You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find warm food
And friendly faces when you return home.
Consider if this is a man
Who works in mud,
Who knows no peace,
Who fights for a crust of bread,
Who dies by a yes or a no.
Consider if this is a woman
Without hair, without name,
Without the strength to remember,
Empty are her eyes, cold her womb,
Like a frog in winter.
Never forget that this has happened.
Remember these words.
Engrave them in your hearts,
When at home or in the street,
When lying down, when getting up.
Repeat them to your children.
Or may your houses be destroyed,
May illness strike you down,
May your offspring turn their faces from you.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Friday, January 30, 2009
But one group is exempt -- Mikey's peers -- the millionaires and billionaires, the very people at the heart of the maelstrom in the first place.
Bloomberg proposes cutting teachers, cops, firefighters. He proposes raising sales taxes and cutting property tax rebates. But NO increase in taxes for the wealthiest.
What makes this doubly hypocritical is that the wealthiest already enjoy the lowest tax rates. The IRS has released figures showing that the wealthiest 400 Americans averaged $263 million income in 2006 -- most of it as capital gains taxed at a rate of 17%, far below what many average Americans pay. Yet both Mayor Bloomberg and New York Governor Paterson have expressly opposed raising taxes for those most able to pay. Instead they embrace hammering those least able. Brilliant. American democracy at its truest.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Weeellll, probably. But there are scientists who have raised serious questions about our survival. Just as most Americans, and certainly most members of the nation's executive and legislative branches, cannot conceive of a world in which the US in not the greatest power, so too are most unable to conceive of a world where humans are gone, or drastically reduced in numbers and to a state more like that of the Stone Age.
How possible? More possible than you might like to imagine. If current trends continue, not just possible but likely. To paraphrase General MacArthur, great civilizations don't die, they just fade away. We have become addicted to a way of life that is grossly unsustainable. Most leaders in both the public and private sectors are unable or unwilling to confront this fact. Most are engaged in simple, irrational denial. George W. Bush was able to endorse policies directly repugnant to the future well-being of his own children and possible grandchildren. So too for the vast majority of members of Congress. And sadly, President Obama, in the search for some mythical Republicon cooperation, seems just as willing to ignore fact.
To quote from that great LBJ advert of 1964, "We must either love each other, or we must die."
Johnson borrowed from the great Auden poem, September 1, 1939:
I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.
Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.
Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
And the international wrong.
Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.
The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.
From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,'
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?
All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
My second guess was that, with her Uncle Ted in serious decline, that she was opting instead to take the Kennedy seat in the Senate. We are, after all, a whisker's width from instituting our version of the House of Lords -- inherited seats, family seats in government. Kennedy, Murkowski, Stevens, Boggs, Clinton, Bush, and on.
Here's an excerpt from the Times:
Problems involving taxes and a household employee surfaced during the vetting of Caroline Kennedy and derailed her candidacy for the Senate, a person close to Gov. David A. Paterson said on Thursday, in an account at odds with Ms. Kennedy’s own description of her reasons for withdrawing.
The account emerged 14 hours after Ms. Kennedy announced that she was taking her name out of contention for the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton, and as Mr. Paterson, according to two well-placed Democrats told of his thinking, was leaning toward selecting Representative Kirsten E. Gillibrand, an upstate lawmaker in her second term in Congress. Mr. Paterson has scheduled a news conference at noon Friday in Albany to announce his choice.
Hard feelings toward Ms. Kennedy were clearly building among the governor’s staff on Thursday, after a dramatic evening in which she was reported to be dropping out, then wavering, then ultimately, shortly after midnight on Thursday, issuing a statement ending her candidacy.
The person close to the governor said Mr. Paterson “never had any intention of picking Kennedy” because he had come to consider her unready for the job. The person did not describe the exact nature or seriousness of the tax and household employee issues.
But other Democratic operatives and people who talked to the governor disputed that account, and said that he had all but decided to select Ms. Kennedy as senator, and that his staff was arranging a press conference for late this week.
Friday, January 16, 2009
It is more accurately called 'The Middle' — with scare quotes. If "it's all relative" holds any substance in popular discourse, it is in the relativism of what counts as "the middle". This should be obvious and probably is, but "the virtue of the middle" does work for those in that 'virtuous' position — it provides a fig leaf behind which they can hide — and so the myth goes unexamined.
So let's examine a case: The New York Times on the Israel-Palestine conflict. The Times, like NPR and CNN and many others, are fond of saying that they are criticized "by both sides". Conclusion? "Since both side are criticizing us, we must be doing something right."
Possibly. Or one side might be right and the other wrong. In the case of the Israeli occupation, major supporters of Israel are convinced that the Times is too critical of Israel. At NPR, to cite a similar case, former ombudsman (equivalent to the Times's "Public Editor") Jeffrey Dvorkin expressly stated that he felt NPR's coverage tended to favor the Palestinian side.
- "Israel has done some not very nice things." I heard these words first from Elie Wiesel. Quite a move for him. He had and has typically exonerated Israel of any wrongdoing of any kind or degree. I later heard precisely the same words from Brian Lehrer of WNYC and Daniel Schorr of NPR. Quite a coincidence. This is as close as you will ever hear any prominent media personality get to actually criticizing, much less condemning, Israeli atrocities.
The prevailing view of the US and Israel is that neither is capable of committing war crimes. So it is some indication of just how awful things are in Gaza that The New York Times, NPR, etc., can even mention that elsewhere in the world people are calling for prosecution of Israeli war crimes. The worst you will typically hear said about Israeli actions is something to the effect that they are "counterproductive" or "not in Israel's best interests".
Rarely will you hear mention of "Palestinian rights". So, for example, a January 16th Times editorial stated, "the assault on Gaza has passed the point of diminishing returns." As strong a condemnation of Israeli action as you will ever find in a Times editorial. There, it must be said, a handful of prominent, mainstream American figures who have criticized Israel more harshly. The most notable, of course, is Jimmy Carter, who was rhetorically drawn and quartered for his transgression. Years ago Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes wrote a critical column, as did the former Times legal commentator, Anthony Lewis.
"[S]ome of the worst chemical weapons were never excluded by any international agreement.
"White phosphorus, for example, is considered to be an incendiary weapon, not a chemical weapon, and under the ambiguous rules of war is acceptable for military use, both for creating smoke screens and for starting fires. But this waxy substance adheres to flesh, and when it is exposed to air, it bursts into flame. The seven allied bombing raids that leveled the German city of Hamburg in July and August 1943 started a firestorm with white phosphorus. Many of the city's phosphorus-smeared residents sought refuge in Hamburg's two lakes, but when they stepped out of the water the phosphorus on their bodies reignited. Some were shot by German troops to end their suffering. Hamburg suffered more than 50,000 killed, many of them victims of white phosphorus. . . .
"Some deadly poisons are not considered weapons at all, yet they have been used to kill and terrorize, and may be used again."
BUT today, the Times takes quite a different tone on white phosphorus [again, as noted by FAIR]:
"White phosphorus is a standard, legal weapon in armies, long used as a way to light up an area or to create a thick white smoke screen to obscure troop movements. While using it against civilians, or in an area where many civilians are likely to be affected, can be a violation of international law, Israel has denied using the substance improperly. On Wednesday, Hamas fired a phosphorus mortar shell into Israel, but no one was hurt.
- Whose word is heard. Because Israel has barred journalists from Gaza, we are hearing from even fewer Palestinians than we normally would. It was already a staple of US coverage that many more Israelis are typically interviewed "on the street" than Palestinians.
- Whose dead count. Until the Palestinian death total really soared, the Times and other US media groups were treating fatalities on a 1-to-1 basis, this despite the fact that Palestinian losses greatly exceeded Israeli losses from the very first day. Over the decades of the occupation, the probability that an Israeli fatality goes reported has been vastly greater than the probability that a Palestinian one does. The usual fig leaf here? Newsworthiness. (A sobering, presumably unintentional, admission.)
- Suffering. The conditions in the territories are routinely described incompletely or not at all. Those who insist on raising the issue of Palestinian suffering will often find themselves accused of playing the "blame game" or of unfairly claiming that "our suffering is greater than yours." The catch? Palestinians are suffering more. Simple fact.
- The buddy system. Leading reporters for the Times and others live in Israel, not the territories, never the territories. Mere association would understandably foster sympathy for those associated with. Israel further fosters this with an exceptionally competent media management, spin control, manipulation system.
- Prominent critics of Israeli behavior are downplayed or dismissed. Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu have both described conditions in the territories as apartheid, both have been largely ignored. When President Jimmy Carter condemned Israel behavior, the Times did hatchet job on him, citing the notoriously pro-Israel Alan Dershowitz (without any mention at all of Dershowitz's record on the subject.).
- Israel operates a small army of spin controllers (including "historian" Michael Oren) whose job it is to "guide" western coverage.
- If the Times (or NPR's or CNN's) coverage is consistently pro-Palestinian, how is it that most Americans are not even aware that Israel occupies the Palestinian territories. (Yes, a fact borne out by at least two studies.)
MediaLens.org currently has a great piece surveying British coverage of the Gaza attacks with the Serbian attacks on Kosovo in the 1990s.
In '99 Europe and North America rallied to condemn Serbian attacks. Indeed, Serbia was charged with genocide and since then several Serbian figures have been brought to trial in the Hague. Kosovo did attack Serbian forces and in some cases civilians. But this did not stop the charges against Serbia. Casualties rates among Kosovars were then what Palestinian casualty rates are now approaching. And Kosovo had not suffered months of crippling blockades and years of occupation and land theft.
Now, however, nothing comparable to the charges leveled against Serbia is being leveled against Israel.
There was no privileged "middle" in the Serbian-Kosovan conflict. But here there is.
The middle is not the privileged position of "Truth". It is the fig leaf for wrongdoing. For political reasons, among others, neither the US nor Europe will charge Israel with the crimes is unambiguously committing. So, assert the "Virtue of the Middle", assert — tacitly — the equal moral status of the two sides (while arming and funding one and often explicitly asserting the moral superiority of that one) to avoid a costly admission regarding the crimes of the client.
"Here Comes Kosovo." Roger Cohen. The New York Times. February 14, 2008
[more to come]
Thursday, January 15, 2009
It is widely recognized that both Allies and Axis powers engaged in terror bombing during the Second World War. The US, Israel, Britain, and all the other world powers recognize "state terror" — just not by themselves and their allies.
None dispute that a bombing of a bus full of civilians in Jerusalem or flying planes into two towers in New York is terrorism.
BUT the US and Israel routinely characterize attacks upon combatants as terrorism. The US government and the media routinely name as terrorism any attack upon US forces in Iraq.
Moreover, the US and Israel regularly reject any suggestion that either has ever deliberately attacked civilians. In the case of Israel, there is now volumes of eyewitness accounts going all the way back to the 1940s detailing Israeli attacks upon civilians. Yet, it is taken as axiomatic that Israel does not attack civilians, just as George W. Bush asserted as axiomatic that "the United States does not torture."
So US and Israeli claims are two-fold:
1. [Axiom] Neither the US nor Israel deliberately attack civilians — ever.So what account of terrorism exempts what Israel is visiting upon Gazans?
2. [Assertion] All instances of civilian deaths at American or Israeli hands are either accidental or misidentified attacks by the civilians' compatriots.
Alternatively, what should we be asking if we are to prepare a charge of war crimes and terrorism against Israel and Israeli forces?
1. Does the sheer number of civilian dead, particularly the ratio of Palestinian civilians to Palestinian combatants and the ratio of Palestinian dead and insured to Israeli dead and injured constitute sufficient evidence of Israeli war crimes?
2. Does the blockade, which began in 2007 and which no person can pretend is 'surgically targeted' at combatants alone, count as evidence of Israeli war crimes? Princeton professor Richard Falk answers "Yes."
3. Is Israel using white phosphorus and does that constitute a war crime?
4. Half of Israeli military fatalities are "friendly fire" cases. What does this say of the much vaunted Israel military professionalism?
5. Has Israel used coordinates submitted by the UN to target the UN? The UN and other relief organizations submitted GPS coordinates of their locations expressly to prevent "accidental" Israeli attacks. Al-Jazeera and others did this for the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not long after, the US "accidentally" attacked al-Jazeera headquarters in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Not to be outdone, Israel has attacked marked Red Cross vehicles and the UN headquarters in Gaza City.
New York Israel advocate Zev Chafets state on WNYC's "Brian Lehrer Show" that the "UN always lies". This is a common sentiment among Israel's most rabid supporters, so it seems perfectly plausible that Israel's conservative warmongers would have targeted the UN.
6. Has Israel blocked journalists to prevent first-hand coverage of war crimes?
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
The UK study blames rapidly rising unemployment resulting from the break-neck speed of reform.But privatization is always good! So says Alan Greenspan, Margaret Thatcher, Lawrence Summers, Rahm Emmanuel, Bill Clinton, and on and on.
The researchers said their findings should act as a warning to other nations that are beginning to embrace widespread market reform. . . .
The researchers examined death rates among men of working age in the post-communist countries of eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union between 1989 and 2002.
They conclude that as many as one million working-age men died due to the economic shock of mass privatisation policies.
Following the break up of the old Soviet regime in the early 1990s at least a quarter of large state-owned enterprises were transferred to the private sector in just two years.
This programme of mass privatisation was associated with a 12.8% increase in deaths.
The latest analysis links this surge in deaths to a 56% increase in unemployment over the same period.
The red line — the Wall. Note how most of it runs well inside Palestinian territory.
Yellow squares — permanent checkpoints (there are far far more 'temporary checkpoints')
Black triangles — settlements started after Israel agreed to cease new settlement activity.
Orange — the glaring truth-teller — land barred to Palestinians. Note especially the Jordan River Valley, a crucial source of water. Israel gets approximately 40% of its fresh water from the West Bank. Be assured that Israel has no intention at all of ever leaving the Jordan River valley.
Orange lines — "Jewish-only" roads. Sound like apartheid?
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
"We do not shoot at innocent civilians." Thus spoke Israeli spokesman Mark Regev, who during the war against Lebanon went so far as to assert that children were terrorists. As for the not-so-innocent civilians — that's their tough luck, in the Regev Insanarium.
The claim that Israel does not attack civilians is the essential lie of the war on Gaza, the essential lie of the Israeli propaganda machine. It is one that American news organizations and political leaders are particularly eager to swallow without hesitation.
The evidence refuting this lie is overwhelming — overwhelming. By any measure employed in science or law, the conclusion is unavoidable: Israel makes war upon civilians. There are decades of attacks upon civilians, beginning with massacres during Israel's struggle for independence and continuing without interruption through to today.
If Israel's onslaught were not so brutal, it might be comical. How does an olive grove threaten Israel? Yet Israeli forces have mowed down thousands of acres of olive trees, a dietary staple, a key element in Palestinian agriculture and economy.
But the greatest point in evidence is not found in the shelling, bombing, shooting, bulldozing. It is found in the blockade that has been forced on Gaza since 2007. There is no pretending that the blockade is an "accident", as is routinely claimed every time civilians are shelled or bombed. There is no way that blockade can be characterized as anything but an attack upon civilians. For months, numerous international observers and aid workers have reported on the terrible effects of the blockade — crippled medical services, near-starvation for many Gazans, inadequate water, inadequate electricity.
The blockade is an attack upon civilians. Americans know this. The Berlin Airlift from 1948 to 1949 was a response to the Soviet blockade of Berlin. The Gaza blockade has brought far greater suffering upon Gazans.
If the US is serious that it supports Palestinian civilians, then it is time for a Gaza Airlift. Fly American cargo aircraft over Gaza and drop medical supplies, food, water. Put the Israeli propaganda to the test.
But the US is a full participant in the Israeli attack on civilians. It is almost certainly providing satellite info to the Israelis. It is most definitely providing most of the war materiel. If the US is not to be as guilty as Israel in the commission of the war crimes in Gaza, it must cease its support and launch the Gaza Airlift.
Partial list of Israeli massacres and other attacks upon civilians
- King David Hotel bombing, 22 July 1946, 92 killed
- Deir Yassin massacre, 9 to 11 April 1948, about 110 Palestinian villagers killed
- Qibya, 14 to 15 October 1953, 69 Palestinians killed by forces under Ariel Sharon
- Kafr Qasim, 29 October 1956, 48 Palestinians killed: 6 women, 23 children
- al-Sammou massacre, 13 November 1966, Israeli forces attacked village, killing 18
- Sabra and Shatila, 16 to 18 September 1982, between 1500 and 2000 killed
- Qana, 18 April 1996, 106 refugees killed
- Qana, 30 July 2006, 28 civilians killed, half of them children
- Iain Hook, 22 November 2002, UNRWA worker shot by Israeli sniper
- Rachel Corrie, 16 March 2003, bulldozed by Israeli military
- Tom Hurndall, 13 January 2004, photography student shot at in the head at point blank range
Monday, January 12, 2009
In the great American Tradition of peanut butter, cigarettes, and the Ford Edsel, brilliant American Thinkers and Arbiters of Truth, Tom Brokaw and David McCullough, offer the first Great History of the Bush Presidency — GAP — The Greatest American President.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
The CHALLENGE, my little droogs:
NAME A THING ON THIS EARTH THATThe case that has me grinding my teeth. Nina Paley, distinctive, alternative, unusual animator has created out of sheer love and determination an animated film: Sita Sings the Blues. A couple of times over the past few years, I've seen little tiny portions of this — totally unlike any animation you've seen. And there is a lot of animation out there that is unlike any animation you've seen because it is done outside Pixar and Dreamworks and Hollywood by people who sweat blood for years in groups of one or two or three.
(1) IS NOT A PERSON AND THAT
(2) NOONE CLAIMS OWNERSHIP OVER.
That's the great thing about animation like this — animation on the fringe, outside the mainstream: It is NOT A SLAVE to the Hollywood damned demand for photorealism. THE WHOLE POINT OF ANIMATION is that YOU CAN GO ANYWHERE YOU WANT. It's NOT limited by the constraints of the "real world" — whatever that is.
So, Nina Paley creates this great animation (and you don't have to like it, just chew on this). She animates to an audio track comprised of 80 YEAR OLD recordings. 80 YEARS. The actual recordings are now in the public domain (though Disney and others are trying to change this). BUT the scores are not. So the owners of the original music are hitting her up for tens of thousands of dollars for a project done with no intention of profit — a purely artistic endeavor (to the extent that any endeavor is "purely artistic" . . . who knows).
Needless to say, Paley does not have millions in studio backing. So the film — winning awards left and right — is stalled.
How many great artistic endeavors depended, were intimately tied to, past work. And how many can we just think of — great or otherwise — that depend on pre-existing and, potentially, "pre-owned" content? Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Laurie Anderson, Mozart, Shakespeare, The Rennaissance, Greek Revival. We stand on the shoulders of giants. It's the very essence of civilization. Later work proceeds from earlier, in an infinite variety or ways.
Maybe some boner-buster at Harvard will try to patent BLUE EYES, or HAVING SKIN, just as they patented the "Harvard nude mouse" (yes, it's for real).
Beethoven, in some of his work (like many many other composers) used existing, traditional music in the course of his composition. NOT ANY MORE.
Herewith my comment on Paley's blog. I should be more angry or angry about other "more important" things, I guess. Well, never fear my droogs, I am.
This is _exactly_ the kind of problem that thousands of artists and legal scholars have been warning about. Two people who come to mind: Cory Doctorow, who wrote about this on boingboing, and some legal eagle at Berkeley or Stanford whose name I can’t remember. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also been good on this.
Unfortunately, since artists are “just” artists, the idiots and moneygrubbers in Congress won’t get their heads out of their asses for a case like this. BUT sooner or later, there will be a case where some great innovation is lost, some new medicine, some new scientific discovery (and I’m thinking of copyright issues broadly here) and people will die or something terrible will happen. Then finally, this shites will figure it out. Still . . . I wouldn’t count on it. These are the same kind of people who tried to patent “clicking a button”.
Fight the good fight, be angry, be mellow. Send it to China, India. Some place where the billionaire fucks don’t yet control everything down to how we sit on the can. And may those bastards some day meet me in a dark place.
Meanwhile, back at the fort, we have Burris himself. His tombstone — already bought and erected! — strongly suggests this guy needs some help. Seen it? It looks like a giant granite resume for the afterlife. This poor little prick. He's been trying so hard for so long, and he alway gets the blowoff.
Ultimately, he's just another one of us. Those of lives of quiet desperation. But, damn, a granite tombstone the size of a bus that lists, among other things, experience as an exchange student in the early 60s.
In the midst of the awful events in the Middle East, the growing economic cluster-fuck, and the total annihilation of Earth's environment, we do have to maintain a sense of humor.
Papa Dub George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States and now 84 years old, is setting an example:
"I'd like to see him run. I'd like to see him be president some day," said Papa Dub of his son Jeb.We the People have some bad news for you, Papa Dub: Baby Dub pretty much shot the whole Bush family wad for the next thousand years — assuming there are still any humans 1,000 years from now, after WALT — the War on All Living Things.
I figure it'll be at least 200 years before anybody with the name Bush can even get elected dog catcher (though in New York State, they could probably get elected to the state legislature or governor).
Papa Dub also had some choice words regarding Baby Dub:
"The fact that everything that's a problem in this country should be put on his shoulders, that's not fair.
"He ran a clean operation, having kept this country strong and free after unprecedented in history attack, 9/11, and he'll have a lot to be proud of . . . . He'll come home with his head high."
And his tail between his legs.
And then he'll get his orange outfit for his life term in a super max prison for crimes against humanity.
And I for one do not blame Baby Dub for everything that's wrong in this country. The laundry in my building just plain sucks . . . nothing to do with Baby Dub. (But I know if Al Gore had been prez, we'd have some kind of newfangled, Gore-invented, laundry-washing-and-folding robot by now, dammit.)