Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dropping a DIME: Max Blumenthal and the Erosion of Liberal Zionism


Zionism, like capitalism, is losing its aura of beneficence and inevitability, as its fangs become harder to hide. Israel is not the Upper West Side overseas. (No matter what many people on the Upper West Side may like to think.) It is a violently racist colonial enterprise, with all the ideological and practical viciousness that implies. 

This is the implicit conclusion of Max Blumenthal’s latest book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, based on four years of reporting in Israel, which has touched a raw and festering nerve in the American liberal community.  Chris Hedges, who spent seven years as a correspondent in the Middle East, including Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem, calls Goliath “one of the most fearless and honest books ever written about Israel. Blumenthal burrows deep into the dark heart of Israel.”

By “racist,” I mean, first of all, fundamentally ethno-religious supremacist: The inescapable premise of Zionism is that the lives, property, security, fears, hopes, and aspirations – all that constitutes the humanity – of Jewish settlers in historic Palestine trumps that of the indigenous non-Jewish population.  Of course, this kind of supremacism is inevitably unconfined.  Until the next plane hits a building, Americans – even American liberals – might not be overly discomfited by the discounting of Arab Palestinians’ humanity, but Israeli Zionism is becoming increasingly “racist” in a sense that Americans can easily recognize, and liberal Americans not so easily dismiss:





Monday, October 21, 2013

Attention Shoppers!
The Westgate Mall In America's Jihad Bargain


I know that events in Africa during the weekend of September 21st are, in terms of American historical memory, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but I’m going to pay them some belated attention. The attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya was, after all, a horrific action by the  Somali jihadi group, al-Shabaab, lasting over a number of days, in which at least 61 civilians died. It was also, as USA Today opined: “the post-9/11 nightmare that Americans have been half expecting: al-Qaeda gunmen attack a shopping mall, take hostages, leave behind carnage and a sickening repeat question: ‘Why us?’" 

I’m sure many Americans felt exactly that dread on watching the events unfold – and well they should, since, given the forces in play, it’s quite possible that something similar will, again, happen here.

For Americans who might have more than a passing interest in understanding why such atrocities happen, and who might want to do more than shake their heads, after the fact, in bafflement and moral self-righteousness, one might start out with the always-cogent Jeremy Scahill’s explanation of “where al-Shabaab came from,” and how it came to target Kenya. It's a somewhat complicated story of how American special ops forces used favored Somali warlords as an “assassination squad” against perceived “al-Qaeda” militants. This was followed by American connivance with Ethiopia and Kenya to invade Somalia and break up the network of local institutions, known as the Islamic Courts Union, that had been established by a broad Somali movement to achieve some order and stability in the country. Al-Shabaab started as a marginal groupuscule within that movement, and only rose to prominence as a result of the foreign incursion.

As Scahill explains:
Most Somalia experts said that there were no more than a dozen al-Qaeda-connected individuals in Somalia right after 9/11. And so, the CIA hires these warlords ostensibly to go in and hunt these people down. Well, they end up murdering vast numbers of people who were imams or religious scholars, and in some cases, I was told, that they would literally like chop people’s heads off and then bring them to their American liaison and say, ‘This is so and so, and I’ve killed them.’ And so, you had this utterly thuggish collection of warlords murdering people, and doing so, they believed, with the backing of the United States of America, the most powerful nation in the world.
In this segment (about five minutes) from Democracy Now (full interview and transcript), Scahill lays out quite clearly how the US “made the very force they claimed to be trying to fight the most powerful force in Somalia”:





Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Long Leash:
Avant-Garde Culture as "Propaganda Asset"

Take a look at this article from The Independent, on the "long leash" of the CIA's Propaganda Assets Inventory.

"It was like a Wurlitzer jukebox: when the CIA pushed a button it could hear whatever tune it wanted playing across the world."

Besides confirming that Althusser pegged it with the concept of the "ideological state apparatus," this article is a reminder that:

1) The CIA -- the one that gave us coups, assassinations and torture, as well as Jackson Pollock -- was run by Ivy League-educated liberals, and

2) Much more than we like to think, we are the manipulated subjects of1 a system in which, even when you think you're singing that cool, cutting-edge, outlaw song, you're still dancing to someone else's tune.





Revealed: how the spy agency used unwitting artists such as Pollock and de Kooning in a cultural Cold War 
By Frances Stonor Saunders  The Independent, Sunday 22 October 1995
For decades in art circles it was either a rumour or a joke, but now it is confirmed as a fact. The Central Intelligence Agency used American modern art - including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko - as a weapon in the Cold War. In the manner of a Renaissance prince - except that it acted secretly - the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years... 

Note
1"Manipulated subject of" is a phrase from Herman Melville's great novella, "Benito Cereno." Phrase and story are perfectly apt here.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The New Privateers:
Civil Forfeiture, Police Piracy, and the Third-Worldization of America

I know you're already mad about various injustices, but when you read Sarah Stillman’s recent New Yorker article, “Taken,” your blood will boil. It’s about the laws and practices – developed over the last 15-20 years as part of the "war on drugs" and the general encroachment of police-state tactics – regarding what is called “civil forfeiture.” And it’s about a lot more than that.

Forfeiture laws are touted as effective tools for destroying the empires of crime lords by seizing all the ill-gotten gains of their criminal activity. Criminal forfeiture laws – which are applied following conviction of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, before a judge, with legal representation and such – can, used reasonably (the problems here are another issue), provide for just that.  Civil forfeiture, on the other hand, is based on the legal theory that property does not have the rights of a person, and that therefore actions against property can be taken on the basis of mere suspicion or “probable cause,” with no need to prove a crime. So the cases will have goofy names like, “United States v. One Pearl Necklace.” Another feature of the pre-crime police-state paradigm, civil forfeiture laws make suspicious (property) presumptively criminal (activity), without having to prove any actual, you know, crime. They authorize the police to steal your cash, car, jewelry, home, whatever, without even asserting that a crime has been committed.

[Do you hear the echoes in how suspicion of terrorism becomes terrorism itself? In how I don’t have to prove American citizens Awlaki, father and son, are “terrorists” (whatever that is) before drone-killing them, because my suspicion that they might be is good enough? (We won’t even get into how suspicion=guilt regarding other little stuff, like, oh, chemical weapons.) Do you see how years of putting up with pre-crime tactics for the “war on drugs” has been training in compliance for the more radical presumptive-guilt tactics of the “war on terror”? Constantly selling “war”-inflected frameworks of legal exceptionalism, the state has used various opportunistic bogeymen – “communists,” “drug dealers,” “pedophiles,” terrorists” (Who cares about them?) – to lure citizens into accepting a creeping radical authoritarianism.  Preemptive forfeiture today, preemptive detention tomorrow too.]

The insidious wrinkle in all this, which makes civil forfeiture not only creepily authoritarian but also painfully, infuriatingly, predatory, is that state and federal civil-forfeiture laws have allowed the police forces and prosecutors who seize “suspicious” property to keep all of it, and, in many cases, to use it any way they see fit, including personal perks and bonuses. As Stillman points out, we’re talking everything from “Halloween costumes, Doo Dah Parade decorations,…credit-card late fees, [and] poultry-festival supplies,” to “a thousand-dollar donation to a Baptist congregation…. important to [the District Attorney’s] reelection,“ to “a twenty-one-thousand-dollar drug-prevention beach party,” to “a city marshal’s ten-thousand-dollar personal bonus” and another officer’s “total of forty thousand dollars in bonuses.”  Stillman reports: “In Hunt County, Texas, I found officers scoring personal bonuses of up to twenty-six thousand dollars a year, straight from the forfeiture fund. In Titus County, forfeiture pays the assistant district attorney’s entire salary.” In other words, the real practice of civil forfeiture has become a lucrative system of “policing for profit,” a system that has literally legalized highway robbery and turned police into pirates.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Syria: No Better Angels


In my last post on Syria, I commented that “Short of widespread popular unrest, on issues like this, the will of the people counts for nothing against the exigencies of imperialism and Zionism, as understood by the American political elite,” that “there would be no challenging debate in the US Congress like that in the British Parliament,” and that “a combination of domestic political pressure that, along with international reluctance, [which would] create an effective pushback against Obama’s momentum towards war” was “not likely.” I was 100% certain of, and would have bet heavily on, a strike on Syria within a few days.

I am surprised and happy to see that I would have lost that bet. Indeed, there is substantially more than a glimmer of pushback on a number of fronts.  The British parliament’s rejection of a military attack on Syria turned out to be a wedge blow that opened crucial cracks in the hitherto seemingly-impervious American imperial edifice. It pushed Obama into going to Congress for a vote, which bought time in which the American people could think about the case and not just follow the leader, and in which the media would have to open the window of information and analysis at least a bit more than usual.

Friday, August 30, 2013

At the Syrian Threshold:
“al-Qaeda’s Air Force” Prepares for Battle

Here's a report from July, "FSA chemical lab uncovered near Damascus":


Chemical weapons materials and facilities have been found multiple times in "rebel" areas. The "rebels" are the *only ones* who have any motive for using chemical weapons.

Yeah, it's from RT (Russia’s English-language TV channel). Do you really think you have any more reason to believe the US government and its media -- proven liars, multiple times, on the subject -- than RT?  It’s those who reflexively dismiss anything reported by RT or Press TV (Iran’s English-language TV channel), while reflexively taking for granted the truth of everything Obama and the New York Times and MSNBC say, who demonstrate their gullibility. Do you really believe that the foot-stomping insistence of Obama and Biden and Kerry that they absolutely, positively know the Syrian government is to blame is any more credible than was the sooo convincing “proof” that George Bush and Dick Cheney produced on Iraq? Remember how the media and the humanitarian interventionists liberal imperialists creamed over Colin Powell’s irrefutable presentation?  Here we go again. Fool me how often?

Guess what, Obamicans: It’s the same imperialist state. If anything, at this point, Obama has less credibility than Bush, and you have less excuse for going along with him.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Priorities

America: Where we have our priorities straight.
(And where there's constant complaint about teachers' salaries.)


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ball of Confusion:
Bradley Manning’s Meaning

On Wednesday, during the sentencing phase of his trial, Bradley Manning made the following statement, which needs to be read in its entirety:
First, your Honor. I want to start off with an apology. I am sorry. I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I am sorry that it hurt the United States. At the time of my decisions, as you know, I was dealing with a lot of issues -- issues that are ongoing and they are continuing to affect me
Although they have caused me considerable difficulty in my life, these issues are not an excuse for my actions. I understood what I was doing and the decisions I made. However, I did not truly appreciate the broader effects of my actions. Those effects are clearer to me now through both self-reflection during my confinement in its various forms and through the merits and sentencing testimony that I have seen here.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

It’s Not Unusual:
The Left-Right (S)Mashup in American Politics

A number of commentators have remarked on the “unusual” political coalition of progressive Democrats and libertarian-minded Republicans that came together last week (July 24th) in Congress to support an amendment sponsored by new Michigan Tea Party Republican Justin Amash and long-serving Michigan Democrat John Conyers, an amendment that, as Glenn Greenwald points out, would have required "the FISA court under Sec. 215 [of the Patriot Act] to order the production of records that pertain only to a person under investigation [emphasis in original]," an amendment that, in other words, required the FISA court to act in accordance with the plain meaning of the law and the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which states, in full:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The passage of the Amash-Conyers amendment, mandating respect for this constitutional right, would have effectively de-funded the NSA program that bulk collects telephone records of all Americans – an outcome the President, along with the leadership of both political parties, could not permit. To their chagrin, however, they faced surprisingly strong and widespread sentiment in favor of the amendment (and the Constitution). 
Conyers was joined by well-known progressive Democrats like Barbara Lee, Rush Holt, James Clyburn, Nydia Velázquez, Alan Grayson, and Keith Ellison, as well as by the newly-elected representative from Hawaii, Tulsi Gabbard  one of the first two female combat veterans to serve as a member of Congress, who said: “Countless men and women from my state of Hawai‘i and all across the country have worn the uniform and put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms and our liberties…I cannot, in good conscience, vote to take a single dollar from the pockets of hard-working taxpayers from across the country to pay for programs which infringe on the very liberties and freedoms our troops have fought and died for.”

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Leprechaun Hats Decorated with a Bit of Stars and Stripes: Ireland Greets the Emperor

During the G8 Summit in June, held in Enniskillen in Northern Ireland, just across the border of the Republic, local councils."painted fake shop fronts and covered derelict buildings with huge billboards to hide the economic hardship being felt in towns and villages near the golf resort" where all the mucky-mucks met. Besides this Potemkin-village festival of capitalism, there was the obligatory effusiveness -- in the North and the Republic -- about the American Emperor and his wardrobe, woven from the glittering fabric of peace. Speaking for the less wishfully astigmatic, Irish Teachta Dála (Member of Parliament) Clare Daly excoriated the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) for his "unprecedented slobbering," and demanded the recognition of some naked truth.



Friday, July 5, 2013

Egypt's Groundhog Day Revolution

I am someone who thinks it is extremely important that the centrality of Islam in Middle East politics and ideology in general, and the specific parties of "political Islam' (like the Muslim Brotherhood) be challenged, and someone who is not at all opposed to extra-electoral revolutionary mobilization, including the possibility of revolutionary insurrection. Still, I watch the unfolding events in Egypt with a sense of unease, even dread. In the accounts I've read so far from the Egyptian street, I get the sense that, where two years ago there was an elation married with great hope, now there is something more like muted glee accompanied by a sinking feeling. Mohamed ElBaradei's quote from the great American philosopher, "It is déjà vu all over again," is decidedly lacking its original charm in this context.

Monday, June 24, 2013

"Just One More Detail":
American Surveillance And The Unanswered Question of Israel

In my previous post, I looked at the campaign of personal denigration against NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, with a special focus on Lawrence O'Donnell's June 12th interview with Mavanee Anderson (video, transcript), Snowden's friend from his time in Geneva. I emphasized the particularly bizarre segment where O'Donnell tries to paint Snowden in the colors of Ron Paul and Osama Bin Laden all at once, by showing, and quizzing his guest on, an excerpt of Paul speaking at a Republican presidential debate. As I indicated, Mavanee Anderson did not take O'Donnell's bait, and refused to participate in any speculative mind-reading of Snowden, but O'Donnell couldn't resist pressing further:
There was "just one more detail" of this interview that we should mention. As if Ron Paul and Osama Bin Laden weren't desperate enough ploys, O'Donnell goes yet another bridge too far, and pops a question that seems to have come from Mars:

O'Donnell: And just one more detail of that kind. Anything about Israel? Ron Paul, for example wants to end all aid to Israel? Was that something that Ed Snowden thought about very much?

Anderson: Sorry, I wouldn't -- again, that's not something I would know.

Anything about Israel? Where the hell did that come from?
With this question, O'Donnell was probably trying to elicit some indication that Snowden is critical of Israel, on the assumption -- I think, and hope, incorrect -- that any such attitude would render Snowden persona non grata for O'Donnell's audience.  It was a ploy that, again, did not work with Mavanee. It did, however, inadvertently, open the door.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Edward Snowden, Lawrence O'Donnell, and the Failure of Fuzzy Land Thinking

Per SOP, since Edward Snowden began revealing the details of the NSA's Orwellian surveillance program, establishment pundits have been doing their best to denounce his actions and denigrate the man personally. This is an easy task for the reflexively authoritarian segments of the American audience, for whom denunciations from the likes of Peter King, John Boehner, or Dick Cheney will do. For the large audience of those who think themselves of an educated, liberal mind, with serious concern for issues of rights and privacy, a somewhat more complex assault on Snowden's actions or his person is necessary -- something that rings of those same concerns, and gleams with the patina of an intellectual exercise.

Thus, out come the big intellectual-ish guns, loaded up with some logical-ish ammunition, in order to oh-so-complexly critique what Snowden has done. For example, we hear from Geoffrey Stone, Professor at the University of Chicago Law School, who hired Barack Obama to teach constitutional law:
[I]t’s extremely important to understand that if you want to protect civil liberties in this country, you not only have to protect civil liberties, you also have to protect against terrorism, because what will destroy civil liberties in this country more effectively than anything else is another 9/11 attack. ... So it’s very complicated, asking what’s the best way to protect civil liberties in the United States.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Social Network, NSA Version:
"They took those programs that I built and turned them on you"

Laura Poitras's short take on William Binney, 32-year NSA veteran who quit the Agency in October 2011 when he saw the deep data-mining capabilities he had helped to develop for foreign intelligences turned on Americans, in violation of the NSA charter and the Constitution. This was published by the New York Times last year, well before any act of Edward Snowden.
"That gives you an outline of the life of everybody in the community.  ... That involves anybody in the country.  Even Senators, House of Representatives, all of them."
You'll learn a lot in 8 minutes.

Monday, June 17, 2013

“No matter what the law actually says”:
The Snowden Revelations and the Eternal Surveillance State

The sudden cascade of documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden through Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill, and Laura Poitras in the Guardian, and Barton Gellman in the Washington Post has provided stark confirmation of our worst fears about the American government’s contemptuous disregard for our most fundamental rights.  As Greenwald, speaking on Democracy Now, succinctly summarizes the extra-Constitutional world we now live in:
[T]he objective of the NSA and the U.S. government is nothing less than destroying all remnants of privacy. They want to make sure that every single time human beings interact with one another, things that we say to one another, things we do with one another, places we go, the behavior in which we engage, that they know about it, that they can watch it, and they can store it, and they can access it at any time. … It is vital, in their eyes, for them to have full and unfettered access to it. And they do. [Emphasis mine]
Every single time is what they want, and – digitally, at least – they have it.

It’s hard to overestimate how radical this is. Any serious discussion about this issue has to begin with a clear understanding of what we are talking about.  We have to understand not only this or that discrete program – the Verizon/telco “metadata” order, Prism, Boundless Informant, etc. – but the whole matrix of the supercharged surveillance state that has been constructed over the past twelve years, of which these programs are the building blocks.  We also have to understand the legal-constitutional and ethico-political premises and consequences of this new techno-social construct.  It’s hard to overestimate how thoroughly this parasitic entity has already embedded itself in our polity, and how difficult it will be to extricate ourselves from it.  Referring to the East German secret police who kept voluminous, detailed records on virtually everyone, Daniel Ellsberg is on the mark when he calls what we’re becoming “The United Stasi of America.”

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pictures of the World

Yesterday, I posted this map on the Polemicist Facebook page:


After seeing some of the responses, I realized that many people may never have seen, and are not aware of, the famous Peters Projection Map, and the issues it addresses: 



To summarize the issue:  As pointed out on the Peters Map site, any flat map has a problem "projecting" a three-dimensional globe on a two-dimensional surface, and any such map will introduce some distortion.  No map will show both the size and shape of geographical formations accurately.  The map with which we are all familiar, the Mercator projection map, which was designed around 1659, was not designed to depict relative sizes of continents and countries accurately, but to show the shapes of continents fairly well.  The Peters Map, first presented by Dr. Peter Arno in Germany in 1974 (and first published in an English-version in 1983), is an equal area map that shows all countries, continents or oceans according to their actual size, and makes accurate comparisons possible.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Reluctant Imperialist

Obama: "I may assume the right to attack any country, and kill anyone, anywhere in the world, whenever I want, but at least I'm all thoughtful and conflicted about it.  Just as I know you are in supporting me."

This hurts me more than it hurts you?  He's the victim, the focus of our sympathy, here?

He is fast winning the prize for the most manipulative and deceptive president I've ever seen.


Another fine analysis by Glenn Greenwald (see also, this at FireDogLake, and this at Miami Herald)..

Excerpts:

The hallmark of a skilled politician is the ability to speak to a group of people holding widely disparate views, and have all of them walk away believing they heard what they wanted to hear. ... I've personally never seen a politician even in the same league as Barack Obama when it comes to that ability...
what should be beyond dispute at this point is that Obama's speeches have very little to do with Obama's actions, except to the extent that they often signal what he intends not to do.
What Obama has specialized in from the beginning of his presidency is putting pretty packaging on ugly and discredited policies. The cosmopolitan, intellectualized flavor of his advocacy makes coastal elites and blue state progressives instinctively confident in the Goodness of whatever he's selling, much as George W. Bush's swaggering, evangelical cowboy routine did for red state conservatives. The CIA presciently recognized this as a valuable asset back in 2008 when they correctly predicted that Obama's election would stem the tide of growing antiwar sentiment in western Europe by becoming the new, more attractive face of war,.. However bad things might be, we at least have a benevolent, kind-hearted and very thoughtful leader doing everything he can to fix it.
The clear purpose of Obama's speech was to comfort progressives who are growing progressively more uncomfortable with his extreme secrecy, wars on press freedom, seemingly endless militarism and the like.  No progressive wants to believe that they placed such great trust and adoration in a political figure who is now being depicted as some sort of warped progeny of Richard Nixon and Dick Cheney. That creates internal discomfort and even shame. This speech was designed to allow progressives once again to see Barack Obama as they have always wanted to see him, his policies notwithstanding: as a deeply thoughtful, moral, complex leader who is doing his level best, despite often insurmountable obstacles, to bring about all those Good Things that progressives thought they would be getting when they empowered him...
the speech was heavy on feel-good rhetoric, mostly designed to signal that unlike the mean and simplistic George Bush - who presumably pursued these policies thoughtlessly and simplistically - Obama experiences inner turmoil and deep moral and intellectual conflict as he embraces them. ..
Obama may do things you progressives find distasteful, but at least marvel at how thoughtful and torn up he is about it all. ..
Benjamin Wittes similarly observed that Obama's speech seemed written to align the president "as publicly as possible with the critics of the positions his administration is taking without undermining his administration's operational flexibility in actual fact." In other words,... "the president sought to rebuke his own administration for taking the positions it has — but also to make sure that it could continue to do so." ...
That's what makes it such a classic Obama speech. And that's the point: his speech had something for everyone, which is another way of saying that it offered nothing definitive or even reliable about future actions. ... Until one sees actual changes in behavior and substance on those issues, cheering for those changes as though they already occurred or are guaranteed is the height of self-delusion.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Assumption

Arrogant assumption of theists, that is.

She saved her child, and the assumption is that she'll thank the sky-god. Do they ask all the people whose kids died whether they curse the omnipotent sky-god who sent the tornado? Which question is more insulting?


Monday, April 22, 2013

Richie Havens

Richie Havens gone.  Terrible loss.  I used to see him at the Café à Go-go in the Village.  One of the people who changed my life.



Follow

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Carry On Margaret: Still Playing in Theaters Near You

The Carry On films were a series of 31 very popular low-budget British comedies (more films than any other British series), made between 1958 and 1992, which spoofed various typical social characters and cultural icons -- Carry On SergeantCarry On NurseCarry On Teacher, etc.  By 1978, after 20 years and 30 movies, the series wore quite thin. After that year, when the penultimate Carry On Emmanuelle (thin, indeed) was made. there was a break of fourteen years. Then, in 1992, thinking there were still tickets to be sold, producers tried to resurrect the series with Carry On Columbus (nodding to the Columbus cinquecentennial), which turned out to be the last unfortunate gasp. It was one of those franchises that just did not want to admit its own demise.

"By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them" is the way the Gospel of Mark (7:16) puts it.  "By their friends ye shall know them" is a similar aphorism, which derives from Aesop's fable of "The Ass and His Purchaser."  Both are apt in considering who still buys into, and carries on, the shopworn legacy of the departed Baroness Thatcher.

A selection of symptomatic remarks on her passing:

“Thatcher on feminism: "I hate feminism. It is a poison."
Thatcher on Mandela: "He is a terrorist."
Thatcher on Pinochet: "Welcome."”

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/swanstonmuir/status/321292318701391873

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Road to Syria:
"It all depends on what America says"

www.facebook.com/choiceandtruth

There are a couple of characters missing from this cartoon (and I don't mean Bing Crosby and Bob Hope), but, essentially, it is spot on.

The recent New York Times article, Arms Airlift to Syrian Rebels Expands, With C.I.A. Aid, has made it all embarrassingly clear. It also, I take no pleasure in pointing out, confirms my previous analyses (especially here, but also here, here, and here).


The article describes a “a cataract of weaponry” pouring into Syria, in shipments whose "size ... and ... degree of distributions are voluminous," and are “suggestive of a well-planned and coordinated clandestine military logistics operation.” As a "former American official" is quoted: “People hear the amounts flowing in, and it is huge.”  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Snowball in Hell:
The Momentum of Same-Sex Marriage in Our Sulfurous Polity



Glenn Greenwald’s column in The Guardian the other day, “The gay marriage snowball and political change,” makes an important point about how the growing momentum of the movement for same-sex marriage rights demonstrates that change, even radical and rapid change, is possible.  No matter what the outcome of the present Supreme Court deliberations, we have already witnessed an extraordinary, and extraordinarily rapid, change in social ideology, as well as legal and institutional practices. As Greenwald says: “It's conventional wisdom that national gay marriage is inevitable; the tipping point has clearly been reached. …It really is a bit shocking how quickly gay marriage transformed from being a fringe, politically toxic position just a few years ago to a virtual piety that must be affirmed in decent company.”

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Apology Excepted:
Obama’s Turkish Twist


Following up on yesterday’s post about how the American media disappeared a Palestinian dissident and an American victim of Israeli aggression in one fell swoop of ideological misrecognition.

No apology
Furkan Dorgan in Turkey before he was killed by the IDF 
(from www.thiscantbehappening.net)

As this story in the New York Times (NYT) describes, in a dramatic last-minute, on-the-tarmac-before-takeoff telephone negotiation, Obama went out of his way to “broker” a deal whereby Israel would give an apology (one of those sorry for “any mistakes” non-apology apologies, to be sure) to Turkey for the killing of nine people during the 2010 Israeli raid the on the Turkish-flagged vessel Mavi Marmara in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, in exchange for Turkey’s restoration of full diplomatic ties with Israel. 

Restoring what historically has been a friendly relationship between Israel and Turkey is, you see, good for Israel. As both the NYT and the Jerusalem Post (JP) report, it means that Turkey will drop its criminal indictments against Israeli military officials, and it will open the door for Israel “to upgrade its ties with NATO, something that Turkey, as a NATO member, had continuously vetoed.“ It will also help the American-Israeli effort to, as the NYT so delicately puts it, “confront Syria’s civil war.”  Indeed, the JP reports that Syria was the decisive factor for Netanyahu, who posted that: “The fact that the crisis in Syria is getting worse by the minute was the central consideration in my eyes.”  As Netanyahu’s National Security Adviser, Yaakov Amidror, puts it: “What we wanted is to get to a situation where the relationship will be upgraded so that we can cooperate more regarding Syria, and will give Israel more freedom of action in the Middle East and elsewhere.”

More (?!) “freedom of action” for Israel. (N.B. NATO, “and elsewhere”?!!)  Just the formula for peace that the world needs.

So, in order to restore Israel’s beneficial relation to Turkey, open the door for Israel’s de facto integration into NATO, bring everyone on the same page for destroying the Syrian State, and, generally, everywhere, ”give Israel more freedom of action,” Obama used his newly-lauded “talent for arm-twisting” to get the Israeli Prime Minister to apologize to Turkey for an incident in which an American citizen was also killed – but nary a twist, tweak, word or suggestion about an apology to the United States, Israel’s uniquely generous patron. Love is never having to say you’re sorry. Or, the American Israel lobby would never allow that.
As Dave Lindorff points out in this cogent post, the American media “are full of glowing reports and praise” for Obama’s display of tough-minded diplomatic prowess.  Of course, neither would the American president “bother to demand that Netanyahu include an apology, weak or otherwise, to the American people for the killing of an American national,” nor would the American media bother to notice that he hadn’t.  Not allowed.

Some might find “the idea that this president cannot demand even a mild apology from an Israeli prime minister for the brutal slaughter of an unarmed US citizen, even as he is brokering such an apology for the killing of nine Turkish citizens … beyond appalling.”  “Some,” who will not be found – will not be allowed – in the Democratic or Republican parties, or in the mainstream media.

So after being killed by the IDF with “two shots to the face fired at close range …as he lay already gravely wounded … having been already shot in the back, leg and foot,” Furkan Dorgan, along with Rachel Corrie and the sailors of the USS Liberty, officially joins the ranks of Americans with whom, when it comes to Israel’s “freedom of action,” the President of the United States and the American media cannot be bothered.


The Heart of the Matter: US Media Replace Rachel Corrie with Israeli Spy

When a young man interrupted President Obama's speech, shouting in Hebrew, American media outlets reported that the man was protesting about Jonathan Pollard, the imprisoned Israeli spy.  The heckler was actually an Arab-Israeli student who was questioning Obama's arming of the apartheid state and the American government's complicity in the killing of Rachel Corrie.

As reported by Philip Weiss (based on Linah Alsaafin's story at Electronic Intifada):
Twenty-five-year-old Rabeea Eid, a student activist and member of the National Democratic Assembly, had heard and had enough. He stood up in the middle of Obama’s speech and called him out on three issues that summarized the flaccid nature and flagrant inefficacy of Obama’s visit to occupied Palestine.
“Did you really come here for peace or to give Israel more weapons to kill and destroy the Palestinian people? Did you happen to see the apartheid wall on your way here?”
“There are Palestinians sitting in this hall. This state should be for all of its citizens, not a Jewish state only.”
“Who killed Rachel Corrie? Rachel Corrie was killed by your money and weapons!”
So the American media render invisible an Arab student who tried to make visible an American victim of Israel, replacing him with an assumed Israeli defender of a spy against America, and erasing Rachel Corrie and other American victims of Israel once again. The mind sees what the heart feels. We know where the mind and heart of the American media are.

Alsaafin quotes Eid on Obama's firmly Israel-embedded discourse: “I couldn’t stand listening to the speech any more....It was a very Zionist speech that made other speeches by Zionist figures pale in comparison.”

Indeed, Eid's remarks go to the heart of the problematic of Zionism ("not a Jewish state only"), and the American government's fateful embrace thereof ("your money and weapons" killed Rachel Corrie). Would that more Americans have the courage to interrupt this deadly dance and the phony narrative melody that accompanies it.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"I feel a lot of horror"
Remember Rachel Corrie

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of Rachel Corrie's death. Rachel was a 23-year-old  peace activist from Olympia, Washington and a student at Evergreen State College, who was crushed to death by an Israeli/American (Caterpillar) bulldozer on March 16th, 2003, while trying to protect the home of a Palestinian family from demolition. As Tom Wright and Therese Saliba correctly state in a Counterpunch piece, Rachel was killed resisting a "policy of mass collective punishment, and deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure, a war crime."

For nine years, Rachel's parents, Craig and Cindy, sought some kind of justice from the American and Israeli legal and political systems, only to confront "a powerful and deeply entrenched foreign policy apparatus that grants virtual impunity to Israel, even for the killing of an American peace activist."

Friday, March 15, 2013

Creating Enemies

Unbelievable.

(Even though thoroughly consistent with analysis of Syria in posts here.)

Set up the "rebellion," in order to attack the "rebels"! Could it be any clearer that the foreign policy of the United States has come to creating enemies in order to perpetuate the "war on terror" everywhere and forever.

Did I mention that they're going to cut Social Security and Medicare to pay for this? ("DC’s Worst-Kept Budget Secret: Lots Of Democrats Support Entitlement Cuts")

From Los Angeles Times:

CIA begins sizing up Islamic extremists in Syria for drone strikes



Friday, March 8, 2013

The Picture of Inequality

Most Americans carry around in their heads an image of the socio-economic world they live in that is inaccurate on the order of psychosis. It's as if they saw the Empire State Building as 50 feet tall. And it's important that they do not have it corrected. That's why this video, which seems to have gone viral, is an excellent educational tool. (Despite its ritual dismissal of "socialism.") Burn this more accurate picture in your mind. And understand how "middle class" is a muddling concept.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

American Media Chronicles Failures of Crazy Chavez

He just couldn't get his priorities straight!


AP: Chavez Wasted His Money on Healthcare When He Could Have Built Gigantic Skyscrapers

By Jim Naureckas
From  FAIR:

One of the more bizarre takes on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's death comes from Associated Press business reporter Pamela Sampson (3/5/13):
Chavez invested Venezuela's oil wealth into social programs including state-run food markets, cash benefits for poor families, free health clinics and education programs. But those gains were meager compared with the spectacular construction projects that oil riches spurred in glittering Middle Eastern cities, including the world's tallest building in Dubai and plans for branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi.
That's right: Chavez squandered his nation's oil money on healthcare, education and nutrition when he could have been building the world's tallest building or his own branch of the Louvre. What kind of monster has priorities like that?

Venezuelan Poverty Rate
Souce: NACLA's Keane Bhatt

In case you're curious about what kind of results this kooky agenda had, here's a chart (NACLA,10/8/12) based on World Bank poverty stats–showing the proportion of Venezuelans living on less than $2 a day falling from 35 percent to 13 percent over three years. (For comparison purposes, there's a similar stat for Brazil, which made substantial but less dramatic progress against poverty over the same time period.)

Of course, during this time, the number of Venezuelans living in the world's tallest building went from 0 percent to 0 percent, while the number of copies of the Mona Lisa remained flat, at none. So you have to say that Chavez's presidency was overall pretty disappointing–at least by AP's standards.

Tree-Huggers for Drones

Stephen Colbert on the Eco-friendly assassination program.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Here, Kitty

Where has it gone? $9 doesn't even make up half the difference.




Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Double-O bama: License to Kill

Self-Issued.

The unbelievable has become the norm.

From Glenn Greenwald:

"As always, it's really worth pausing to remind ourselves of how truly radical and just plainly unbelievable this all is. What's more extraordinary: that the US Senate is repeatedly asking the Obama White House whether the president has the power to secretly order US citizens on US soil executed without charges or due process, or whether the president and his administration refuse to answer? That this is the "controversy" surrounding the confirmation of the CIA director - and it's a very muted controversy at that - shows just how extreme the degradation of US political culture is."

Read full article.

Bullshit2

Bullshit. Squared. It's a charade to get you to think you just HAVE to accept cuts in Social Security and Medicare. Every bit of it is a lie. The "sequester" will be better than the "Grand Bargain" Obama's been trying to make for three years. (See my previous posts on  January's "fiscal cliff" dive and the theft of Social Security .)

From Counterpunch
by DAVE LINDORFF

"The Republicans are pretending that if we don’t have budget cuts this year, the whole US economy will collapse because of the nation’s enormous indebtedness.

"The Democrats are pretending that if no deal is reached, and automatic across-the-board cuts of 8% for the Pentagon and 5% for other programs will not only put the nation’s defense at risk and cause widespread suffering, but that it will derail the nation’s fragile economic 'recovery.'

"Both claims are, to put it gently, bullshit.
....

"As for the Obama Administration and the Democrats in Congress, what they secretly want is cover to start cutting Social Security and especially Medicare. Since those two programs were exempted from sequestration cuts, their strategy is to cry “wolf” about the impact of sequestration in order to bully Republicans into some kind of budget-cutting deal that would have Republicans agree to a rise in taxes in some truly minor way on the rich, while in return Democrats would 'grudgingly agree' to cuts in Medicare and maybe even Social Security. They will then be able to claim, to their progressive Democratic base, that the Republicans 'made us do it.'"

Read the full article 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Reminder: It Has Happened Here

Class warfare. It has happened here. Every social advance, every social benefit that was won from the American ruling class, was only ceded because organized labor fought for it. And every single one is now being rescinded because American working people and their erstwhile supporters are not fighting for them. Would there be any proposals for cutting Social Security and Medicare, while the banksters received trillions of dollars in subsidies, if the politicians knew they would be facing resistance like this? Class warfare. Sometimes it's obvious and sometimes it's not, but it is always there. A fact of capitalist social life. It is happening here -- only, unfortunately, with the working classes agreeing to limit themselves to the inevitably losing tactics and strategies permitted by the their masters. For the moment, at least.

(A nice compendium of clips, with the narration making clear, as always, whose side the media is on.)


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Shutterbugged: Oscar-nominated Palestinian Director Detained at LAX

Emad Burnat, Palestinian director of 5 Broken Cameras, was detained wirh his family at LAX and threatened with deportation, with an Oscar nomination for best documentary in his pocket. He was only released after timely and strong intervention by Michael Moore and the Academy.

"Apparently the Immigration & Customs officers couldn't understand how a Palestinian could be an Oscar nominee," Moore said.

5 Broken Cameras is described as: 

An extraordinary work of both cinematic and political activism,...a deeply personal, first-hand account of non-violent resistance in Bil'in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements. Shot almost entirely by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son, the footage was later given to Israeli co-director Guy Davidi to edit. Structured around the violent destruction of each one of Burnat's cameras, the filmmakers' collaboration follows one family's evolution over five years of village turmoil. Burnat watches from behind the lens as olive trees are bulldozed, protests intensify, and lives are lost. 'I feel like the camera protects me,' he says, 'but it's an illusion.
You can bet Emad's Israeli co-director won't have any problem at the airport.

Coming Clean: Irish Prime Minister Makes an Extraordinary, Moving Apology for the Magdalene Laundries

                             Daily Mail                                             Still from The Magdalene Sisters


If you don't know the story of the Magdalene Laundries, or have not seen the harrowing 2002 theatrical film The Magdalene Sisters  -- well, it’s another story of infuriating injustice, one of the hidden horrors of European Christian theocracy that you find hard to believe and don't really want to know about, so I hesitate to say that you should, but, yeah, you should. It’s been largely disregarded because its victims were poor, helpless women. Here’s the description of the institutions from RationalWiki:
A Magdalene laundry, also known as a Magdalene asylum [named for Mary Magdalene, the supposed prostitute], was a house for women who had "fallen" from "moral correctness"…
These asylums were a network of laundries operated by the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland and elsewhere, and run by the Sisters of a range of orders. Many women lived and died in these institutions with little hope of escape. The only way they could be freed was by being claimed by a relative. Often, family members were told that the women had moved away, and would be impossible to find because they had assumed new identities.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Flight Club: The No-Fly List and the Authoritarian Theater of the Absurd

[I]t is an essential part of the justice dispensed here that you should be condemned not only in innocence but also in ignorance.
― Franz KafkaThe Trial

A recent segment on Chris Hayes’s show Up (embedded below), following on a column by Glenn Greenwald, recounts the outrageous story of Saadiq Long, a 43-year-old African-American Muslim and ten-year US Air Force veteran, and his Kafkaesque journey through the no-fly wringer. Last year, Long, who lives with his wife and children in Qatar, where he teaches English, bought a ticket on KLM to visit his mother in Oklahoma, who was suffering from worsening congestive heart failure. He was surprised when KLM refused to allow him to board his flight back to his own country because the US government had placed him on its “no-fly list.” Never convicted or even charged with any crime, Long spent over six months trying to figure out why his name was on the list and what he could do to have it removed. 

(The answers, of course, are that he will never know why, nor will his name (since it may not be his name) likely ever be taken off the list.  As this AP story by Eileen Sullivan points out: “The government will not disclose who is on its list or why someone might have been placed on it.”)

After a months-long campaign by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and (according to this local news article) “several legislators,” and two weeks after Greenwald published a column on Long’s plight in The Guardian November, 2012, Long was finally allowed to fly home to see his ailing mother.  Problem solved, right?


Saturday, February 16, 2013

CIA Director convicted of torture charges!

No, it can't happen here, but it does happen in countries that actually have an independent judiciary:


Glenn Greenwald
"This entire case reveals vital facts about the culture of impunity for high-level officials that prevails in the US even when they commit the most egregious crimes:
"First, it is completely inconceivable that anything like what just happened in Italy could happen in the US. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the highest-level US officials had systematically committed felonies under the War on Terror rubric, both political parties, bolstered by a virtual consensus of the DC press, united to block all forms of accountability. A sacred rule in US political culture is that high-level state officials are to be shielded from all accountability, let alone criminal punishment, for how they abuse power.
"In sum, US officials are not subject to the rule of law but reside above it. Neither party's establishment nor their Adversarial Press Corps would ever tolerate the CIA Director being prosecuted for his crimes the way Italy's just was."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

SNL Skewers America's more-Zionist-than-thou Politics (Updated)

In dress rehearsal. They decided not to air it. I'd love to have heard that discussion.








Update (2/13/2013): Here's a take from "SNL Nixes Skit Mocking GOP's Israel Stances During Hagel Hearing" at Crooks and Liars 


It is not hard to imagine the pearl clutching and cries of outrage (Outrage, I tell you!) had this skit gone out on the airwaves, depicting the blatant pandering and ridiculousness of the dialogue in Washington surrounding the hearing on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to the position of Secretary of Defense. I'm sure that Lindsey Graham and his BFF Grampy McCain would be issuing a proclamation of censure and a threat to deport Lorne Michaels back to Canada. How dare SNL mock the "When did you stop beating your wife?" line of questioning that the Republicans proffered to prove how much more they love the state of Israel? I'm still wondering if anyone in the Beltway media will ever wonder why blind obeisance to Israel is considered a requirement for holding an American political office.

And, not to be outpandered, the Democrats claim that donkey for themselves (h/t Buzzfeed):

Jewish Democrats Blast Marco Rubio For Not Mentioning Israel

“Jewish Democrats are proud to stand with President Obama and his second term priorities that put support for Israel. posted on February 12, 2013 at 11:22pm EST
Image by J. Scott Applewhite / AP
WASHINGTON — The National Jewish Democratic Council issued a statement criticizing Sen. Marco Rubio for leaving Israel out of their responses to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address....

[Update (10/15/2014): Fixed video embed.]

Featured Post From The Archive:

Prime Directive: Trust the System, Blame the Russians

There are increasing doubts about the trustworthiness of America’s now ubiquitous electronic voting systems. For all the reasons...