Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Common threads

Via Dennis Perrin:
As Ze'ev Jabotinsky put it in his seminal "The Iron Wall" from 1923, "Culturally [the Palestinians] are 500 years behind us, spiritually they do not have our endurance or our strength of will . . . They look upon Palestine with the same instinctive love and true fervor that any Aztec looked upon his Mexico or any Sioux looked upon his prairie." Thus, "we conclude that we cannot promise anything to the Arabs of the Land of Israel or the Arab countries. Their voluntary agreement is out of the question." Jabotinsky was an inspiration to and godfather of modern Israeli rejectionism, primarily for those on the Israeli right, but not excluding more "moderate" Zionist currents. The bottom line is that Palestinians have never been part of the equation. They've been in the way, and their ongoing existence and resistance provide Israeli hardliners the fuel needed to openly kill and marginalize them. What is happening now in Gaza is merely the latest chapter of this barbarous narrative. Judging from official Israeli statements, this narrative is hardly near its end.
One might from a Zionist perspective, view the Palestinians as "wolves in human form" (h/t Jonathan Schwarz). The view of American Indians as untermenschen was not unique to George Washington, but was rather a shared view of the European settlers in much the same way that European settlers view the natives of Palestine. To show more common threads among colonizers and champions of moncultures: let's look at John Winthrop (first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony):
That which lies common, and hath never beene replenished or subdued is free to any that possesse and improve it: For God hath given to the sonnes of men a double right to the earth; there is a naturall right, and a Civill Right. The first right was naturall when men held the earth in common every man sowing and feeding where he pleased: then as men and theire Cattekk encreased they appropriated certaine parcells of Grownde by inclosing and peculiar manuerance, and this in time gatte them a Civille right. . . . As for the Natives in New England, they inclose noe Land, neither have any settled habytation, nor any tame Cattell to improve the Land by, and soe have noe other but a Naturall Right to those Countries, soe as if we leave them sufficient for their use, we may lawfully take the rest, there being more than enough for them and us.
John Mason (commander of Connecticut troops during a massacre of a Pequot village):
The Indians ran as Men most dreadfully amazed. . . . And indeed such a dreadful Terror did the Almighty let fall upon their Spirits, that they would fly from us and run into the very Flames, where many of them perished. . . . [And] God was above them, who laughed his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to Scorn, making them as a fiery Oven; Thus were the Stout Hearted spoiled, having slept their last Sleep, and none of their Men could find their Hands: Thus did the Lord judge among the Heathen, filling the place with dead Bodies!
Here's Theodore Roosevelt from his book, The Winning of the West, Volume 1 (h/t The Try-Works)

After the great Teutonic wanderings were over, there came a long lull, until, with the discovery of America, a new period of even vaster race expansion began. During this lull the nations of Europe took on their present shapes. Indeed, the so-called Latin nations–the French and Spaniards, for instance–may be said to have been born after the first set of migrations ceased. Their national history, as such, does not really begin until about that time, whereas that of the Germanic peoples stretches back unbroken to the days when we first hear of their existence. It would be hard to say which one of half a dozen races that existed in Europe during the early centuries of the present era should be considered as especially the ancestor of the modern Frenchman or Spaniard. When the Romans conquered Gaul and Iberia they did not in any place drive out the ancient owners of the soil; they simply Romanized them, and left them as the base of the population. By the Frankish and Visigothic invasions another strain of blood was added, to be speedily absorbed; while the invaders took the language of the conquered people, and established themselves as the ruling class. Thus the modern nations who sprang from this mixture derive portions of their governmental system and general policy from one race, most of their blood from another, and their language, law, and culture from a third.

. . .

It is of vital importance to remember that the English and Spanish conquests in America differed from each other very much as did the original conquests which gave rise to the English and the Spanish nations. The English had exterminated or assimilated the Celts of Britain, and they substantially repeated the process with the Indians of America; although of course in America there was very little, instead of very much, assimilation. The Germanic strain is dominant in the blood of the average Englishman, exactly as the English strain is dominant in the blood of the average American. Twice a portion of the race has shifted its home, in each case undergoing a marked change, due both to outside influence and to internal development; but in the main retaining, especially in the last instance, the general race characteristics

Adolph Hitler (probably plagiarizing) Roosevelt in Mein Kampf (h/t The Try-Works)
In North America, where the population is prevalently Teutonic, and where those elements intermingled with the inferior race only to a very small degree, we have a quality of mankind and a civilization which are different from those of Central and South America. In these latter countries the immigrants–who mainly belonged to the Latin races–mated with the aborigines, sometimes to a very large extent indeed. In this case we have a clear and decisive example of the effect produced by the mixture of races. But in North America the Teutonic element, which has kept its racial stock pure and did not mix it with any other racial stock, has come to dominate the American Continent and will remain master of it as long as that element does not fall a victim to the habit of adulterating its blood.
Some more insight on Hitler from the book Hitler and His Secret Partners, by James Pool (h/t The Try-Works):

Hitler drew another example of mass murder from American history. Since his youth he had been obsessed with the Wild West stories of Karl May. He viewed the fighting between cowboys and Indians in racial terms. In many of his speeches he referred with admiration to the victory of the white race in settling the American continent and driving out the inferior peoples, the Indians. With great fascination he listened to stories, which some of his associates who had been in America told him about the massacres of the Indians by the U.S. Calvary.

He was very interested in the way the Indian population had rapidly declined due to epidemics and starvation when the United States government forced them to live on the reservations. He thought the American government’s forced migrations of the Indians over great distances to barren reservation land was a deliberate policy of extermination. Just how much Hitler took from the American example of the destruction of the Indian nations is hard to say; however, frightening parallels can be drawn. For some time Hitler considered deporting the Jews to a large ‘reservation’ in the Lubin area where their numbers would be reduced through starvation and disease.

. . .

Always contemptuous of the Russians, Hitler said: “For them the word ‘liberty’ means the right to wash only on feast-days. If we arrive bringing soft soap, we’ll obtain no sympathy…There’s only one duty: to Germanize this country by the immigration of Germans, and to look upon the natives as Redskins.” Having been a devoted reader of Karl May’s books on the American West as a youth, Hitler frequently referred to the Russians as “Redskins.” He saw a parallel between his effort to conquer and colonize land in Russia with the conquest of the American West by the white man and the subjugation of the Indians or “Redskins.” “I don’t see why,” he said, “a German who eats a piece of bread should torment himself with the idea that the soil that produces this bread has been won by the sword. When we eat from Canada, we don’t think about the despoiled Indians.”

Manifest Destiny (US Version):
The phrase was coined in 1845 by journalist John L. O'Sullivan, then an influential advocate for the Democratic Party. In an essay entitled "Annexation" published in the Democratic Review, O'Sullivan urged the United States to annex the Republic of Texas, not only because Texas desired this, but because it was America's "manifest destiny to overspread the continent". Amid much controversy, Texas was annexed shortly thereafter, but O'Sullivan's first usage of the phrase "Manifest Destiny" attracted little attention.

O'Sullivan's second use of the phrase became extremely influential. On December 27, 1845 in his newspaper the New York Morning News, O'Sullivan addressed the ongoing boundary dispute with Great Britain in the Oregon Country. O'Sullivan argued that the United States had the right to claim "the whole of Oregon":
And that claim is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.
That is, O'Sullivan believed that God ("Providence") had given the United States a mission to spread republican democracy ("the great experiment of liberty") throughout North America. Because Great Britain would not use Oregon for the purposes of spreading democracy, thought O'Sullivan, British claims to the territory could be disregarded. O'Sullivan believed that Manifest Destiny was a moral ideal (a "higher law") that superseded other considerations, including international laws and agreements.

Nerdified Link
Prime Minister Olmert's version of Manifest Destiny:
I offer no justification beyond that I KNOW Israel to be the land promised to us by G_d, and that I KNOW her to have awakened and embarked upon a march to glory.

To deny Israel her place is to deny the sun-rise, or the tides or the exquisite forces of gravity. We might idly ruminate on matters of the world, but to so do marks nothing more than the passage of time.

Israel's destiny is concrete, and here people might justly celebrate at such a time.

Professor Larry Portis comparing the monocultural visions of the US and Israel:
How did the historical experience of the United States help shape the image of Palestine? How did the "New Jerusalem" contribute to a change in the vision of the "old Jerusalem"?

A first connection is between an understanding of the Jewish Diaspora and the Protestant-puritan Diaspora of the seventeenth century. Despite deep currents of anti-Semitism, the parallel between John Winthrop leading the brave Puritans to the Promised Land and Moses leading the children of Israel back to the Holy Land has been regularly exploited in (what is today) the United States. For example, Thomas Jefferson suggested that the official seal of the United States could depict the "Children of Israel" following a pillar light sent by God.

The associations envisioned by Jefferson are eloquent: the notion of a chosen people-the Elect-to whom providence has assigned a spiritual mission linked to the conquest of a particular land. All this provides the basis for an affinity that is, in fact, more than elective-it is divine. More specifically, both chosen peoples were, ultimately, "people without a land" called upon to colonize "a land without a people".

When we speak of the colonizers, of America and Palestine, it is logical to forget the indigenous inhabitants of both places, for it was the land that was colonized--not the people living on it. The importance of the American Indians and the Palestinians comes from the fact that they have figured as obstacles to the fulfillment of the missions in question. Both groups have, in different ways, been characterized as lower forms of civilization slowing the march of progress. Both peoples have been described as savage and cruel.


The history of the British colonies in North America, and then the history of the United States throughout the nineteenth century is that of continuous colonization. The religious and economic motives typical of the seventeenth century continued to inspire settlers until the "closing" of the Frontier in the 1890s. What appear as the real novelty of the nineteenth century were the various utopian experiments in communal living. Hundreds of socialistic communities were established throughout the United States during the nineteenth century. To our day, such initiatives continue as part of the social and cultural landscape.

The Zionist settlements in Palestine combined all these same motivations. Not only were the Zionist colonies of different types, they sometimes-as in the case of the Kibbutzim-united in themselves religious Puritanism and secular socialistic modernity. This was a phenomenon appealing to United-Statesians reared on frontier myths, such as the idea of cultural-spiritual regeneration through a confrontation with adversity and violence.
I suspect you can find the common thread: namely a zealous belief by the perpetrators of being a "chosen people" combined with a demonization, a dehumanization of their victims. The reason for the brief history lesson (trust me, this one is truly brief) is simple - several of us have tried to warn you that these patterns do have a tendency to repeat, and that it is not always immediately obvious ahead of time just how truly awful the damage that is done.

More heartbreaking video from Gaza

H/t Juan Cole for the video. You'll also be pleased to know that $3 billion of your tax dollars per year spent as direct aid to Israel's military, enabling Israel's government to continue on with its program of ethnic cleansing in the name of "self defense".

Mythbusting Time

Hamas isn't quite what our propaganda machine would have us believe, nor are Gaza's Hamas supporters the single-minded religious fanatics of our mass-media generated lore:

The story begins nearly three years ago when Change and Reform - Hamas's political party - unexpectedly won the first free and fair elections in the Arab world, on a platform of ending endemic corruption and improving the almost non-existent public services in Gaza and the West Bank. Against a divided opposition this ostensibly religious party impressed the predominantly secular community to win with 42 per cent of the vote.

Palestinians did not vote for Hamas because it was dedicated to the destruction of the state of Israel or because it had been responsible for waves of suicide bombings that had killed Israeli citizens. They voted for Hamas because they thought that Fatah, the party of the rejected Government, had failed them. Despite renouncing violence and recognising the state of Israel Fatah had not achieved a Palestinian state. It is crucial to know this to understand the supposed rejectionist position of Hamas. It won't recognise Israel or renounce the right to resist until it is sure of the world's commitment to a just solution to the Palestinian issue.

In the five years that I have been visiting Gaza and the West Bank, I have met hundreds of Hamas politicians and supporters. None of them has professed the goal of Islamising Palestinian society, Taleban-style. Hamas relies on secular voters too much to do that. People still listen to pop music, watch television and women still choose whether to wear the veil or not.

The political leadership of Hamas is probably the most highly qualified in the world. Boasting more than 500 PhDs in its ranks, the majority are middle-class professionals - doctors, dentists, scientists and engineers. Most of its leadership have been educated in our universities and harbour no ideological hatred towards the West. It is a grievance-based movement, dedicated to addressing the injustice done to its people. It has consistently offered a ten-year ceasefire to give breathing space to resolve a conflict that has continued for more than 60 years.

While Goliath goes on playing the victim card to justify its current massacre, we would do well to consider, and where needed adjust, our understanding of who David really is.

So much for informed consent, eh?

We all are part of a grand economic experiment, based on failed and outdated assumptions. Ain't that a kick in the head.

h/t Cernig at Newshoggers.

The demise of public access TV?

Looks like if the Los Angeles City Council and Time-Warner have their way, public access TV will be but a distant memory:
The day before Thanksgiving, Zuma Dogg, an outspoken community activist who has a comedian’s sense of the absurd, stands in the far back of the thinly attended City Council meeting at Los Angeles City Hall, waiting his turn to speak during the public-comment period. Wearing a black ski cap pulled down to his eyes, with black wraparound sunglasses and a black, long-sleeved T-shirt, he looks like a bank robber. But as host of The Zuma Dogg Show, he’s not only one of the most recognizable figures at City Hall, cordially greeted by passersby, including security guards and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, he also has the ear of high-level insiders, who feed him information in the hope that he’ll expose, and possibly stop, one questionable government project or another.

“People say no one watches public access,” Zuma Dogg uncharacteristically whispers, “but if you’re on there consistently, then people absolutely watch it. You now have a guy who’s famous in L.A. and without spending a lot of money. Public access changed my life.”

Zuma Dogg, who takes his stage name from Zuma Beach and the rapper Snoop Dogg, hears City Council President Eric Garcetti politely call out his name for the hundredth time or so in the past few years. He hustles off to the podium at the front of the cathedral-like chamber, where bright lights shine down from the ceiling and automated television cameras roll for L.A. CityView, the public-access channel that broadcasts every City Council meeting.


In fact, in his first years on the scene, because he sometimes slept in his van, he was quietly derided by insiders, including a gaggle of journalists who attend council meetings, the subtext being, who cares what some homeless guy thinks?

His persistence, and now, even critics must admit, his growing expertise on city policy and city government, have changed all that. “I always feel the love,” Zuma Dogg says. “I walk down the street anywhere in this city and people are always coming up to me. I think they’re a little more generous today because of Thanksgiving.”

Zuma Dogg largely built his cult status, and the much-needed donations that came with it, through appearances as a rapping, rhyming watchdog of the Downtown powers on such public-access stations as Channel 98 on the Westside. Just last week, he turned that notoriety into the ultimate public-access fantasy: The Los Angeles City Clerk formally approved his signed petitions, officially placing his name on the March 3, 2009, ballot in his exceptionally improbable run for mayor.

Despite his standing as the Eminem of public access in L.A., he may have already involuntarily taped his final cable show.

If everything unfolds as planned, on January 1, Time Warner, which owns more than 90 percent of the cable-television market in Los Angeles, will walk away from operating 12 public-access studios in L.A, which help everyday people to create hundreds of hours of content on 11 freewheeling, neighborhood-based public channels.

The dozen studios will go dark, their freely provided TV cameras and other pricey equipment — now available for anyone in L.A. to use without charge — will immediately be off-limits, and most of the little guys who dominate public access will be silenced.

Villaraigosa’s bureaucrats have produced a 19-page position paper that obliterates all talk of community-wide impact and is far more interested in detailing how City Hall can benefit from the demise of public access. Sources tell L.A.Weekly that plans were squelched, internally, for producing a 60-page City Hall report addressing the potential negative impact on dozens of citizen-produced shows like Etopia News, the Stanley Dyrector Show, Soul & Sound of Watts, Politics Matter, Knowledge Is Power, the Johnny Jay Show, Community Wrap-up, East L.A. After Dark, Catch the Vision, Neighborhood Point of View and All My Relations Television. In L.A., the PEG community — Public, Education and Government channels — will emerge as EG.

Consider reading the rest (h/t to one of my sisters, who emailed the article to me).

Gaza: A Personal Account

Boy, I'm nearly at a loss for words. The video footage, as well as the personal angle that the interviewee provides, are simply heartbreaking. What a crappy end to a crappy year.

Video h/t Buck Naked Politics (who found the vid here) which adds the following:
Reportedly, hospitals aren't functioning well, food is in short supply, and power outages are prevalent (Gaza Today). More than 1,700 are wounded, many of whom are civilians. Of the 360 people killed, more than 60 are women and children.

The United Nations Chief has "demanded an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and urged Mideast and world leaders to do more to help end the Israeli-Hamas conflict and promote political dialogue." It'll be interesting to see what sort of responses the demands elicit. (Truthout)

The Israeli government has not been known to have much regard for the UN, so I somehow doubt that whatever demands made by the UN leaders will have much impact.

From the keyboards of psychopaths

I will not conceal my enjoyment of the flames and smoke rising from Gaza that have poured from our television screens.

-- Yoel Marcus
(h/t The Angry Arab)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Remember the USS Liberty?

Let's just say that Israel's navy tried a bit of a reenactment with a relief boat today:

Former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, standing beside a damaged yacht, Tuesday accused the Israeli navy of ramming the vessel to halt the delivery of medical supplies to the embattled Gaza Strip.

“Our mission was a peaceful mission,” McKinney told CNN after she and 15 others aboard the boat made it safely to the harbor in the Lebanese seaport of Tyre.

McKinney, the recent Green Party candidate for U.S. president and frequent center of controversy, is the most prominent political figure to join the relief voyages sponsored by the Free Gaza Movement.

McKinney was slated to travel by car to Beirut where she was expected to conducted media interviews and meet with Lebanese government officials, said Paul Larudee, a co-founder of the California-based Free Gaza group.

Larudee said the organization was determined to continue the relief mission, the sixth such trip to Gaza and the first to be interrupted.

“We’re going to get it repaired,” Larudee said of the “Dignity,” the cabin cruiser which he said sustained damage to the hull, the bridge and the engine room.


In a news release, the Free Gaza group offered a conflicting version of the incident. The Israeli gunboats “gave us no warning” and “rammed us three times,” said Caoimhe Butterly, who was aboard the aid ship.

“We began taking on water and, for a few minutes, we all feared for our lives,” she said of the early morning incident.

Larudee said the Dignity’s bilge pumps worked well enough for the boat to sail to a safe harbor in Lebanon. The boat had shipped out of Cyprus Monday en route to Gaza.

See also, BBC's coverage.

Monday, December 29, 2008

By the numbers

To put the massacre of Gazans in perspective (courtesy of The Angry Arab, and h/t Ten Percent):

Gaza's population is 1,387,276 and .02% of the population is 277 (the number killed through last night).

Israel's population is 7,337,000 and .02% of the population is 1,467.

The US population is 305,505,444 and .02% of the population is 61,011.

The death toll in Gaza, which amounted to .02% of the population in the opening days of Israel's latest massacre, would be equivalent to the US losing over 61,000 of its residents in a couple day's worth of bombings. Obviously, those numbers only continue to rise. Something tells me that there aren't too many of my fellow American citizens who'd simply accept an event of that scale. I would even hazard a guess that talk of retaliation would be commonplace and even considered understandable. Imagine further if somehow the continental US had been turned into an open-air prison, and that anyone with the misfortune to reside within those borders was systematically deprived of the basics for survival, and the suffering of the residents had been on-going in one form or another for decades. I would offer that one needs to keep that all in perspective while attempting to process what's going on in Gaza today.

Way to go Mizzou!

Been watching the Alamo Bowl tonight - my alma mater is University of Missouri-Columbia - and am relieved to see the Tigers win in overtime ending the season with a 10-4 record. I've been pretty underwhelmed with Chase Daniel this season. When he's on, he's great, but he just didn't live up to his reputation. I've been pretty underwhelmed with the defense this year as well, and tonight's game was headache inducing during the first half and had me wondering if the playing in the second half would be too little too late. I really thought Northwestern would win, and quite honestly can find plenty of reason to believe that had they done so, it would have been richly deserved. If there is a lesson to be learned, it's to never count the underdog out: give 'em respect.

From the mailbag

I received the following email from the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition yesterday:
Hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza have been massacred and wounded yesterday and today in Israel's massive bombing campaign against the people of Gaza. The bombing rampage began as thousands of Palestinian children were in the streets on their way home from school. Palestinian parents were running frantically in the streets looking for their children as U.S.-provided F-16s and Apache helicopters rained down more than 100 bombs and missiles on Gaza.

The U.S.-backed Israeli Occupation Force destroyed every security station in Gaza. AFP reported: "There was no space left in the morgue and bodies were piled up in the emergency room and in the corridors, as many of the wounded screamed in pain."

Because of the U.S.-backed Israeli blockade and strangulation of the people of Gaza for the past 18 months there is little or no medicine to treat the wounded, electricity for hospitals, or food or clean water for much of the population.

An Israeli military spokesperson said, "The operation is ‘only just beginning’." The Israeli Defense Ministry said in a statement: "The action will continue and will widen as much as is demanded according to the evaluation of the situation by the high command of the army."

Take Action:
- Demonstrations Across the Country
- Send a letter to the State Department and Congress


Los Angeles
Tuesday, December 30
4:30 pm
Israeli Consulate: 6380 Wilshire Blvd.
Contact: 213-251-1025,

San Francisco
Tuesday, December 30
5:00 pm
Israeli Consulate:456 Montgomery St.
Contact: 415-821-6545,
* * * * *
Monday, December 29
5:00 pm
Vigil at Sen. Dianne Feinstein's Office: Montgomery and Market
Co-Sponsored by a number of local organizations


New Haven, CT
Wednesday, December 31
12 noon
Federal Building: 141 Church St. (between Chapel and Elm St)
Sponsored by Middle East Crisis Committee, ANSWER-CT and other local organizations
Contact: 203-606-0319,


Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, December 30
4:30 pm
State Department: 22nd St & C St NW
Contact: 202-544-3389 x14,


Fort Lauderdale, FL
Tuesday, December 30
5:00 pm
Federal Building: 299 E. Broward Blvd.
Contact: 954-707-0155,

Ocala, FL
Tuesday, December 30
12 noon
Gather near the Ocala Lockheed facility, located in the southeast quadrant of the county just off Maricamp Road (route 464) near Emerald and Oak
Sponsored by Marions for Peace, CFCC students and Iraqi veterans against the war

Tampa, FL
Tuesday, December 30
4:30 pm
N Dale Mabry Hwy and W Spruce St.


Details to be announced
Contact: 773-463-0311,


Wednesday, December 31
Copley Square
Sponsored by the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights
Get involved with ANSWER in Boston: 857-334-5084,


Dearborn, MI
Tuesday, December 30
4:00 pm
Gathering at corner of Warren and Chase in Dearborn
Sponsored by the Congress of Arab American Organizations (CAAO)


Minneapolis, MN
Tuesday, December 30
10:00 am - Office close
1) Office of Senator Amy Klobuchar: 1200 Washington Avenue South
2) Office of Congressperson Keith Ellison: 2100 Plymouth Ave North
Sponsored by WAMM Women Against Military Madness


New York City
Tuesday, December 30
5:00 pm
Israeli Consulate: 800 2nd Ave (b/w 42nd and 43rd Sts)
Contact: 212-694-8720,


Youngstown, OH
Monday, December 29
Arab American Community Center: 15 Belgrade Ave, Youngstown, OH 44505 (off Belmont between Gypsy & Colonial)
Sponsored by the Arab American Community Center of Greater Youngstown
* * * * *
Tuesday, December 30
Thomas D. Lambros Federal Bldg & U.S. Courthouse: 125 Market Street, Youngstown, OH 44503
Sponsored by the Arab American Community Center of Greater Youngstown


Austin, TX
Monday, December 29
5:00 pm
The Capitol: 11th & Congress
Initiated by a number of local organizations

Houston, TX
Tuesday, December 30
4:00-5:30 pm
Gather at Mandell Bridge (Mandell St. at Hwy. 59)


Saturday, January 3
12:00 noon - 2:00 pm
Westlake Park: 4th and Pine
Initiated by Voices of Palestine

Tacoma, WA
Tuesday, December 30
5:00 pm
In front of the Courthouse at Pacific Avenue and 19th Street.
Protesters are asked to bring signs, candles, and flashlights

WASHINGTON, D.C. - See District of Columbia


Monday, December 29
4:006:00 pm
Opposite Israeli Embassy: Kensington High Street
Nearest tube: High Street Kensington
Sponsored by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Tuesday, December 30
5:30 pm
Via Martelli
Sponsored by Comunita' Palestinese in Toscana, Associazione de Amicizia Italo/Palestinese, Comitato Fiorentino Fermiamo la Guerra

Wednesday, December 31
5:00-6:00 pm
Nye Bevan's statue, Queen St Cardiff
Sponsored by CND Cymru, Palestine Solidarity Cymru

If there is a demonstration in your city, email the details to so it can be posted on the ANSWER Coalition website and listed in any future emails.

Send a letter to the State Department and Congress: Join with people around the country and around the world who are demanding an end to U.S. aid to Israel. This is an urgent situation and we must all act now. You can send a letter with our easy click and send system demanding an end to U.S. aid to Israel. Without U.S. aid, the Israeli military attacks, siege and blockade of Gaza could not be continued. Click this link now to send a letter to the State Department and elected officials in Congress.

You can help to support this important organizing effort by making a financial contribution today. Click here to donate online, where you can also find information on how to contribute by check.

Free Palestine Alliance Statement: To read a statement from the Free Palestine Alliance, click here.

Watching the media

Just happened upon a new (to me) tool to track bias on the BBC news website (and apparently also The Guardian and The Independent): News Sniffer. Since I do utilize British news sources, it's helpful to know what's being revised and censored.

File under "Well, Duh"

Virginity pledges don't work. As a bonus, not only are such pledges ineffective, but the kids are less likely to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancies and STDs. At best, virginity pledges and so-called abstinence only "education" serve as feel-good pabulum for the Jesus freaks. As far as actually serving the needs and interests of the kids, such approaches fail.

Video news coverage of what can only be called a massacre

Here's some footage from Al Jazeera.

Next, check out the interview with a former Israeli ambassador (I'm becoming increasingly convinced that one must be a certifiable psychopath in order to be a player in international politics):

Among the targets of the Israeli air raids was a university.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

You really do learn something new every day

Try this out for size: we already are aware that the Irish had a profound impact on American slang, but dig this - rap may have its origins in medieval Scotland (h/t Cernig of The Newshoggers). Let's break it down, as the kids might say:

Professor Ferenc Szasz argued that so-called rap battles, where two or more performers trade elaborate insults, derive from the ancient Caledonian art of "flyting".

According to the theory, Scottish slave owners took the tradition with them to the United States, where it was adopted and developed by slaves, emerging many years later as rap.

Professor Szasz is convinced there is a clear link between this tradition for settling scores in Scotland and rap battles, which were famously portrayed in Eminem's 2002 movie 8 Mile.

He said: "The Scots have a lengthy tradition of flyting - intense verbal jousting, often laced with vulgarity, that is similar to the dozens that one finds among contemporary inner-city African-American youth.

"Both cultures accord high marks to satire. The skilled use of satire takes this verbal jousting to its ultimate level - one step short of a fist fight."

The academic, who specialises in American and Scottish culture at the University of New Mexico, made the link in a new study examining the historical context of Robert Burn's work.

The most famous surviving example of flyting comes from a 16th-century piece in which two rival poets hurl increasingly obscene rhyming insults at one another before the Court of King James IV.

Titled the Flyting Of Dunbar And Kennedy, it has been described by academics as "just over 500 lines of filth".

Those cats from the British Isles really could get down with their bad selves. Just replace the DJ and turntables with someone playing the bagpipes and we've got a block party.

A column you'd never see in an American newspaper

Regarding the latest Israeli assault on Gaza civilians: The neighborhood bully strikes again (h/t Glenn Greenwald).

Calling things by their true names

There are plenty of good people doing just that with regard to the latest Israeli assault on Gaza's civilians. Take Lenin's Tomb, as but one example:
Here is a seasonal treat for the yapping terriers of the Israel fan club: Israeli air strikes have killed 140 205 people in Gaza. Apparently, the furore over Gaza and its disgraceful oppression of the indigenous people of southern Israel (go with it) is producing soaring support for the Israeli far right. The difference between the far right parties and Kadima is that the far right wants to ethnically cleanse Palestinian towns in Gaza and incorporate them into Israel, using the Qassam rocket fire into Sderot as a pretext, while the Kadima administration has so far preferred to do it gradually, starving Gaza and depriving it of electricity and water.

Consider: according to the UN, the Israeli blockade has resulted in Palestinians receiving running water only once every five to seven days. UNRWA ran out of flour some time ago, and Gaza's bakeries have warned they will have to close down. No more bread. 70% of Gazans already had no reliable source of food. Poverty is soaring, with nine out of ten Gazans living below the poverty line. Gazan families have been forced to eat grass to survive. And if those people aren't sufficiently careful in their selection of pasture, they may end up taking home a poisoned batch, because raw sewage has been pumping out into the streets and into the soil since the blockade was first imposed.

The purpose of this sadistic policy, punctuated by frequent bouts of blood-letting, is supposedly to produce an end to the Qassam rocket attacks. If this appears to be a feeble excuse for imposing such misery on one and a half million people, bear in mind that at least the Qassams - unlike Saddam's WMD arsenal - actually exist. By the standard of our times, Israel's casus belli is indisputable. And if sanctions on Iraq killed up to a million people, what is a little 'diet' in Gaza? As for legality, the policy has been supported by the Israeli supreme court, whose impartiality in the matter could hardly be more obvious. Am I over-doing it with the heavy irony here? The true purpose of the blockade is the same as that which lay behind the blockade first imposed upon the election of Hamas, with the support of the Quartet. And it is the same as that behind the coup-plotting that led to Dahlan's gangs being booted out of Gaza while Fatah seized control of the West Bank. It is to force the population of Gaza into changing their political behaviour and voting for a tame leadership that will, as Fatah did throughout the 1990s, tolerate Israel's regular incursions and the growing network of colonies meshed together by 'Jewish Only' roads (not to mention Jewish Only land). It is to accomplish by gradual and insidious means what the brutes of the Israeli far right would like to accomplish in another six day war: politicide. The final, successful destruction of Palestine as a potential nation.

The options for a 'Jewish state' determined to maintain itself as such, with a majority no lower than 80%, are few. Obviously, any recognition of Palestine as a free nation is anathema to a wide swathe of Israeli opinion, including much elite opinion. And Israeli leaders have never shown any sign that they are willing to contemplate this. Just as surely as Gaza is an "enemy entity" today, a truly independent Palestine would be a mortal enemy entity, calling into question by its very existence the whole narrative and rationale behind a 'Jewish state' built out of blood and iron in an Arab country. However, the incorporation of a Palestinian Arab population into Israel would undermine the labyrinthine racial hierarchy that Israel's leaders have so assiduously constructed. What commentators are apt to describe as the "demographic timebomb" is a colonial one: how to get the territory and at the same dispose of the troublesome population. In a previous era, it might have entailed little difficulty just to drive them out in a bloody purge and force the surviving refugees to try and integrate as discarded untermenschen into societies run by bribed police states. As Benny Morris has said, it would have been much easier for Israel had it simply completed the task in 1948. Now, they've got to answer to the soft-headed humanitarianism of modern television audiences, and they've got to pretend to be the victims. All they have to assist them in this task is a few measly rockets being lobbed into southern Israel to little effect. They don't even have the suicide attacks that characterised the Second Intifada, during which time the decontextualised focus on explosions ensured that people in the West largely missed the fact that Israel was knocking of Palestinian civilians at a much higher rate than the suicide attacks were killing Israelis. With so little to assist its PR plight, no wonder Israel needs its overseas contingent of berserkers more than ever. Just watch, and wait: as Israel ramps up its attacks on Gaza, the permanently livid fellowship of offshore Middle Earth colonists will be spitting about Sderot, about terrorism, about Islam, about the world's unfair bias against the plucky little Levantine racists, about anything in the world except what is being done and what has been done, deliberately and brutally, to Palestine.
In other words - the word we're looking for is genocide, as folks like Raphael Lemkin would define it. See also Ten Percent, which has plenty of up-to-date commentary on events in Gaza, as well as of the reactions of the human rights community; and Chris Floyd, who posted Christmas 2008: Hell in the Holy Land.

Time for some gallows humor

Click the pic for full-sized image (h/t First Door on the Left).

Friday, December 26, 2008

Interesting, but call me skeptical

The idea of making biodegradable plastic from plants seems okay, but I have to wonder where the alternative to petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides for the corn crops will come from. Until then I'm skeptical about how effect these new plastics will be at reducing dependence on oil.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wow - a couple miles from where I lived as a teen

Rancho Cordova site closed and reopened again:

Earlier Thursday, PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith said the investigation was transferred to the NTSB "because the gas pipelines run underneathe the streets."

A NTSB spokeswoman confirmed Thursday morning that investigator Karl Gunther will arrive in Sacramento on Monday morning to begin the investigation.

The cause of the blast has not been determined, though local authorities said they suspect it was fueled by natural gas.

PG&E crews had been searching for a natural gas leak on Paiute Way in Rancho Cordova since Wednesday morning before a violent explosion leveled one house, leaving one man dead and five people injured.

A Sacramento County coroner's official said Wilbert Paana, 72, died from injuries Wednesday night. Two other victims remain in critical condition.

Neighbors said residents on Paiute Way had been calling PG&E through Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, complaining of a strong scent of gas in their homes and outside.

"Nobody did nothing about it until this morning, and it was too late," said Gigi Lopez, whose home was one of two damaged by the 1:40 p.m. blast.

PG&E spokesman Brian Swanson said the utility received its first complaint a 9:15 a.m. Wednesday. He said PG&E sent a worker to the neighborhood at 10 a.m. He said second person was sent to relieve the first worker at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

The workers tried to locate the source of the leak, but could not shut off gas in an isolated area until they pinpointed the leak's exact location, Swanson said.

"We didn't get to that point," Swanson said.

The second PG&E worker at the scene of the blast – 10708 Paiute Way – was taken to a hospital with minor burns and lacerations. Swanson said the worker was treated and released.

Paana was one of three victims who suffered third-degree burns and were taken to UC Davis Medical Center. The other two patients remained in critical condition Wednesday night, according to hospital spokeswoman Phyllis Brown.

According to Brown, they are Kim Dickson, described as in her mid-40s, and Sunny Dickson, a 17-year-old who was being transferred to the burn unit at Shriners Hospitals for Children Northern California.

Brown said she could not confirm that they are related to Paana. A neighbor, however, said the residents of the home were a family.

State records list Kim Dickson, 44; Wilbert Paana, 72; and a 21-year-old man as adult residents of the home at 10708 Paiute Way. County records show the property was owned by Paana.

Words escape me, and I wouldn't have known anyone involved in the blast. At bare minimum, PG&E's response to the initial complaint prior to the explosion was - to say the least - sluggish.

New tools of torture for US police?

I would say that this is something to watch out for:
The research arm of the US Department of Justice is working on two portable non-lethal weapons that inflict pain from a distance using beams of laser light or microwaves, with the intention of putting them into the hands of police to subdue suspects.

The two devices under development by the civilian National Institute of Justice both build on knowledge gained from the Pentagon's controversial Active Denial System (ADS) - first demonstrated in public last year, which uses a 2-metre beam of short microwaves to heat up the outer layer of a person's skin and cause pain.
Presumably these would be "nonlethal", but we know the track history of "nonlethal" weapons has been far from reassuring. Further:
The effect of microwave beams on humans has been investigated for years, but there is little publicly available research on the effects of PHaSR-type lasers on humans. The attraction of using a laser is that it can be less bulky than a microwave device.
Human rights groups say that equipping police with such weapons would add to the problems posed by existing "non-lethals" such as Tasers. Security expert Steve Wright at Leeds Metropolitan University describes the new weapons as "torture at the touch of a button".
"We have grave concerns about the deployment and use of any such devices, which have the potential to be used for torture or other ill treatment," says Amnesty International's arms control researcher Helen Hughes, adding that all research into their effects should be made public.
In all likelihood, such weapons would be used in an attempt to suppress public displays of dissent (given the turbulence caused by the on-going financial meltdown caused by neoliberal policies, such dissent is likely to increase and the ruling class is antsy about that possibility), and that if the Taser's usage history is a reliable indicator, such weapons will be abused, with those who are mentally ill and/or belong to scape-goated minority groups will be the ones victimized, along with citizen watchdogs attempting to document or film police abuse in progress. The potential for people to be literally tortured to death, as with the Taser, is one that should not be dismissed lightly.

See all of my posts on Tasers.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A blast from the past

I was looking around at Dennis Perrin's blog for the first time in about a week and noticed his review of the SNL fourth season DVD set. If I recall correctly, I'd become pretty hooked on SNL's third season, 1977-1978 (I was already showing signs of being an insomniac and a night owl), and the 1978-1979 season would be one of the few constants I could count on during a turbulent period in my early adolescent life - a period marked by dad's layoff from his previous job, a move to a completely different region of the US, adjustment from suburban to (briefly) urban living and back again, and of course the usual physical and psychological changes that go hand in hand with the teenage years. I'd always had a passion for comedy and satire, and the SNL cast and writers were incredible.

To be honest, I haven't even caught SNL reruns in ages. There were a couple seasons in the 1980s and again in the early 1990s that were sort of interesting, but for the most part once the last remnants of the first cast had vanished, SNL was as bland as much of whatever else was on the tube at the time (Eddie Murphy's brilliance notwithstanding). Not surprisingly, until reading Dennis Perrin's reminiscences, I had forgotten much of what apparently attracted me so heavily to that particular SNL season. I was still just young enough for a fair amount of the drug humor to go over my head (that wouldn't last much longer), but in retrospect that the writers and cast were snorting up mountains of snow makes sense: cokeheads tend to be, shall we say, an aggressive lot when high and the humor definitely had an aggressive edge to it. After weathering two substantial moves in a matter of months - from a southern suburb, to a west-coast inner city environment (which was turning out to be pretty interesting), and then to a very barren west-coast suburban wasteland - I was walking around with a fairly substantial chip on my shoulder.

Gilda Radner's characters were consistently interesting - Candy Slice (pictured above) was certainly one of the more memorable ones: funny that as soon as I saw that picture I could recognize that one right off the bat. That was the season Peter Tosh performed an old Beatles tune, "Here Comes The Sun" (I ended up liking his version of that tune much more). I've really gotta revisit those Al Franken and Tom Davis sketches. Perrin's description jogs the memory a bit, but not quite enough. The Scotch Boutique sketches were also ones that resonated with me at the time. I'll let Perrin describe them:
Scotch Boutique displayed even more precision. A store that sells only scotch tape opens in a dying mall. At first seen as a ridiculous idea, the Boutique soon prospers, selling tape to the other store owners so they can put up their Going Out of Business signs. These pieces ran through the entire season, forming an extended narrative as opposed to recurring one-liners and character turns. Scotch Boutique was an intelligent look at people confronting failure and loss. There were no jokes, only situations, each more dire than the last. Those pieces are perhaps the most poignant work to ever air on SNL.
The apartment complex I lived in for a few months from late 1978 until late spring 1979 was situated next door to a dying shopping mall - one complete with more empty store spaces than occupied, and where guys wearing old trench coats walked around aimlessly carrying bottles wrapped in paper bags. The Scotch Boutique could have easily existed there. Of course, given the current economic realities, something tells me that the Scotch Boutique sketches are once again quite relevant.

If I run into some money again (always an iffy proposition these days), maybe I'll pick up that DVD set. I never could run with the cokeheads (just didn't like what the drug did to people), but I could certainly appreciate what a handful of highly talented cokeheads could offer in the way of humor and commentary. Perrin's capsule summary of the season is probably pretty dead-on (keep in mind, I'm relying on memory here), and I suspect that had my parents realized just what SNL was up to I would have never been allowed to watch it. Instead, that ended up being one of my influences during some early formative years.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Festivus!

The holiday for the rest of us appears to be catching on.

There's room for all of us under the bus

Now there's the change we can all believe in. Pic found over at Scary ShIt.

Say Hello To

Useful Activism.

Oh, and Scary Shit is back too. Looks like a blogroll update will be in order.

A sign of the times perhaps

Uprisings in Europe are now being referred to as the "Greek Syndrome." Referring to the recent French student protests against some "reforms" to its education system was this bit:
But behind the unrest lie three other factors: a deep disaffection from the French political system; a hostility to capitalism and "globalism" and the ever-simmering unrest in the poor, multiracial suburbs of French cities.


President Sarkozy agreed to give way. The lycée protests went ahead anyway. There were more students on the streets of French cities on Thursday, after the government backed down, than there were last week when the education minister insisted that he would press ahead. A few cars were burnt and overturned in Lyons and Lille and a score of protesters were arrested but the marches were mostly peaceful.

Students interviewed on the streets of Paris refused to accept that the reforms had been withdrawn. President Sarkozy was not in control, they said. He was "under orders from Brussels and Washington". The real motive was to take money out of the French education budget to "refloat the banks".

They are not alone in their suspicion that there is an effort by the governing elites to undertake a massive redistribution of wealth - from the social services that many depend upon to the pockets of the wealthy and the banking industry. Now for the last paragraph:
The Greek, French and Swedish protests do have common characteristics: a contempt for governments and business institutions, deepened by the greed-fired meltdown of the banks; a loose, uneasy alliance between mostly, white left-wing students and young second-generation immigrants; the sense of being part of a "sacrificed generation".
It's pretty safe to say that there are quite a few nations with burgeoning "sacrificed generations" who are becoming increasingly, and understandably, frustrated with the raw deal they've received.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Could you imagine a life without bubbles?

Paul Krugman can. It will require American elites to do something that they are not inclined to do: ditch Friedman's neoliberal orthodoxy and see it for what it is - a late 20th century version of Social Darwinism, which had been abandoned after the previous bubble economy burst in the late 1920s. What we can expect is that it will be years before a new economic architecture takes shape, and that the intervening period will be difficult.

The O-Man will find himself pressured to return to "business as usual" as soon as the worst appears to be over. His choice of economic advisors during his campaign and his cabinet choices do not bode well; they are adherents of Friedman's neoliberal philosophy who seem more inclined to return to the Clinton era's "neoliberalism with a happy face." If they act as I expect they will, we can look forward to a further bursting of the legitimacy bubble. We've seen how that has been playing out in Greece, and can look at that situation as a harbinger of things to come anywhere Friedmanism has taken hold.

The economic and political situation currently unfolding is one that could be seen a mile away. Here's something I wrote nearly a couple years ago, that not only describes the problem, but points to some tentative solutions:
Those of us who are on the bottom rung of the so-called "middle class" and points lower on the economic food chain have been feeling the pain for a while now. Consumer culture as we know it now is functioning by smoke and mirrors, folks. In the long run that won't be a bad thing, as what we as a society have done is to live way beyond nature's means. The birds are gonna come home to roost, if they haven't started already. Those who are relatively well off, including those who hold elected offices, seem perfectly content to remain in a delusional state. That delusion may or may not get shaken if the threatened war against Iran transpires, and the oil tap gets cut off; or if our government's creditors (China & Japan) decide they've had enough, and expect ol' Uncle Sam to settle those outstanding debts (given ol' Uncle Sam's gambling and spending addictions, the scene will get ugly fast).

Something I read a couple months ago seems quite pertinent, to the extent that I accept the premise that the US in its present form is doomed to crumble like all past empires: Closing the 'Collapse Gap': the USSR was better prepared for peak oil than the US. Now let's be optimistic for just a second and pretend that what passes for our government for once tries to be useful. The author Dmitry Orlov has some advice:
There are some things that I would like the government to take care of in preparation for collapse. I am particularly concerned about all the radioactive and toxic installations, stockpiles, and dumps. Future generations are unlikely to able to control them, especially if global warming puts them underwater. There is enough of this muck sitting around to kill off most of us. I am also worried about soldiers getting stranded overseas – abandoning one's soldiers is among the most shameful things a country can do. Overseas military bases should be dismantled, and the troops repatriated. I'd like to see the huge prison population whittled away in a controlled manner, ahead of time, instead of in a chaotic general amnesty. Lastly, I think that this farce with debts that will never be repaid, has gone on long enough. Wiping the slate clean will give society time to readjust. So, you see, I am not asking for any miracles. Although, if any of these things do get done, I would consider it a miracle.
In short, face up to the impending collapse and plan ahead. Will our Congress critters in DC be up to the task? Ho ho. I'm not betting my life savings on it (and I don't bet that nickel lightly, folks). The folks occupying the White House are so clueless as to preclude them from any useful activity. Whatever regime replaces Bu$hCo in the aftermath of the 2008 "elections" will not be much better (I'm sure that some of my partisan Dem friends would beg to differ, and that I'll continue to find their protestations and candidate cheerleading to be a source of amusement). More Orlov:
It's important to understand that the Soviet Union achieved collapse-preparedness inadvertently, and not because of the success of some crash program. Economic collapse has a way of turning economic negatives into positives. The last thing we want is a perfectly functioning, growing, prosperous economy that suddenly collapses one day, and leaves everybody in the lurch. It is not necessary for us to embrace the tenets of command economy and central planning to match the Soviet lackluster performance in this area. We have our own methods, that are working almost as well. I call them "boondoggles." They are solutions to problems that cause more problems than they solve.

Just look around you, and you will see boondoggles sprouting up everywhere, in every field of endeavor: we have military boondoggles like Iraq, financial boondoggles like the doomed retirement system, medical boondoggles like private health insurance, legal boondoggles like the intellectual property system. The combined weight of all these boondoggles is slowly but surely pushing us all down. If it pushes us down far enough, then economic collapse, when it arrives, will be like falling out of a ground floor window. We just have to help this process along, or at least not interfere with it. So if somebody comes to you and says "I want to make a boondoggle that runs on hydrogen" – by all means encourage him! It's not as good as a boondoggle that burns money directly, but it's a step in the right direction.
There may be some wisdom to that - today's incompetence may well be our friend when we look back at this bleak decade. Further:
Certain types of mainstream economic behavior are not prudent on a personal level, and are also counterproductive to bridging the Collapse Gap. Any behavior that might result in continued economic growth and prosperity is counterproductive: the higher you jump, the harder you land. It is traumatic to go from having a big retirement fund to having no retirement fund because of a market crash. It is also traumatic to go from a high income to little or no income. If, on top of that, you have kept yourself incredibly busy, and suddenly have nothing to do, then you will really be in rough shape.

Economic collapse is about the worst possible time for someone to suffer a nervous breakdown, yet this is what often happens. The people who are most at risk psychologically are successful middle-aged men. When their career is suddenly over, their savings are gone, and their property worthless, much of their sense of self-worth is gone as well. They tend to drink themselves to death and commit suicide in disproportionate numbers. Since they tend to be the most experienced and capable people, this is a staggering loss to society.

If the economy, and your place within it, is really important to you, you will be really hurt when it goes away. You can cultivate an attitude of studied indifference, but it has to be more than just a conceit. You have to develop the lifestyle and the habits and the physical stamina to back it up. It takes a lot of creativity and effort to put together a fulfilling existence on the margins of society. After the collapse, these margins may turn out to be some of the best places to live.
Increasingly, over the last few years, our family has been doing just that: finding a niche in the margins. The old habits have been hard to break, to be sure. But aside from the habit of buying an inordinate amount of reading material, it's all necessities (food, rent, clothes, etc.) and maintaining ties with friends and loved ones. All of that, by the way, is done cash on the barrelhead. Haven't had a credit card in something like six years - initially out of necessity, and now out of choice. Reinforcing what Orlov is saying, stay out of debt, get used to living on a less-than-steady income, get away from the whole workaholic scene (instead maximize free time - think of that valuable time spent with the kids, etc., instead), minimize participation in the current economy. In other words, don't contribute to the present system any more than is absolutely necessary.

The world that my generation is leaving behind for our kids and grandkids will in many ways seem much harsher than the one that we inherited. The thought used to drive me to depths of despair. The older I get though, the more stoic I have become - instead I'm realizing that those who've survived previous collapses find opportunities for finding meaningful existences, and even a measure of happiness. With crisis comes opportunity. I have little choice but to hold out hope that my kids' generation will seize that opportunity to create the beginnings of something beautiful out of the ashes of what we gave them. Hopefully a few of us middle-aged gen-x-ers can live long enough to pass on the lessons we learned of the folly of American Exceptionalism, and of the predatory capitalism that myth enabled. Maybe they'll take those lessons to heart.
The main bulletpoints from the above are to:
  • Ditch consumerism: learn to live with less stuff and more friends and family ties
  • Stop the wars currently being waged, and cease all plans for new wars - AND begin dismantling those 700-plus military bases in earnest. Like Orlov, the thought of leaving soldiers stranded is not acceptable.
  • Rebuild the infrastructure with an eye to life after the oil supply peaks. A functioning rail system will be a necessity if what we call the US is to remain even remotely viable.
That's a start.

Cheney's Chutzpah

If nothing else, the dude speaks like a war criminal who knows he'll get away with it. In Cheney's world, dissolving the Constitution is "protecting" the Constitution. Go figure. After all, it's just a "goddamned piece of paper."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Flip a coin

Looks like Al Franken might win his effort to oust incumbent Senator Norm Coleman. It's a squeaker, and Norm isn't going down without a fight. Norm's victory in 2002 was a bit of a fluke to begin with: his opponent, Paul Wellstone, died in an airplane crash shortly before election day, and Wellstone's replacement was Walter Mondale (someone about as inspiring as a Kenny G solo). Add to that the post-9/11 environment, and one had a recipe for a Coleman victory. As victories went, it was hardly convincing, and I would have been surprised if Norm had amounted to anything more than a one-term Senator. Although the idea of comedian Al Franken posing a threat to Norm's re-election seemed far-fetched as recently as the summer, by the time November rolled around, Franken's momentum was no joke - in fact, Franken had turned into a very slight favorite (see the projections Five Thirty Eight had made right on the eve of the election - just scroll down and look at the right-hand sidebar). Whether Al Franken can fill Paul Wellstone's shoes remains to be seen.

Key witness dies in a plane crash

Fancy that.

Autonomy Under Siege

Gloria Muñoz Ramírez first published a series of articles on the Zapatista autonomous communities (also called caracoles) about four years ago in the newspaper La Jornada. Those articles were recently translated into English by Laura Carlsen, and are now available online:

Caracol #1: La Realidad

Caracol #2: Oventic

Caracol #3: La Garrucha

Caracol #4: Morelia

Caracol #5: Roberto Barrios

It's hard to believe that almost fifteen years have passed since the Zapatista uprising of 1994.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Say Hello To

Sock and Awe!

So far my high score is six - someone has been able to score 22. Quite cathartic.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

About that "change" business,

I hope none of y'all were buying it. From the looks of things, as expected, the Pope of Hope is delivering business as usual. Some pwogs might actually show some buyer's remorse, as duly noted by Richard at American Leftist:

I've had my disagreements with firedoglake in the past, but site creater and frequent commentator Jane Hamsher has been courageously on the cutting edge of liberal opposition to the rightward drift of the incoming Obama administration since its inception. Here, she calls out Obama on the selection of Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation during his inauguration. She rightly recognizes it for what it is, a cynical effort by Obama to insulate himself against political pressure from the left while using gays and lesbians as a foil to appeal to what they used to call Middle America.

If more liberals possessed Hamsher's candor, liberalism would still retain credibility as an ideological alternative to the bipartisan consensus by which the country is currently governed. She stands in marked contrast to the cynical calculation of the Huffington Post and the worship at the altar of political pragmatism that personifies the Daily Kos community. Does Obama realize that, by selecting Warren, he has stained his inauguration with the bigotry that his election as President was supposed to overcome? Doubtful.

If Obama does have the insight to realize just what sort of signals he's sending by selecting Warren, it's safe to say that he simply doesn't give a flying fuck. Meet the new Decider in all his Clintonesque glory.

Welcome readers!

Apparently, my commentary on Shakira's excellent cover of AC/DC's "Back in Black" managed to attract a new reader or two from the message board. I guess rumors have been afoot that she might be collaborating a bit with AC/DC. I'm pretty skeptical about these sorts of rumors, but I wouldn't put it completely outside the realm of possibility. As I've mentioned before, she can hold her own and then some with one of AC/DC's signature tunes.

A very small step in the right direction

State Department recommends dumping Blackwater.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

One issue that I would hope crosses all partisan and ideological lines

Firefox rocks. Practice safe surfing.

Holiday in Cambodia

With finals completely graded, I can once more return offering some follow-up remarks to Christiane Amanpour's CNN special Scream Bloody Murder (see the first to essays in the series here and here). Recall that in my initial comments I noted that:
With regard to the genocide in Cambodia during the Pol Pot regime, Amanpour's narrative seems to put the onus of responsibility for the ensuing bloodbath on the "Vietnam Syndrome"; perhaps she does not do so in so many words, but it is pretty clear that those darned antiwar protesters and a war-weary US public are in Anampour's eyes, a major stumbling block to a "humanitarian" intervention. She does manage to make some mention of the US alliance of convenience with Pol Pot's regime as mutual opponents of Vietnam's regime, but it seems more an afterthought.
Amanpour's narrative is fraught with errors, not the least of which are those of omission. In her version of events, one would be led to believe that Pol Pot's regime sort of emerged out of nowhere, while the US was "intervening" (that's a polite way of putting it) in Vietnam, and the disastrous outcome in Vietnam coupled with a growing antiwar sentiment were the stumbling blocks to preventing the atrocities that occurred during Khmer Rouge's reign of terror.

What's left out of the picture? For starters, Amanpour fails to mention that the US was in fact already busily "intervening" in Cambodia long before Pol Pot came to power. US involvement in subverting Cambodia's government paved the way for Pol Pot to sieze power. Not surprisingly, that omission means that the viewer is not made away of the nature of US intervention in Cambodia. US efforts to depose Prince Sihanouk go back to the mid-1950s, finally succeeding by 1970 when Sihanouk was overthrown in a coup.[1] By the time of the 1970 coup, the Cambodians had already suffered through the Nixon regime's decision to carpet bomb the Cambodian countryside that had started the previous year. [2] By the time Sihanouk had been deposed, the Cambodian social and economic infrastructure was in ruins - a fact that Pol Pot would capitalize upon over the next five years, as his Khmer Rouge mobilized a critical mass of people to its side with a relentless campaign of terror and psy-ops. One could say that by April 1975, the Cambodians had already lived through one genocide (Sartre's [3] analysis of the Vietnam war would readily apply to US military action against Cambodians in 1969 and 1970), that had paved the way for the one that would follow from 1975-1979. [4] However else one might characterize the Khmer Rouge leadership, it certainly contained elements of a sort of populism and an anti-Vietnamese racism that composed an intellectual framework for what would unfold in Cambodia. By the time that the Khmer Rouge was deposed by Vietnamese forces, mass killings and famine had left around 2 million dead. [5]

What Amanpour does manage to mention is that the US government found plenty to love about Pol Pot, in particular the Khmer Rouge's anti-Vietnamese chauvinism, making the the US and Cambodia allies of sorts after the US military finally withdrew its troops from the region. In fact the US government would continue to support Pol Pot even after he was deposed, refusing to recognize the new Cambodian government that overthrew the Khmer Rouge, and denouncing the Vietnamese-backed overthrow as "illegal." [6] Some of your tax dollars went to provide aid to Khmer Rouge camped at the Thai border during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The upshot, I think, is that the US didn't bother to intervene to prevent the Cambodian holocaust not because of a bunch of dirty hippie peaceniks holding protest signs, but because: 1) Pol Pot's regime made a convenient ally, and 2) any intevention would risk the potential of facing up to the US government's own genocidal actions in Cambodia during 1969-1970.


1. Blum, W. (2005). Rogue State (3rd Ed.). Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press.

2. Chomsky, N. (1987). Cambodia. The Chomsky Reader (pp. 289-297). New York: Pantheon Books.

3. Sartre, J. (1968). On Genocide. Boston: Beacon Press.

4. Chomsky, N. (1987). The Chomsky Reader.

5. Genocide Watch (2006). Genocides, Politicides and Other Mass Murders Since 1945.

6. See Chomsky, N. (1987), and Blum, W. (2005).

David vs Goliath

Picture taken from Boston Globe (h/t BLCKDGRD). Some brief background:

The killing on the night of December 6 of a 15-year-old schoolboy by an armed special patrol officer on duty in Exarchia, the bohemian district of downtown Athens and a home base of various self-styled anarchist groups, was the spark that produced the spontaneous and unprecedented in scale student mobilizations and the riots that immediately followed and engulfed in flames part of the city of Athens and many other cities throughout Greece, leaving in their wake a rather conservative society in a state of shock and the political establishment in complete disarray.

What really lies behind the demonstrations is the deep-seated frustration on the part of the nation’s youth over a social system structured in a way that caters almost exclusively to the interests of the rich and powerful, unrestrained anguish over the direction of the country in the hands of a most corrupt and incompetent neoliberal government headed by Prime Minister and New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis (the latest government scandal involves illegal public land swapping with a powerful monastery on Mount Athos, with senior ministers having allegedly pocketed money out of this deal) and whose social agenda consists of dismantling public education and social services and privatizing at the same time major and even profitable public enterprises in the name of neoliberal market efficiency, and unaddressed fears about the future. Other elements are also at work, especially when it comes to assessing the riots which bear distinct elements of hooligan-related violence and are in no way linked to the student movement, but they merely reinforce the conditions of social malaise and decomposition that prevail today in Greece.

For starters, Greece has the highest youth unemployment rate in the European Union, hovering between 28-29 percent, with its young people being dependent on their parents way past their adolescent years. To be sure, it is common in Greece, given the state of the job market and that of wage structures (700 euros is considered to be the average monthly salary for the new generation of the labor force), for young people to live at home with their parents even though they are in their late 20s, 30s or even 40s. So much for one’s self-esteem living in a society that carries to great lengths the illusion that it is a developed Western European society.

The high unemployment youth rate occurs against the background of a family culture which views education as a means of social and economic mobility and with parents willing to make great financial sacrifices in order to help their sons and daughters gain a competitive edge in the job market. Thus, the provision of private educational services in Greece is a booming business while the system of public education lays in ruins and constitutes the social site through which generation after generation of students gets initiated into political activism, which frequently involves converting the school and the university campus into occupied territories for symbolic resistance against the system.

Further, Greece has a grim legacy of state administrative authoritarianism and police brutality which not only haven’t been eradicated but, on the contrary, are recreated, manifested and reconstituted whenever the social conditions are unfavourable to the imposition of unpopular economic and social policies. Civil servants in all agencies, lacking training and professional skills, often display arrogance and a form of power that both alienates and angers the citizenry. This is especially the case with the police force which often resorts to brute force against students, immigrants and various other marginalized elements in Greek society. In the eyes of the youth, the police are regarded as the personification of structural state violence even if in pure technocratic terms the Greek police officers tend to be, more than anything else, untrained, unskilled, and underpaid public officers, moonlighting in order to make ends meet, and, like most civil servants in Greece, devoid of a sense of a duty towards the public interest.

In this surrealistic social and cultural environment, provoking the police is a game of sorts for many of the self-styled anarchists who are largely responsible for the fires and the destruction of property that follows whenever public demonstrations take place. Neofascist groups, which often act as a phalanx of the riot police in clashes with leftist groups, also occupy a central if shadowy role in the dramas that unfold in the streets of Athens, making the capital resemble, at times, a civil war zone.

The ongoing student demonstrations and riots in Greece that have captured public imagination around the world reflect the condition of a country in deep political, social, economic and cultural crisis -- a consequence of serious malfunctions in Greek polity and social culture -- -and represent only a small segment of public discontent directed towards a corrupt and incompetent group of neoliberal politicos who use power and state resources for personal gain and against a social system which has extinguished hope for the future and relies increasingly now on state violence in order to suppress civil disobedience.

Of course, the story of neoliberal measures and social discontent is not unique to Greece. In the context of the current global economic crisis, one should not be surprised to see similar developments elsewhere, including other parts of Europe. So to paraphrase the catch title about Greece’s mayhem in a recent issue of The Economist, “beware. . . . of the youth bearing petrol bombs.”

The social conditions described in that article are eerily familiar to anyone living in a nation that is governed according to the dictates of a neoliberal "new world order." It wouldn't hurt to remind ourselves trying to look at the big picture that in the Biblical story of David vs. Goliath, Goliath falls.

Lest we forget

The tale of another genocide that occurred in Franco's Spain, which reads in part:
The Church, for example, was responsible for taking babies and children away from mothers (“red mothers,” as they were called by the fascist forces, including the religious orders) who were jailed, exiled, or assassinated, and giving the children (without parents’ or families’ permission) to ­­­­­­­­families close to the fascist regime who wanted children or to religious institutions as recruits for their orders. All of these children were given new names and did not know their true ancestry. As Dr. Vallejo Najera, the ideologue of the Spanish Army, indicated, this state policy was “necessary to purify the Spanish race,” stopping the contamination of children with the pathological values of their red parents. Many of these parents were in the Army’s concentration camps, where prisoners were the subjects of biological and psychological experiments. These camps were supervised by the German Gestapo, which later developed and expanded such studies in the Nazi concentration camps.
Make sure to look at the rest of the article, which deals with Spanish governmental efforts to suppress efforts to examine that particular chapter in its history. I've occasionally had the opportunity to read some of the oral histories written about the period leading up to Franco's dictatorship, The Spanish Civil War, and in particular found Ronald Fraser's Blood of Spain: The Experience of Civil War 1936-1939 to be a valuable resource. I shared a small portion of that text with perhaps a few of you a handful of years back when comparisons were made between the bombing raids against the residents of Fallujah by the US and the bombing raids perpetrated against the residents of Guernica by Franco's Falangists (with a little help from Hitler's Nazi regime and Mussolini's fascist regime).