S. legal history. I admit it. The closest I get to a lawyer is my wife, Barbara, but she hasn’t practiced for a long time, and even then it was criminal defense law. So I didn’t even ask her.

I’m a determined guy, though. I posted a couple of questions to MD positing what solution might be used if, for instance, a President was thought to be incapacitated by, say, Alzheimer’s and for some reason the Vice President didn’t invoke the incapacitation procedures of Amendment XXV of the Constitution. If the President was a sort of popular guy, diagnosed late in his first term, able enough to be shepherded through a re-election campaign, pull the party through four years until his VP could take over for hopefully another eight…well, there’s no legal remedy other than impeachment. But that’s an old story.

As usual in these little discussions, though, I was doing my research. And what I found was a little something the Washington Post put up on the Web back in 1998 during the Clinton impeachment.

It’s a report (“Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment”), issued about two weeks after the House Committee on the Judiciary was empowered to look into possible grounds for the impeachment of Richard Nixon in February 1974. According to the notes, it was originally made digitally available by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) of San Jose.

The entire report is useful and interesting reading, at least to me. It discusses in detail the origins of the impeachment process in English law and in the debates over the Constitution’s wording, including how the term of art “high crimes and misdemeanors” replaced the “maladministration” as a part of a move to extend the reasons for impeachment beyond treason and bribery.

An entire section of the report is titled “The Criminality Issue”. It acknowledges very specifically the type of argument made by Major Danby:

The phrase “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” may connote “criminality” to some. This likely is the predicate for some of the contentions that only an indictable crime can constitute impeachable conduct. Other advocates of an indictable offense requirement would establish a criminal standard of impeachable conduct because that standard is definite, can be known in advance andd refelects [sic] a contemporary legal view of what conduct should be punished. A requirement of criminality would require resort to familiar criminal laws and concepts to serve as standards i n [sic] the impeachment process. Furthermore, this would pose problems concerning the applicability of standards of proof and the like pertaining to the trial of crimes.

A lengthy explanation ensues of why the writers of the report believe impeachment must extend past the boundaries of criminal conduct, which goes far beyond my feeble example. It concludes:

In sum, to limit impeachable conduct to criminal offenses would be incompatible with the evidence concerning the constitutional meaning of the phrase “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” and would frustrate the purpose that the framers intended for impeachment. State and federal criminal laws are not written in order to preserve the nation against serious abuse of the presidential office. But this is the purpose of the consitutional [sic] provision for the impeachment of a President and that purpose gives meaning to “high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The “Conclusion” of the report reiterates a point made throughout the document: that impeachment exists not as a punitive measure but as a means to protect the Constitutional system of government:

The duty to take care [a presidential duty outlined in the Constitution] is affirmative. So is the duty faithfully to execute the office. A President must carry out the obligations of his office diligently and in good faith. The elective character and political role of a President make it difficult to define faithful exercise of his powers in the abstract. A President must make policy and exercise discretion. This discretion necessarily is broad, especially in emergency situations, but the constitutional duties of a President impose limitations on its exercise.

It truly is a remarkable document that ties together the “originalist” discussions of the Constitution’s framers and the interpretation of “contemporary” (well, “1974-contemporary”, anyway) legal scholars. Thanks to Rep. Lofgren for getting it online lo these many years ago and to the WP for keeping their “Clinton Accused” site alive long enough to see Monica get her Master’s degree.

The Adults Are In Charge

George Packer — the Iraq expert who got everything wrong during the build-up to the war — is back with his own very special brand of cluelessness in the 18 December issue of The New Yorker (not yet online), with an article on David Kilcullen, a former member of the Australian Army, student of political anthropology, and current counterinsurgency advisor to the State Department.

Kilcullen made a brief appearance in Lawrence Wright’s article on “the new theorists of jihad” (meaning, apparently the people studying jihadist groups and not those actually involved in jihad) in the 11 September issue of The New Yorker, as well, but Packer spends considerably more time fleshing out his thoughts, which seem to involve giving an inordinate amount of consideration to how people like Osama bin Laden are attempting to manipulate public opinion through the media.

Apart from the fawning approach to the piece (there are literally no opposing voices to Kilcullen’s viewpoint presented) I have to wonder about the validity of statements by someone who writes things like the folllowing quote. Packer quotes Kilcullen in an email about insurgency groups like the Taliban alienating farmers from the legitimate enterprise by forcing them to grow poppies:

Get the people doing something illegal, and they’re less likely to feel able to support the government, and more willing to do other illegal things (e.g. join the insurgency) — this is a classic old Bolshevik tactic from the early cold war, by the way.

Far be it from me to correct someone with a State Department job for the past year and a half, with a doctorate, and supposedly more than a decade in the study of counterinsurgency, but wasn’t the term “Bolshevik” more or less retired about twenty years before the cold war began? The only time I’ve ever heard it used outside of the context of the decade or so surrounding the Russian Revolution has been in satirical depictions of English gentlemen on their estates harumphing about “the Bolshis” going on strike or some such.

While I can certainly appreciate Kilcullen’s apparent understanding that insurgent movements aren’t caused by Islam (he served as a part of the peacekeeping force in Christian East Timor) the other item early in the story that gave me pause was his characterization of the Indonesian government’s campaign against a mid-century insurgent group called Darul Islam as a “hands down” victory when, in recent years, as Packer writes, “In West Java, elements of the failed Darul Islam insurgency…had resumed fighting as Jemaah Islamiya.” Despite the intervening years, that doesn’t exactly sound “hands down” successful to me. It sounds like people were still pissed off and just saw another opportunity to express their displeasure.

Don’t miss an appearance in the article by Pentagon anthropologist Montgomery McFate:

McFate is forty years old, with hair cut stylishly short and an air of humorous cool. When I asked her why a social scientist would want to help the war effort, she replied, only half joking, “Because I’m engaged in a massive act of rebellion against my hippie parents.”

Yes, the Pentagon — as well as the White House — is staffed by people with “parent issues.”


It was almost two years ago when CNN executive Eason Jordan made a remark about Coalition forces deliberately targeting journalists in Iraq and was hounded out of his job by Michelle Malkin and others. Now, a lot of people are scratching their heads wondering why, at the launch of his IRAQSlogger site he would invite Malkin to Iraq to find the elusive AP source for the story of six men burned alive with kerosene, identified as police lieutenant named Jamil Hussein.

Malkin, apparently, doesn’t want to go “alone” with Jordan — and presumably a security detail and translators — so she wants to take along another blogger, who has expressed some concern that Jordan will set up a meeting with a “fake” Jamil Hussein. What a small imagination he must have.

Personally, if I were Malkin’s BFFI (Best Friend Forever in Iraq) I’d be more worried that Jordan would be inclined to drive us around Baghdad for days on end to the scenes of car bombings or drop us off at the edge of Sadr City.

TIME for the Duke!

Apparently, the big Holocaust-denial conference in Iran this week spiked interest in David Duke, because Tuesday my traffic increased by 300%, and it’s remained at about 200% of normal Wednesday and Thursday, all because I did a fake TIME Magazine cover of Duke after John Cloud made voting fraud suspect Ann Coulter their cover girl back in the spring of 2005.

David Duke: Mr. White

That was the last of the four covers I did. Just in case you missed the others, here they are in one fell swoop:

Joseph Stalin: Starved For Attention

Adolf Hitler: Raising a F├╝hrer

Idi Amin: Appetite for Trouble

Handicapping 2008

Today’s post by kos on the seeming inevitability of Barack Obama winning the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination inspires me to dredge up yet another episode from Grassroots, Sen. George McGovern’s 1977 autobiography. He starts out Chapter 8. THE NOMINATION [p. 155], with a chart:

In the opening days of 1971 “Jimmy the Greek” Snyder, the nation’s most celebrated odds-maker, announced that the odds against George McGovern winning the Democratic presidential nomination were 200 to 1. A year later, early in 1972, Jimmy listed the odds as follows:

ED MUSKIE 2 to 5
SAM YORTY 500 to 1
DARK HORSE 50 to 1

Thus, after a year of campaigning I had moved from 200 to 1 to 50 to 1–the same odds assigned to John Lindsay, George Wallace and a possible “dark horse.”

Muskie (better than even odds, according to the Greek and most everyone else at the time) had been Humphrey’s VP candidate in ’68. Humphrey had been Johnson’s VP for the run-up of the Vietnam War. ‘Scoop’ Jackson was the Senator from Boeing, the guy Peter Beinart says Joe Lieberman sprang forth from, ideologically, of course. They were all Vietnam War supporters, even in 1972, after eight years of war.

The Establishment Center

Another battle over the soul of the Democratic Party, another war. This quote is from Sen. George McGovern’s 1977 autobiography Grassroots. He’s quoting from a speech he gave in Detroit on April 15, 1972, a little more than a month after he’d surprised everyone with a strong second-place showing in the New Hampshire primary; after George Wallace won the Florida primary with 42 percent of the vote; and after McGovern won a decisive primary in Wisconsin and picked up delegates in caususes in places as unlikely as Georgia and Mississippi (emphasis added).

It is the establishment center that has led us into the stupidest and cruelest war in all history … the establishment center has constructed a vast military colossus based on the paychecks of the American worker … It is the establishment center that tells us we can afford an ABM [for those of you unfamiliar with the term, that’s an anti-ballistic missile, the ’60s version of Reagan’s “Star Wars”] but we can’t afford good health care for the American people … It is the establishment center that says we can afford a $250 million [app. $1.15 billion in 2005, adjusted for inflation] guaranteed loan to Lockheed but we can’t afford a decent retirement income for our senior citizens. … It is the establishment center that says it’s okay to tell the American people one thing in public, while plotting a different thing in private. … The present center has drifted so far from our founding ideals that it bears little resemblance to the dependable values of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I want America to come home from the alien world of power politics, militarism, deception, racism and special privilege… [p. 183]

That was nearly 35 years — nearly two generations — ago. Centrism has been the watchword of the Democratic party ever since the McGovern loss in 1972. Essentially, the party leadership “cut and run” from liberalism, despite the fact that McGovern and others (including Oregon Republican Senator Mark Hatfield) were proven by the results that Vietnam War was a mistake (McGovern had voted for the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, Hatfield co-sponsored a 1970 resolution calling for an end to the war). Nixon’s vice president had to resign within a year of the election; his staff ended up in jail; his former attorney general and re-election campaign manager was convicted; and Nixon had to be pardoned by his hand-picked successor. But the lesson Democrats took from 1972 was that liberalism was dead.

Since then, The Democrats have elected only two Presidents. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Despite all of the good works Carter has undertaken since leaving the White House, in Grassroots (published during Carter’s first year in office) McGovern expressed this view about his 1976 presidential candidacy:

Indeed, much of what I knew about the former Georgia governor — which was little — disturbed me. I did not like his prolonged, almost bitter-end, endorsement of America’s role in Vietnam. I could not be comfortable weith any candidate who had supported the Vietnam madness as late as Carter had. … On a personal level, I recalled that he had been an active promoter of the “Anybody but McGovern” [playing off the ‘ABM’ theme] strategy in 1972. [p. 264]

Then, too, there is the role Carter played — at the urging of his National Security Advisor Zbiginiew Brzezinski — in bringing Islamic fundamentalism to Afghanistan in their successful attempt to draw the Soviet Union into a Vietnam-style guerrilla conflict that would weaken the USSR. Thanks, guys!

At best, the Carter and Clinton administrations represented holding actions in the country’s slide to the right. The economic and social damage done (under both Democratic and Republican administrations) during the Vietnam War and the twelve years of upper-class warfare waged by the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations — not to mention the extra-legal actions of events like Iran-contra — have never been wholly repaired in the Democratic interregnums. There’s always some degradation. It’s like a truck that pulls to the right being driven by a driver who keeps falling asleep. From time to time, he wakes up enough to straighten out his course but each lapse into unconsciousness puts the rig further and further into the ditch. At some point, the driver has to wake up and make a serious course correction or the truck goes over on its side.

Ayatollah Reinhard

Letter to the Oregonian, regarding a Dave Reinhard editorial about six Muslim imams pulled off a flight in Minneapolis:

Does David Reinhard even read the paper he works for?

It’s hard to tell, because in his editorial about the six Muslim clerics who were removed from a US Airways plane in Minneapolis, he writes: “Before takeoff, three of the imams stood up and started saying their evening prayers.” Never mind the fact that — if he knew even a fraction of what a man his age should know about one of the world’s largest religions — he should know that Muslims kneel and face Mecca to pray (that’s what the prayer rugs are for, Dave). Sort of hard to do in the row of an airliner.

Standing itself is sort of difficult on most planes, what with the overhead luggage compartments. Maybe in Reinhard’s world they were all short imams, or they crouched to say their prayers.

But the article that ran on page A2 of the Oregonian‘s Wednesday morning edition [22 November 2006] clearly says that “three of them said their normal evening prayers in the terminal.” It’s right there in the second sentence of the story.

Reinhard’s entire piece is predicated on the idea of the imams doing something strange on the plane, but it’s clear from the news reports in his own paper that the only visibly “strange” thing they did was say their prayers before boarding a flight.

If Dave Reinhard’s not reading the Oregonian, why is he writing for the Oregonian?