January 31, 2009

I Have Uncovered Possible Hypocrisy On The Part Of The United States!

This is Barack Obama last week on U.S. policy toward Hamas:

Hamas must meet clear conditions: recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence, and abide by past agreements.

Now here's Benjamin Netanyahu, almost certainly Israel's next prime minister, speaking on Thursday:

"I will not keep Olmert's commitments to withdraw and I won't evacuate settlements. Those understandings are invalid and unimportant," Netanyahu said.

Needless to say, in addition to their views on past agreements, Netanyahu's Likud party also does not recognize Palestine's right to exist, nor will it renounce violence. But I'm going to go out on a limb here and bet that even if they win, the US will still speak to Israel.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 02:22 PM | Comments (29)

"Some Ritual Bloodletting"

Here's an interesting passage from Hide and Seek: The Search for Truth in Iraq by Charles Duelfer, the guy who ran the CIA's search for Iraq's non-existent WMD. Duelfer had previously worked for UNSCOM during the nineties. According to a Washington Post article, he confirms in the book that he "helped arrange a U.S.-backed spying operation that penetrated Hussein's inner circle." (I haven't gotten to that part.)

This section is about the immediate aftermath of the December, 1998 Desert Fox bombing campaign. Most significant is that Duelfer flatly says the real issue for the US was not WMD, but our unwillingness to allow Saddam to continue in power:

This bombing was the equivalent of some ritual bloodletting. It really would change nothing other than cause a recognition that the inspection process could not solve a political problem between Iraq and the Security Council and the United States. WMD and UNSCOM were surrogates for the real problem—Saddam. The possibly of dialogue after a bombing was a good thought, but reflected ignorance by Musawi on what was possible in Washington. A dialogue with the Saddam regime would be difficult for any administration, but especially one weakened by a pending impeachment trial.

"Maybe something will come of this," I said, but without hope.

As recently as a month before, both Hamdoon and Musawi had asked me if there could be a bilateral dialogue with Washington. I had passed these queries to the NSC and Ambassador Richardson. There was never any answer. The Clinton administration could not have a dialogue with Baghdad, even if it thought dialogue was a good idea. Clinton was in the midst of being impeached. A dialogue with the Saddam regime would have been used by the Republicans to shred the administration. I think Hamdoon understood this from his years in Washington, but he was instructed to ask, anyway. Each time I passed such entreaties to Washington, there was never any answer.

A decade later, now that we know the massive cost of removing Saddam, these options for dialogue—even with a tyrant—look much better. If nothing else, they were missed opportunities for Washington to gain more knowledge.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:06 AM | Comments (8)

January 30, 2009

Spain Begins Investigation Of Obama For Crimes Against Humanity

By: John Caruso

News flash:

A Spanish judge today opened preliminary investigations into claims that Predator drone attacks on Pakistan warranted the prosecution of Barack Obama and six senior U.S. officials for crimes against humanity.

Judge Fernando Andreu agreed to ­investigate the deaths of 21 people, including children, who died when Obama ordered U.S. Predator drone attacks on targets in Pakistan. [...]

The magistrate accepted that the aim of the attack had been to kill suspected members of "the terrorist group called al Qaeda".

But the United States appeared to have fired so many missiles that it was inevitably going to kill many other innocent people living nearby, Andreu said.

No, not really; sorry to get your hopes up.  Here's the actual story:

A Spanish judge today opened preliminary investigations into claims that a bomb attack on Gaza in 2002 warranted the prosecution of a former Israeli defence minister and six senior military officers for crimes against humanity.

Judge Fernando Andreu agreed to ­investigate the deaths of 15 Palestinians, mostly babies and children, who died when the Israeli air force bombed a target in Gaza City. [...]

The magistrate accepted that the aim of the 2002 attack had been to kill Saleh ­Shehadeh, who he described as a suspected leader of "the terrorist group called Hamas".

But the Israeli air force appeared to have dropped such a huge bomb on Shehadeh's house that it was inevitably going to kill many other innocent people living nearby, Andreu said.

I should say "not yet" rather than "not really", though, because although this was wishful thinking it wasn't baseless.  As I read this story I was struck by the fact that Obama's extrajudicial executions in Pakistan are closely analogous to Israel's 2002 assassination strike in almost every way—and especially in terms of the lack of concern about the inevitable civilian death toll.  So the Spanish case against Ben Eliezer and others would seem to set a strong precedent for Obama's own future war crimes trial.

Israel has vowed to do everything in its power to quash the Spanish case, of course, and the United States will no doubt do the same.  But as I've observed before, despite the rabid opposition of outlaw states like these, the mechanisms of international justice keep expanding year after year and also reaching higher in terms of who's being held accountable.  So it's not unreasonable to hope that in a few years that first version of the article will go from a wish to a reality, and our child-killing President will be held to account for his decision to appoint himself international judge, jury, and executioner.

AND ALSO: Illustrating that Obama's actions should be condemned even if you set aside the utter contempt for morality and law and look at them solely through a practical lens, the BBC reported that the second of the drone attacks "actually hit the house of a pro-government tribal leader, killing him and four members of his family, including a five-year-old child."

NO ONE SAW THIS COMING: Reuters is reporting that "Israel said on Friday the Spanish government had said it would work to amend a law under which a Madrid court is to consider trying seven Israelis over the killing of Palestinians."  I'd hate to see Spain go the route of Belgium (which amended its universal jurisdiction law under intense pressure from the United States), so let's hope the forces of evil are thwarted in this attempt to subvert justice.

— John Caruso

Posted at 12:22 PM | Comments (32)

January 29, 2009

The Process: Understanding Human Cruelty

Ow, my head:

Israeli soccer matches were suspended during the assault on Gaza. When the games resumed last week, the fans had come up with a new chant: "Why have the schools in Gaza been shut down?" sang the crowd. "Because all the children were gunned down!" came the answer.

It's hard to belong to a species that often acts with such berserk cruelty. We don't just cause each other horrible pain; we do it gratuitously, far beyond what's necessary to reach any of our conscious goals, and in fact to the point it's completely counterproductive for anything we believe we're trying to do.


I think the psychological mechanism is straightforward, and is described accurately in this exchange from David Mamet's movie The Spanish Prisoner. Jimmy Dell is played by Steve Martin in an unusual serious role, and Joe Ross is played by Campbell Scott. Ross has invented something extremely valuable for the company he works for, referred to only as "The Process." But they seem unwilling to cut him in on the profits. Dell gives him this advice:

JIMMY DELL: I think you'll find that if what you've done for them is as valuable as you say it is—if they are indebted to you morally but not legally—my experience is they will give you nothing, and they will begin to act cruelly toward you.


JIMMY DELL: To suppress their guilt.

This progression happens over and over in the long annals of human beings treating others like crap. Those doing the oppressing almost always could continue the oppression with far less violence (physical, psychological, or both) than they actually use. But they're unable to help themselves—they seemingly must inflict bizarre, irrational amounts of suffering on those over whom they hold power.

It appears that, for humans, once you've started down the road of hurting someone, you must continue. Indeed, you must hurt them even more to prove to yourself these people deserve to be hurt. That's because our psyche's Prime Directive is to preserve our self-image at all cost.

Due to the Prime Directive, when we hurt others our psyche tell us that our victims are dirty thieves. After all, they are trying to steal our most valuable possession: our self-image. And what do you do to dirty thieves? YOU PUNISH THEM. And when they try to make you feel bad about this new punishment, this just goes to show what giant dirty thieves they are, so you must PUNISH THEM MORE. (This insight courtesy of Mike Gerber.)

Regarding the recent attack on Gaza specifically, Palestinians have done something very valuable for Israelis: given them most of their country. Israelis are indebted (morally but not legally) to Palestinians. This infuriates Israelis, and they unconsciously feel compelled to act even more cruelly toward Palestinians than they have already. Soon they're dropping cluster bombs on UN schools in refugee camps, and singing jolly songs about it in public.

Obviously there a million other examples of this. Indeed, in my experience the process doesn't just work like this between groups; as Jimmy Dell says, it also works exactly the same way on a one on one level. Many times when I've treated people badly, I've found myself filled with a sudden, inexplicable surge of anger toward them. And when people have treated me badly, they've often followed it up by lashing out at me in peculiar ways.

Understanding how this drives human cruelty doesn't directly change anything in the world outside you. But it does change the inside of you, and makes living in the world less painful. It also suggests strategies for lessening human cruelty that may be more effective than what we usually try.

BUT THERE'S MORE: Of course, that's not all that's going on in that exchange from The Spanish Prisoner.

(This includes spoilers that will ruin it if you haven't seen it already.)

Jimmy Dell is actually working for Joe Ross's boss, and is manipulating Ross in an extremely sophisticated way: by telling him something accurate about the world that will make him believe something further that's inaccurate. In political terms, Dell is acting as an agent provocateur: encouraging Ross to preemptively attack Ross's boss (by absconding with The Process), so Ross's boss will be justified in responding with overwhelming force (ie, having Ross arrested).

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 07:57 PM | Comments (69)

Hillary Clinton Just As Odious As You Thought

By: John Caruso

Here's Hillary Clinton giving us a crystal clear statement of the Obama administration's official position on the propriety of Israel's killing of 1285 Palestinians in Gaza, overwhelmingly civilians:

[W]e support Israel’s right to self-defense. The rocket barrages, which are getting closer and closer to populated areas, cannot go unanswered. And it’s, you know, regrettable that the Hamas leadership apparently believes that it is in their interest to provoke the right of self-defense instead of building a better future for the people of Gaza.

Unfortunately none of the reporters at this press conference felt it was necessary to ask Clinton 1) if Palestinians have a similar right to self-defense, 2) what it would take to "provoke" this right, or 3) how many Israeli deaths would be justified—and rationalized by the United States, rather than condemned—once it was provoked.

— John Caruso

Posted at 12:15 AM | Comments (13)

January 28, 2009

Plunder and Blunder

Dean "America's Only Economist" Baker has written a new book called Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of The Bubble Economy. The American Prospect is running a two part discussion about it, part one of which is now up here. You might also want to check out the Firedoglake salon on it.

(This post contains a small joke for comedy nerds.)

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 02:28 PM | Comments (4)


How much are Afghans worth?

U.S. commanders on Tuesday traveled to a poor Afghan village and distributed $40,000 to relatives of 15 people killed in a U.S. raid...$2,500 for each death plus $500 for two wounded men and $1,500 for village repairs.

Interestingly, that's about what U.S. lives are worth too. Remember that Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal offered us $10 million after the 9/11 attacks. 2,800 people killed X $2,500 = $7 million. Add on $3 million for injuries and village repairs, and it's exactly the same.

At the time, Prince Alwaleed blamed 9/11 on US foreign policy. Likewise, the US blames the dead Afghans on 9/11. It's a nice symmetry. (Except Prince Alwaleed didn't actually kill 2,800 people himself.)

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 12:04 PM | Comments (7)

How I Love Teh Internets

This is an open letter to Obama from an Israeli woman. If humanity has a future, it's going to include much more stuff like this.

P.S. I am aware this video may not be 100% flawless.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:09 AM | Comments (10)

January 27, 2009

New Tomdispatch


Mitchell's Challenge
After Gaza, Five Questions about Palestinian and Israeli Realities

By Sandy Tolan

The deep irony of the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" first struck me in 1996 as I was driving through the West Bank from Hebron to Jerusalem. I had turned off the potholed main road that passed through Palestinian villages and refugee camps and headed west into Kiryat Arba. In that Israeli settlement, admirers had erected a graveside monument to Baruch Goldstein, the settler from Brooklyn who, in 1994, gunned down 29 Palestinians in Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs. From the settlement's creepy candlelit shrine I cut north, and soon found myself on a quiet, smooth-as-glass "bypass" road. The road, I would learn, was one of many under construction by Israel, alongside new and expanding settlements, that would allow settlers to travel easily from their West Bank islands to the "mainland" of the Jewish state.

How strange, I thought naively, as I traveled that lonely road toward Jerusalem on a gray winter afternoon: Isn't this part of the land that Palestinians would need for their state? Why, then, in the middle of the Oslo peace process -- barely three years after the famous Rabin-Arafat handshake on the White House lawn -- would Israeli officials authorize construction that was visibly cementing the settlers' presence into Palestinian land?

Twelve years later, these post-Oslo "facts on the ground" have all but doomed the traditional path to peace. The two-state solution, the central focus of efforts to end the tragedy of Israel and Palestine since 1967, has been undermined by the thickening reality of red-roofed Israeli settlements, military outposts, surveillance towers, and the web of settlers-only roads that whisk Israelis from their West Bank dwellings to prayer in Jerusalem's Old City, or to shopping and the beach in Tel Aviv. So dense had the Israeli West Bank presence become by 2009, so fragmented is Palestinian life -- both physically and politically -- that it now requires death-defying mental gymnastics to imagine how a two-state solution could ever be implemented.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 04:08 PM | Comments (1)


After you're done writing to CBS, today would be a good time to get in touch with your local alt-weekly and tell them how much you enjoy This Modern World and cartoons generally.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:36 AM | Comments (1)

Thanks, CBS

As John mentioned yesterday, 60 Minutes just ran a shockingly good piece on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. ("Shocking good" by U.S. standards, of course. In a normal country it would just be run of the mill journalism.)

The segment is embedded below. I strongly encourage anyone who cares about this issue to contact CBS and thank them for this, especially considering how much heat they're surely getting:

Tel: 212-975-2006
Fax: 212-975-2019
E-Mail: 60m@cbsnews.com, kev@cbsnews.com

60 Minutes
555 West 57th St.
New York, NY 10019

(Thanks to SteveB for the contact information.)

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:22 AM | Comments (5)

January 26, 2009

Reality Obstruction Field Breached!

By: John Caruso

I thought I was hallucinating last night as I saw a segment on 60 Minutes that explained the reality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.  And by "reality" I actually do mean reality—presented in a fair amount of detail, making it perfectly clear who is the victim and who is the victimizer, and with almost zero reference to standard Israeli talking points.  It started out with this quote from an Israeli settler...:

I think that settlements prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state in the land of Israel.  This is the goal and this is the reality.

...and continued in essentially that same vein for 13 minutes.  It wasn't perfect, but given what we're used to seeing from the mainstream media in this country it was nothing short of stunning.  As I watched it I could only wonder what the average American (or the average American who watches 60 Minutes, anyway) would make of it, since compared to the steady stream of Israeli propaganda they usually receive it must have seemed like it was beamed here from Mars.

I'm sure this breach in the reality obstruction field will be located and plugged soon, but for now go ahead and treat yourselves to 13 minutes of quality mainstream journalism on the Middle East.  It doesn't happen often.  And given the avalanche of ADL-inspired hate mail CBS will no doubt be receiving soon, I think it's worth writing to them to thank them for putting this piece on the air.

(The transcript of the segment is available here, but I recommend watching rather than reading in this case since the visuals are a critical part of the story.)

— John Caruso

Posted at 11:37 AM | Comments (8)

January 25, 2009

New Tomdispatch

Tomdispatch is publishing two excerpts from the graphic novel based on the Israeli film Waltz with Bashir about the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre.

I highly recommend this. Part I is now available here, with Part II coming out next Saturday.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 06:04 PM | Comments (23)

Coming Of Age


Barack Obama gave the go-ahead for his first military action yesterday, missile strikes against suspected militants in Pakistan which killed at least 18 people.

Four days after assuming the presidency, he was consulted by US commanders before they launched the two attacks...

The first attack yesterday was on the village of Zharki, in Waziristan; three missiles destroyed two houses and killed 10 people. One villager told Reuters of phone that of nine bodies pulled from the rubble of one house, six were its owner and his relatives; Reuters added that intelligence officials said some foreign militants were also killed. A second attack hours later also in Warizistan killed eight people.

This is from the Christmas, 1998 diary entry by Lance Price, deputy to Tony Blair's Direction of Communications. Price is referring to the Operation Desert Fox bombing of Iraq:

"I couldn't help feeling TB was rather relishing his first blooding as PM, sending the boys into action. Despite all the necessary stuff about taking action 'with a heavy heart', I think he feels it is part of his coming of age as a leader."

At least Obama didn't give a speech about his heavy heart.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 12:41 PM | Comments (39)

January 24, 2009

"Wooly Bully"

By: Bernard Chazelle

Thanks to a catchy riff, the song transcends its rhythmic awkwardness. You heard it in "Full Metal Jacket," where it works beautifully. This video is hilarious. Sam the Sham is obviously wearing the right kind of hat to tell us not to be L7 (which means square, as in the shape formed by the 2 letters - I had to look it up). I think it was shot around the time Simon and Garfunkel were feelin' groovy. How time flies, how language dies.

The intro and the sax solo are both straight-ahead 12-bar blues but the song itself has 15 bars. Because of the call-and-response format, (nondelta) blues come in even numbers of measures (8, 12, 16, 24, etc), so 15 means there must be 2 calls (or responses) in a row. It's the former, as you can check at bar 8 over the first chord change (0:45).

CALL 1: "wooly jaw" - CALL 2 [OVER MISSING RESPONSE]: "Wooly bully"

The words "wooly bully" function as a preemptive strike against the second response (which never comes). So you squelch the other guy's voice with the word "bully" and then you bark out "Watch it! It'll get you!" Could describe US foreign policy. Perhaps Wooly Bully should be our national anthem.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at 05:18 PM | Comments (6)

January 23, 2009

My Rule Of Thumb For Understanding Countries

At least 33% of the people in any country are 100% crazy, and 100% of the people in every country are at least 33% crazy.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 07:18 PM | Comments (19)

Why Do They Hate Them?

The people of Gaza hate Israelis for their freedom.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 07:17 PM | Comments (2)

January 22, 2009


Trillion Hitler Brains in Body of RoboGodzilla* is now a father.

* This is a joke so private that even I cannot remember exactly what it means.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 03:57 PM | Comments (4)

New Tomdispatch


Change Gaza Can Believe In
Tearing Up Washington's Middle East Playbook

By Tony Karon

Lest President Barack Obama's opportunistic silence when Israel began the Gaza offensive that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians (more than 400 of them children) be misinterpreted, his aides pointed reporters to comments made six months earlier in the Israeli town of Sderot. "If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that," Obama had said in reference to the missiles Hamas was firing from Gaza. "I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."

Residents of Gaza might have wondered what Obama would have done had he been unfortunate enough to be a resident of, say, Jabaliya refugee camp. What if, like the vast majority of Gazans, his grandfather had been driven from his home in what is now Israel, and barred by virtue of his ethnicity from ever returning? What if, like the majority of the residents of this refugee ghetto-by-the-sea, he had voted for Hamas, which had vowed to fight for his rights and was not corrupt like the Fatah strongmen with whom the Israelis and Americans liked to deal?

And what if, as a result of that vote, he had found himself under an economic siege, whose explicit purpose was to inflict deprivation in order to force him to reverse his democratic choice? What might a Gazan Obama have made of the statement, soon after that election, by Dov Weissglass, a top aide to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, that Israel's blockade would put him and his family "on [a] diet"?

"The Palestinians will get a lot thinner," Weissglass had chortled, "but [they] won't die."

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 12:41 PM | Comments (1)

Smart-Ass Power

By: Bernard Chazelle

Soft power... Joseph Nye coined the phrase. The idea is simple. Why "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" when, instead, you can drink cola with an ayatollah, watch Cinderella with a mullah, and then bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran? A distinction without a difference perhaps, but a distinction nevertheless.

True but, lately, Establishment libs have gotten hard on softness, so soft is out and smart is in — smart as in the latest self-congratulatory buzzword, smart power.

Smart is good, power is good, so smart power is good. Chocolate is good, chicken is good, so chocolate chicken is good. So far so good. Trouble is, smart is a tricky word. It is its tragic destiny to be blessed with only one worthy companion. And that's the word "ass."

As a substitute for "imperialistic brute force," smart-ass power is refreshingly honest. "We're the Smart Asshole Brigade, and who the hell are you?" Smart power, on the other hand, is snide, creepy, duplicitous. "Me smart, you dumb! Me bump you off with my elevated IQ!"

It's also atrocious writing. Here's a simple literary rule: Never claim or recommend anything whose opposite is preposterous. For example, never write that your goal is to do better (unless, that is, your goal is to do worse). Hillary explains smart power to Congress:

We must use what has been called smart power, the full range of tools at our disposal — diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural — picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation.

We've got cola to cover the economic, Cinderella to cover the cultural, and for the rest we've got white phosphorus. And so inquiring minds will want to know: what's dumb power like?

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at 12:24 PM | Comments (19)

January 20, 2009

"Black, Brown, and White"

By: Bernard Chazelle

You heard the uplifting words of Rev. Joseph Lowery:

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right.

The reverend seems to be a fan of Big Bill Broonzy. So am I.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at 09:28 PM | Comments (9)

Thank You Jeebus


Oh sane evil people, I will never take you for granted again.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 01:23 PM | Comments (13)

Today's Joke

Now that he's confined to a wheelchair, Cheney's transformation into a Supervillain is finally complete.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:44 AM | Comments (8)

Free John Barry's Brain!

Via Glenn Greenwald, here's Newsweek's John Barry, explaining why any attempt to hold the Bush administration accountable for its numerous crimes would constitute "vengeance, pure and simple":

[T]urn to Congress—and the core charge that the administration "misled" the legislature and the American public by faking evidence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Really? There is ample evidence that Saddam was genuinely believed to have an arsenal by those with access to the intelligence. Why? Because Saddam's closest associates and his army commanders believed it; and told the CIA and its British counterpart, MI6, when, by ingenious and genuinely heroic efforts, those intelligence agencies made contact with them. All this is a matter of public record.

It would be incredible for any reporter to write this. The US was told by the head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service Tahir Jalil Habbush, Iraq's Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, and dozens of relatives of Iraqi WMD scientists that the administration's claims were completely wrong.

But it's truly mind-boggling to hear it from John Barry. It's not just that Barry is one of the better corporate reporters on foreign policy. No, it's much worse: Barry personally broke a giant story immediately before the invasion of Iraq about the U.S. government faking WMD evidence.

In the March 3, 2003 issue of Newsweek, Barry revealed that Saddam's son-in-law Hussein Kamel, after defecting to Jordan in 1995, told the US and UN that Iraq had no remaining WMD. This was the opposite of what Bush, Cheney, Blair and Powell were claiming Kamel had said. According to Barry, Kamel's statements had been "hushed up." (Barry says this was done by the UN, but it clearly happened with the connivance of the US.)

But there's more. After Barry's story came out, Reuters asked Bill Harlow, the CIA spokesman and one of George Tenet's closest aides, to comment. Harlow vociferously attacked Barry, calling his article "incorrect, bogus, wrong, untrue."

Of course, Barry's story was completely accurate. And it was about something the CIA in 2003 knew with 100% certainty—ie, what Hussein Kamel had said in 1995. (This is opposed to, say, whether what Kamel had said was true. It was later learned he'd been completely honest.)

So to sum up: even after having the CIA blatantly lie about his own work, John Barry will angrily defend the government's veracity.

It's genuinely frightening to see what people have to do to keep their jobs at places like Newsweek. Hopefully Barack Obama is about to create some glasnost within the US government, but even if he does, America's news outlets will retain an alarmingly Soviet tinge.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:10 AM | Comments (6)

Tzipi Livni Not Interested In My Fascinating Observations

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on Friday. While there she took questions from members, including Sam Husseini of the Institute for Public Accuracy. Sam asked her a question that included my observation that Israel cited the 1967 blockage of the Straits of Tiran as a justification for the Six Day War.

As you can see in this segment by the Real News, Livni didn't care to address that in any way. However, the NPC did cut Sam's microphone. This section starts at about 6:00:

HUSSEINI: Why did you continue the blockade of Gaza, and you continue the blockade of Gaza. You've stopped several civilian boats from giving aid, the free Gaza boat for example, you cited a blockade as the cause for the 1967 war. When you had a truce with Hamas you continued the blockade of Gaza, a cause for a war by your own definition...On November 4th you killed six Gaza people…Why did you do that, why did you in effect kill the cease fire with a blockade, and on November 4th…

LIVNI (interrupting): The crossings between Israel and Gaza are open for humanitarian needs, and were open for humanitarian needs during the truce before that and even now during the military operation, thank you.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 08:00 AM | Comments (5)

January 19, 2009

Works The Same Everywhere

This is from William Greider's book One World, Ready or Not:

Marsinah, a twenty-three year-old worker, tried to organize her fellow workers at a watch factory in east Java [in 1993]. She was abducted, raped and murdered. The brutal details of her death had become a national scandal, and though the military itself was implicated in her murder, the Suharto regime anointed Marsinah posthumously as a "worker hero."

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 07:32 AM | Comments (8)

January 18, 2009

This Week, On America's Next Top Asshole

New York Times, "The Richest of the Rich, Proud of a New Gilded Age," July 15, 2007:

Kenneth C. Griffin, who received more than $1 billion last year as chairman of a hedge fund, the Citadel Investment Group, declared: "The money is a byproduct of a passionate endeavor"...

Mr. Griffin maintained that he has created wealth not just for himself but for many others. "We have helped to create real social value in the U.S. economy," he said. "We have invested money in countless companies over the years and they have helped countless people."

The new tycoons oppose raising taxes on their fortunes...

"The income distribution has to stand," Mr. Griffin said, adding that by trying to alter it with a more progressive income tax, "you end up in problematic circumstances. In the current world, there will be people who will move from one tax area to another. I am proud to be an American. But if the tax became too high, as a matter of principle I would not be working this hard."

New York Times, "Hedge Funds, Unhinged," January 18, 2009

Griffin, who built the Citadel Investment Group into one of the largest hedge funds in the world, has seen the value of his funds plunge by roughly $10 billion, one of the biggest amounts lost in the hedge fund carnage last year.

He was down 55 percent while the average fund was down 18 percent.

Yes, it certainly would be a gigantic societal tragedy if Ken stopped working so hard to create wealth.

And of course:

Kenneth C. Griffin, chief executive officer of Citadel Investment Group in Chicago, has collected more than $50,000 for Mr. Obama. But Mr. Griffin, whose $1.5 billion in income in 2007 made him one of the country’s highest-paid hedge-fund executives, has given generously over the years to Republicans as well, and he recently helped to hold a fund-raiser for Mr. McCain.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:42 AM | Comments (32)

January 17, 2009

Peace Just In Time

By: John Caruso

My prediction of a "January surprise" is coming right along:

Israel's security Cabinet convened a meeting tonight, and officials said they expected a decision to halt its 3-week-old offensive in the Gaza Strip but to keep the army there while Egypt mediates a long-term cease-fire deal with Hamas.

"We believe that our military campaign has achieved its goals and that we are now in a situation where we can cease our military operations against Hamas," Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said.

So as I expected, Israel is going to pull back from full-on Guernica levels of mayhem to a less obtrusive Jack the Ripper style before Obama is inaugurated, thus helping him avoid the embarrassment of openly backing mass murder on his first day in office—as the Israelis were helpful enough to say outright:

Officials in Israel also said they wanted to stop the fighting before Barack Obama is sworn in as president Tuesday to avoid clouding a historic day for the Jewish state's main ally and creating friction with the new U.S. administration.

Any other predictions, you ask?  One word: plastics.

— John Caruso

Posted at 03:50 PM | Comments (28)

January 16, 2009

Can't Wait Until Ms. Rice Is Off My TV

Here's Ms. Rice, delivering more standard embarrassing crap from the foreign policy crap factory:

[T]he flaws and disappointing actions within the UN are rooted in its potential to serve as an engine for progress....It is why efforts to pass Security Council resolutions on abuses in places from Zimbabwe to Burma occasion such fierce debate, and don't always succeed. It is also why many try to use the UN to willfully and unfairly condemn our ally Israel. When effective and principled UN action is blocked, our frustration naturally grows, but that should only cause us to redouble our efforts to ensure that the United Nations lives up to its founding principles.

As in the past, there will be occasions in the future when deadlocks cannot be broken, and the United States and its partners and allies will nonetheless have to act.

That sounds exactly like Condoleezza Rice. But in fact it's Susan Rice, in her confirmation hearing to be the new U.S. Ambassador to the UN.

As I've said before: I'd long believed that black women named Rice who are willing to be appalling hacks to rise to the top of the foreign policy establishment are a precious national resource. However, I thought we faced serious supply constraints. Clearly I was wrong.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:46 PM | Comments (16)

Someone Get George A Waiver

George W. Bush, age 61, to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, March 12, 2008:

"I must say, I'm a little envious...If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed...It must be exciting for you...in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks."

George W. Bush, age 62, in farewell address, January 15, 2009:

"We see America’s character in Bill Krissoff, a surgeon from California. His son Nathan, a Marine, gave his life in Iraq. When I met Dr. Krissoff and his family, he delivered some surprising news: He told me he wanted to join the Navy Medical Corps in honor of his son. This good man was 60 years old - 18 years above the age limit. But his petition for a waiver was granted, and for the past year he has trained in battlefield medicine. Lieutenant Commander Krissoff could not be here tonight, because he will soon deploy to Iraq, where he will help save America’s wounded warriors and uphold the legacy of his fallen son."

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 08:05 AM | Comments (8)

January 15, 2009

CIA Chief: Obama and Clinton Lying About Iranian Nuclear Program

Well, CIA director Michael Hayden didn't say that in so many words. But today he did indirectly confirm that, in clear contradiction to recent statements by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, American intelligence has not concluded Iran currently has a nuclear weapons program:

Shifting to Iran, Hayden said that country steadily is producing low-enriched uranium and soon will have enough to create highly enriched uranium - the fuel for a nuclear warhead. The CIA does not have clear intelligence saying that a decision has been made, but the agency is aware of the amount of uranium Iran has produced so far.

Agency officials presume that Iran is seriously considering using its uranium stocks to make nuclear weapons because of its willingness to endure the economic pain of penalties for refusing to agree to international safeguards.

"I'm amazed Iran is willing to run the costs they are running if they are not trying to keep the option open for a nuclear weapon," Hayden said.

In other words, nothing has changed from the most recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran issued in December, 2007:

We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.

Here's Obama last Sunday:

OBAMA: Iran is going to be one of our biggest challenges and as I said during the campaign we have a situation in which not only is Iran exporting terrorism through Hamas, through Hezbollah but they are pursuing a nuclear weapon that could potentially trigger a nuclear arms race.

And Clinton on Tuesday:

CLINTON: As we focus on Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, we must also actively pursue a strategy of smart power in the Middle East that...that effectively challenges Iran to end its nuclear weapons program...

BONUS: Note that, according to Hayden, US intelligence is making assumptions about Iran based on exactly the same reasoning that was proven false regarding Iraq. Here's one of many, many examples of this, from Kenneth Adelman in February, 2003:

Iraq’s huge oil reserves prove two key points. First, just how desperately Saddam clings to his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. His refusal to scrap them 12 years ago, as he pledged, cost Iraq more than $100 billion in lost oil revenue, perhaps as much as $200 billion. That’s a lot to forgo for a WMD arsenal. But it’s WMD that Saddam values most. No price his people pay is too high for his personal ambitions.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:04 PM | Comments (7)

"A Scene From Dante's Inferno"

By: John Caruso

A Norwegian doctor who's been working in Gaza describes the abattoir Israel has created:

DR. MADS GILBERT: The condition in Shifa Hospital and in the other hospitals in Gaza is horrifying. I’ve been to Gaza for the last ten years, in and out, teaching and training people in the medical field. I’ve never seen anything like this. I mean, all windows in the Shifa Hospital are out, due to the bombing of the mosque across the street. They have very unstable electricity. They lack supplies, disposables, surgical equipment, trolleys, beds even. They have a fantastic staff, who are working heroically to save their patients, but we have been doing surgery with, almost regularly, two patients in each OR, on the wall, on the floor, in the corridors. The lifts are barely working. The ICU had to triple its capacity with makeshift ICUs.

It is really, truly a scene from Dante’s Inferno. It is these loads of patients coming in. We had 120, 130 patients coming a day, children, women. And I would say approximately 90 percent—I repeat, 90 percent—of the killed and injured that we have seen are civilians. Up ’til yesterday, 971 people have been killed; of them, one of three is a child below eighteen. 4,500 injuries, as of yesterday at 4:00; among them, every second is a woman or a child. So this is really targeting civilian Palestinian population.

And I recently happened across this article in Ha'aretz:

Senior Hamas officials in Gaza are hiding out in a "bunker" built by Israel, intelligence officials suspect: Many are believed to be in the basements of the Shifa Hospital complex in Gaza City, which was refurbished during Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip. [...]

During a cabinet meeting a week ago, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said senior Hamas officials found refuge in the hospital basement because they know Israel would not target it, due to the patients in the upper floors.

I have to wonder why this was leaked.  Are they trying to lay the groundwork for a move against Gaza's hospitals?  I'd like to think that actually bombing Shifa is beyond even the Israelis, though I'd never be foolish enough to overestimate them.  But one thing I know from my own experience is that the IDF will kidnap the wounded from hospitals—even going so far as to remove patients from live operating theaters.  I stayed overnight with other activists in Hebron's Al-Ahlia hospital in 2002 because the IDF had surrounded it with tanks the night before, searching for wounded Palestinians and abducting a doctor (who was taken away in a tank, ridden around Hebron, and finally released).  We slept uneasily on stretchers, stationed on various floors, ready to go at a moment's notice to do whatever we could—witness, if nothing else—should the Israelis come again in the night.

As we're seeing again in Gaza, helping the wounded is one of the quickest ways to become the next casualty.  One doctor we saw in Al-Ahlia was also a patient; he'd been shot in the side while trying to help two injured men in town, and was still delirious from the pain and medications.  We joined a funeral march for nine people who'd been killed in the previous day and met a paramedic who said three of the dead were his cousins, who'd been killed while trying to go out and help a man who'd been shot in front of their home.  An older man who'd lost two of his sons was there, crying and falling to the ground, and people were helping him to an ambulance.

Another man we saw in the hospital had been beaten down with rifle butts by Israeli soldiers.  His 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter ran away and was run over by an Israeli jeep, breaking her leg.  The man's brother had been shot in the head by the Israelis two years before.

That's just a small fraction of what I saw and heard.  Do you begin to get some idea of what it's like to be a Palestinian?  There wasn't a single person I met in the West Bank or Gaza who didn't have experiences just like this (going back decades), of beatings, humiliation, imprisonment, torture, shootings, family and friends killed and maimed by the Israelis.  Not one.  Can you imagine what it means to live an entire lifetime like this?

"A scene from Dante's Inferno" today in Gaza, but over the years Israel has played out the entire book.  And all of this—so many human lives disfigured and destroyed—for nothing more than its grasping territorial ambitions.

UPDATE: Oh good god:

In some of the most intense ground combat of the 20-day-old assault on Gaza, Israeli tanks powered into the southern suburb of Tel el Howa clashing with Palestinian militants firing rockets.

The tanks advanced under a barrage of artillery and mortar fire that struck the al Quds, al Fata and al Wafa hospitals.

There were unconfirmed reports that Shifa, Gaza City's biggest hospital, was on fire after being struck by Israeli shells.

— John Caruso

Posted at 12:01 PM | Comments (29)

Ho-Hum, Our Entire Political Class Caught Lying About Incredibly Important Matters Of Life And Death Again

As we know from reading America's fine newspapers, Ehud Barak made Yasser Arafat an incredibly "generous offer" at Camp David in 2000. Arafat turned it down because he had always been negotiating in bad faith. Then Arafat launched the second intifada to try to destroy Israel. At this point Israel had no choice but to defend itself, as it had no partner for peace. And so on until today.

Or...that's all complete bullshit:

[T]he conception that left room solely for unilateral moves and a policy of brute force did not originate with Sharon. Since the failure of the Camp David summit in July 2000, when Ehud Barak adopted the "no partner" theory, the [Israeli Military Intelligence] research unit, then under Amos Gilad, supported describing Israel's response to the intifada as a "war of no choice," a war preplanned by Arafat for ideological reasons...

The 2008 internal investigation [of Israeli Military Intelligence] contradicts this view. On August 29, 2000, shortly after the Camp David summit, the research unit stated in its situation appraisal that Arafat continued to prefer the negotiations as the way to advance his strategic goals, and he was convinced that violence would not help his cause at that stage. On August 30 the unit advised that Arafat was restraining the crisis and continued to adhere to the Oslo process. In an unprecedented step he also issued instructions to prepare public opinion to accept an agreement that would include compromises. On September 19 the MI suggested that in the coming period the Palestinians would not try to challenge bluntly the validity of the interim agreements, as they wished to play out the negotiations.

On September 27, 2000, when Prime Minister Barak allowed Sharon to visit the Temple Mount, the research unit urgently submitted an "intelligence compendium" in which it warned that in light of the religious and political sensitivity of the site, "violent confrontations are liable to develop with our forces." Three days later the intelligence researchers stated: "Arafat is not interested in an all-out confrontation, which is liable to pull the ground from under him." A 2004 investigation of "Ebb and Tide" (the official name for the operation to quell the second intifada), conducted by MI's Palestinian desk, found unequivocally that the second intifada erupted as a "popular protest" because people wanted to let off steam and vent the anger that accumulated due to the failure of negotiations and the inability to extract political achievements from Israel...

In a November 2003 document, Lavie wrote: "In General Staff think-team discussions, headed by the chief of the strategic division and with senior representatives of General Staff bodies, it was understood that defining Arafat and the PA as 'terrorist elements' was the directive of the political echelon, even if it did not declare this explicitly and did dictate this to the army."

He emphasized that while any government policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians was legitimate, the research unit's oral backing for government policy was faulty both professionally and ethically, and noted that the unit's written analyses were presenting completely different assessments...Lavie described this as "biasing intelligence research and adjusting it for the leadership." No less.

Of course, anyone paying any attention knew all this was true eight years ago.

It's also interesting, though not surprising, that Israel's intelligence services work exactly like the ones here—ie, they just tell the politicians whatever the politicians want.

Or as Henry Kissinger put it in his 1995 book Diplomacy:

What political leaders decide, intelligence services tend to seek to justify. Popular literature and films often depict the opposite--policymakers as the helpless tools of intelligence experts. In the real world, intelligence assessments more often follow than guide policy decisions.

Anyway—good work, America's elites! You've once again gotten thousands of people killed with your lies, with thousands more waiting for the scythe in the on deck circle!

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 06:52 AM | Comments (1)

Educating Thomas Friedman

As Glenn Greenwald points out, Thomas Friedman endorsed terrorism yesterday in his New York Times column:

Israel’s counterstrategy [in 2006] was to use its Air Force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large. It was not pretty, but it was logical. Israel basically said that when dealing with a nonstate actor, Hezbollah, nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians — the families and employers of the militants — to restrain Hezbollah in the future...

In Gaza, I still can’t tell if Israel is trying to eradicate Hamas or trying to educate Hamas, by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population...If it is out to educate Hamas, Israel may have achieved its aims.

That's an interesting theory about using massive force to "educate" people. I wonder how well it worked on Thomas Friedman himself after the 9/11 attacks? His immediate reaction to the "heavy pain" inflicted on New York City's population was to try to restrain America's nationalistic right wing, right?

Tim Russert Show, CNBC
October 13, 2001

THOMAS FRIEDMAN: So it's time we got tough. It's time that we looked people in the eye. It's time that the terrorists were the ones who are always afraid, always looking over their shoulder, and to create that, you do have to fight a different kind of war. I was a critic of Rumsfeld before, but there's one thing...that I do like about Rumsfeld. He's just a little bit crazy, OK? He's just a little bit crazy, and in this kind of war, they always count on being able to out-crazy us.

Huh. Well, I'm sure it will work differently on the filthy wogs, given that they're subhuman.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 01:03 AM | Comments (16)

January 14, 2009

Guess Who Else Wants to Nuke the Holy Land

By: Bernard Chazelle

What's the difference between Avigdor Lieberman and David Duke? Answer: The latter has never had a cabinet position. The head of the "Israel Is Our Home" party, a perfect fit for a former nightclub bouncer from Moldavia, said in a speech at Bar-Ilan University:

"We must continue to fight Hamas just like the United States did with the Japanese in World War II."

Interesting choice of words. So if the neocons are right, then Avigdor Lieberman and Mahmud Ahmadinejad agree! Well, they differ by about 10 miles.

PS: Lieberman is the guy who suggested drowning Palestinian prisoners in the Dead Sea. (Probably an old Moldavian joke.) I hope that doesn't give Mahmud any ideas.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at 07:46 PM | Comments (7)

Meet Alan Grayson

You may remember Alan Grayson from his campaign commercial about Iraq corruption, one so angry and well-executed that you could hardly believe it came from a Democrat. He won the seat in Florida's eighth district, and now he's actually in Congress, actually asking the screamingly obvious questions about the bailout.

Here's video of Grayson yesterday querying Donald Kohn, the Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve, about who the hell they've given $1.2 trillion to. And Kohn REFUSES TO ANSWER. Matt Stoller, who's now a senior policy advisor to Grayson, has more, including a request for suggestions on where to take things next.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict Grayson will not be swallowed up by the Horrible Borg. He's certainly worth admiring right now (uh, mostly).

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 06:42 PM | Comments (5)

If They Can Be Turned, They Will Be Powerful Allies

By: John Caruso

I've just learned that the Anti-Defamation League's tagline for their Gaza propaganda campaign is "Israel Strikes Back".  While I may not agree with their views, it's hard to find fault with their cultural reference.

— John Caruso

Posted at 11:54 AM | Comments (8)

Meet The New Lies, Same As The Old Lies

Obviously our incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is going to lie a lot. All Secretaries of State do. But...we can at least count on her to make up some new lies, right?


RECENTLY: Same lie, different mouth.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 02:42 AM | Comments (6)

January 13, 2009

What Bill Clinton Is And Isn't Stung By

New York Times:

As Hillary Rodham Clinton prepares to take over as secretary of state, a coterie of emissaries who have made the Arab-Israeli conflict their specialty for decades is pushing for a more assertive and balanced American approach to a region once again torn by war...

Mr. [Aaron David] Miller speaks the most freely of the former [Clinton administration] advisers because he is the one with virtually no chance of another government job. Mr. Clinton, he said, was so stung by his public criticism that he refused to talk to him for his book, "The Much Too Promised Land." Anyway, he said, Middle East peacemakers ought to have term limits.

From Miller's book The Much Too Promised Land:

Whether it's true, in the words of one senior administration official, that Bush thought the former president was "Satan's finger on earth" isn't clear, but the new administration clearly believed that the old had made a mess of things on foreign policy, not least in the Middle East...

"Bill Clinton was viewed," a senior Foreign Service officer recalled, "as the incarnation of all that was morally corrupt, politically incompetent, and misguided on earth."

(Miller cites this not to endorse Bush's perspective but to criticize it.)


Criticizing Clinton's handling of Israel-Palestinian relations = Bill Clinton won't talk to you.

Viewing Clinton as "Satan's finger on earth" = Bill Clinton wants to rub against you in the Oval Office.

MORE: Here, from a 2005 op-ed, is some of Aaron David Miller's incredibly harsh public criticism of Bill Clinton:

I'm not a lawyer by training, but I know one when I see one. For far too long, many American officials involved in Arab-Israeli peacemaking, myself included, have acted as Israel's attorney...

Unfortunately, too often we lose sight of the need to be advocates for both Arabs and Israelis. The most recent example of this was the Clinton administration's effort in 1999-2000 to broker final deals between Israel, Syria and the Palestinians.

With the best of motives and intentions, we listened to and followed Israel's lead without critically examining what that would mean for our own interests, for those on the Arab side and for the overall success of the negotiations.

Posted at 07:27 PM | Comments (14)

New Tomdispatch


In a Dark Valley
Barack Obama's Inaugural Address

(By Tom Engelhardt)

In my lifetime, presidents have regularly come before you, the American people, proclaiming new dawns or hailing this country as a shining city upon a hill, an example to the rest of the world. But on this cold, wintry day, I hardly need tell you that we seem to have joined much of the rest of the world in an increasingly shadowy, sunless valley.

We -- not just we Americans but all of us -- are living in a world in peril, one in which we have far more to fear than fear itself. And don't imagine, having just taken the oath of office on the Bible Abraham Lincoln laid his hand on in an earlier moment of national crisis, that I don't have my own fears about the task ahead. I can't help but worry whether my abilities are up to challenges, which would surely have been daunting even to a Washington, a Lincoln, or a Roosevelt.

Nonetheless, you elected me. You have, I know, invested your hopes in me in these trying times. And fortunately, I sense that you are at my side now and will, I hope, remain there, encouraging and criticizing, praising or chiding as you see fit, through the worst and, with luck, the best of times. I'm thankful for that. Without your support, your wisdom, what could I hope to accomplish? We -- and in this presidency, when I use that word, I will mean you and me, not the royal "we" to which American presidents have become far too attached -- we can, I think, hope to accomplish much, but only if we're honest with ourselves.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 06:04 PM | Comments (8)

Human Shields

By: Bernard Chazelle

Elliot Jager of The Jerusalem Post:

“This is a just war and we don’t feel guilty when civilians we don’t intend to hurt get hurt, because we feel Hamas uses these civilians as human shields."

Donatella Rovera of Amnesty International has collected evidence that the Israeli army holds Palestinian families prisoner in their own homes as human shields:

"It's standard practice for Israeli soldiers to go into a house, lock up the family in a room on the ground floor and use the rest of the house as a military base, as a sniper's position. That is the absolute textbook case of human shields.

"It has been practised by the Israeli army for many years and they are doing it again in Gaza now."

— Bernard Chazelle

ADDED BY JON: Lawrence of Cyberia has been following this issue closely for a long time, and anyone interested in it should go here. Also, I recall the use of human shields in this way was part of the Weekly Standard's list of Saddam's atrocities.

Posted at 10:49 AM | Comments (31)

Girl Gone Wild

By: Bernard Chazelle

Israel's Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, explains the meaning of deterrence:

"Israel is not a country upon which you fire missiles and it does not respond. It is a country that when you fire on its citizens it responds by going wild – and this is a good thing."

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at 10:36 AM | Comments (31)

Reading About Gaza

"No Other Option?!" by the truly mature Sam Bahour (Mr. Antolini would have liked Sam Bahour)

"The Jesus Landing Pad" by Rick Perlstein (in 2004)

"The chimera of democratic peace" by Ian G. Mason

"A Sderot Woman Speaks out Against Gaza Operation"

Plus: "Why Obama Might Bomb Iran" by Robert Dreyfuss ("Obama would use the military instrument, and it won't be a pinpoint attack. It will be a massive one.")

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 07:33 AM | Comments (5)

January 12, 2009

Who Are The Dead?

By: John Caruso

The person in Gaza who said to me that "We are dead people who are still breathing" was Amjad Shawa, the director of PNGO.  I could see the truth of it in his eyes as he read about three young teenage boys who were shot and killed outside the Netzarim settlement.  The bodies had been crushed afterward by tanks or bulldozers (possibly as a precaution in case they were wearing bomb vests), and the pictures of the mutilated kids were circulating among the people in Gaza.

So horrors were never far away, at this time or any other.  But those weren't the only things the Palestinians in Gaza focused on, and despite the weight of their daily life I've never been among people who were more open, welcoming, joyful, or quick to laughter.  Despite the dark picture I've drawn of Amjad, he had a sly sense of humor and a mischievous smile that he flashed easily and often.  There was a real vitality in Gaza and the West Bank that seemed to come from putting the highest value on things that actually matter: family, friends (old and new), and time spent together.  My experiences were a bit self-selecting, especially given justly famous Arab hospitality; nonetheless I met dozens of people while I was there and had the chance to observe many more, and what I saw was always the same, whether it was directed at me or not.

(The horror and humor would often mix.  When I was in Rafah the Israelis shot in the direction of my group and some kids on bikes, and we asked Amjad about it later.  His response: "You never know with the Israelis...sometimes they shoot to say hello, sometimes they shoot to say goodbye."  And even now, under constant bombardment, they joke: "Look outside, F-16 jet fighters are smiling for you, missiles are dancing for you, zannana [the Palestinian name for pilotless drones] are singing for you. I requested them all to wish you a happy new year," and "While other people around the world celebrate, it seems the Israeli air force is trying to save us the cost of fireworks."  Palestinian humor rarely lacks a sting, but it's also rarely lacking.)

The one thing that moved me the most was the generosity of spirit.  The people I spoke with (human rights workers, doctors, shopkeepers, taxi drivers, people selling tea in checkpoint lines just to stay alive, and everyone in between) almost universally showed a deep level of understanding and compassion, even toward the Israelis and Americans who were causing them so much pain. They had every right to feel otherwise, but although I saw some anger the overwhelming message was that they just wanted to live in peace—a peace both for them and their neighbors.  It brought home for me that ignorance is a critical component of callousness, and that when people genuinely understand what it means to suffer it makes them more understanding rather than less, and they're far less likely to wish it on others.

The contrast couldn't have been greater when I came back here to the TV and mall culture—a country obsessed with trivialities, where so many people have tremendous privilege and endless opportunities and yet feel isolated and empty as they try to buy their way to happiness.  We're so divorced from basic human empathy that we get a vicarious frisson of power whenever our government is blowing the shit out of the latest ultimate evil threat to our very existence, with no consideration for the lives of those under the bombs.  And so I had to wonder: just who are the dead?

—John Caruso

Posted at 02:17 AM | Comments (79)

January 11, 2009

Meet The New Lies, Same As The Old Lies

Obviously our incoming president is going to lie a lot. All presidents do. But...we can at least count on him to make up some new lies, right?


—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:35 PM | Comments (15)

They Did It!

By: Bernard Chazelle

After secret peace negotiations between Olmert and Obama over the past few months, Israel has agreed to dismantle all of its West Bank settlements and allow all Palestinian refugees back into their ancestral homes. The Obama team, headed by Dennis Ross, has convinced all Israeli parties to sign on to the deal.

In recognition of Ariel Sharon's historic withdrawal from Gaza, now seen by all as the prelude to this breakthrough, the Israeli side has requested that his name be attached to the final agreement, a condition President-Elect Obama has agreed. Everyone is now waiting anxiously for the treaty to take effect, which, by common consent between American and Israeli negotiators, will happen the minute Sharon signs it.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at 06:45 PM | Comments (10)

New Tomdispatch


The Afghan Scam
The Untold Story of Why the U.S. Is Bound to Fail in Afghanistan

By Ann Jones

The first of 20,000 to 30,000 additional U.S. troops are scheduled to arrive in Afghanistan next month to re-win the war George W. Bush neglected to finish in his eagerness to start another one. However, "winning" the military campaign against the Taliban is the lesser half of the story.

Going into Afghanistan, the Bush administration called for a political campaign to reconstruct the country and thereby establish the authority of a stable, democratic Afghan central government. It was understood that the two campaigns -- military and political/economic -- had to go forward together; the success of each depended on the other. But the vision of a reconstructed, peaceful, stable, democratically governed Afghanistan faded fast. Most Afghans now believe that it was nothing but a cover story for the Bush administration's real goal -- to set up permanent bases in Afghanistan and occupy the country forever.

Whatever the truth of the matter, in the long run, it's not soldiers but services that count -- electricity, water, food, health care, justice, and jobs. Had the U.S. delivered the promised services on time, while employing Afghans to rebuild their own country according to their own priorities and under the supervision of their own government -- a mini-Marshall Plan -- they would now be in charge of their own defense. The forces on the other side, which we loosely call the Taliban, would also have lost much of their grounds for complaint.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 06:37 PM | Comments (1)

The Parable of the Soft Bones

By: Bernard Chazelle

The New York Times invited 3 prominent lawyers to argue for or against the prosecution of Bush administration officials for wiretapping, torture, and other illegal activities. I am all for it. I am all for the soul searching behind it, too. How beautiful are we, really? Good question. Let's find out. But there's a certain navel-gazing quality to the exercise that bothers me. It seems sometimes we're more preoccupied with our self-perception as beacons of morality than we are with the actual harm we cause others. Take wiretapping? Singled out because this time the victims are... us. Yes, they were slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands, girls were raped, and children were mowed down by machine-gun fire. But we were wiretapped, so we're all victims, you see? Why aren't we asking for a Wall for the Iraqi Dead right across from the Vietnam memorial? (And why aren't there any Vietnamese names on that wall anyway? Not big enough for 3 million names, I guess.)


Your neighbor, the one you truly hate, steals your car one day and crashes into a group of 15 toddlers from out of town, killing all of them. Sadly, even soft young bones are not so soft and your car gets a nasty dent from the crash. Your community rises in anger against this assault on the property rights of one of its members. Intolerable! Unacceptable! Vengeance! We need a Truth and Reconciliation commission! And so, over the next two months, you and your neighbor shall sit and talk. And talk some more. And sit some more. And tears shall be shed. And your neighbor shall show great contrition. And he shall pay for the body shop bill. The full $200! And peace shall return to the community.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at 03:31 PM | Comments (11)

Countdown Begins To Kenneth Pollack's Appointment In The Obama Administration

Kenneth Pollack, The Atlantic, January, 2004;

The U.S. intelligence community's belief that Saddam was aggressively pursuing weapons of mass destruction pre-dated Bush's inauguration...Other nations' intelligence services were similarly aligned with U.S. views...In sum, no one doubted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Kenneth Pollack, Brookings Institution event, December 12, 2002 (pdf):

POLLACK: ...there is a real risk in going down this path which is every time the inspectors go to a site and find Iraqis cooperative and find the site clean, it reinforces the notion of those people around the world and in the United States who want to believe that the Iraqis are coming clean, that they are coming clean. We've had [Israelis] come up to Martin [Indyk] in recent days and say to him maybe the Iraqis don't really have weapons of mass destruction...

And when you've got Israelis saying that it's clear Saddam's strategy is working. It is having an impact.

What a great racket this is. First you intimidate people from speaking up by smearing them as dupes. Then later you disappear them from history altogether.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:31 AM | Comments (3)

January 10, 2009

U.S. Sending 3,000 Tons Of Weaponry To Israel

Merchants of War:

U.S. seeks ship to move arms to Israel

LONDON (Reuters) - The U.S. is seeking to hire a merchant ship to deliver hundreds of tons of arms to Israel from Greece later this month, tender documents seen by Reuters show.

The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) said the ship was to carry 325 standard 20-foot containers of what is listed as "ammunition" on two separate journeys from the Greek port of Astakos to the Israeli port of Ashdod in mid-to-late January.

A "hazardous material" designation on the manifest mentions explosive substances and detonators, but no other details were given.

"Shipping 3,000-odd tons of ammunition in one go is a lot," one broker said, on condition of anonymity.

The rest.

Via KitKat's Critique, which points out Ashdod is less than 20 miles from Gaza.

For my part, I hope Hamas refuses to discuss any ceasefire that doesn't include a complete, UN-verified blockade of weaponry shipments to Israel.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 06:49 PM | Comments (14)

How Did Reality Get On My TV?

This week Keith Olbermann had on former National Security Council staffer Hillary Mann Leverett. In a deeply shocking maneuver, she told the truth about the US, the mideast, and the incoming Obama administration:

OLBERMANN: The other thing that will change, if not on the 20th then shortly thereafter, is the identify of the secretary of state. And here is Hillary Clinton coming in to the middle of this with a last name certainly that is, to some degree, magical, influential at least in the Middle East. How is her appointment going to shape Obama`s efforts for Middle East peace? And how will it be received by both sides in the Middle East?

LEVERETT: Her name is magical and influential to an extent in Israel. But throughout many capitals in the Arab world, where I served at the US embassy in Cairo and in the Gulf, there is a lot more skepticism that she is going to be even handed. There is considerable fear about the advisers that she is going to bring with her, people like Martin Indyk or Dennis Ross, Ken Pollack, people that I would call neo-conservative fellow travelers, people who brought us a failed peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians by the end of the Clinton term in 2000, people who cheered and championed the invasion of Iraq under this administration.

There is a lot of fear and consternation that the advisers, in particular, that Hillary Clinton is bringing with her are going to make us long for the Bush days.

Here's the complete video of the segment, plus the full transcript below the fold. The above exchange is right at the end.

(Thanks to Doug Henwood for noticing this.)

• • •

OLBERMANN: Let`s turn to now Hillary Mann Leverett, former director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council, also served in the US embassy in Tel Aviv, and spent considerable time in Gaza. Thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: This is, obviously, a third rail politically worldwide, because the two sides only agree on one thing, that the other guy is not only 100 percent wrong, but has been 100 percent wrong for 2,500 years. But give me your thoughts on the Bush statement today, and what US role -- the role we have had in the current crisis, because did Israel move because it got a knowing green light from us? Or was there an unwitting open window? How are we involved in this?

LEVERETT: There was an effective green light. There was a cease-fire in place until December 1th. The Bush administration actively discouraged the parties, particularly Israel, from renewing that cease-fire, because they didn`t want to legitimate Hamas in any way. They wanted to work with Palestinians we like, the, quote-unquote, good Palestinians in the West Bank.

So they didn`t want to do anything to encourage Hamas and Israel to renew its cease-fire that could actually become something more lasting and enduring. For President Bush to now come out and say, a week later, nearly 500 people dead -- more than 500 people dead, to grudgingly acknowledge that maybe a cease fire, with some conditions, is warranted is -- you know, it`s maybe what Sarah Palin would call word trickery. A cease-fire was necessary immediately.

An immediate cease fire is what was needed to get monitors in, to get peace-keepers in, to ease the blockade, to get humanitarian goods into the people in Gaza. Something that`s more lasting and enduring is not a cease- fire. That would be maybe an armistice or negotiations that could lead to a resolution and settlement of the conflict. That would be enduring and lasting. A cease fire, by definition, is not that. It is really, I would call it word trickery.

OLBERMANN: Well, say we did get an armistice, to use your term, even by end of tomorrow, this would obviously not be resolved in full by the time of the change in the presidents. What will Obama have to do? What will his options be as of the 20th?

LEVERETT: He really should be coming out now with a statement of sympathy for all those who have been killed, Palestinians and Israelis. The fact that he is silent is resonating very strongly throughout the Middle East. The fact that he came out with a statement after the Mumbai attacks, but will not say anything about what Israel is doing in Gaza is something that is resonating very strongly in the region where U.S. credibility is at its low point.

So I think he does need to come out with an immediate statement of at least sympathy for those who have died. When he comes into office, he has to do something even stronger to signal a departure from Bush administration policies. What I think will be critically important would be for the United States to finally come out and say that we support efforts for Palestinian reconciliation, for there to be some sort of Palestinian national unity government. That would mean that we would recognize and deal with a government of the Palestinians that included Hamas, something that Saudi Arabia tried to broker last year and we vetoed.

OLBERMANN: The other thing that will change, if not on the 20th then shortly thereafter, is the identify of the secretary of state. And here is Hillary Clinton coming in to the middle of this with a last name certainly that is, to some degree, magical, influential at least in the Middle East. How is her appointment going to shape Obama`s efforts for Middle East peace? And how will it be received by both sides in the Middle East?

LEVERETT: Her name is magical and influential to an extent in Israel. But throughout many capitals in the Arab world, where I served at the US embassy in Cairo and in the Gulf, there is a lot more skepticism that she is going to be even handed. There is considerable fear about the advisers that she is going to bring with her, people like Martin Indyk or Dennis Ross, Ken Pollack, people that I would call neo-conservative fellow travelers, people who brought us a failed peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians by the end of the Clinton term in 2000, people who cheered and championed the invasion of Iraq under this administration.

There is a lot of fear and consternation that the advisers, in particular, that Hillary Clinton is bringing with her are going to make us long for the Bush days.

OLBERMANN: Hmm. Goodness. Hillary Mann Leverett, former member of the National Security Council, as always, great thanks for your insight into this stuff.

LEVERETT: Thank you.

Posted at 02:03 PM | Comments (15)

January 09, 2009

How To Respond To Ad Hominem Attacks: A Case Study

What should one do in public debate when confronted with an ad hominem attack? Martin Indyk, US ambassador to Israel during the Clinton administration, conducted a master class on this subject on yesterday's Democracy Now!

The disgusting smears began with Norman Finkelstein's endless litany of personal insults toward Indyk:

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: I think we should talk about [Indyk's] book. In fact, I stayed up ’til 1:30 a.m. to complete the book, made sure I read up to page 415, read every word of the book...

According to Mr. Indyk’s account of the negotiations that culminated in the Camp David and Taba meetings, he says it was the Palestinians that were blocking a settlement. What does the record show? The record shows that in every crucial issue raised at Camp David, then under the Clinton parameters, and then in Taba, at every single point, all the concessions came from the Palestinians. Israel didn’t make any concessions...

The law is very clear. July 2004, the highest judicial body in the world, the International Court of Justice, ruled Israel has no title to any of the West Bank and any of Gaza...

Now, the important point is, on all those questions, the Palestinians were willing to make concessions. They were willing to allow Israel to keep 60 percent of the settlements, 80 percent of the settlers. They were willing to compromise on Jerusalem. They were willing to give up basically on the right of return. They made all the concessions. Israel didn’t make any concessions...

To his credit, Mr. Indyk kept his cool in the face of this onslaught. At the same time, he insisted on naming Finkelstein's appalling tactics for what they were:

MARTIN INDYK: I told you, Amy, I’m not here to debate Norman Finkelstein...I’m not going to respond to his ad hominem attacks.

Even more impressive, Mr. Indyk then showed the ability to rise above his opponent's ugly behavior, and demonstrate by example what reasoned political discussion should look like:

MARTIN INDYK: Well, why don’t we focus on some other issues, like the American role in this or something that can get us out of this ridiculous debate, in which he’s just a propaganda spokesman for Hamas, you know.

Thank you, Ambassador Indyk. In these troubled times, you are a model of rationality and decency for us all.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:02 PM | Comments (16)

Text Of Security Council Resolution On Gaza

By: John Caruso

In case you haven't read the Security Council resolution on Gaza yet, Jews Sans Frontieres has obtained a copy:

The Security Council,

Recalling that Israel reiterated its commitment to not build gas chambers and not burn Palestinians in ovens

Recalling that Israel is a country governed by white people elected with lots of money, has a stock exchange and a healthy derivatives market, and has a really nice beach

Calculating that the replacement cost of a Palestinian is about 1:35 compared to the replacement cost of an Israeli in Purchasing Power Parity

Emphasizing that Israelis have many rich American friends

Noting that Hamas has the guttural sound H in its name that we find hard to pronounce

Expressing that Palestinian demands for self-determination are annoying

Now that is some high-quality satire. The rest is just as funny in the same oh-god-no-I-shouldn't-be-laughing-about-this kind of way, and you should go read it right now.

— John Caruso

Posted at 05:47 PM | Comments (4)

"Sind Blitze, Sind Donner in Wolken Verschwunden"

By: Bernard Chazelle

In the pantheon of classical music there is J.S Bach, and then there are the others. I'll blog about St Matthew's Passion, the crown jewel of Western music, some other day, but as an appetizer check out its famous chorus about "thunder and lightning," and try not to fall off your chair. The video is positively Riefenstahlesque.

To make a long story short, Jesus's disciples are quite miffed that he was betrayed and captured and they wonder out loud why "lightning and thunder have vanished in the clouds." (I've wondered the same thing in the Bush years.) The big pause (0:34) means they're waiting for someone up above to do something about it. When nothing happens, boy, they get mad.

The concert is in the very same Leipzig church where Bach premiered his Passion on Good Friday. And it's performed by the very same boys' choir he directed for 27 years. (I see on wikipedia that the choir was founded in the year 1212. So a pretty new outfit.)

Please listen carefully to the very last chord (1:06-1:08). On the closing word of the chorus, "blut" (blood), Bach snaps out of the Em in which the entire piece lives, raises the minor third to a G#, and signs off with an E major chord. Even if these words mean nothing to you, I am certain you can feel in your bones how this radiant last sound breaks so forcefully with all that you just heard.

Yes, it's pure musical ecstasy, but why is Bach doing that? By that time in his career, his sole ambition was to write music "for God" (much like Jon and me on this blog) so this modulation, common in church music, is his way of saying that today, Good Friday, might be a bit of a downer, but listen to that major third. It's telling you, hold tight, in 48 hours something really big is going to happen.

Richard Dawkins might not approve, but even he would have to agree that it worked wonders for a man's musical genius.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at 12:52 PM | Comments (6)

Good Things Happen When Politicians Quote Jeffrey Goldberg

Steny Hoyer, January 9, 2009:

Today this House stands united in support of Israel as it faces enemies bent on its destruction... But the situation in Gaza is no less tragic...As reporter Jeffrey Goldberg writes:

"Hamas terrorists unblinkingly and ostentatiously use their own civilians as human shields. I've seen this up-close, and it's repulsive."

John McCain, just before voting for Iraq war, October 11, 2002:

This is not just another Arab despot, not one of many tyrants who repress their people from within the confines of their countries. As New Yorker writer Jeffrey Goldberg, who recently traveled across northern Iraq, recently wrote in Slate:

"There are, of course, many repugnant dictators in the world; a dozen or so in the Middle East alone. But Saddam Hussein is a figure of singular repugnance, and singular danger..."

(Thanks to Charles Davis for the Hoyer speech.)

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 12:39 PM | Comments (7)

January 08, 2009

"We Are Dead People Who Are Still Breathing"

By: John Caruso of The Distant Ocean

Our tax dollars at work:

In Naim Street Beit Hanoun, at 9.30pm on Sunday, Samieh Kaferna , 40, was hit by flying shrapnel to his head. Neighbours called him to come to their home. Fearing his home would be struck, he and a group of relatives began to move from one home to another, to be safer.

The second missile struck them down directly. When we arrived one man, eyes gigantic, was being dragged into the pavement, half of his lower body shredded, his intestines slopping out. He was alive, his relatives were screaming, we managed to take four, whilst six others, charred and dismembered, were brought in on the back of an open cattle truck. Beit Hanoun Hospital was chaos, with screaming relatives and burning bodies. Three men died in the attack, 10 were injured, six from the same Abu Harbid family. Three had to have leg amputations, and one a double amputation. [...]

A Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees ambulance was fired upon at approximately 8.30am on Sunday morning killing Paramedic and father of five, Arafa El Deyem, 35. He and another rescue worker had been evacuating casualties which had come under fire from an Israeli tank East of Jabaliya in the North of the Gaza Strip. Witnesses report that as the door of the ambulance was being closed a tank shell hit El Deyem. El Deyem died from a massive loss of blood following a major trauma to his chest. Paramedics I ride with cherish his memory, carrying his photo - a kind and strong looking, bearded man - on their mobile phones.

This is from Ewa Jasiewicz, who's currently in Gaza volunteering with the Palestinian Red Crescent.  She compares the attack on Gaza to Israel's 2002 rampage in the Jenin refugee camp, but as awful as that was, what Israel is doing in Gaza now seems much worse to me: all the same crimes but on a much bigger scale, and—crucially—without the mitigating factor of nearby Jewish settlers (real human beings whose lives matter, as opposed to the upright-walking animals who otherwise infest the Occupied Territories) to restrain the ferocity of the attack.

This is just what we feared when I was in Gaza in 2002 with other activists, positioning ourselves against an Israeli invasion that never materialized.  And when Israel announced its pullback from Gaza in 2005 it was clear to me that one of the main effects would be to create a huge free-fire zone for the eventual and inevitable Israeli military onslaught.  Now that that day has finally come, it's even worse than I thought it would be: in just under two weeks, the numbers of those killed and maimed in Gaza are already nearing the levels of Israel's month-long 2006 assault on Lebanon.

And still there's no end in sight, no matter when Israel finally decides to let up on their latest killing spree—which will temporarily stop the wholesale killing, but not the less telegenic daily suffering.  As a Palestinian human rights worker (and friend) in Gaza said to me in 2002, in words I'll never forget, "They died once in Jenin; we are dying every day. We are dead people who are still breathing."

AND ALSO: More on the life (rather than the death) of Arafa al Dayem here, from another Western volunteer in Gaza:

A science teacher by profession, Arafa had volunteered as an emergency medic for 8 years.  He was delightful, warm, had a nice singing voice, and was not at all shy about being silly.  I remember him stomping ridiculously around the now-vacated Jabaliya PRCS office (Israeli soldiers have taken over the area) saying he was hungry, very hungry, and chomping down on the bread and cheese that we had for a meal.

I had the privilege of working one night with Arafa, of seeing his professionalism and his humanity.  "He wanted to die like that, helping our people," Osama, a fellow medic told me.  Not a martyr complex, so engineered by living with death, occupation, invasions, humiliation, and injustice for so long, but a dedication to his work, to people.

— John Caruso

Posted at 09:29 PM | Comments (8)

Childhood Nightmares

By: Bernard Chazelle

Every child is afraid of the dark. Darkness means the fear of nightmares. And what is the worst conceivable nightmare for a child? This:

Four exhausted children have been discovered cowering in a house next to the [dead] bodies of their mothers by staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which today accused the Israeli military of "unacceptable" delays in allowing medics safe access to injured Gazans.

The Red Cross workers found the small children, who were so weak they could not stand, sheltering next to the bodies of their mothers in a house in Zeitoun, southeast of Gaza City. Another man was found alive, but again too weak to stand. At least 12 bodies were lying on mattresses.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at 05:28 PM | Comments (6)

Serious People Successfully Avoid Non-Serious Cooties

I love this picture. I plan to refer to it frequently during the more brutal moments of the Obama administration.

Be sure to click it to get the pop-up in its full glory.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 03:37 PM | Comments (27)

New Tomdispatch


Oil 2009
Be Careful What You Wish For

By Michael T. Klare

Only yesterday, it seems, we were bemoaning the high price of oil. Under the headline "Oil's Rapid Rise Stirs Talk of $200 a Barrel This Year," the July 7 issue of the Wall Street Journal warned that prices that high would put "extreme strains on large sectors of the U.S. economy." Today, oil, at over $40 a barrel, costs less than one-third what it did in July, and some economists have predicted that it could fall as low as $25 a barrel in 2009.

Prices that low -- and their equivalents at the gas pump -- will no doubt be viewed as a godsend by many hard-hit American consumers, even if they ensure severe economic hardship in oil-producing countries like Nigeria, Russia, Iran, Kuwait, and Venezuela that depend on energy exports for a large share of their national income. Here, however, is a simple but crucial reality to keep in mind: No matter how much it costs, whether it's rising or falling, oil has a profound impact on the world we inhabit -- and this will be no less true in 2009 than in 2008.

The main reason? In good times and bad, oil will continue to supply the largest share of the world's energy supply. For all the talk of alternatives, petroleum will remain the number one source of energy for at least the next several decades. According to December 2008 projections from the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), petroleum products will still make up 38% of America's total energy supply in 2015; natural gas and coal only 23% each. Oil's overall share is expected to decline slightly as biofuels (and other alternatives) take on a larger percentage of the total, but even in 2030 -- the furthest the DoE is currently willing to project -- it will still remain the dominant fuel.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 01:30 PM | Comments (4)

Why Cheney Is Barking Madoff

By: Bernard Chazelle

Damn! I was soooo hoping Dick Cheney would bag the Elie Wiesel Foundation Humanitarian Award this year. If, in humanitarian worthiness, anyone is up there with previous recipients -- reading from the list, Bush-The-First (1991), Clinton-The-Second (1994), Sarkoko-The-Last (2008) -- that would be Dick-The-Prick. George HW Bush got his award for "... defending democratic ideals during the Gulf War," so imagine the possibilities for Cheney: "... defending a prisoner's access to Metallica during waterboarding."

But where were you, Goddess of Fairness, when fate needed your nudging help?

We are deeply saddened and distressed that we, along with many others, have been the victims of what may be one of the largest investment frauds in history. We are writing to inform you that the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity had $15.2 million under management with Bernard Madoff Investment Securities. This represented substantially all of the Foundation's assets.

A crushing blow to the children of Darfur, too. Fortunately, plans are underway to airdrop DVDs of the Award ceremony for Oprah (2007 winner) and Laura Bush (2002 winner) over the Darfur camps. From something modestly called "Foundation for Humanity," one expects nothing less.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at 12:22 PM | Comments (6)

January 07, 2009

There is a Time for War and a Time for War

By: Bernard Chazelle

Between land and peace, Israel has always privileged the former. The doubling of the settlement population since Oslo is only the latest illustration of this preference. Regarding Gaza, I blogged earlier about Israel's unilateral decision to violate the truce with Hamas on Nov 4th. Kanwisher at al go back to the 2nd Intifada to show how this incident fits a general pattern.

We defined "conflict pauses" as periods of one or more days when no one is killed on either side, and we asked which side kills first after conflict pauses of different durations. [It] is overwhelmingly Israel that kills first after a pause in the conflict: 79% of all conflict pauses were interrupted when Israel killed a Palestinian, while only 8% were interrupted by Palestinian attacks (the remaining 13% were interrupted by both sides on the same day). In addition, we found that this pattern -- in which Israel is more likely than Palestine to kill first after a conflict pause -- becomes more pronounced for longer conflict pauses. Indeed, of the 25 periods of nonviolence lasting longer than a week, Israel unilaterally interrupted 24, or 96%, and it unilaterally interrupted 100% of the 14 periods of nonviolence lasting longer than 9 days.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at 03:28 PM | Comments (12)

Telling the Truth About Palestinian Moral Failings

Jeffrey Goldberg:

[W]e've all seen endless pictures of dead Palestinian children now. It's a terrible, ghastly, horrible thing, the deaths of children, and for the parents it doesn't matter if they were killed by accident or by mistake. But ask yourselves this: Why are these pictures so omnipresent? I'll tell you why, again from firsthand, and repeated, experience: Hamas (and the Aksa Brigades, and Islamic Jihad, the whole bunch) prevents the burial, or even preparation of the bodies for burial, until the bodies are used as props in the Palestinian Passion Play. Once, in Khan Younis, I actually saw gunmen unwrap a shrouded body, carry it a hundred yards and position it atop a pile of rubble -- and then wait a half-hour until photographers showed. It was one of the more horrible things I've seen in my life. And it's typical of Hamas. If reporters would probe deeper, they'd learn the awful truth of Hamas. But Palestinian moral failings are not of great interest to many people.

Yes, I thank god every day I live in a more morally elevated society than the awful Palestinians. Just for instance, here in America we never dreamt of showing anything about 9/11 on TV.

MORE MORALS: Here's Jeffrey Goldberg writing on October 3, 2002:

The administration is planning today to launch what many people would undoubtedly call a short-sighted and inexcusable act of aggression. In five years, however, I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality.

P.S. For some humans, the death of the child in itself—rather than any actions taken with the body—especially with the knowledge you personally had helped paid for the child's death, might be one of the more horrible things you'd seen in your life.

(Goldberg via the new blug Dear Leader.)

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 12:59 PM | Comments (29)

Palling Around With Terrorists

According to Jim Lobe, high-level scuttlebutt is Obama will appoint Richard Haass to be Special Envoy for Israel-Arab affairs. Haass is currently president of the Council on Foreign Relations; before that he was Director of Policy Planning for the State Department.

Here's Arnon Soffer, Israeli demographer and prominent advisor to politicians there, describing a conversation with Haass:

Richard Haass, who was director of policy planning for the US State Department at the time, told me personally: "We'll allow Israel to establish a 'Philadelphi Corridor' in the Jordan Valley, to guarantee the neutralization and demilitarization of Judea and Samaria."

Here are some of Soffer's other views:

[W]hen 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it's going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It's going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.

I don't really have anything to say about this (although the Jordan Valley corridor issue is extremely important). Still, it's enjoyable to imagine what would happen if Obama appointed someone to this post who's had heart-to-heart conversations on policy with a member of Hamas who speaks enthusiastically of the need to "kill and kill and kill" Israelis.

HIS OTHER FINE WORK: Back in 1995, Haass spoke of how America's actual policy toward Iraq had nothing to do with disarmament, but in fact was aimed at removing Saddam Hussein from power. Pretty honest!

P.S. Surely some enterprising young person would like to add this information to Richard Haass's Wikipedia page.

(Jim Lobe via Helena Cobban.)

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:29 AM | Comments (4)

January 06, 2009

"Round Midnight" - Part II. The First 12 Seconds

By: Bernard Chazelle

Back from a short trip, I am now ready to put the first 8 measures of Round Midnight under the microscope. A sterile exercise perhaps, but a nice break from math and from the Gaza abattoir news feed. Part I is here.

Round Midnight's intro is attributed to Dizzy Gillespie. The tune's head follows a call-and-response style. It uses a technique Bach had already mastered, which is to take a short melodic phrase and repeat endless variants of it over various chord progressions (eg, Bach's Chaconne or Goldberg Variations). Monk plays this in Ebm. It's a great jazz key but its 6 flats make notation cumbersome, so I'll transpose the music one half-step up to Em. It is the relative minor of G, which has only one accidental (F sharp): its scale is E,F#,G,A,B,C,D. Any deviation from that scale in RM will need explaining.

If you hum Round Midnight this is what you'll hear: B-E-F#-B-G... In measure 1 (0:32), you hum it starting on B as above -- Charlie Rouse seems to raise the F# but never mind -- in measure 5 (0:39) you do it starting on E, ie shifted by 3 steps; in measure 9 (0:45), you do it starting on A, ie, shifted again by 3 steps. What you're doing is moving up in fourths (remember there are 3 intervals between 4 trees... that's why we call it a 4th). The last 4 bars bring us back home through a turnaround. I'll confine the discussion to the first 8 bars of this 16-bar head. Note that you don't literally "shift" the music 3 steps up: the melody follows the arpeggios of the chords, so the intervals will vary accordingly but the motion will be the same. This sense of repetition is, as is so often the case, crucial to the tune.

Let's talk about the walking bass line (the pianist's left hand) over the first iteration of the melody in bars 1-4 (0:32-0:38). It descends chromatically from the tonic E, ie, by increments of semitones (E, Eb, D, etc). Pop music fans among you will have seen this before. For example, it's the main hook in Dylan's Ballad of a thin man. Or, for a "major key" version of it, take the Beatles song Something. If you remember, the verse goes like this:

(C) Something in the way she (CMaj7) moves
(C7) Attracts me like no other (F) lover...

The whole point of the chord sequence is that it goes from I to IV through a chromatic descent: we get C from the C chord, then B from the CMaj7 chord, then Bb from the C7 chord, then A from the F chord (the 4th). So you get
C-B-Bb-A, going down one semitone each time. Later, the Beatles reprise the chromatic run over the relative minor of C, which gives you over Am: A-Ab-G, etc. Another famous example is Eleanor Rigby, where the tune descends chromatically from the flatted 7th in Em. These are music cliches. The thing is, what do you do with them?


To figure out what Monk does, we must go back to the cycle of fifths, the 12-sided polygon on which all Western music is based. Let's talk about keys or, rather, tonal centers. What's a tonal center? It's a sound you could survive if the planet blew up at that instant. In other words, it's a sound that's not trying to escape -- it's a place to rest. In Round Midnight and Eleanor Rigby, Em is a place to rest. In Something it is C. At some point in that song, the Beatles land in Eb and want to go back to C (the original tonal center). They play the sequence G7-C, which is how Bach would do it. There are several reasons for this that are important to understand. The first one is that G precedes C in the cycle of fifths and playing such counterclockwise motion will always sound good.

But this is not enough because G sounds like a good place to rest and does not compel us to go to C. If you add a flatted 7th, however, your head will explode unless you immediately move one step counterclockwise. So if you hear G7 you must hear C at once or else you'll invade Iran. Why is that flatted 7th degree so important to create motion? The basic chord of G is the triad G-B-D. With the 7th you get G-B-D-F; note that all the notes are in the key of C (but not in the key of G! So you're playing a chord of G with a note, F, that is not in its key. How weird can that be??). So let's extract the B and the F and consider the interval B-F on its own. This "tritone" is dissonant, so if you hear it you'll be begging on your knees for the pain to stop. But notice how B-F sandwiches the major third of the C chord (ie, the interval that creates a C chord), C-E, from the top (F) and the bottom B. In other words when you play B-F and then C-E you squeeze into the C chord from both sides in contrary motion. This is the most compelling sense of motion you can create in Western music. So the Beatles give us a contrary motion from G7 to C (extra points to the readers who can see why they also give us a contrary motion from Eb to G7). The tritone is a unique interval. Its characteristic property is that its inversion is also a tritone: if you play F-B instead of B-F you still get a tritone because there are 6 semitones from F to B, just as there are 6 semitones from B to F. No other interval has this property. (Proof: 12/2=6. QED) This opens the door to chord substitutions (more on this below). To summarize, the G7 to C transition is compelling for 3 reasons:

1. Moving ccw around the cycle is always good;
2. The tritone B-F is dissonant and begs for a resolution.
3. The tritone is a sandwich around the new tonal center whose major third is led into by the contrary motion: "B goes to B plus one semitone"; "F goes to F minus one semitone."

The chord G7 is called the dominant 7th of C. In jazz, the surest way to know which key/tonal center you're in is to spot your dominant sevenths. Looking for roots is often hopeless, ie, don't wait for a C to conclude that your tonal center is C. Look out for a G7! In jazz, roots should be "seen" but not heard. Country music tells stories with roots: jazz does not.

One final word about tritones. They allow you to substitute chords. Remember how G7 takes you to C? Now inside G7, extract the tritone B-F and invert it. You get the other tritone F-B. Now ask yourself, is there a dominant 7th chord for which F-B is the tritone. Yes, indeed! Try C#7: its 3rd is F and its flatted 7th is B. Bingo. So now you can use C#7 instead of G7 to lead into C. I bet rhythm people came up with this. Because the benefit of "from C#7 to C" over "from G7 to C" is that it leads you to C chromatically. In fact tritones allow you to run all around the cycle of 5th chromatically. The (late) great guitarist Danny Gatton used to say this should be the first thing any guitar player should learn. It is indeed such an important idea in jazz I invite you to reread this paragraph until you understand it (or fall asleep on your keyboard, whichever comes first).

Now back to Monk. I lied when I wrote that he repeats the same melody in measure 5. Well, not quite. If he did, he would play E-G-B-D-C. But instead he plays E-G-B-D-C#. The sharp adds a major tone to the sound. Note that C# is not in our key (E,F#,G,A,B,C,D), so there's an implied modulation (ie, key change) - in this case to A. This is one of the many technical strokes of genius in Round Midnight, so it's worth exploring it in some detail. The C# is there to call our attention to the fact that we're about to change keys. So our ear is now prepared. Monk gives us one of the most gorgeous modulations you'll ever hear. This is the chord sequence:

Em-Em6-Cm7-F7-Bm7-E7-Am at (0:40-0:44)

Monk arpeggioes his way through it a la John Lewis: 4 seconds of musical perfection.

Let's analyze this extraordinarily beautiful progression by proceeding backwards. But first a few words about Em-Em6. The 6th of Em is C#, which hints at the A chord to come. It's very common to play the 6th over a minor root chord in jazz-flavored blues. Chicago blues is almost never played over minor keys (Otis Rush being an exception), but in jazz, minor blues are very common, and there you'll hear tons of sixths. It is said that John Lennon (definitely not a blues guy) "discovered" the 6th around the time of the White Album and couldn't let go of it. If true, it's quite hilarious.

OK, let's take Monk's progression in reverse. The E7-Am transition is what we explained earlier: to get to A (or Am), play its dominant 7th (ie, E7). This is a modulation (or what classical music theorists would call "tonicization" on NPR but who in the world can pronounce that word?). Em was the place to rest and Am was just its nice minor 4th. Monk wants to change that by promoting the A to tonal center status. It's the way he goes about it that's so cool. Classic rock would go from Em to E7 without a fuss. But Monk operates in a different world. You see, Monk is modern in ways rock is not. People often fail to appreciate that if you remove the blues from rock & roll you're left with pre-20th century music. Mozart would find not a single new idea in the Beatles's music, but he would have to be very intrigued by the novelty of Monk (and for that matter of Robert Johnson). Beatles tunes are Schubert lieder with drums and simplified harmonies. But Monk made a serious effort to integrate European modernism with the blues. (Fusion tried to do that, too, but in my view failed miserably.)

Monk has a specific goal in mind in bars 7-8 (0:40-0:44). He wants to leave Em to land in Am in bar 9. As a bebopper, he wants you to think of Em as the left side of a Persian rug and Am as the right side. Now in between you've got to build a Persion rug, an extremely elegant, beautiful, intricate, clever threading of colors. Now you could connect the left and right side with a random mess of colored threads and call it a Persian rug. But it would be crap. Or you can do it in neat, simple ways, like Scandinavian furniture. You would end up with the Beatles or Pink Floyd. Well crafted but harmonically banal. Bebop is after Persian rugs, not IKEA doormats.

Let's continue backwards: Cm7-F7-Bm7-E7-Am. Why Bm7? Because B precedes E in the cycle of 5ths. It is the second degree of the scale (A is 1, B is 2). So Bm7-E7-A gives us the progression II,V,I, which is the most famous cadence in Western music. The II is minor (hence often denoted ii). Why? In the key of A, the scale is A,B,C#,D,E,F#,G#,A. Chords are formed by stacking thirds on top of the root. If you start from B and pick up the 3rd you get B-D. But there are only 3 semitones between B and D, so that third is minor (major thirds have 4 of them). If you play the A scale over a Bm chord you get the famous Dorian mode, an ancient musical concept popularized in crowd-pleasing tracks like "Eleanor Rigby" and "So What." (But no need to digress into modal music now.)

So we've figured Bm7-E7-Am. What about Cm7-F7-Bm7-E7-Am? Ah, that's where true genius kicks in. The wrong answer is to say: Hey, Cm7-F7 is the same as Bm7-E7 only one half-step up, so same parallel idea. Done. I am not saying this parallelism should be discounted. It is part of the overall effect. But I am quite certain Monk had a more sophisticated motivation. After all, there are lots of parallel approaches. Why this one?

Look at Bm7 and ask yourself what's its 5th? (ie, next clockwise on the cycle). Look up the cycle and you'll see it's Gb. Same as F# (well, at least on a piano). So why not play F#7 to lead to B7. From there we could go to minor Bm7 and then on to E7-Am, and call it a day. What I am saying is that, instead of Em-Em6-Cm7-F7-Bm7-E7-Am, we could play Em-Em6-F#7-B7-Bm7-E7-Am.

It's OK but it doesn't sound nearly as nice. So let's go all bebop on that one and use chord substitution. Jump inside the B7 chord and extract its tritone, ie, the 3rd and the flatted 7th (Eb-A). Now reverse the order, A-Eb, and find the dominant 7th with that tritone. That's F7. So we can use F7 to lead to Bm7. Now, go one more clockwise step around the cycle from F and get C. We need it minor because you remember the business about minor 2nd, Dorian, etc. So here we have it in its full glory:

1. Cm7 (V of F).
2. F7 (chord substitution for the V of the V of our target A).
3. Bm7 (the ii of our target A).
4. E7 (the V of our target A).

That covers the first 12 seconds of Round Midnight.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at 02:23 PM | Comments (16)

Tom Geoghegan For Congress

Tom Geoghegan, labor lawyer and author of quite a few fantastic books about democracy and economic justice, has announced his candidacy for Congress on DailyKos. He's running in the special election to replace Rahm Emmanuel in Illinois's 5th congressional district. His campaign website is here, and you can donate money via ActBlue.

Progressives couldn't ask for a better candidate or opportunity. Certainly I'll be sending him money and doing whatever else I can for his campaign. I strongly urge you to do the same.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 01:44 PM | Comments (3)

Gaza's Little Eichmanns

IDF spokesman Benjamin Rutland explains Israel's targeting strategy:

"Our definition is that anyone who is involved with terrorism within Hamas is a valid target. This ranges from the strictly military institutions and includes the political institutions that provide the logistical funding and human resources for the terrorist arm."

I believe the technical terms for such people is "Little Eichmanns":

[T]he "technocrats of empire" working in the World Trade Center were the equivalent of "little Eichmanns." Adolf Eichmann was not charged with direct killing but with ensuring the smooth running of the infrastructure that enabled the Nazi genocide.

The collateral damage in both cases is regrettable, of course.

EARLIER: "The main targets were...their military and economic power."

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:40 AM | Comments (8)

Even The Nation

This is by a writer named Hillel Schenker in the Nation:

There are a number of original sins that led to this moment...the final sin was the fact that Hamas carried out a coup against the PA in Gaza and played a game of chicken with Israel with the Qassam missiles.

For actual reality, see Vanity Fair.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 12:03 AM | Comments (20)

January 05, 2009

Helping Gaza In 2008

Who created this email address?


The predictably horrifying answer, along with one of history's greatest prank phone calls, can be found here.

PREVIOUS HELP: Don't Make Me Come Over There and Be Generous to You

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 05:31 PM | Comments (10)

New Tomdispatch


The Ponzi Scheme Presidency
Bush's Legacy of Destruction

By Tom Engelhardt

It may finally be 2009, but in some ways, given these last years, it might as well be 800 BCE.

From the ninth to the seventh centuries BCE, the palace walls of the kings who ruled the Assyrian Empire were decorated with vast stone friezes, filled with enough dead bodies to sate any video-game maker and often depicting -- in almost comic strip-style -- various bloody royal victories and conquests. At least one of them shows Assyrian soldiers lopping off the heads of defeated enemies and piling them into pyramids for an early version of what, in the VCE (Vietnam Common Era) of the 1960s, Americans came to know as the "body count."

So I learned recently by wandering through a traveling exhibit of ancient Assyrian art from the British Museum. On the audio tour accompanying the show, one expert pointed out that Assyrian scribes, part of an impressive imperial bureaucracy, carefully counted those heads and recorded the numbers for the greater glory of the king (as, in earlier centuries, Egyptian scribes had recorded counts of severed hands for victorious Pharaohs).

Hand it to art museums. Is there anything stranger than wandering through one and locking eyes with a Vermeer lady, a Van Eyck portrait, or one of Rembrandt's burghers staring out at you across the centuries? What a reminder of the common humanity we share with the distant past. In a darker sense, it's no less a reminder of our kinship across time to spot a little pyramid of heads on a frieze, imagine an Assyrian scribe making his count, and -- eerily enough -- feel at home. What a measure of just how few miles "the march of civilization" (as my parents' generation once called it) has actually covered.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:12 AM | Comments (1)

January 04, 2009

Fair And Balanced

The New York Times website currently has a short slideshow of six pictures from Israel/Palestine. They are:

1. The coffin of an Israeli solder about to be buried (caption: "The ground assault brings the prospect of more casualties on both sides")

2. A Palestinian boy being carried into a Gaza emergency room.

3. An Israeli man wounded by a rocket from Gaza being wheeled into an emergency room in Sderot.

4. Israeli soldiers moving into Gaza.

5. A shaken woman from Sderot in her nightgown.

6. A shot of Gaza from far away showing several clouds of white smoke in the air.

A slightly longer slideshow includes additional pictures: a elderly Palestinian man being carried into an emergency room, an Israeli man whose home has been damaged by a Gaza rocket, and an Israeli women sitting at her dining table and "tending to her wounds," which appear to be a scratch to her forehead.

During the current conflict, the ratio of dead Palestinians to dead Israelis is about 100-1.

As always, the question remains: why is the media so incredibly liberal? And why are they so sympathetic to people who hate America?

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 07:36 PM | Comments (16)

January 03, 2009

Israelis Now Safe From Life-Threatening Oxygen

By: John Caruso of The Distant Ocean

If you've been watching mainstream media coverage of Israel's Gaza assault you've probably seen an IAF snuff film of a missile strike against "a Hamas vehicle loaded with dozens of Grad type missiles in the Jabaliya area," in which eight people were incinerated (and others injured).  But B'Tselem has discovered that this vehicle posed an even more insidious danger:

B’Tselem received the testimony of Ahmad Sanur, the owner of the truck bombed. Sanur claims the truck was carrying oxygen canisters used for welding, not Grad rockets. B'Tselem field worker took photos of oxygen canisters left on the site of the bombing.

According to Sanur’s testimony, he and members of his family were trying to salvage material from a metal workshop he owns, which was next door to a bombed house, in order to prevent looting. He denies any connection to militants, or military activity, and is willing to talk to any journalist, or investigator.

(Photo from Army footage of the loading of the truck and photo of the oxygen canisters left next to the truck taken by B'Tselem fieldworker.)

Now, you may think of oxygen as harmless and even benevolent, but it's actually a deadly gas at the right concentration and pressure.  So for all we know, these oxygen canisters were a key component of a Hamas plot to submerge Israel to a depth of 200 feet and force Israelis to breath 100% oxygen (casts an entirely new light on the threat to push Israel into the sea, doesn't it?).  And even assuming the canisters were empty, just imagine the damage one of them could do if a disgruntled Palestinian dropped it off of a tall building on a crowd of Israeli women and children.  As an IDF spokesperson said:  "The intelligent audience watching the footage will know that people killed did not have peaceful intentions toward Israel. ... I don't believe they'll be disturbed."

(Sanur's son was among the eight people killed, by the way—four of whom were under the age of 18.)

— John Caruso

Posted at 03:53 PM | Comments (9)

Why Does The New Republic Hate Israel?

By: Bernard Chazelle

OK, I understand emotions are running high about the Gaza slaughterhouse. I have pretty harsh words myself for the sausage makers who moonlight as leaders of Israel. But there are limits of decency I would not cross, nor would, I surmise hopefully, anyone at ATR. So I am wondering how it came about that The New Republic, an outlet allegedly friendly to Israel, allowed Yossi Klein Halevi to stain its pages with such filth?

It was Israel at its best.

At its best. Really?

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at 12:42 AM | Comments (33)

January 02, 2009


Perhaps this is old news to some, but I've just read a 2004 Jerusalem Post interview with Haifa University demographer Arnon Soffer. Soffer is described as "widely seen as the originator of Ariel Sharon's separation plan"—ie, the "withdrawal" from Gaza, which happened in 2005, a year after the interview.

Given current events, this statement by Soffer seems worth recalling:

[W]hen 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it's going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It's going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.

In 2007, Soffer was again interviewed, and had this to say:

That statement caused a huge stir at the time, and it's amazing to see how many dozens of angry, ignorant responses I continue to receive from leftists in Israel and anti-Semites abroad, who took my words out of context. I didn't recommend that we kill Palestinians. I said we'll have to kill them.

Well, what can you do when such things are necessary? Other mideast leaders have known this. Here's a transcript from 60 Minutes in February, 2008:

PELLEY: Did you show [Saddam] pictures from the Anfal campaign [ie, Iraq's attempted genocide of the Kurds], those terrible, terrible pictures?


PELLEY: And his reaction?

FBI AGENT PIRO: Necessary.

BUT THERE'S MORE: The two Soffer interviews are very rich material.

1. Soffer brags about how many Israeli politicians listen to him, and claims Ehud Olmert said in 2003, "Professor Soffer convinced me; we can't escape this any more." To be fair to Olmert, I assume he meant "disengagement" per se, rather than Soffer's plans to "kill and kill and kill."

2. This is from the first interview:

In 1987, at a meeting organized by [former ambassador to the US] Zalman Shoval between myself, Shoval, [nuclear physicist and right-wing leader] Yuval Ne'eman and Ghandi [the late Rehavam Ze'evi], I began by presenting the demographic statistics. Ne'eman got up and said: "Don't believe a word of what Arnon Soffer is telling you: The Central Bureau of Statistics also belongs to the Left."

We see here that Israeli society works just like ours. Both countries' government agencies devote themselves to running their country's empire in a semi-rational way. And this infuriates the right-wing, because they at heart are two years old and loathe being told they can't have their every heart's desire. Hence the Israel Bureau of Statistics, like the CIA here, "belongs to the Left."

3. The original 2004 interview has disappeared from the Jerusalem Post site. I found it in the archives of a Yahoo group for residents of Efrat, a settlement outside Jerusalem, where it was being circulated approvingly.

4. In the second interview, Soffer speaks straightforwardly about Israel's collaboration with the Jordanian and Egyptian governments to subjugate Palestinians. This obviously is well known in the mideast, but is essentially never mentioned in the US media.

5. Soffer is obsessed with calibrating what the United States will allow Israel to do. Here he is describing Israel getting permission to permanently hold onto a strip of land along the West Bank's border with Jordan:

[President of the Council on Foreign Relations] Richard Haass, who was director of policy planning for the US State Department at the time, told me personally: "We'll allow Israel to establish a 'Philadelphi Corridor' in the Jordan Valley, to guarantee the neutralization and demilitarization of Judea and Samaria."

It's also interesting to see who Richard Haass hangs out with. I wonder if it would be hard to become President of the Council on Foreign Relations if you liked to have heart to heart conversations with a member of Hamas who proudly speaks of the need to "kill and kill and kill" Israelis.

6. Soffer describes himself as being "in the center" of the Israeli political spectrum. He also says he's "originally a Mapainik"—ie, a supporter of Mapai, the forerunner to today's Israeli Labor party.

7. Soffer doesn't believe Iran is a threat to Israel, calling it "so weak and vulnerable that it's unbelievable." However, he says America's "considerations are a different story. The world's superpower cannot accept that 2/3 of the world's oil is in the hands of a crazy person like Ahmadinejad."

8. In both interviews, the Jerusalem Post describes Soffer as a "geostrategist." I understand Saddam was quite the geostrategist too.

9. Help?

Posted at 07:04 PM | Comments (14)

Next World Order?

By: Bernard Chazelle

Strange op-ed in the Times by Gurcharan Das.

CHINA and India are in a struggle for a top rung on the ladder of world power

Both countries are world powers. If the writer means struggle between them, that has already been settled. China is between 2.5 and 3.5 times richer than India.

[W]hy is it that it’s the Indian economy that has become the developing world’s second best?

I have no satisfactory explanation for all this, but I think it may have something to do with India’s much-reviled caste system. Vaishyas, members of the merchant caste, who have learned over generations how to accumulate capital, give the nation a competitive advantage.

Not surprisingly, Vaishyas still dominate the Forbes list of Indian billionaires.

The author is not praising the caste system. Just like people who point out the economic benefits of slavery are not advocating it. What they are doing, however, is rather unclear.

80% of Indians live on $2.5 a day (PPP), a higher percentage than in Sub-Saharan Africa. Income inequality is rising, so let's all rejoice in India's stellar performance on the Forbes list of the world's richest.

The idea of becoming a military power in the 21st century embarrasses many Indians.

Because it was not one in the 20c?

When you have millions of gods, you cannot afford to be theologically narcissistic. It also makes you suspect power.

Having many gods makes one suspicious of power. The Roman Empire is a good example.

Indians expect to continue their relentless march toward a modern, democratic, market-based future. In this, terrorist attacks are a noisy, tragic, but ultimately futile sideshow.

Muslims, Pakistan, poverty... all a sideshow next to the relentless march toward a market-based future.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at 04:42 PM | Comments (9)

January 01, 2009

La La La

Associated Press, "Fighting in dense Gaza brings child casualties":

[A]t least 37 children and 17 women have died, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. The United Nations has said the death toll includes 34 children...

"Hamas uses civilians as human shields," said an Israeli military spokeswoman, Maj. Avital Leibovich. "The targets we picked are military."

Osama bin Laden, Messages to the World:

[I]f the enemy occupies an Islamic land and uses its people as human shields, a person has the right to attack the enemy...

The targets of September 11 were not women and children. The main targets were the symbol of the United States: their economic and military power.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 06:52 PM | Comments (12)

"Round Midnight" - Part I

By: Bernard Chazelle

I know I should be out there slaying the flame-breathing dragons of evil, but that'll have to wait till Jan 2. I have to deal with a more pressing matter right now, which is to indulge myself with my favorite jazz tune of all time.

The most recorded jazz standard and one of the most beautiful, haunting ballads ever composed, Thelonious Monk's Round Midnight is easy to play decently but hard to play right. It took Miles Davis years of hard work to master it, and, till the end, Monk himself rarely missed a chance to make him feel inadequate. In one recorded version, Miles screws up the intro -- intentionally, rumor has it, as retaliation for Monk's putdowns. Miles was always intimidated by Monk (and by Bird, too, but he idolized Bird). In a famous recording session, Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane get so confused about Monk's music they turn to him for help. Monk brushes them off: "Aren't you the great Coleman Hawkins? Aren't you the great John Coltrane? Then, if you're so great, you should be able to figure it out on your own." Monk was tough and uncompromising. But he was also a generous soul, who would actually spend hours "explaining" his music to his friends. If Bird was Beethoven, a born improviser, then Monk was Chopin. Notes were god-ordained to be somewhere and reordering them at Improv Time was only asking for trouble. He didn't think too highly of musicians improvising over his lines: "I wrote the perfect sequence of notes; why in the world would you want to play anything else?" (Advice he didn't apply to himself, of course.)

Thelonious Monk was one of the founding fathers of bebop, but he parted ways with the boppers eventually, accusing them of favoring virtuosity (the "externals") over depth and structure (the "internals"). He was the most original member of the group. While Bird's and Dizzy's innovations, dazzling as they were, have a historical logic to them, Monk is more of a musicological mystery -- as though he fell from a different planet. (An asteroid is named after him, so maybe that's what happened.) To say that Monk was a quirky guy is an understatement. He'd go days without saying a single word to anyone. Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, and Thelonious Monk all spent time in mental institutions, but I'd blame the drugs they inflicted on their bodies before any talk of mad genius.

That the end of Monk's life was not a hellish descent into the abyss can be attributed to the miraculous kindness of the patron (matron?) saint of bebop, the one and only Baroness Nica de Koenigswarter, in whose Jersey home Monk spent the last years of his life.

Charlie Rouse's solo is very beautiful, I think -- tender, bluesy, poignant. It must be the dream of every composer to write something as perfect as Round Midnight. In Part II, I'll write about some of the technical genius embedded in that piece. This will be, I promise, the most stultifyingly boring piece ever posted at ATR. (Or your money back!)

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at 05:52 PM | Comments (10)

Happy Dean Baker New Year!

Here's Dean Baker making an incredibly obvious and important point that professional liberals seem completely unable to absorb:

The extraordinary financial collapse of recent months has been commonly described as a testament to the failure of deregulation. The events are indeed testament to a failure—a failure of public policy. Blaming deregulation is misleading...

The less-versus-more framing of regulation supports the premise that there is in principle an unregulated market out there and that some of us wish to rein in this unregulated market while others would leave it alone. This is consistent with the idea that large inequalities in income distribution just happen as a result of market forces. But...no one is really talking about an unregulated market—rather we are all just talking about whom the regulation is designed to benefit. Distribution of income has never preceded the intervention of government.

The government is always present, steering the benefits in different directions depending on who is in charge. Accepting this view provides a political vantage point much better suited to the case for progressive regulation. After all, conservatives want the big hand of government in the market as well. They just want the handouts all to go to those at the top.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:29 AM | Comments (12)

More Fine Journamalism From America's Finest Journamalists

Today in the New York Times:

Israel’s stated goal for its military operation is to halt the rocket fire from Gaza and to create a new security equation in southern Israel, where three civilians and a soldier have been killed in rocket attacks in the last six days.

It has not declared its intention of toppling Hamas...

Tuesday in Slate, which is owned by the Washington Post:

Asked if Israel was out to topple Gaza's Hamas rulers, [Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni] said, "Not now." If reinstating the status quo ante is the test of proportionality, then Israel passes with flying colors. All it wants to do—as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert explained—is "to improve the security reality of southern residents in a thorough manner." A modest goal...Olmert never promised Israelis that he would dismantle Hamas' rule in Gaza.

The Times of London, quoting something said on Monday—ie, well before either of the above articles were published:

"The goal of the operation is to topple Hamas," Haim Ramon, the deputy to Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister, said.

It was the first time since it launched its blistering offensive that Israel has openly stated that regime change is its ultimate goal. "We will stop firing immediately if someone takes the responsibility of this government, anyone but Hamas," Mr Ramon said.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:46 AM | Comments (8)