Thursday, August 31, 2006

Agility update: Part 1

It's been a while since my last agility post. This is only partly due to the August hiatus in the competition season, when it's (usually, though not this year) too hot to compete comfortably and safely, and people go away on vacation. More because I found it too difficult to go from photos and reports like these to these in the same blog. I've actually thought about taking the politics blogging elsewhere, and reserving this site for more personal blogging about my life and dogs. I think some readers come here for the former, and others for the latter, and I don't know how much the constituencies overlap. But for now I guess I'll keep it all under one roof.

We've been to two competitions since the last update. The first was in the Slovene coastal town of Portorož, about an hour from here. The competition, the fourth of six counting towards the Eukanuba Cup, started in the afternoon and went into the night, under lights. It was hot driving down there in my old non-air-conditioned beater, and hot, too, for the first run. However, the nearby Adriatic Sea offered some relief (well, until a lifeguard let us know that dogs weren't welcome, even though we stayed way way off to the side where there weren't any people). There was also a spray hose with fresh water provided on the grounds that we made frequent and liberal use of, but Lyra greatly prefers swimming to being hosed.

On the first run (agility) we encountered trouble early on--the second obstacle was the accursed teeter-totter. We've been training on that, especially after getting some very helpful, individualized instruction from Finnish agility expert Mia Laamanen at the recent seminar in Domžale. Lyra started up very confidently, then surprised me by jumping off to the side at the midpoint, just as it started to move. We both recovered fairly quickly, but got five faults for missing the contact zone on the down side. She was good on most of the rest of the course but I got a little disoriented on a crossover turn after the slalom and she left me behind as she sailed over the next three jumps. I made the mistake of calling her so I could catch up and this caused her to run by the next obstacle, a tunnel, instead of entering it, which resulted in another five faults. Our standing after the first run was 9th of fifteen.

The second run (jumping) was clean, but slow. We came fourth in the second run, and sixth overall. Quite respectable, and enough to gain 10 points towards the 2006 Cup (we're currently tied for seventh place, having moved up in the standings from tenth place after this competition).

Part of the reason she was slow was because she was worn out from playing a little too much frisbee during "halftime". You can access a video here; go to "arhiv oddaj" and click on the video icon next to 29.07.2006. The first segment--about 15-20 minutes--is on the Pororož competition, and Lyra makes several appearances, usually airborne as she snags a frisbee. If you don't understand Slovene, you won't get much out of the interviews, but a lot of the filming is of dogs in action, on the course and off.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Colorado geography teacher leaves school

Seventh-grade geography teacher Eric Hamlin has decided not to return to his classroom at Carmody Middle School in Lakewood, Colorado.

Can't say as I blame him. I don't think I'd want to teach in a school whose administrators declared me "insubordinate" for displaying the flags of foreign nations and the UN in a world geography class, and insisted on micromanaging my lesson plans.

Hamlin was allowed to teach on August 22, but at the end of the day, he was called down to Principal Schalk’s office. “He presented me with a letter of reprimand,” Hamlin says. If Hamlin wanted to return in good standing, the letter said he would have to agree to “not display any flag of any foreign nation,” Hamlin recalls. “And I had to receive administrative approval for any display I was putting up in my classroom.”

Hamlin says he told Schalk that he “could not morally comply” with those terms.

The next day, shortly after Hamlin arrived at school, Schalk handed him a letter placing him on administrative leave.

It was only after the story gained prominence in the national media that the school, faced with an onslaught of negative publicity, backed down and dropped its demands. But by then the damage had been done. Hamlin was sufficiently shaken by the experience to prefer to move on, and out.

Some of the comments on the incident over at The Denver Channel were amusing, if disturbing. For example, here's "SJM in Arizona" on the subject:
Eric Hamlin is one of these liberal teachers who thinks illegal aliens should be allowed to be educated at taxpayer expense, just as if illegal aliens were as good as everyone else instead of trash, scum and filth.

Eric Hamlin is a teacher paid by US taxpayers in US funds. This "multi-flag" baloney is just a disguise for his pro-Mexico, anti-American agenda.

Colorado state law prohibits what he's doing, and he wants to ignore the law that he doesn't like, just like the illegal aien scum do.

If Hamlin wants to teach Mex, let him go to Mex and stay there. Better yet, let him go to China and pull his behavior there.

Or go to teach in the Catholic schools, where the Catholic pedophile priests support the illegal alien scum.

Hamlin needs to be made a public example, telling all these liberal one-world teachers that we won't allow them to promote illegal aliens on the taxpayers' money.

Hamlin is an enemy of America.

And "Jebster" adds his two cents worth:
This guy is a lib commie. It was his underhanded way to support communist China and illegals (that is people breaking our laws). Then he goes running to the ACLU as all anti-American turds do.

Fortunately these two seem to be in the minority. Most commenters thought the whole affair was utterly ridiculous, and a parent of a former student of Hamlin's wrote this testimonial:

Our daughter was in Mr. Hamlin's 7th grade class last year. Mr. Hamlin is one of the best teachers our family has ever encountered. He does not have a right or left wing agenda, but a desire to educate 7th graders. He is very knowledgable [sic] in the subject matter that he teaches and highly skilled and effective as a teacher. The fact that there is a law like this is wrong. The school is wrong for standing by this "letter of the law" type argument. Let him teach, the kids will be better for it.

Hamlin may teach again, though not at Carmody, or he may not. He says he is concerned about a "law that limits educators."

Assistant Principal Victoria Winslow and Principal John Schalk interpreted the law very narrowly. Colorado Revised Statute 18-11- 205 prohibiting the display of any flag other than that of the United States of America or the state of Colorado in state buildings allows the following exemption: "the display of any flag ... that is part of a temporary display of any instructional or historical materials not permanently affixed or attached to any part of the buildings ... ."

"the principal looked at the curriculum, talked to the teacher, and found that there was really no curriculum coming up in the next few weeks that supported those flags being in the classroom," Jeffco Public Schools spokeswoman Lynn Setzer said Wednesday.

Hamlin argued that although his curriculum may not speak specifically about those flags, they are used as reference tools for world geography.

"It's much along the lines of a science teacher who puts up a map of the solar system. They may not spend every day and every lesson talking about Mars, but they want the students to see that and to see the patterns of the planets and the order, and the students will observe that and absorb that learning visually," Hamlin said.

Hamlin said that the school district not only deprived him of a teaching tool but also took away from his students' education.

Speaking of education, here are some recent statistics reflecting the scale of geographical illiteracy among young Americans:
- Thirty-three percent of respondents couldn't pinpoint Louisiana on a map.
- Fewer than three in 10 think it important to know the locations of countries in the news and just 14 percent believe speaking another language is a necessary skill.
- Two-thirds didn't know that the earthquake that killed 70,000 people in October 2005 occurred in Pakistan.
- Six in 10 could not find Iraq on a map of the Middle East.
- Forty-seven percent could not find the Indian subcontinent on a map of Asia.
- Seventy-five percent were unable to locate Israel on a map of the Middle East.
- Nearly three-quarters incorrectly named English as the most widely spoken native language.
- Six in 10 did not know the border between North and South Korea is the most heavily fortified in the world.
- Thirty percent thought the most heavily fortified border was between the United States and Mexico.

Let's not forget that these are the promising young citizens of a nation which thinks itself entitled to rule the world.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I pledge allegiance to the flag...

News from Colorado:

A seventh-grade geography teacher who refused to remove Chinese, Mexican and United Nations flags from his classroom was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday by Jefferson County officials who were concerned that the display violates the law.
Uh, it's a world geography class. Although this may be news to many Americans, there are other nations in the world besides the United States. In fact, the vast majority of the world's inhabitants--like about 95%--live in the approximately 192 countries that are NOT called the United States.

Some confusion is understandable. After all, the United States consumes roughly a quarter of the world's resources, so Americans might be forgiven for thinking that there are only, say, three other countries they need to share the planetary wealth with. Also, a large majority of Americans do not have passports and do not travel outside their country's borders (apart from periodic trips to Canada and Mexico to buy cheaper prescription drugs). Globalization notwithstanding, maybe they simply haven't noticed the existence of other countries. I guess they don't read the labels on the clothes and other products they buy, or pay much attention to American foreign policy.

Nevertheless, I would think that the job description of this world geography teacher would include making his seventh-graders at least vaguely aware of the existence of other nations in the world. Displaying the flags of all these other countries in his classroom is a simple, graphic, and entirely reasonable means of doing so.

Fortunately, the teacher stood his ground, and the school backed down.

Some commenters over the Huffington Post instinctively wanted to pin the blame on Republicans for this latest jingoistic stupidity. In fact, it was DEMOCRAT Carl Miller, a former state representative from Leadville, who sponsored legislation in 2002 strengthening a 1971 law restricting the display of foreign flags. According to the follow-up story in the Denver Post, Miller supported the school's decision to place the teacher on leave, and was disappointed that he had been allowed back so soon.

Here's his response to Jefferson County Superintendent Cindy Stevenson's comment that the resolution of the issue was a "win-win situation":
"The only win-win I see is that Mr. Hamlin wins, China wins, Mexico wins and the United Nations wins," he said.

Proving once again that Democrats can be just as xenophobic, ethnocentric, and jingoistic as Republicans.

In related news, American high school students testified before Congress in hearings devoted to improving the nation's geographical literacy, and researchers surveyed the American street for their opinions on future geopolitical strategies for their nation.

Hey, what's the matter with Colorado, anyway? Some weird things goin' on there.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Flying without planes, or wings

Airborne aussie Chica (Alpine River Breeze of June)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

More tips on flying

Worthy and unworthy victims

Photo on the left: Jon Benet Ramsay, blue-eyed, blonde-haired former child beauty queen who was murdered ten years ago after being sexually assaulted

Photo on the right: Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi, who was raped, shot dead, and burned by American soldiers (who also murdered Abeer's mother, father, and little sister) in March, 2006

Only one of the young victims above is considered newsworthy by American cable news networks. Guess which.

Juan Cole:
The message US cable news is sending by this privileging of some such stories over others of a similar nature is that some lives are worth more than others, and some people are "us" whereas other people are "Other" and therefore lesser. Indeed, it is precisely this subtle message sent by American media that authorized so much taking of innocent Iraqi life in the first place. British officers have repeatedly complained that too many of those serving in the US military in Iraq view Iraqis as subhuman (one used the term Untermeschen). Where did they get that idea?

For more on how it works, read here.

Speaking of subhumans and T-shirts (see previous post), apparently there is a T-shirt available in PX stores that says "Who's your Baghdaddy?" in English and Arabic. Popular with the troops, private contractors, pajamas media bloggers (see comment #24), the little green footballs crowd...Do you suppose JetBlue and JFK security officials would have insisted that a traveler wearing such a shirt remove it before flying?

Or how about shirts carrying some of the bilingual slogans mentioned here?

Monday, August 21, 2006

I want this T-shirt

Via Democracy Now!, I learned that a man was detained and questioned at JFK for wearing a T-shirt that said "We will not be silent" in English and in Arabic.

This is because the Arabic translation of "we will not be silent" is "I am a terrorist," at least in the opinion of linguistically, culturally and politically challenged Americans (i.e. the majority). The man, Iraqi peace activist and blogger Raed Jarrar who now resides in the US, was ordered to change his shirt if he wanted to board the plane.

Jarrar was returning from a trip to the Middle East, where he and the others in his group met with Iraqi parliamentarians to talk about ending the American occupation. While in Syria they visited a Lebanese refugee camp, where, when it was learned that they had come from America, they were yelled at for funding the bombs dropped on Lebanon, and made to leave.

Read more here; as Raed ruefully concludes,
It sucks to be an Arab/Muslim living in the US these days. When you go to the middle east, you are a US tax-payer destroying people's houses with your money, and when you come back to the US, you are a suspected terrorist and plane hijacker.

Unhinged conservative politically aspiring neonuts for Tasini

Could there possibly be a connection between these two events?

On Wednesday August 16 I left a comment on the weblog of John Spencer, a Republican candidate for senator challenging Democratic incumbent Hillary Clinton, who as everyone knows plays politics with America's national security and is in league with Osama bin Laden. In my comment I urged people to support the campaign of Jonathan Tasini, who is challenging Clinton in the Democratic primary.

A day later, according to this report in the New York Times, Spencer's campaign sent out an email message "urging his supporters to take a look at Jonathan Tasini."

Nah. Must be a coincidence.

In related news, the work of the Crusading Proofreader rated a mention in the New York Daily News.

I hope you're as impressed as I am.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Let it never be said that a single individual cannot make a difference

I've been worrying about the state of the world and the fate of humanity for a long time now, and acting whenever, wherever, and however I could to nudge things in what I felt was a more promising direction. Most of the time these earnest efforts have been exercises in futility.

For instance, back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, thoroughly alarmed about the threat of nuclear holocaust hanging over us all, I threw myself into research and activism on nuclear weapons, the Cold War, the US-Soviet arms race, and so on. I attended and organized conferences on the topic on my university campus, got involved with Pugwash, made several visits to the USSR to engage directly in official and unofficial dialogues with people there, penned articles and edited newsletters, networked intensively with leading activists in the British women's peace movement while at Oxford, attended demonstrations, went briefly on hunger strike...well, you get the general idea.

And to what avail? Nil. In 1980, as my activism got under way, the "doomsday clock" of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists stood at seven minutes to midnight. The time today? Seven minutes to midnight.

In 1990, inspired by the results of the December 23, 1990 plebiscite overwhelmingly in favor of Slovenia's independence, I sent a telegram to American President George H.W. Bush from the Šiška post office in Ljubljana, urging him as a fellow freedom-loving American to support Slovenia's aspirations for democracy and independence. He failed notably to take my advice. Instead, on the eve of Slovenia'’s formal declaration of independence on June 25, 1991, Bush's Secretary of State James Baker made a visit to Belgrade to convey the message that the United States would not object to the use of force by the JLA to keep Yugoslavia together as a single country. Given the choice between backing the communist, ultra-nationalist, dictatorial regime controlled by budding war criminal Slobodan Milošević, and supporting the brave dissenters of Slovenia struggling peacefully for greater democracy, pluralism, and market-based economic reform, Bush ignored my plea and came down firmly on the side of the former.

In November of 2002, during a period of temporary residence in Indiana, I published a guest editorial in the Lafayette Journal and Courier proposing that the highly touted, handsomely funded, soon to be established "Purdue Homeland Security Institute" include a study of American foreign policy among its "critical mission areas" if they were serious about preventing future terrorist attacks. Among other things, I suggested they offer an introductory course to students majoring or minoring in Homeland Security called "Blowback 101."

They didn't adopt any of my suggestions, and the Purdue Homeland Security Institute four years on has not had any effect whatsoever on America's terrorist-creating foreign policy. (It may well have played a major role in the Department of Homeland Security's designation of Indiana as the national center of terrorism, with 8,591 potential targets, but that wasn't my idea so I can't claim any credit.)

In 2003, I made two trips to the Indianapolis office of Senator Richard Lugar as a member of citizen delegations organized through MoveOn. The first was in January before the invasion of Iraq, to encourage Lugar to use his influence to prevent it happening, and then again in October, to urge him to vote against Bush's request for another $87 billion to fund it. The impact of our respectful but impassioned antiwar statements on Lugar's thinking? Zero. Bush got his war and his funding, thanks to the enthusiastic support of Lugar and so many others in Congress.

Another senator who blew me off is Joe Biden, who was all over the airwaves on February 5, 2003, touting the support of "New Europe" for a unilateral U.S. invasion of Iraq, with or without a UN mandate, and horrifying the Slovenes whose unconditional backing he was falsely claiming. I contacted his office multiple times, in writing and by phone, pointing out factual errors in his statements and requesting, in the interests of public accuracy, that he issue a correction. His response? Zilch.

And then there's all those letters to the editor I've written, which never get published or read or have any impact whatsoever on the public debate.

So given this string of failures, why the fuck do I still bother?

Because every so often, I score a victory. I have an impact. I make a difference. And these accomplishments, however small, these signs of progress, however incremental, are what give me the strength and the inspiration and the resolve to carry on.

Case in point: the other day, via a link from WIIIAI, I came across an ad by John Spencer, a Republican challenger to Democratic incumbent senator Hillary Clinton. The original version of this "hard-hitting and factual" ad proclaimed that "Islamic facists still hate us and want to attack us," and that Hillary Clinton was making their job easier by voting against vital programs, leaving America vulnerable.

I left a comment pointing out that it should be Islamic fascists, not facists. And you know what? When I checked back a couple of days later, the error had been corrected! I am convinced this was due directly to my own personal intervention. I could have remained silent. I could have looked the other way. I could have left it up to someone else to speak truth to power. I could have spent the time enjoying a walk in the countryside with my dog instead of trolling the sites of unhinged conservative politically aspiring neonuts who attack my values and hate me for my freedom. But conscience and a highly trained proofreading eye drove me to speak up, and by damn, I made a difference.

And who knows, my influence may not stop there. I also encouraged people to join the struggle to oust Clinton, who plays politics with America's national security, by voting for Jonathan Tasini.

Oh fuck it, maybe I should just go back to dog-blogging.

Battle scene from the global struggle of ideas between Australian shepherds and border collies

Who's buying?

So, Osama Walks into This Bar, See? and Bush says, “Whad’l'ya have, pardner?” and Osama says, “Well, George, what are you serving today?” and Bush says, “Fear,” and Osama shouts, “Fear for everybody!” and George pours it on for the crowd. Then the presidential bartender says, “Hey, who’s buying?” and Osama points a thumb at the crowd sucking down their brew. “They are,” he says. And the two of them share a quiet laugh.

Looks like they're buying big over at CNN. Go watch. Now. Then come back.

Are you thoroughly inebriated and indoctrinated? Pissing yourself in fear? Having shaking, shivering, screaming nightmares about Islamic fascist terrorists bent on global domination coming to YOUR town and murdering you and your loved ones in your beds? In need of an antidote? Here, try some Craig Murray or Bill Blum. My treat.

I wonder if CNN plans to do a story called "Target: World" portraying actual victims of ongoing terrorism committed by the United States and Israel.

Probably not.

I don't watch CNN. I don't have cable or satellite TV, and even if I did, I wouldn't waste my limited TV-viewing time on CNN. I do get four Slovene channels. Two nights ago one of them showed John Pilger's film, "Palestine Is Still the Issue." I watched it with my fourteen-year-old daughter; she was fascinated but horrified, and kept asking me questions I couldn't answer, like "Why does America support Israel when Israel is doing all this to the Palestinians?" Afterwards, I found her poring over her geography atlas, studying the maps of the Middle East. She'd like to travel there, and to many other places.

Has this or any other Pilger film ever been shown on a major American network? I don't know, but I doubt it. And maybe that's part of the answer to my daughter's question.

If you haven't seen the film yourself, you can watch it here, at the Information Clearing House site. Motto: "News you won't find on CNN". Indeed.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The terror plot that wasn't

Craig Murray follows up on the dastardly plan by terrorists to cause "untold death and destruction":

[A]fter eight days of detention, nobody has been charged with any crime. For there to be no clear evidence yet on something that was "imminent" and "Mass murder on an unbelievable scale" is, to say the least, rather peculiar. The 24th person, who was arrested amid much fanfare yesterday, has been quietly released without charge today. Breaking news, another "suspect" has just been released too.

Of course, none of this means that there wasn't a plot involved:
The sinister aspect is not that this is a real new threat. It is that the allegation may have been concocted in order to prepare us for arresting people without any actual bombs.

I wonder which of the 50,000 people who read the item on Murray's blog, and the countless others who quoted and reposted the item (I confess! I confess!) will be arrested first.

Skepticism. It's the new terrorism.

Breaking news!!!

There's an insurgency in Iraq! And it's getting stronger! Apparently Iraqis don't take kindly to being occupied!

Don't worry, the New York Times is on it, in a front-page story chock-a-block with truly revelatory quotes from anonymous senior officials:
“The insurgency has gotten worse by almost all measures, with insurgent attacks at historically high levels,” said a senior Defense Department official who agreed to discuss the issue only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for attribution. “The insurgency has more public support and is demonstrably more capable in numbers of people active and in its ability to direct violence than at any point in time.”

The official also noted that the Earth was generally considered by most experts to be a round body that rotates on its axis, but asked not to be quoted by name on this point since he had not been authorized to speak about it. The Bush administration is trying to classify the information to prevent it reaching the general public, and has already detained some "Al Qaeda types" who were caught, by means of NSA warrantless surveillance, discussing this sensitive topic.

In this article, the Times has apparently moved beyond trying to explain the insurgency, and has simply acknowledged it as a fact of life, however mysterious the origins. Did it evolve by natural selection acting on random mutation, or is it being guided by an intelligent designer? The article doesn't speculate, focusing instead on the more pressing question of what to do about it:
“Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy,” said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Terrorists in the skies and under the bed

London police Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson: "We are confident we have disrupted a plan by terrorists to cause untold death and destruction. Put simply, this was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale."

Craig Murray's take: It's "more propaganda than plot", accompanied by middle of the night raids, and confessions likely extracted via torture

Robert Fisk to Paul Stephenson: "I would love to have the Met in Beirut to counter terror in my part of the world."

Saturday, August 12, 2006

We write letters, which are rejected: Part 2, of a long and continuing series

Here's another Times reject. This one was written in response to a May 15, 2005 article called "The Mystery of the Insurgency." I'm prompted to post it now since there was an op-ed in today's Washington Post with some similar head-scratching over the puzzling question of why Iraqis tend to greet American troops with IEDs instead of flowers. Mind you, I don't want to be too hard on WaPo: unlike the Times, they have published most of the letters I've written, or issued a correction when I pointed out some error in their reporting on Slovenia (a country most people have never heard of but one I happen to know a lot about).

Anyway, here's the letter.

To the editor:

There is nothing “mysterious” about the Iraqi “insurgency.” When the troops of a foreign occupying power lay waste to Iraqi towns, kill, maim and orphan Iraqi children, break into and loot Iraqi homes, forcibly incarcerate Iraqi citizens in ghastly prisons where they are humiliated, tortured and brutalized, defame a religion which is revered by the local population, and attempt to commandeer the country's territory and resources for the needs of the foreign power rather than those of Iraqis, resistance is only to be expected.

Americans would never tolerate this kind of treatment. Why do they think Iraqis would welcome it? Americans would fight to the death to expel a foreign invader from their country. Why are they surprised when other nations do the same?

No mystery here. It’s more like “duh.” And the obvious solution to the “problem” of the insurgency is to withdraw the offending foreign troops who should never have been sent there in the first place.

I guess the New York Times doesn't appreciate sarcasm

On August 1, the New York Times ran the photo above with this caption: "A Gaza home destroyed by Israel Monday. The Israeli Army called the homeowner to warn him about the attack, and his family was evacuated."

The photo accompanied an article (now archived and no longer freely accessible) by Steven Erlanger about Israel's attacks in Lebanon, in which the statements of various Israeli military and government officials, named and unnamed, were dutifully reported without critique or challenge.

I was moved by the photo caption to write the following letter:
To the editor:

In today's online version of your newspaper I read this photo caption: "A Gaza home destroyed by Israel Monday. The Israeli Army called the homeowner to warn him about the attack, and his family was evacuated."

I write to thank you for highlighting the humanity of the Israeli Army. A naive reader might have wondered why Israel was systematically destroying the homes of Gaza residents, but your caption, by focusing on the positive, helps to deflect such negative thinking. Many critics of the American media have deplored its excessively negative coverage of Middle East wars; I applaud your efforts to portray events there in a more positive light.

I do, however, have two questions which remained unanswered after I read the article. First, why is there a picture from Gaza above an article about Israel's attacks in Lebanon? And second, did the homeowner and his family, whose names and faces you omitted from your coverage, no doubt due to space limitations, manage to evacuate safely, or were they fired on and killed by an Israeli helicopter, as happened to the 23 family members of Ali and Ahmad al-Ghanam while fleeing, on Israeli orders, the Lebanese village of Marwaheen on July 20?

Regrettably, the Times did not see fit to print it. Can't imagine why. Though I do detect a definite pattern here, because they haven't printed any of the dozen or so letters I've written in recent years. Is it something I said?

"You are terrorists, we are virtuous"

Yitzhak Laor on the Israeli Defense Force:

As soon as the facts of the Bint Jbeil ambush, which ended with relatively high Israeli casualties (eight soldiers died there), became public, the press and television in Israel began marginalising any opinion that was critical of the war. The media also fell back on the kitsch to which Israelis grow accustomed from childhood: the most menacing army in the region is described here as if it is David against an Arab Goliath. Yet the Jewish Goliath has sent Lebanon back 20 years, and Israelis themselves even further: we now appear to be a lynch-mob culture, glued to our televisions, incited by a premier whose ‘leadership’ is being launched and legitimised with rivers of fire and destruction on both sides of the border. Mass psychology works best when you can pinpoint an institution or a phenomenon with which large numbers of people identify. Israelis identify with the IDF, and even after the deaths of many Lebanese children in Qana, they think that stopping the war without scoring a definitive victory would amount to defeat. This logic reveals our national psychosis, and it derives from our over-identification with Israeli military thinking.


The IDF is the most powerful institution in Israeli society, and one which we are discouraged from criticising. Few have studied the dominant role it plays in the Israeli economy. Even while they are still serving, our generals become friendly with the US companies that sell arms to Israel; they then retire, loaded with money, and become corporate executives. The IDF is the biggest customer for everything and anything in Israel. In addition, our high-tech industries are staffed by a mixture of military and ex-military who work closely with the Western military complex. The current war is the first to become a branding opportunity for one of our largest mobile phone companies, which is using it to run a huge promotional campaign. Israel’s second biggest bank, Bank Leumi, used inserts in the three largest newspapers to distribute bumper stickers saying: ‘Israel is powerful.’ The military and the universities are intimately linked too, with joint research projects and an array of army scholarships.


The truth behind this is that Israel must always be allowed to do as it likes even if this involves scorching its supremacy into Arab bodies. This supremacy is beyond discussion and it is simple to the point of madness. We have the right to abduct. You don’t. We have the right to arrest. You don’t. You are terrorists. We are virtuous. We have sovereignty. You don’t. We can ruin you. You cannot ruin us, even when you retaliate, because we are tied to the most powerful nation on earth. We are angels of death.

Read it in its entirety here.

"Anti-Israeli sentiments are rife among Democrats"

I guess it's all a matter of perspective: if you're rabidly pro-Israel, like these writers, "evenhandedness" qualifies as "anti-Israeli."

In the past, Israel could depend upon a basic consensus among both Republicans and Democrats that it was a valuable, indeed indispensable, ally that occupied the moral high ground. The political sands, however, are shifting. Anti-Israeli sentiments are rife among Democrats - 59 percent want the U.S. to be more "evenhanded" in the Middle East - some of whom appear to be convinced that the Bush administration's deposition of Saddam Hussein was masterminded by "neo-conservatives" in Israel's interest.

Senator Joseph Lieberman's August 8 loss in the Connecticut primary, and the evident triumph of the Democrats' neo-McGovernite wing, signal trouble ahead.

Lieberman was beaten by Ned Lamont, who, as Israel's army was massacring Lebanese civilians, many of them children, turning cities and villages into rubble, displacing 20-25% of the population, deliberately targeting and destroying infrastructure like bridges and power plants, polluting the environment, and committing a long list of other war crimes, came out with this statement:
At this critical time in the Middle East, I believe that when Israel’s security is threatened, the United States must unambiguously stand with our ally to be sure that it is safe and secure...It is not for the United States to dictate to Israel how it defends itself.

I'd sure like to know who those 59% of Democrats aspiring to "evenhandedness" are. I haven't noticed a single one, with national prominence. On the contrary, Republicans and Democrats seem to be vying fiercely for the title of most vociferous champion of Israel. And Lamont looks quite willing to continue the bipartisan tradition of America's carte blanche support for Israel.

(For more on Lamont and Israel, see here.)

Meanwhile, Jonathan Tasini, who is challenging Hillary Clinton (D - Israel) in the New York senate primary race, is barred from debating his opponent on TV, because his campaign isn't considered rich enough. Tasini dared to criticize--fairly mildly, at that--Israel's conduct in Lebanon; a spokesperson for Clinton called his remarks "beyond the pale.”

No, I don't think we'll see much shift in this debate--hell, I don't think we'll even see any sort of debate--about American policy towards Israel any time soon. Not in American national politics.

Update: Billmon has a post on The War Party that I'd missed while I was away. It should be read in its entirety, but here are some excerpts I found especially sobering:

But there's one big problem with all this hyperventilating: It wildly exaggerates the anti-war fevor that Ned Lamont supposedly represents. Oh I know Ned says he's anti-war, but he only means the war in Iraq. The war in Lebanon, on the other hand, is just fine by him. And he's already pledged he'll be just as staunch a friend of Israel and the Israel lobby in this war as Holy Joe ever was or ever could be. So bombs away.


What's become clear to me is that the Democratic Party (even it's allegedly anti-war wing) will not try to stop this insanity, and in fact will probably be led as meekly to the slaughter as it was during the runup to the Iraq invasion. Watching the Dems line up to salute the Israeli war machine, hearing the uncomfortable and awkward silence descend on most of Left Blogistan once the bombs started falling in Lebanon, seeing how easily the same Orwellian propaganda tricks worked their magic on the pseudoliberals -- all this doesn't leave too much room for doubt. As long as World War III can be sold as protecting the security and survival of the Jewish state, I suspect the overwhelming majority of Democrats, or at least the overwhelming majority of Democratic politicians, will support it.


I had hopes once that the Democratic Party could be reformed, that progressives could burrow back in or build their own parallel organizations (like or even Left Blogistan) and eventually gain control of the party and its agenda -- much as the conservatives took over the GOP in the 1980s and '90s.
But I think we've run out of time. Events -- from 9/11 on -- have moved too fast and pushed us too far towards the clash of civilizations that most sane people dread but the neocons desperately want. The Dems are now just the cadet branch of the War Party. While the party nomenklatura is finally, after three bloody years, making dovish noises about the Iraq fiasco, I think their loyalty to Israel, or their fear of the Israel lobby, almost certainly will snap them back into line during the coming "debate" over war with Iran.

I'd been rooting for a Lamont win over Lieberman ever since I heard of his challenge. A month ago I would have been thrilled, ecstatic, euphoric over the primary result. But after Lamont came out with those statements in support of Israel, revealing both his biases and his ignorance, and after noting the deafening silence on Lebanon at the most enthusiastic of the pro-Lamont blogs (which I no longer bother reading), I have written off the Democratic Party for good. I believe there will be change, there may even be progress, but it's not going to come from the ranks or the leadership of the U.S. Democratic Party.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Life goes on and dogs must frolic

And so must I, though I'm not really in the mood. But I'm on vacation.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

And if we go back in history even further...

Sir: Bruce Anderson is wrong to say, "No one has ever looked foolish by sounding gloomy about the Middle East". A century ago, the region was bubbling with ideas and experiments, universal education, women's liberation, parliamentary democracy, the secular state, scientific revival.

That was before the British and French decided they should take control of the Arab world, with the help of Zionists and local stooges. We were nearly forgiven after Dwight Eisenhower, then US President, secured our withdrawal from Suez in 1956 and after Harold Macmillan's "Wind of Change" blew away the remains of the Empire.

Now George Bush and Tony Blair have put relations with Islam back to the state they were in during the Crusades, except that then Europe was still learning from the Arabs about science, mathematics and medicine.


Did you know that Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni are the children of terrorists?

I didn't, until today. Or at any rate I didn't know the details. As a university student 20-odd years ago, I specialized in Russian language and Soviet studies. After that, I moved to Slovenia in what was then Yugoslavia, and spent the next decade or so learning about that part of the world. It's only in the last five years that I've been paying closer attention to the Middle East, though I have yet to travel there. My education continues, thanks in part to this recent article by Johann Hari from The Independent:
While Lebanon burns, a sour little ceremony in Jerusalem points the way to sanity

As Israeli forces killed more than 300 civilians and drove half a million people from their homes in the name of stamping out “terrorism”, a small, sour historical irony passed unnoticed last week in Jerusalem. The veterans of another “terrorist” organisation gathered, right under the nose of the Israeli forces, to celebrate the slaughter of 91 people, including 28 Brits, in a hotel. It fondly recalled planting bombs that blew up civilians on buses, in marketplaces and cafés, introducing these tactics to the Middle East tango. It looked back on rounding up the population of an entire village – 251 men, women and children – and shooting them all. It even marked the memory of kidnapping the other side’s soliders and holding them for weeks – before hanging them by the neck until they were dead.

So has this “terrorist” organisation been punished with aerial bombardment from the Israeli Defence Force? Not quite. The group was called the Irgun, and it was made up of Jewish nationalists whose children now comprise the Israeli establishment. Through the 1930s and 1940s, it planted bombs across Palestine, targeting both British soldiers and Palestinian civilians. It had two goals: to drive the British imperialists out, and to terrorise the Palestinian population into unconditionally accepting the creation of Israel. Ehud Olmert, Israel’s ‘war on terror’ Prime Minister, can scarcely condemn them. He spent the first three years of his life living in one of their terror training camps while his parents worked as their gun-runners. Tzipi Livni, the Israel foreign minister widely tipped as a future PM, is the daughter of the Irgun’s director of military operations, a mastermind of civilian-slaughter.

Yesterday I left a comment over at The Washington Note on the futility of bringing about change in American foreign policy via the ballot box (I guess it's Diebold voting machine nowadays), since no American politician or candidate dares criticize Israel. (Jonathan Tasini and others have aptly called the Israel-Palestine conflict the third rail of American politics.) I added:
"As the Lebanese pull the mangled bodies of their children out of the rubble of Qana, and the Palestinians bury their dead in Gaza, I could forgive them for thinking that the only way to bring fairness and justice to a world now ruled by the morally obtuse and the politically purblind is through violence and extremism."

which in turn drew this response from commenter MP:
"Except, of course, that is precisely what got them there to begin with."

I think MP might want to go a little further back in history to trace the roots of this particular conflict.