Friday, April 23, 2010

Obama and Israel

In March, Vice President Biden was 'humiliated' by Israel announcements of new colonies. Now George Mitchell has gone to Israel. As he arrived, Netanyahu made a point of asserting that Israel categorically rejecting Obama's call for a curb on colonies in east Jerusalem. No hullabaloo about 'snubs' this time. Obama has been whipped into line. (Of course, the only real objection in March was to the timing, not to the colonies themselves.)

Some thoughts:

1. It’s an election year, and Obama the Opportunist is going to do what he does best (which, in the past year, is not saying much) — court voters. The pro-Israel zealots have vastly more voting clout, and more dollars to donate, in the US than the pro-Palestinian advocates. This remains true despite shifting attitudes in the US and volumes of bad press on Israeli atrocities (which have trickled through to the US public despite major efforts by the US press and the Israel lobby to prevent it).

2. My view on Obama for a while has been that he is the worst kind of politician, one who knows and believes in what is right (in this case, full rights and statehood for Palestinians), but sacrifices that for what is politically expedient. Bush, by contrast, was a delusional idiot, a true believer in stupid religiosity. Above all, Bush was a hard-core racist, which (I believe) Obama is not, though the Big O has surrounded himself with plenty of racists, like Rahm Emanuel and Dennis Ross.

3. Things are changing in Israel and Palestine. I think that for many years, Israel thought it could just win the war by attrition. Steadily force Palestinians out of the West Bank and Gaza to Jordan, Lebanon, Syria. Make life so utterly miserable for Palestinians that birth rates would be suppressed — a move expressly endorsed recently by Harvard luminary Martin Kramer, but one which I think Israel has been implementing for decades. Now, however, it has becoming clear (has been for some time) to the delusional racists in Israel’s government that the Palestinian ‘population problem’ isn’t going away. And, sadly for the likes of Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman and Dennis Potter, the rest of the world is too alert in this internet age. It is for this reason that the Israelis are so determined that the Palestinians endorse categorically the status of Israel as “The Jewish State”.

4. We shouldn’t kid ourselves (if any on this site might be inclined to do so) that either the Israeli or the US governments are moved by moral considerations. Obama has refused to prosecute, or even investigate, Bush war crimes. He has effectively endorsed Bush I, Clinton and Bush W policies in Iraq that killed well over one million civilians. He has embarked on a similar, albeit smaller, campaign in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Similarly and very sadly, most Israelis seem to feel no moral qualms at all about the atrocities in Gaza or, earlier, in Lebanon. (Obama endorsed Israel’s Operation Cast Lead during his campaign.) Israel has demonstrated just as much resistance to honesty about its brutality as any Western war state — Britain, France and above all the United States. If Israel can hit on a strategy for mass ‘ethnic cleansing’ (or worse) that will actually fly under the radar of the world community, it would implement it, and the US would raise nothing but token objections.

Dennis Ross is just an indicator of the patterns of force in the Obama administration. The hope for change comes in the accelerated decline of American power. The catch is that countries like the US (and on a much smaller scale, Israel) are prone to irrational outbursts — desperate lashing out to protect ‘Old Glory.'

One last thing: Can we now dump the "Obama hasn't had enough time yet" defense?

Is Nick Clegg Britain's You-Know-Who?

Britons are excited about some dude named Nick Clegg. Name gets points all by itself (except for one minor detail, see below). Shit. Britons are Obama-excited about Nick Clegg. Frequent trips to the bathroom excited. My two bits? I like Britons. I'm practically British myself. For the sake of the British and all of the EU, but especially northern Wales, I really really hope that Nick Clegg is not Britain's Barack Obama.
Richard Adams, of Britain's Guardian newspaper (infinitely superior to any US mainstream paper, including The Might New York Times (say amen)), has an essay entitled "Ten reasons why Nick Clegg is Britain's Barack Obama." I feel compelled to dissent:
Ten Reasons Nick Clegg is Not Barack Obama (And Thank the Powers that Made Us!)
10. Obama doesn't believe in the 'special relationship'

9. Obama speaks 1 language only, like all god-fearin' red-blooded Amerhcn patriots, by gum! (Gotta practice saying that, my British friends.)

8. Nobody in UK is gonna have a shitfit over Clegg's birth certificate.

7. Nobody in UK is gonna have a shitfit over Clegg's middle name.

"William Peter" is Nick Clegg's middle name? WTF?! (Isn't that doubley thing royal?)

6. Nobody in UK is gonna have a shitfit over Clegg's religion. (Uh, Clegg isn't Muslim, right?)

5. Clegg actually did community a punishment for torching some prof's cacti. Again, WTF?!

6. Clegg actually understands there are countries outside his own. (Do any Americans get this?)

3. Nick Clegg is younger than me.

2. That red, blue and tan postery treatment...Clegg is totally unrecognizable.

1. UK doesn't have a sickfuckcrazy rightwing bunch of self-serving freaks called Republicans (or Democrats).
I have been challenged on this last point. The Conservatives, I have been informed, are sickfuckcrazy rightwing self-serving freaks. But are they really as sickfuckcrazy self-serving as Republicans? Can anybody match Mitch McConnell, Tom Coburn, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin? Come on! Michele Bachmann. Sarah Palin.... We got the whole world beat by a country mile for sickfuckcrazy rightwing self-serving.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Homo sapiens? Really? Man with Wisdom?

Bill Moyers interviewed James Kwak and Simon Johnson, both of Baseline Scenario, on the prospects for financial reform. Kwak noted that nothing has changed. He could not have summarized the entire state of American economics and politics more succinctly.

Obama and the current Congress have changed nothing -- in any arena of American activity. He is about to nominate someone for the Supreme Court who will be significantly more conservative than John Paul Stevens. (Only two of the names the prospective nominees list are liberal in the sense of Stevens, and they are both long shots.)

All of the conservative Clinton-Bush foreign and military policies (which are substantively one and the same in the case of the US) continue, with a token nod to the issues of Guantanamo.

Copenhagen was a failure and predictably so given that the US government refuses to make any demands of consumers or corporations.

The Big Picture is utterly bleak. Economy, environment, education, infrastructure, and on and on -- all in dismal shape.

James Kwak commented that the big banks bet against the American dream, reminding me of a comment Paul Krugman made in an interview with Bill Maher: "The American dream isn't dead, but it's dying pretty fast." The sad fact is that Kwak and Krugman are probably speaking too optimistically. The big banks are arguably betting against humanity on the assumption that somehow, in their brave new world, the rich will be entirely immune to consequences visited upon Other 99.9% of humanity.

The US now has the lowest degree of social mobility in the industrialized world, with the possible exception of Britain (which, thanks to Thatcher and Blair, has been even more American than the Americans, taking many Reaganite policies even further than Reagan).

The American Dream is dead. Much more is also. If (big if) we are lucky, Homo sapiens may survive. Interview some biologists. You may be surprised by how widespread this view is.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Time Found in a Bottle

We are half a century shy of the two-hundredth anniversary of the American Civil War. Most people 30 years old and younger will live to see it and a great many older, too. Yet, a significant percentage of this country's population continue to act, and re-enact, as if we were closer to the war itself than to its anniversary. Confederate flags. Endless battle re-enactments. And of course, racism and hatred. All alive and well in the United States of 2010.

The latest incarnation of the beast? Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who proclaimed "Confederate History Month" with no mention at all of slavery, which most people would say was the essential point of conflict for the entire horror. McDonnell has been forced to step back from his idiocy. But not so the vast majority of his kind. Members of Congress, prominent 'pundits' — loud mouths — nationwide eagerly use racist language as a matter of course. The chief victims of American hatred these days are Arabs. But with China rising on the world stage, the US is gearing for an Official Change of Enemy.

For the time being, however, with Obama as president and with Israel carrying on its rampage across Occupied Palestine, American merchants of hatred have plenty to keep them occupied.

Interestingly, there is no speculation about what might be pathological to the American creed that makes the US such a happy host for such hatred. There is much speculation among moderates and conservatives of the endemic evils of Islam — nothing of the sort with regard to the US. And any suggestion that the US should mind itself is met with condemnations of "anti-Americanism" (strategically being positioned to be on a par with "anti-Semitism").

So time is trapped. We are evidently in an infinite loop. Hatred breeds hatred and Americans are happily procreating.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Mondoweiss Notes Suicide-Terror Expert Robert Pape's Restricted Mandate

The following from Mondoweiss:
‘NYT’ should get suicide-terror expert Pape to talk about ‘Palestinian resistance’
by Philip Weiss, April 1, 2010

Two days ago, Robert Pape (author of Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism) was on the Times op-ed page explaining the Chechnya-driven suicide bombings in Russia:

As we have discovered in our research on Lebanon, the West Bank, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and elsewhere, suicide terrorist campaigns are almost always a last resort against foreign military occupation. Chechnya is a powerful demonstration of this phenomenon at work.

A good thing that Pape and co-authors Lindsey O’Rourke and Jenna McDermit mentioned the West Bank. But given the centrality of the Palestinian suicide bomber in western demonology–Thomas Friedman (and numerous other friends of Israel) justified the Iraq war on that basis–Pape’s point surely deserves elaboration. If you look through Bob Pape’s website at the University of Chicago, you will find numerous articles that describe suicide terrorism by Palestinians as a response to occupation. Here, for instance, is Pape in Turkey’s newspaper, Zaman, saying that the first Palestinian suicide terrorists followed 20 years of occupation.

The Times has had Pape write often in the last few years, including this important piece in ‘03, saying suicide terror is not about Islam, the Tamil Tigers have used it more than anyone. But the Times has never had him directly address the issue of the Israeli occupation and what he routinely terms "Palestinian resistance versus Israel." Why not? Its readers deserve that insight.

My thoughts regarding this:

The Times and others (US government, CNN, NPR … take your pick) don’t want any explanations that will undermine the pre-determined mission. Facts are irrelevant once the Hive Mind of American Oligarchy is made up. Once Bush & Co. and other Arab-haters (Thomas Friedman, Michael Walzer, Michael Ignatieff — it’s a helluva long list) had decided that the US was absolutely going to ‘liberate’ Iraq, no fact or combination of fact was going to sway them.

Likewise, it is an Article of Faith in the United States that Israel is Right, no matter what. So the worst that any fact can do is raise questions about Israel’s tactics, efficiency, thoroughness, attentiveness, etc. — details. Anything that would raise questions of regarding pathological racism among Israelis or regarding the infestation of Israeli government by war criminals must be excluded from the conversation. That is why a conference sponsored by the “Lawfare Project” (or any other of the many recent conferences on the Goldstone Report) must exclude any and all who could raise inconvenient truths. Similar examples are legion and span the US, Europe and Israel.