Saturday, January 3, 2009

Wise words for savage times

By now the news that the Israeli government has deployed ground troops in Gaza is no longer news. I'm in the midst of an interterm course so, I miss out on so much as an opportunity to comment much until fairly late. So it goes. The scene has already been ugly there, and is only getting nastier. The Israeli government's treatment of the indigenous peoples of Palestine is one that has angered me for some time, much as South Africa's Apartheid regime angered me a couple decades ago, and for the same basic reasons (and don't get me started on the heretofore unaddressed American Holocaust that in many ways is still ongoing).

In such times, we would do well to heed the words of Professor As'ad AbulKhalid, who runs The Angry Arab, from On Hate (first the new preface, and then the original):
I had written this post on hate back in the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006. I still believe in it of course. Political anger and rejection of Zionist colonization of Palestine is acceptable and imperative, but not hate--not on racial, religious, or ethnic grounds. And readers in the Arab world who may be subjected to anti-Semitic trash from the official state (or fanatic religious) media should know that there are American Jews I know who care more about the Palestinians than many Arabs. The enemy is Israel and Zionism--and Arab Zionists (Arab regimes and Dahlans) are as deadly as Israeli Zionists.


On Hate. I was thinking about us Arabs who are watching a savage Israeli war on Lebanon on live TV. I have been thinking about hate. Just yesterday, I read a column by the confidante of Rafiq Hariri (that corrupt politician who put the foundations of the construction not of Lebanon but of the Israeli/American/Saudi conspiracy in Lebanon), Faysal Salman, writing in As-Safir. And the column was a very vicious anti-Jewish babble. I really think that we should avoid the pressures to succumb to hate. I always cite Richard Nixon when he gave that rambling address at the White House before leaving after his resignation. He said, I am paraphrasing: Your enemies don't win, until you hate them. And when you do, you destroy yourself. Hate is not a constructive energy, not politically and certainly not personally. I am not here preaching a message of Christian or hippie "love." Political anger is justified but that has to be articulated in a rational and humane manner. We can't, or shouldn't, allow Israel and its crimes to make us worse as human beings, especially when we criticize the Zionist project on humanitarian grounds. Go back to sleep.
Chris Floyd riffs on that essay and adds:
These are wise words. One sees many angry comments directed at "The Jews" for what is happening in Gaza. But The Jews are not bombing anyone in Gaza; the Israeli government is. That does not make every Jew in the world somehow complicit in these war crimes. Or should every American be placed in the dock at The Hague with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and all the other perpetrators of the even larger and more savage war crime carried out in Iraq [not to mention the torture regime and other evils]? To rail against The Jews en masse for the actions of some Jews is as pig-ignorant as, say, condemning every person with black skin for the crimes of one ghetto gang, or every Muslim for the act of a single extremist group, or indeed, condemning every white person for the crimes of the Gangster-in-Chief, George Bush.

The structures of power make these crimes possible -- structures inhabited [and supported] at all times by specific human beings, individuals responsible for their actions, operating of their own free will. [For much more on this theme, see the excellent new essay by Arthur Silber here.] They are not possessed by some kind of racial or ethnic ectoplasm or in-built evil that directs their activities. All structures of power must be monitored with fierce diligence, and denounced and opposed when the individuals directing the particular structure commit evil acts. This applies across the board, in all societies, all ideologies, all countries, all historical eras. AbuKhalil's words are worth repeating: "Political anger is justified but that has to be articulated in a rational and humane manner. We can't, or shouldn't, allow Israel and its crimes to make us worse as human beings."
Words to live by.

Update: see Top 5 Lies About Israel's Assault on Gaza (h/t Mickey Z).

Thursday, January 1, 2009

We aren't the only nation with culture warriors

Australia has them too, as a fundamentalist Christian politician is trying to rid his nation of topless sunbathing. The existence of nude and topless beaches is a contentious issue for those who are convinced that the human body is something to be ashamed of. How much headway the politician in question will make is anyone's guess. The Conservative Party in Australia isn't particularly favored these days, and it's questionable if there are enough Labour MPs to go along. I suppose one could take the tack that one of the more conservative parts of Orange County, CA took in eliminating nudity altogether from that county's southernmost beach, San Onofre State Beach, which was for the property "owners" (I use the term in parentheses since in reality the banks own the homes for the vast majority households) to contend that nude subbathers were lowering the property value of their homes. I suspect there were other factors involved in the declining house prices (the subprime lending bubble had just begun bursting), but it's easier for the religiously uptight to look for an economic angle to get their way.

Also, there is one hell of a double-standard involved. Men go topless at beaches and elsewhere without so much as a second thought. Why the big deal about women unless one is still convinced that the Augustinian conceptualization of "original sin" in which women are considered the source of all that is evil. So it goes. The more uptight folks probably won't be satisfied till all the women at the beach are covered from head to toe, like back a century ago. If it were another culture and another religion's fundamentalists under discussion, I'd be wondering if it were only a matter of time before women couldn't appear at the beach unless wearing burkas.

Any way, it seems there are much more important issues than exposed female breasts.

Image taken from the original news article in The Independent, which was found courtesy of The Moderate Voice.

To all our readers and contributors, past and present

Good luck. We're going to need it.

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).