Thursday, March 30, 2006

The donkey that didn't bray

I know, I know. This is getting a little repetitive. How many times do we have to point out that Democrats suck? Well, the variations are seemingly endless, since they suck so spectacularly in so many different ways. If you can bear to, go read this litany. Has Freeman left anything out?

My next post will be about dogs, not donkeys. I promise!

UPDATE: Some Democrats kick ass! Here's hoping Tasini boots Hillary's.

Watch this ad from the Tasini campaign.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Offensive, indeed

Political Offensive targets Bush

This is the Democrats' idea of a "political offensive", as spelled out in a six-page memo from Harry Reid to Democratic senators at a closed-door meeting:
Titled "Real Security," the political document calls for staged town hall events at military bases, weapons factories, National Guard units, fire stations and veterans posts.

"Ensure that you have the proper U.S. and state flags at the event, and consider finding someone to sing the national anthem and lead the group in the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the event."

In other words, as summarized by Alexander Cockburn,
"Real Security" calls for Democrats to hinge the 2006 fall campaign on how the Republicans have failed us on the issue of national security. Harry Reid says Democrats should wrap themselves in the flag, use tanks as backdrop and then try to outflank the Republicans from the right with demands for increased military funding, a better fought war, tighter borders, and ports run by white American-born Christians, preferably free of radical organizers from the ILWU.

Outflanking the Republicans from the right. Yeah, maybe that will work better than merely appeasing and enabling them.

In that case, they'll need a bolder slogan. "Kerry/Edwards. A stronger America" clearly wasn't persuasive enough.

I propose something like "Vote Democrat: We Bomb Better."

Any other suggestions?

More responses to "The Israel Lobby"

So pro-Israel that it hurts
By Daniel Levy

The new John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt study of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" should serve as a wake-up call, on both sides of the ocean.
(continue reading...)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Blaming "the Israel lobby" lets the U.S. off the hook

Some responses to The Israel Lobby

The Angry Arab:
I of course read it with interest. This is what I think. I will be referring to the full text that appeared as a Faculty Research Working Papers Series by the Kennedy School of Government. I guess I am in the minority in the pro-Palestinian camp on this one; I am not thrilled to read the piece. Not that I do not subscribe to criticisms of US foreign policy, but that is not what the authors do. The authors seem intent on blaming all the ills in US foreign policy on the Israeli lobby. There are obvious problems with that approach: it seems to ignore or deny the ills of US foreign policy in regions outside the Middle East. It also absolves the US administration, any US administration, from any responsibility because they (the administrations) become portrayed as helpless victims of an all-powerful lobby. Thirdly, the approach does not take into consideration the interests that certain elements of the US establishment see in maintaining US foreign policy toward Israel. Fourthly, the approach does not situate US foreign policy in the Middle East into the context of the global role of the US, especially in the ear of Bush--and Clinton. And the piece, while significant because it comes from two mainstream academics, does not offer anything new or original.


Joseph Massad, professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University (and yes, one of witch-hunter David Horowitz's "dangerous" professors):
Blaming the lobby

While many of the studies of the pro-Israel lobby are sound and full of awe-inspiring well- documented details about the formidable power commanded by groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its allies, the problem with most of them is what remains unarticulated. For example, when and in what context has the United States government ever supported national liberation in the Third World? The record of the United States is one of being the implacable enemy of all Third World national liberation groups, including European ones, from Greece to Latin America to Africa and Asia, except in the celebrated cases of the Afghan fundamentalists' war against the USSR and supporting apartheid South Africa's main terrorist allies in Angola and Mozambique (UNITA and RENAMO) against their respective anti-colonial national governments. Why then would the US support national liberation in the Arab world absent the pro-Israel lobby is something these studies never explain.

The United States has had a consistent policy since World War II of fighting all regimes across the Third World who insist on controlling their national resources, whether it be land, oil, or other valuable minerals.


The arguments put forth by these studies would have been more convincing if the Israel lobby was forcing the United States government to pursue policies in the Middle East that are inconsistent with its global policies elsewhere. This, however, is far from what happens. While US policies in the Middle East may often be an exaggerated form of its repressive and anti- democratic policies elsewhere in the world, they are not inconsistent with them.


Is the pro- Israel lobby extremely powerful in the United States? As someone who has been facing the full brunt of their power for the last three years through their formidable influence on my own university and their attempts to get me fired, I answer with a resounding yes. Are they primarily responsible for US policies towards the Palestinians and the Arab world? Absolutely not. The United States is opposed in the Arab world as elsewhere because it has pursued and continues to pursue policies that are inimical to the interests of most people in these countries and are only beneficial to its own interests and to the minority regimes in the region that serve those interests, including Israel.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Telling it like it is, part 2

I was partway through Mearsheimer and Walt's excellent analysis of the US-Israel relationship when the latest issue of William Blum's Anti-Empire Report dropped into my inbox. Here's an excerpt:

(1) US foreign policy does not "mean well". It's not that American leaders have miscalculated, or blundered, causing great suffering, as in Iraq, while having noble intentions. Rather, while pursuing their imperial goals they simply do not care about the welfare of the foreign peoples who are on the receiving end of the bombing and the torture, and we should not let them get away with claiming such intentions.

(2) The United States is not concerned with this thing called "democracy", no matter how many times George W. uses the word each time he opens his mouth. In the past 60 years, the US has attempted to overthrow literally dozens of democratically-elected governments, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, and grossly interfered in as many democratic elections in every corner of the world. The question is: What do the Busheviks mean by "democracy"? The last thing they have in mind is any kind of economic democracy, the closing of the gap between the desperate poor and those for whom too much is not enough. The first thing they have in mind is making sure the target country has the political, financial and legal mechanisms in place to make it hospitable to globalization.

(3) Anti-American terrorists are not motivated by hatred or envy of freedom or democracy, or by American wealth, secular government, or culture. They are motivated by decades of awful things done to their homelands by US foreign policy. It works the same all over the world. In the period of the 1950s to the 1980s in Latin America, in response to a long string of Washington's dreadful policies, there were countless acts of terrorism against US diplomatic and military targets as well as the offices of US corporations. The US bombing, invasion, occupation and torture in Iraq and Afghanistan have created thousands of new anti-American terrorists. We'll be hearing from them for a terribly long time.

(4) The United States is not actually against terrorism per se, only those terrorists who are not allies of the empire. There is a lengthy and infamous history of support for numerous anti-Castro terrorists, even when their terrorist acts were committed in the United States. At this moment, Luis Posada Carriles remains protected by the US government, though he masterminded the blowing up of a Cuban airplane that killed 73 people and his extradition has been requested by Venezuela. He's but one of hundreds of anti-Castro terrorists who've been given haven in the United States over the years. The United States has also provided close support of terrorists in Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq and elsewhere, including those with known connections to al Qaeda, to further foreign policy goals more important than fighting terrorism.

(5) Iraq was not any kind of a threat to the United States. Of the never-ending lies concerning Iraq, this is the most insidious, the necessary foundation for all the other lies. This is the supposed justification for the preemptive invasion, for what the Nuremberg Tribunal called a war of aggression. Absent such a threat, it didn't matter if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, it didn't matter if the intelligence was right or wrong about this or that, or whether the Democrats also believed the lies. All that mattered was the Bush administration's claim that Iraq was an imminent threat to wreak some kind of great havoc upon America. But think about that. What possible reason could Saddam Hussein have had for attacking the United States other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide?

(6) There was never any such animal as the International Communist Conspiracy. There were, as there still are, people living in misery, rising up in protest against their condition, against an oppressive government, a government usually supported by the United States.

(7) Conservatives, particularly of the neo- kind (far to the right on the political spectrum), and liberals (ever so slightly to the left of center) are not ideological polar opposites. Thus, watching a TV talk show on foreign policy with a conservative and a liberal is not "balanced"; a more appropriate balance to a conservative would be a left-wing radical or progressive. American liberals are typically closer to conservatives on foreign policy than they are to these groupings on the left, and the educational value of such "balanced" media can be more harmful than beneficial as far as seeing through the empire's motives and actions.

Recommended reading. Now, back to the Israel lobby.

Telling it like it is

Wow. You don't often hear these truths expressed in the American media:

Pro-Israel lobby in U.S. under attack

Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, author of "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics" and Professor Stephen Walt of Harvard's Kenney School, and author of "Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy," are leading figures American in academic life.

They claim that the Israel lobby has distorted American policy and operates against American interests, that it has organized the funneling of more than $140 billion dollars to Israel and "has a stranglehold" on the U.S. Congress, and its ability to raise large campaign funds gives its vast influence over Republican and Democratic administrations, while its role in Washington think tanks on the Middle East dominates the policy debate.

And they say that the Lobby works ruthlessly to suppress questioning of its role, to blacken its critics and to crush serious debate about the wisdom of supporting Israel in U.S. public life.

Could it be that the powerful influence of AIPAC on U.S. politicians is finally waning? Might we actually see some healthy, honest, serious debate about America's dysfunctional codependent relationship with Israel?

Oh, but wait--here's a bit I left out:
Two of America's top scholars have published a searing attack on the role and power of Washington's pro-Israel lobby in a British journal, warning that its "decisive" role in fomenting the Iraq war is now being repeated with the threat of action against Iran. And they say that the Lobby is so strong that they doubt their article would be accepted in any U.S.-based publication.

Guess not. So read the whole article here--in The London Review of Books.

(Hat tip to Michael at Informed Dissent)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Thirteen must be my lucky number

On Saturday Lyra and I placed third at the agility competition in Prestranek. This is quite an accomplishment for us. I just hope it wasn't a total fluke--I'd quite like to do something like that again.

This minor success has been a long time coming. We first started learning agility back in August, 2004. What we lacked in experience, technique, and finesse we made up for in enthusiasm. Of all the fun activities Lyra gets to do in her life, agility is unquestionably her favorite. I love it, too, both the training sessions and the competitions (though I almost always get nervous during the latter). The circumstances of my life haven't always allowed me to practice with her more than a few times a month (the really serious and successful competitors train almost daily), and we missed much of the 2005 season due to an unavoidable summer trip to the USA. Still, we've got nearly a dozen competitions at A1/J1 behind us, and before Saturday had been disqualified in all but one. In the meantime, the dogs we started out training with (Aika and Aron) long ago met the requirements for advancing to the next level (A2/J2). For Lyra and me, significant progress meant making it through at least one run (of two) without going off course and being eliminated, regardless of the number of faults. Successfully completing both runs and being ranked is a major accomplishment. Having one clean run and taking home a cup, as happened Saturday, is an unbelievable breakthrough.

We were seventh after the first run, with five faults for avoiding the bridge. She's been tricky on bridges at competitions lately (and teeter-totters, too, but fortunately there wasn't one on this course). It's never been a problem on our home training ground, but the obstacles she meets at competitions sometimes throw her for a loop. She's a little scared of them, I guess because they look and feel different from what she's used to. On our second attempt at the bridge she did go onto it, but reluctantly, crossing it slowly, with much hesitation and trepidation. She was outstanding on everything else, following my cues for jumps perfectly and fluidly, and executing the slalom flawlessly (slalom has traditionally been our most problematic obstacle).

On the second run I got a little lost in mid-course and for a brief moment couldn't remember which way to turn after she came out of the tunnel for the first time and over the next jump. Fortunately I recovered before she could go over the wrong jump (which would have resulted in disqualification) and directed her to the right. I was half-guessing, but I guessed correctly. Once again she was flawless on the slalom and we finished with a clean run and a decent time. I was thrilled simply to be placed at all, let alone finish in the top three.

Heartfelt thanks to Primož for many hours of patient encouragement and skillful coaching.

(For the uninitiated, here's a Wikipedia entry on the sport.)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Quote of the day

Lieberman is a squirrelly little opportunist who backstabs his own party while his election coffers grow fat from the contributions of war profiteers his petty bellicosity has done so much to enrich.

-- Jane Hamsher at firedoglake

Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Ned Lamont. Few things would make me happier than seeing Democratic war cheerleaders like Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton lose their seats to real democrats like Lamont and Tasini.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

News flash! Democrats grow balls!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Harkin again

Harkin Signs on to Censure Measure
By Erin P. Billings
Roll Call Staff
Wednesday, March 15

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has become the first co-sponsor to Sen. Russ Feingold’s (D-Wis.) controversial resolution to censure President Bush for authorizing an allegedly illegal domestic surveillance program.

What the fuck kind of reporting is this? A "controversial" resolution? Over an "allegedly" illegal program? Bush broke the law by spying domestically on Americans without a warrant. On top of all his other crimes. And by what measure could it be considered "controversial"? It's the mildest possible form of rebuke. Like getting a mere friendly warning from a cop for drunk driving and reckless endangerment when having your license revoked, your vehicle impounded, and your ass thrown in jail would be more appropriate to the situation.

Oh, but I guess given the reaction of most of the D.C. Democrats, gutless, spineless, ball-less wonders that they are, it is controversial.

Even Bingaman wimps out:
“I haven’t made any final judgment,” Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said as he ducked into a Democratic Caucus meeting. A minute later, Bingaman reappeared to say, “I won’t support it.”

Monday, March 13, 2006

FBI goons go after Pomona professor

Unbelievable. This is the sort of harassment that I, as a proud and free American championing free speech in the repressive Soviet Union, used to protest mightily when the KGB would go after my friends and colleagues in Moscow. What has the USA become?

"They are Trying to Intimidate and Silence Critics of US Foreign Policy"

FBI Grills Professor Over Support for Venezuela

A Pomona College professor who is an outspoken critic of U.S. policy in Venezuela was questioned on March 7th by two agents from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in what he calls an act of intimidation.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Go, Molly, go!

Molly Ivins on the D.C. Dems:

"I don’t know about you, but I have had it with the D.C. Democrats, had it with the DLC Democrats, had it with every calculating, equivocating, triangulating, straddling, hair-splitting son of a bitch up there, and that includes Hillary Rodham Clinton."

"I can’t see a damn soul in D.C. except Russ Feingold who is even worth considering for President. The rest of them seem to me so poisonously in hock to this system of legalized bribery they can’t even see straight."

"As usual, the Democrats have forty good issues on their side and want to run on thirty-nine of them. Here are three they should stick to:

1) Iraq is making terrorism worse; it’s a breeding ground. We need to extricate ourselves as soon as possible. We are not helping the Iraqis by staying.

2) Full public financing of campaigns so as to drive the moneylenders from the halls of Washington.

3) Single-payer health insurance."

Ivins just summed up Jonathan Tasini's platform in a nutshell. Tasini is challenging Clinton in the Democratic Senate primary. His positions on the issues--like war (anti), money-corrupted politics (anti), jobs (pro), and universal health care (pro), to list just a few--are much closer to those of ordinary New Yorkers (and other Americans) than Clinton's are.

On the other hand, Clinton has name recognition and celebrity status, she has vast amounts of campaign cash and corporate backing (aka "poisonously in hock to this system of legalized bribery") and, allegedly, "she has the left in her back pocket."

In other words, Clinton is a shoo-in, for all the wrong reasons.

So here's hoping she's unseated by Tasini. New Yorkers would get a senator far more dedicated to serving their interests, and Clinton's presidential aspirations would likely get snuffed as well.

So I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Tom Harkin ROCKS!

Harkin calls for pullout, says Iraq is now 'quagmire'

"The senator, an opponent of the war, said the only solution to the surge of sectarian violence is to begin withdrawing U.S. forces."

Friday, March 03, 2006

Tom Harkin says no to Patriot Act

Good for my old senator from Iowa (and an ethnic Slovene). He was one of only ten senators who voted against extending the Patriot Act yesterday:

NAYs ---10
Akaka (D-HI)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Byrd (D-WV)
Feingold (D-WI)
Harkin (D-IA)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Murray (D-WA)
Wyden (D-OR)

Senator Bingaman of New Mexico, by the way, is also vigorously supporting Laura Berg's First Amendment rights. Double kudos.

As for the other 90--fie and shame on you. Both "liberal" senators from Massachusetts voted in favor. So did Hillary Clinton, which is only what I would have expected--she is perennially useless on the issues. And Chuck Hagel, who occasionally has flashes of integrity, courage, and independence, but chose not to reveal them on this occasion. And Richard Lugar, my old senator from Indiana, who has a reputation for integrity but in no way deserves it: when Bush comes to shove, and votes come up, Lugar is pure partisan hack. And George Voinovich, also an ethnic Slovene, who showed some balls in opposing the nomination of John Bolton as Ambassador to the UN, but apparently doesn't have a problem curtailing civil liberties on behalf of an administration that is already drunk on executive power. And rising political star Barack Obama, who was listed by the New Statesman as one of 10 people who will change the world. A nice place to start would have been to join the ten listed above. Who else disappointed? Oh yeah, Barbara Boxer. Though at least she voiced some reservations over the bill. Apparently Dianne Feinstein slipped in some anti-methamphetamine provision as a sweetener, and Boxer couldn't say no.

Something I bet you didn't know: "PATRIOT" is an acronym, not a word. Quick, what does it stand for?

Give up?

"Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism."” (U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T.--—get it?)

If you ask me, it should have been called Fraudulently Authorizing the Suppression and Control of Innocents Suspected of Terrorism. The F.A.S.C.I.S.T. Act.

Maybe I can get a job in Washington in that little department that thinks up catchy names for this stuff.

The Sedition Edition

Laura Berg is a Veterans Affairs nurse in Albuquerque, New Mexico, whose work brings her in frequent contact with physically and psychologically maimed veterans returning from "Operation Iraqi Freedom [sic]." Last September, outraged over the Bush administration's criminal negligence in failing to deal with Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, Berg wrote a letter to the Albuquerque Weekly Alibi expressing her views. The letter was published September 15, 2005. Here is what she wrote:
Dear Alibi,

I am furious with the tragically misplaced priorities and criminal negligence of this government. The Katrina tragedy in the U.S. shows that the emperor has no clothes! Bush and his team partied and delayed while millions of people were displaced, hundreds of thousands were abandoned to a living hell. Thousands more died of drowning, dehydration, hunger and exposure; most bodies remain unburied and rotting in attics and floodwater. Is this America the beautiful?

The risk of hurricane disaster was clearly predicted, yet funds for repair work for the Gulf States barrier islands and levee system were unconscionably diverted to the Iraq War. Money and manpower and ethics have been diverted to fight a war based on absolute lies! As a VA nurse working with returning OIF vets, I know the public has no sense of the additional devastating human and financial costs of post-traumatic stress disorder; now we will have hundreds of thousands of our civilian citizens with PTSD as well as far too many young soldiers, maimed physically or psychologically—or both—spreading their pain, anger and isolation through family and communities for generations. And most of this natural disaster and war tragedy has been preventable ... how very, very sad!

In the meantime, our war-fueled federal deficit mushrooms—and whither this debt now, as we care for the displaced and destroyed?

Bush, Cheney, Chertoff, Brown and Rice should be tried for criminal negligence. This country needs to get out of Iraq now and return to our original vision and priorities of caring for land and people and resources rather than killing for oil. Katrina itself was the size of New Mexico. Denials of global warming are ludicrous and patently irrational at this point. We can anticipate more wild, destructive weather to occur as a response stress of the planet. We need to wake up and get real here, and act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit. Otherwise, many more of us will be facing living hell in these times.

Laura Berg

Within a few days of the letter's appearance, Berg was investigated by the FBI for sedition. Read/listen to Berg's March 2 interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! for the story of what happened to her.

Webster's 3rd New International Dictionary (unabridged) defines sedition as
"conduct consisting of speaking, writing, or acting against an established government or seeking to overthrow it by unlawful means."

As an American acquaintance (who prefers to remain anonymous) remarked,
"uh, isn't that what the US does all the time?"