Friday, July 18, 2014

Response to Jeffrey Goldberg

Response to Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic:

Jeffery Goldberg's psychoanalysis begins with the idea of  "Palestinian self-destructiveness" then switches to Hamas. Well, which is it?  What Palestinians -- in fact Hamas -- were proposing, and did last week again at the height of Israeli hysteria, was simply enforcing international law. Goldberg doesn't come right out and say it, but has his reasons not to call for an end to the collective punishment and a release of prisoners held without fair trial. Of course, the most serious issue is the dead civilians. But people often put their lives on the line when fighting for what they want.  Goldberg appears to admit this is a problem with a single sentence fragment: It's

Entirely, miserably, true.

that Israel is killing Palestinians. But he tempers this in the way many in the US press have been taught to do so, in the passive voice. Innocents "get killed" from "that country." If anything, they're being lured into the "self murder" strategy of Hamas. By projecting responsibility for these crimes onto others, Goldberg shows more humanity in this dithering than he does saying he's concerned about them. If he were a true psychopath he would simply say "kill them all, and be proud." His facade of quiet rational analysis when push comes to shove supports war and brutality in a way the fanatical terrorists on his side cannot.

I'm not one to assume Hamas doesn't have its legitimate critics.I know that powerful people can influence the masses and for that reason ordinary people are  less responsible. But ordinary Americans and Israelis do not face the same pressure of Palestinians. They have working electricity, internet, regular elections and so on.

So keeping to the issue of myopia. The true "enemy of compromise and progress" in the situation is the whole concept of military domination. It would only be myopic to limit this criticism to the weakest party in the conflict. Yet most pundits even on the left when confronted with the notion of political Islam put their fingers in their ears and go la-la-la it's all about religion. One exception to this is Noam Chomsky who frequently tests ideas by taking examples from the past, or from another country in order to short-circuit our temptation to see ourselves as The Good. He also helped create the warning of genocide, a fear of his resulting from a combination of Israel's undeclared nuclear weapons and its tendency of to defend a Jewish majority at all costs. Goldberg either ignores the context of this warning by the left or simply doesn't know about it.

 Either way, what he's demanding is actually more myopia. He takes the standard partisan approach, and parrots Bill Clinton into assigning all this blame outside the tribe, and the Israeli/Obama mantra of rockets, rockets rockets. Obama gives canned speeches about his love for little dead children who aren't his own -- granted they're from the right country. Does Obama's sympathy include the Palestinians who do resist lawfully? What about Goldberg's? They are not asked to compromise but are instead thrown into jails, tortured and assassinated. Goldberg himself whitewashed the humanitarian flotilla incident a few years back as "a project of pro-Hamas Turkish activists" basically mirroring the Israeli and US government lines that it was "engineered" by the sinister Turks. If one looked, one could probably find humanitarians in Gaza being called agents of Israel, and a dutiful journalist shaking his fist at them as they're shot. It wouldn't be a stretch to expect this from a Palestinian ex-prison guard, Goldberg's twin.

Being supporters of crime, the elites the US media prefer are naturally liars, saying the US influence in the region is something to cautiously praise. These people live in more security than Hamas elites do. And thanks to US policies, they have much more say in their governments than their restive populations (the majority of Egyptians view the government's court system and the police as a total sham.) Egypt and Israel are both in the US orbit that was instituted as soon as Truman was told how much oil there was in the region. US military cooperation with Egypt was cemented following the 1973 war. On the freedom of information act section of the CIA website is an interview President Sadat gave wherein he explained something interesting. He wanted a "miracle" similar to Vietnam, and Israel knew it was coming days before. Publicly it was claimed to be a surprise. This is right out of one of Kissinger's favorite books "The Prince" on how to acquire a new territory, namely showing overwhelming force. Sound familiar? Or is looking at official Israeli policy without help from Gulf commentators too myopic?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Two experts on peace

I know this is not representative of all the ins and outs of the ceasefire proposals, or even this particular one. But this similarity was so striking I wanted to point it out:

Palestinian representative from the Hamas party today:

Israel accepted the truce in a surprise move Tuesday morning, after Hamas categorically rejected the notion of a ceasefire Monday night.
"A ceasefire without reaching an agreement is rejected. In times of war, you don't cease fire and then negotiate," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told AFP.
Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zahri reiterated this Tuesday morning.

President Shimon Peres, 2007:

NS: Well, you say you were acting under legal constraint but this is all territory which under the 1948 partition of the UN was not part of the land of Israel.
SP: All right, but they refused to take it. Look, would they take the whole partition of the Israel as the legal foundation? Ben Gurion was ready. They rejected it. Look, you cannot say: I don't take it, I attack you. If I shall win OK, if I shall lose I win too. You cannot do it.
NS: But are you suggesting that the fact that the Arab armies attacked in 1948 means that the Palestinians living in the West Bank forfeited for all time their legal rights to that territory.
SP: No, the problem was: what is the West Bank, not the people. But what is the West Bank? Because you see the Arabs too agreed, they agree to 1967 not to 1948 they understand it. They changed the concept of the borders. Look, you cannot go to war, lose the war and then say pay me a price. Why should you pay a price? If you go to war once, twice, three times, the next time you say Just a moment, next borders should be defensible, and that's according with UN 242 and 238.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Response to the Tired Cliches in the Jewish Daily Forward

 This is a response to a recent article by J J Goldberg in the Forward newspaper.

What first appears to be an indictment of Israeli Machiavellian politics is instead an endorsement of them. Taking an approach similar to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on Iraq, J J Goldberg laments in his new article that Israel is "stumbling into" a "war that nobody wanted," yet, on balance, this blood feud might just teach the Palestinian "crime family" a "lesson," creating a few more years of peace. Overall, he has written a stale portrait of Netanyahu's complex "pragmatism" which he claims is heading off a push in the Israeli right for a full-scale land invasion.

But we are not on the edge of the cliff as the Forward and the Israeli branding allege. Rather we have been at the bottom of the canyon for some time thanks in no small part to the perpetual fog of war and cult of personality. Such a miserable depth has blinded Goldberg and many others to the dignity of the Palestinian people (see this rundown for what I have in mind). A favorite of his colleague Mira Sucharov (who does not deny the nationalism of Palestinians), Max Nordau, was absolutely repulsed when he heard Israel was conquering already settled land, "we are committing an injustice," he said. If these are the reactions of people invested in the Zionist program, it's hard to be surprised when those living under occupation their whole life don't agree in principle. Yet Goldberg manages to be affronted by this.

The most important omission however in this article is what William Mardsen has called "the prime reason for the violent outbreaks," namely the occupation, the settlements, and the "daily humiliations and frequent outbursts of brutality." Mardsen further notes Obama's reminder of just which country pays billions to Israel, a very good reason for obeying US diktat on how to conduct the war. While Goldberg indulges himself in the spectacle of the violence he pretends to abhor, without worrying about repercussions, he totally misses what the cycle means politically. It was known in 1996 when Netanyahu was elected he was going to empower Hamas, not weaken them. Lisa Beyer of Time magazine noted "[t]he radicals of the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, along with the smaller Islamic Jihad, hope to provoke Israel into abrogating its agreements with Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization." To do this, "Hamas would love to see the Likkud come to power. It would mean the end of the peace agreement." Goldberg will be surely happy to learn that, on balance, Israel too provoked attacks, assassinating a Palestinian with a cell phone -- a murder Israelis I come into contact with often laud as ingenious. Ten years after the "slimmest of majorities was persuaded that [Netanyahu's] youthful energy and conservative caution hold the greater promise," Hamas won its first election. The peace negotiations under the guidance of the idea of giving Palestinians no more than "fried chicken" pretty much brought us to where we are now, with some warning of a new intifada. This was done with full support of many wealthy Americans who were enamored by his polished, TV-friendly image, as well as a 15 point bump in polls from terror attacks escalated under the government of Peres. Pragmatic indeed.

Goldberg makes no mention of these Palestinian victims, nor US responsibility. Instead he engages in celebration of breaking the will of the Palestinian Mafia which includes members of Parliament and political prisoners "crush[ed]... according to the law," as an Israeli interrogator threatened. Goldberg indeed forgets to mention aggression itself is a crime under international law, although he brings up the damning Goldstone report as an aside. In fact, not only is aggression a crime but the threat of one is as well. Robert Kagan warns that the result of this aid policy will, in effect mean "that there will never be another chance" as a new generation of vengeful, oppressed jihadis follow the money. What a ticklish predicament.

It's time to give up the tired cliches and put pressure on the US to give up its role as chief negotiator,  and to suspend enough aid to isolate the stern politicos looking for a fight (this also includes universities such as BGSU and Abilene Christian University which have intimate ties to the US military industrial complex). I propose it should amount to $25 billion, a proportionate response to the amount divested in 1960 from South Africa in protest of their white nationalism (coincidentally, this is also about the sum Israel received from Germany in reparations for the Holocaust).

And it's important we do this before things get out of control. But with that in mind, what does "control" look like? Looking at only 11 days in January of this year, Ray Hanania documented "racist graffiti, burning and uprooting trees, breaking car windows and puncturing tires, in addition to attacks against the [Palestinian] villagers themselves" -- acts Mira Sucharov presumably sees as "casual racism." Contrary to the sympathetic image the Forward paints, Netanyahu's government warned in February of this year, before the ISIS/Islamic Jihad kidnapping, that he was going to "teach Hamas a lesson very soon." Minister Uri Ariel echoed this recently, condemning the "terror government," and vowing "a clear Zionist answer" -- more illegal settlements. Far from spontaneous self-defense, following an end to "seven years" of "the most tranquil in Israel’s history" these are leading Israeli politicians endorsing "sickening and appalling" tactics months beforehand. They have too much support already in their political campaign against Palestinian independence.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

You are not allowed to tell me we're not great

Over at A Tiny Revolution you can catch a little drama on American commentator Christopher Hitchens and his obsession with American benevolence. He compares Hitchens' propaganda to the militant/terrorist group now taking over parts of Iraq.

The quote is as follows:

Someone Please Dig Up Christopher Hitchens and Show Him This Blog Post

Christopher Hitchens on Iraq, 2005:
The welcome that I've seen American and British forces get in parts of Iraq...I want to mention first because there are people who say that that never happened...where were the sweets and where were the flowers? Well I saw it happen with my own eyes and no one's going to tell me that I didn' was like this is the nearest I'll get to taking part in the liberation of the country, to ride in with the liberating army...I will not allow it not to be said that that did not happen.
What jumped to my mind was not Iraq however but the war in the Philippines over a hundred years ago (see this blog post of mine for why). Once again the path to war looks eerily similar:
On the surface, most of the changes taking place in the American pacification campaign appeared to increase its severity and to abandon the policy of benevolent pacification, but this was not the case. Provost-Marshal-General Bell's comments to the officers serving under him placed the policy changes in their proper perspective. Bell began by stating that he had "frequently heard the opinion expressed that no good has been accomplished" by the old policy. He continued:

I cannot concur in that opinion, for I feel convinced that this policy has had a good effect. Had we been building for a day only or solely in order to put an end to hostilities, a different policy might have been indicated but ... we have got to continue to live among these people. We have got to govern them

He goes on to say:

"This policy has earned for us the respect and approval of a large majority of the more intelligent and influential portion of the community. We cannot lose their support by now adopting such measures as may be necessary to suppress the irreconcilable and disorderly.

The historian who gathered this testimony goes on to quite dryly mourn this general's soldiers not living up to his professed ideals:

"Unfortunately, some Americans did not have as good an understanding of the new policy as General Bell, and for them it represented the inauguration of a campaign of severity. Consequently, some enlisted men could interpret the new policy as one of "taking no prisoners" with MacArthur "sweeping everything as he goes," and officers could write of substituting "the effective noose for the futile school-book"(28) The cruelties and abuses that appeared in increasing numbers during 1900 continued, and those men who so desired could interpret the new pacification policy as a sanction for such action.
Here's an inscription from the Achaemenid Empire:

[4.11] Says Darius the king: If thou shalt conceal this record (and) not tell (it) to the people, may Auramazda be a smiter unto thee and may there not be unto thee a family.
[4.12] Says Darius the king: This (is) what I did in every way; by the grace of Auramazda I did (it); Auramazda bore me aid and the other gods which are.
[4.13] Says Darius the king: For this reason Auramazda bore me aid and the other gods which are, because I was not an enemy, I was not a deceiver, I was not a wrong-doer, neither I nor my family; according to rectitude [I ruled] nor made I my power(?) an oppression to [those who praise me]; the man (who) helped my house, him who should be well esteemed, I esteemed; (the man) who would destroy it, him who should deserve punishment, I punished.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Response to Mira Sucharov

Sucharov's essay can be read here. You can watch the video of her debate with Max Blumenthal at CPAC or read my transcription of it here.

 "They heard the gentle remonstrance of a kindly king with an erring but much-loved minister." -- J.R.R. Tolkien

The responsibility of liberal Zionists is not just to defend Zionism from anti-Zionists but to police its own excess, and honestly admit its failings. This is what you are asking of anti-Zionists. It's fair to assume you ought to practice it yourself. Take one example from the debate, the right of return. It may be unrealistic and therefore unfair (as Noam Chomsky has pointed out) to tempt Palestinians with the right of return but just on an academic note, if Israel is to return to Zionist ideals, it would have to return the property it took from Palestinians. Theodor Herzl said if Arabs refused to give up their property you should simply build where you face no objection.

Another thing liberal Zionists must face in order to be taken seriously, however uncomfortable it may be, is Israel already is an apartheid state. Between 1949 and 1959 the Afrikaner government passed the the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (1949), Suppression of Communism Act (1950), The Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act (1951), The Riotous Assemblies Act (1956), and the Promotion of Bantu Self-government Act (1959). These all are parallel with proposed and many enacted laws in Israel including banning of Arab parties in the last 20 years, mostly under the governments by the current ruling party Likud. None of these do you mention by name, either in the debate or in this essay. It was notably Max Blumenthal, the "anti-Zionist," who brought up the Bedouins facing eviction, not you. I think this is because it does not fit your endgame. This is a sign of degrading democracy, not a sign of hope or a defect in Israel. So you find it hard to face it.

It is also a feature of the society, not an accident. Israel has brought itself into this situation by creating a country of Western ideals (including the nation-state and the Fascism it entails) and Western trade interest, as Theodor Herzl intended. By aligning itself with the US, its main military supplier, as well as many dictators and opressive governments in the region, as well as Latin America, the idea that Israel means well loses credibility. We should also remember that in US history, the pretext of the war on terrorism overtook the pretext of communism specifically in relation to South Africa. When Reagan was in office he was advised to make a distinction between "authoritarian" and "totalitarian" governments and attacked, with undemocratic support, the helpless Latinos in his way under the pretext Israel's military hides behind today. This policy also included support of apartheid South Africa and the peaceful yet illegal annexation of Western Sahara by King Hussein II of Morocco. These are crimes concealed by nationalist fervor and a totally biased vocabulary (read the speeches of Hussein if you doubt me). That a state can be a benevolent force is an illusion, which is the point.

So what must be countered in Israel is not just specific laws. What should be discouraged is superstitious coveting of the power and credibility of nationhood, and the propaganda you write in its defense. Israelis and Zionists naturally recognize this about Iran and Gaza, but not themselves. While  it may not be necessary to abolish it -- Leftists do not support violent overthrow of Iran for example -- we certainly shouldn't encourage their propaganda either. For whatever reason, I don't know exactly the cause (human nature perhaps), the ability to make historical analogies is limited by the so called liberal Zionists to countries like Finland and Canada.

But the important history here is the US', Israel's main supporter. When the US oppressed the "Indians" we heard what we wanted: "Come over and help us." This goes right through American history, notably Vietnam which we wanted "spared" from the scourge of communism, and Iraq which we "liberated" into a country of sectarian warfare, its oil sold to the highest bidder. You hear this pop up in relation to the "myth" that Palestinian water is under Israeli control, and the crocodile tears shed for the women living under the government of the Hamas party. This mentality is also repsonsible for domestic and military pressure in Israel that is preventing the two state solution, a major step in resolving the conflict. Even if Arabs tomorrow went on TV and renounced terrorism, we would not see peace. Al-Jazeera reporter Clayton Swisher reports that Bill Clinton "falsely told the world that Arafat had rejected his parameters" out of fear of upsetting internal Israeli politics. That's not about laws, it's about political demographics which would be made impossible with a stronger check on military excess and Zionist nationalism. Israel currently has sitting in a jail cell a popular Palestinian politician who supports the two state solution. He is imprisoned thanks to the myth created in the wake of Kissinger's bad faith UN negotiations that Israel's security should be equally weighed with the national borders. He was tried in a military court in occupied West Bank for signing checks to "terrorists" -- namely Palestinian militants who have resisted the Israeli soldiers and need money for lawyers.

Even putting propaganda aside and going to concrete proposals, this is not contradicted by the two-state solution simply because it has Arab support. Mondoweiss writer Phan Nguyen pointed out we should remember that during apartheid in South Africa there were two-state solutions proposed (this was Abraham Lincoln's idea as well for African-Americans). It may be the best of the rotten ideas around but it does not mean apartheid doesn't exist. Rather, as US and South Africa illustrate, it is an idea very compatible with apartheid and an out of control state (remember, Lincoln also suspended Habeus Corpus). Much like other instances of US power and US involved powers, we understate the evils of the Israeli strategy. The rest is a red herring.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Response to Magnes Zionist

"Stop bringing meaningless offerings!    Your incense is detestable to me."
-- Isaiah 1:13 

This is in part a response to the Magnes Zionist blog who has criticized J Street for voting down a BDS resolution:
 Just like their parents and their grandparents generations, the progressive Zionists of J Street U wimped out, preferring tribal loyalty to fighting for justice, preferring it even to their own principles. Or perhaps tribal loyalty is their principle.  Like a long line of liberal Zionists before them, the negotiations took place not between Jews and Arabs  but  between Jews and Jews. They complained that the other side was not interested in dialogue.  What the other side wanted was not dialogue but joint action. That’s the way the oppressed operate.  
They learned their lesson well -- criticize the tribe, but only from within the tribe. Call for boycott, but only the token “Zionist BDS”  of the settlements.  Oppose the Occupation, but never, never, even begin to punish Israel for the Occupation.  Call for peace now, but make sure that the playing field for the negotiations is skewed in favor of Israel.

I agree with this. But while I support BDS, I can't pretend to know what the playing field for the conflict should be except to get the West to stop involving itself in the negotiations and the Israeli military. So this essay is not about the settlements or what concessions to expect from which side, but about the propaganda in the conflict. After all, a debate and a negotiation are about human communication. Nobody is above a little slip in this now and then (remember Helen Thomas?).

As I see it, young Jews are still split into two camps, but it's not exactly Zionist, anti-Zionist, or even pro-BDS and anti-BDS. Rather it's those who have made an abstract association of justice, whose test is hypocrisy, and those who believe Israel's main problem is to defend the Zionist ideal, which is done by feeling passionate about a female rabbi and Arab MK's (I'm quoting the most recent debate which aired a few days ago on Canadian TV over whether Israel can be a democracy). This is the context for my impression of J Street:

We should take heart that the centrist heart of Israeli politics is alive and well, and the seemingly inexorable rise of the ultra-right has been halted. There remains a solid majority in Israel for a two-state solution. Netanyahu’s do-nothing policies were rejected by both the right and the left. Given the circumstances, this result is almost the best we could have hoped for and far better than expected.

Now, any student of oppressive government can see this for the cheap partisan propaganda that it is. And I agree with Magnes Zionist on J Street's indecency. But the left is also more tribal than he assumes (for proof of this check a blog called The Daily Howler).

Anyway, there was one thing about this debate at that really stuck with me. Max Nordeu came up. Remember, he's a Zionist who might have been the first to disapprove of a fanatic, religious passion for the project. Yet Mira Sucharov began her talk in the debate with a call for a stronger Jew, a rugged individual who lusts innocently for overalls and a shovel in her hand, the opening metaphor for her entire argument. Did her opponent, Max Blumenthal, call her on this? No. He did the best that he could, tracing the theft of Palestinian land under the deliberate terror of Jacobtinsky. As a historian, he seems to have succeeded. But as a deprogrammer, he has failed.

In a strategy of undoing the spiritual conditioning of the Zionist individual (which seems to have been Herzl's goal), we cannot only be experts at the reality on the ground, or of history, but of ourselves as messengers. Blumenthal took most of his time to inform the audience only of what Sucharov would not. He countered Sucharov's idolatry only a few times. Two that come to mind, which seem to have most provoked Sucharov: 1. He passionately defended the so-called blacklisting of student representatives given favors by AIPAC, and 2. asked her point blank how many Arabs are too many, in a passionate defense of the Right of Return, which clearly was successful in provoking her (you could tell in the tone in her begrudging admission of support for what is a pretty racist policy, however much it wears a fig-leaf of culture). Yet he had many more opportunities to counter the Fascist ideal of the Israelis as children of their loving state outside of these easy take-downs. (Maybe that it's easy should reflect poorly on us too!) This countering can be done not so much with history as with psychology and Orwell's look at the empty rhetoric of writers, although I will explain the sobering history too.

First, any time Sucharov needed to recover from a threat to her idol, she went back and forth between the post-modern religious spells of "ontology" and "narratives" designed to defend against emotional thought, and a cathartic, energetic praise for a state yet to come, with jokes and applause lines. The tradition of post-modernism is itself traceable to Martin Heidegger, a Nazi smuggled into respectable circles by French intellectuals, many of them Jews. Overall, Heidegger believed philosophy itself to be so complex that one should feel accomplished simply for arriving where he started. It's easy to see how this was appropriated by liberals. Everyone has something valid to offer, the truth is bigger than us, everyone is right.

But the best parallel isn't Hitler (as Blumenthal attempted in his book), but Mussolini, who took this exact attitude toward labor unions. Blumenthal, by focusing on the Jewish Fascist Jacobtinsky, did not even detect the much more obvious Fascism in the entire Zionist myth and its connection to Mussolini's manifesto:
Fascism wants man to be active and to engage in action with all his energies; it wants him to be manfully aware of the difficulties besetting him and ready to face them. It conceives of life as a struggle in which it behooves a man to win for himself a really worthy place, first of all by fitting himself (physically, morally, intellectually) to become the implement required for winning it. As for the individual, so for the nation, and so for mankind... The Fascist disdains an “easy" life 
which says yes some dirty work had to be done but hey, now we're improved.

Fascism is likewise opposed to trade unionism as a class weapon. But when brought within the orbit of the State, Fascism recognizes the real needs which gave rise to socialism and trade unionism, giving them due weight in the guild or corporative system in which divergent interests are coordinated and harmonized in the unity of the State

The logic is circular. Fascism is good, so what has brought it into being is by definition good. Norman G Finkelstein (who is hissed at by some in the BDS crowd, particularly Electronic Intifada) traced this psychic strategy very well in his book Image and Reality in regards to selling your soul to what you call rationality in order to attempt something evil, to persuade yourself of a moral cause, and a limit on your evil tendency:

A canonical text of labor Zionism's distinctive ethos is The Seventh Day, an oral history of the June 1967 war based on the 'soldier's talk' of 'a group of young kibbutz members'. An overarching theme of the volume is that the Israeli soldier did not harbor any personal animus toward -- indeed, was tormented by the violence he inflicted on -- the Arabs. The appointed task was a dirty one but, alas had to be done. The book's moral anxiety is due not to the effects of the violence on the victim, however, but the victor: the corruption of the Jewish soul.
Sucharov clearly has absorbed this myth:

Really briefly as I said I do agree that the JNF's Jewish only land leasing policy is discriminatory. And because it discriminates among the state's citizens on the basis of ethnicity and religion. I do think it is antidemocratic. So I do think that those policies have to be changed. And that they are a historical relic. Let's remember where things come from. They're a historical relic when Israel was trying to create itself as a sovereign expression Jewish peoplehood. And it had it it had a purpose perhaps at the time and now it no longer does. [Applause]

This is how Zionism stands today, not in hatred of the left or of Arabs but by the idea that everyone is a little right and nobody is wrong (soccer hoodlums aside, does anyone wake up in the morning with a heart full of hate?). The battle being waged is over who gets to be "secure" from criticism (and bigotry), and the left plays into it just as unproductively as someone arguing with a racist. So instead, we need to challenge the Orwellian confusion between writing and thinking, between the state and the individual, and the cult of self-improvement.

Why isn't this happening? Max Nordau could not because he himself was deluded. Sucharov could not because she buys into the Fascist founding myth.  And Max Blumenthal could not because he is in the business of angels and demons, another delusion. It's not just enough to point out the seedy underbelly of nationalism, or even to disprove Nordeu. By giving in to petty games of more-radical-than-thou, we give up a chance at education of history. We dull our criticisms of sharp, accurate context in favor of party line rebukes (would any Democrat attempt to criticize Clinton like Chomsky?), and the company of bigoted rhetoric on both sides, as punching bags or attaboys.  If we wish to stand as moral prophets in acknowledging justice and its test of hypocrisy, away from the temptation of tribal fervor, we hurt ourselves twice acting in a bad example with an incomplete message.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

We Are Victims of Victims

In a letter to the New York Times four years ago:

Regarding Roger Cohen’s “The captive Arab mind” (Globalist, Dec. 21): The advancement from eternal victimhood to self-empowerment that Mr. Cohen seeks for the Arab world is only to be found in one place in the Middle East: Israel. The Jewish people rose from the ashes of the Holocaust to build a modern, democratic and economically efficient state that continues to be at the forefront of innovation.

By contrast, the Arab world seems content with perpetually labeling the Palestinian people as victims, and to this day, Palestinian refugees and their descendants are treated as second-class citizens in Lebanon and Jordan.

From a blog called Uprooted Palestinians that purports to advocate for Palestinians, this year:

The Zionists’ militarist mindset is evidently motivated by the ethnocentric myths of Jewish victimhood. World-conquering Neocon-Zionist belligerence is driven in large part by the religious adherence to the official propaganda of the victors of World War II. Elite Jews played an important role in bringing about the Second World War as the final phase of their plan to establish the state of Israel. The First World War accomplished several things for the Zionists: it freed up Palestine from Ottoman control (the Ottomans previously rejected Zionist offers to purchase Palestine), it fractured the big empires of Europe who could then be manipulated into future conflicts, and lastly it delivered Russia to the Bolsheviks, a majority of whom were Jewish chauvinists hell-bent on the subjugation of that Christian Empire. With Russia now in the hands of Jewish communist extremists and Palestine falling under British dominion, the Zionist plan for Israel was well on its way.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Brief History Of Delegitimization

Sometimes you just can't trust people. And humans are weird because while we really don't like when another group tries to claim they're legitimate when they're totally like not, we usually happen to be oppressing someone while this is happening.

Here's the former president of Iran in his noble defense of the lying Jews:
 PELLEY: Mr. President, you say you love all nations. I have to assume that includes the Nation of Israel.

AHMADINEJAD: Israel is not a nation. Well, we like the people, yes, because they are victims as well. They used to live in their own countries, in their own cities.

Here's the former president of Israel in 1970 setting the record straight:

I’m not saying that there are no Palestinians, but there
is no such thing that can be entitled Palestinian people (Meir, 1970a).

So did Jews make it up? No. It goes back farther than either Meir or Ahmadinejad:

Is it actually true, one may ask, that the Jews have no real fatherland? The short summary of Jewish dispersal does not by itself answer this critical question. We cite Ferdinand Fried’s book The Rise of the Jews [1937] for the answer: “They are not rooted in any land, but they proliferate everywhere, acting as destructive parasitic bacteria in each host people."
Okay so Jews and Palestinians don't have any legitimacy. What about Filipinos? Nope:

[T]here is no people in the Philippines. There are a number of distinct tribes... none really civilized.

What about just democracy in general?

When, therefore, Marcius saw that the senate was in pain and suspense upon his account, divided, as it were, betwixt their kindness for him and their apprehensions from the people, he desired to know of the tribunes what the crimes were they intended to charge him with, and what the heads of the indictment they would oblige him to plead to before the people; and being told by them that he was to be impeached for attempting usurpation, and that they would prove him guilty of designing to establish arbitrary government, stepping forth upon this, "Let me go then," he said, "to clear myself from that imputation before an assembly of them; I freely offer myself to any sort of trial, nor do I refuse any kind of punishment whatsoever; only," he continued, "let what you now mention be really made my accusation, and do not you play false with the senate." On their consenting to these terms, he came to his trial. But when the people met together, the tribunes, contrary to all former practice, extorted first, that votes should be taken, not by centuries, but tribes; a change, by which the indigent and factious rabble, that had no respect for honesty and justice, would be sure to carry it against those who were rich and well known, and accustomed to serve the state in war.

That's all folks. I'd be interested to learn if other parallels exist.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

George Orwell's Observation of Hypocrisy (With 2 Examples, One Less Serious)

I'm no expert on US foreign policy but in some ways I don't have to be. Human nature pretty much stays the same over the years and follows the same rules. George Orwell had an observation about the press coverage of the Spanish Civil War:

I have little direct evidence about the atrocities in the Spanish civil war. I know that some were committed by the Republicans, and far more (they are still continuing) by the Fascists. But what impressed me then, and has impressed me ever since, is that atrocities are believed in or disbelieved in solely on grounds of political predilection. Everyone believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to examine the evidence. Recently I drew up a table of atrocities during the period between 1918 and the present; there was never a year when atrocities were not occurring somewhere or other, and there was hardly a single case when the Left and the Right believed in the same stories simultaneously. And stranger yet, at any moment the situation can suddenly reverse itself and yesterday's proved-to-the-hilt atrocity story can become a ridiculous lie, merely because the political landscape has changed.
So I wasn't surprised to see when I came upon this in an article about whether the US recognizes that Iran is entitled to be enriching uranium, that it went back on its word:

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who is leading the U.S. delegation at the nuclear talks (as long as John Kerry isn't in the room), denied Iran's right to enrich uranium during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month. "It has always been the U.S. position," she told Florida Senator Marco Rubio, "that Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not speak about the right of enrichment at all."

Speaking to reporters in Geneva on November 6, an unnamed "senior administration official" insisted that "the United States does not believe there is an inherent right to enrichment, and we have said that repeatedly to Iran." He added later that "the United States does not believe any country has a right... We believe Iran does not have a right. We don't believe any country has a right."

"They have a right to peaceful nuclear power and to enrichment in that purpose," Kerry said.[...]U.S. Undersecretary for Nuclear Security Thomas D'Agostino said at a press briefing in Vienna. "We believe quite strongly that nations have the right to develop their civil programs for civil purposes," D'Agostino said when asked specifically about Jordan's nascent nuclear program. "We are not trying to tell other nations that you can't have enrichment."

On a lighter note: the same human nature is hilariously at work when looking at what political values -- real or imaginary -- a children's cartoon has. When Spongebob Squarepants supposedly talked they were quick to play the fairness card (which they usually believe is an enemy of free speech whenever the law comes up):

CARLSON: We all know that SpongeBob is popular with the kids and for the life of me I still keep trying to figure out why it is. My kids watch limited TV but every time they chose that show, I'm like, 'Why?' Anyway -- it's hard to even follow sometimes. Anyway now maybe that will be a good thing because SpongeBob is talking a lot about global warming, and he's only looking at it from one point of view.  (Media Matters via  Gawker via Mother Jones)
However, play the right song (he gets fired and is determined to have his job back) Fox News observes that:
“Even SpongeBob SquarePants isn’t safe from corporate down sizing….The harsh economic climate has hit the underwater community … Instead of mooching off social services in Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob sets out to return to the workforce,” Fox News anchor Heather Nauert said during an Oct. 31 broadcast of “Fox and Friends.” (Politico)
Apparantly, there can't be two sides to reality, except when one of them is YOUR side.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Same Bullshit, Different Audience

Reading over Bin Laden's rants, he complains of "Interior Minister Prince Nayif, who, according to Bin Laden:

filled the prisons with the nation's best sons,
bringing tears to the eyes of the mothers whose sons were jailed unfairly. Does the
regime want to pit the public, civilians and military, against one
another as was the case in some neighboring countries? I have no doubt that that is the policy of the Israeli-American enemy alliance, the main beneficiary of all that.
But, thank God, the vast majority of the people, civilians and military, are aware of that
sinister plan and will not allow themselves to be an instrument for strikes against one
another in implementation of the policy of the main enemy, namely the Israeli-American
alliance, through the Saudi regime, its agent in the country.

...there must be concentration on hitting the main enemy who has thrust the nation into
whirlpools and labyrinths for decades since dividing it into states and statelets. Whenever
a reform movement appears in the Islamic states, that Jewish-crusade alliance pushes its
agents in the region, the rulers, to exhaust and abort such a reform movement by various
suitable means, sometimes aborting it by luring it to armed confrontation, for which it
chooses the time and place and through which it would nip it in the bud.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Double-checking A Problem From Hell

The book "Manufacturing Consent" and "A Problem From Hell" both cover the country of Cambodia, the genocide there. However MC goes on to distinguish a pattern of three phases in the ugliness. The first phase it is claimed we participated in, and it cites two scholars, David Chandler and Philip Windsor who argue there were "ingredients" of a "violent...unrelenting social revolution" (p. 264) due to a US-generated crusade. Unfortunately, none of this shows up in representative Samantha Power's book. One simple answer to how to stop genocide would seem to be to stop participating in it. This answer surprisingly was not supplied in either Edward Hermann's review or in APFH.

Clinton aggravated the Bosnia-Serbian civil war, like Nixon's bombing of Vietnam. Power tries to confront that by laying the blame on when "American resolve...wilted." So immediately following a threat by Clinton's aggressive remarks violent bombers should "deal with the consequences" and the follow-through, Power lays the fault on an overly pacifist country who "trust in good-faith negotiations and traditional diplomacy." Pretty scary that an author of a book which suppresses useful facts will be involved in negotiations for us now.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Antisemitic double standards in a nutshell

Out of the three reporters from the Jersualem Post I could find willing to use the phrase "Arab lobby" only Alan Dershowitz is cocky enough to wag his finger at someone for doing something he did only 2 years ago, still accessible on the web.

Somehow this guy is still around. He wrote this about Arab foreign influence (evidently he had in mind only the Saudi lobby) in the US:

The methodology employed by the Arab lobby is thus totally inconsistent with democratic governance, because it does not reflect the will of the people but rather the corruption of the elite, while the Israeli lobby seems to operate within the parameters of democratic processes.  

Then has the chutzpa to write this in 2012:

Hagel’s appointment would send another disturbing message to the bigots of Tehran, who believe that the only people calling for military action against Iran are “the Jews.” Hagel speaks their language. He is the only mainstream American politician to talk openly about how “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people.” Others refer to the “Israel lobby,” which includes Jews, Christians, and others. They understand that not all supporters of Israel are Jewish, and that not all Jews are part of the Israel lobby. But Hagel apparently sees things in terms of Jewish interests versus American interests.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Israel's Latest Bombing Is Not Defensible

12/4/2012: Yesterday the comment went through. The original article can be found here.

This is an unpublished comment from an article with minor spelling and grammar corrections.

The overwhelming fact remains the rockets were the same pretext for attacking Gaza that Israel used in 2008 (Reuters 05-01-2009 via Wikipedia). It becomes less believable and less credible in its repetition, not more.

So there is a gap between action and speech. It indeed fits the idea of a "release valve" -- every friend of a Zionist on Facebook is well aware of the constant updates by the IDF of rockets into Israel. Less well known is the nationwide exercise the Israeli government undertook in 2009 to make the threat of war "feel real." (Jun 2009 Al Jazeera). To get a sense of how strong this need is, created and encouraged by both sides, there is even outrage against Netanyahu for imposing a ceasefire.

The question remains how to judge Israel's actions once the pretext falls apart. One thing I agree with leftists on is terrorism is not defensible. The CRIF, a French Zionist organization of Jewish groups, and Fox News, pointed to several causes for the war. Benjamin Netanyhu is facing an election (CRIF noted many more). He can perhaps sacrifice the 4% of Israelis who question the war (Haaretz November 2012), while winning over the majority of Israelis who want to see the government do more to stop the violence (Brookings 2011). The picture of two people fighting each for a defensible cause starts to fall down with consideration of these facts.

The CRIF -- in my opinion -- had a good reason to involve their broken Western sensibilities in the conflict. French Jews  report being attacked increasingly as the Israel-Palestine conflict heats up. Further, it's hard to miss the parallel between French Jews and Israel on the one hand, and Gazans and Iran on the other.

The question remains as to what violence resolves when it's practiced under the right pretext. There are lessons that Jews can bring to the table. A Reform Rabbi denied America a biblical pretext for its most cruel and violent adventure, slavery. Man is created free, he noted, not in a state of violence or in an egotistical power trip. This seems to hold true even under the whip.
 When Frederick Douglass fought his master, he probably had a good reason. But even then, it wasn't necessary for his freedom, he noted. That came from his previous master who, after realizing he was learning to read, became furious. By reacting with outrage and violence, his master had proven to him he was taking the first step to his freedom. Jews then can argue to the Palestinians that it is their writers and artists, and extending the lesson to the Civil Rights movements, their successful petition to the UN, where they are making progress. It becomes harder to do this when their media apparatus is bombed. (LA Times Nov 18)

With Cole's perspective in mind, one fact should increase the critical attitude one takes to character reforming (the "adventurer" character in Max Weber's "Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism").The Weberian philosophy looked at in this fashion points to an economical, not a moral or ideological problem. In short, it's about having control over land. And it's confirmed in the founding records. Israel's first immigrants were encouraged to create a new "character" and as noted above, this is enforced with mass fear-inducing spectacles on both sides.

You want to educate and that's all I can applaud. Imposing character reformation is not.

Monday, November 26, 2012

State Dept's Shifting Standards For Rights

In response to political concessions that might not be very effective granted after a 2011 uprising against a corrupt Moroccan king, US State representative Victoria Nuland said:
As you know, we believe that all people have the right to free assembly and to
express themselves, but we’re encouraged by the proposals that were put forth by the King on June 17th to transform Morocco’s democratic development through constitutional, judicial, and political reforms, and we’re watching closely.
Great, we have all the ingredients of a successful human rights movement! I'm sure they will show up in a similar situation, like say Honduras, where they have corrupt unaccountable leaders and terror. But in response to the unsolved killing of a human rights worker reportedly killed before he could testify in Washington, the US State department representative Victoria Nuland said:

Mr. Trejo Cabrera worked tirelessly to resolve the tragic and complex land conflict in Honduras’s Bajo Aguan, relying on legal challenges and negotiations in a region where disputes are too often settled through violence. We urge all parties to continue his efforts to bring peace to the Bajo Aguan.
We're now down from government reforms to just government petition. What about Palestine, where they don't even have much of a state to reform? In response to the upcoming Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN, Nuland said this:
"We continue to make clear that we believe that the only realistic path for the Palestinians to achieve statehood is through direct negotiations," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said last month.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Raising The Right Questions to Shut Down the Israel/Palestine Conflict


My last blog post argued terrorism is predictable. I listed three ways to prevent it: organizing, rapport, and petitioning. This blog will look at Brown vs. Board of Education as a model for a successful movement. For some balance, I'll add in the Indian Independence movement and Occupy Wall St. This doesn't mean I'm answering all questions about civil rights, national independence, and stopping violence, but it's a start. For the sake of making the ideas stand out, I'm also assuming that the information on Wikipedia is a fair sample of the things involved in the Civil Rights movement, and that Brown vs. Board of Education is too.

Organizing, rapport and petitioning in Brown vs. Board of Education

I will now test to see how these tactics are represented in the three successful movements: the Civil Rights movement, the Indian independence movement, and Occupy Wall St.

The Civil Rights movement presents several pieces of evidence in support.As I'm presenting this evidence, it comes to mind there is a contrast here between the traditional story and the facts. The story I learned was the government came to its senses and had to enforce desegregation with military might. But  according to a source on Wikipedia

Herbert Brownell Jr.: Instrumental in convincing Eisenhower to give up his Army service and run for president, Brownell was rewarded when Eisenhower appointed him as attorney general in 1953. He served until 1957, helping make the case for Brown vs. Board. According to biographer John P. Burke, Brownell "tenaciously supported and enforced" the Brown decision despite personal attacks by opponents on his integrity. He died in May 1996 at 91.
The main politician involved was only there because he left the army. The Indian independence movement further shared this rapport-building.Ex-patriots were reportedly very good at getting their fellow nationals to stop fighting for the British. This carries more weight than it first seems.

One thing to highlight in the Indian movement though is, although mass education and organizing were there from the start, Wikipedia articles again and again document divisions within the movement -- radicals and moderates could not agree, and Muslims were left out. Gandhi himself was not a part of the movement at first, and much of his early writings do not show respect for the humanity of Africans. I think this could go a long way to explain the current corruption in India.

Back to the US Civil Rights, petitioning has further evidence here:

But Eisenhower did not prevent the action, saying in a letter to a longtime friend there "must be respect for the Constitution -- which means the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution -- or we shall have chaos."

Eisenhower wanted to protect the ideal of the Constitution. He was pushed, but he was pushed into the right place.

And finally organizing is obvious from the sub-headline itself: "Thirteen parents representing 20 children signed up as Topeka plaintiffs."

Unfortunately for Israel/Palestine, it breaks down along nationalities, with more than one government there to petition, more than one set of religious values to appeal to. Occupy Wall Street had a similar problem, but an impressive and documented effect on lowering crime rates where the protests occur. The lessons should be clear. Movements that care about the least fortunate, and that press their claims through courts will be effective. 

After considering my experiences and comparing them to three historical cases, I arrived at these questions to ask in regards to Israel/Palestine:

What are the organizations that exist, and how inclusive are they?
What choices does a soldier have besides joining an army?
If someone brings a court case, who will enforce it?
Are the potentially criminal being fed and given a voice?
What are the enjoyable things for them to do in a protest?

What I learned about these from my own life

When I showed up to an Occupy demonstration, the protest was fun and the people were very educated and straight-forward. We were fed, we sang, and made it in the paper. This inclusiveness is the strength of the movement. The focus on economics is a strength as well. It's not clear to me if there were fun ways of standing up to racism in the 1950's, if there is an equivalent yet to the desegregation law for example, or what that would even look like. But the positive lessons from the Civil Rights movement should be easier to see in effect-- to gather a dozen or so people together and press for action.

Organizing brings to mind power. There is a tendency to see oneself only as doing good. Bullies get jealous of it in others, and bullies deserve to be stood up to.  Doing this is a demonstration not just to the bully, but hopefully to others as well. A charity worker once told me that volunteering is something you do out of kindness, not status. It was hurtful to hear that, because I wanted the status that came from it, but I was wrong to demand that. That's not a helpful tendency to have. She stood up to me for representing the lust for status and abusing a kind institution for my own protection. 

Before that I once told someone the US crushes liberty and used a very ugly metaphor that I knew would make the person I was talking with insecure. Someone pointed out to me this was abusive in a very matter of fact way. He didn't yell it, in fact we were on Internet Relay Chat.

Rapport comes in with clear communication. On the one hand, I find rapport sometimes too difficult to establish. Someone I once considered a friend, although he was very right-wing, once argued that homosexuality was a social disease. I found it too much to bear respecting him as a friend. On the other hand, I still get along with my ex-girlfriend because I applied psychology to our misunderstandings. Each person has a way of thinking, either in labels or contrasts, emotions and so on. Once you establish this, and can adjust what you say, every idea you have will be understood. It's not about changing opinion at all, just finding a way to open up ways to talk.

Finally there is petitioning. I know about this from the Indian independence movement. Reportedly, the ex-patriots were able to get Indian nationals who were working for the British to their side. What comes to mind with my life is when I had to discuss evolution with a friend. I asked him why there were dinosaur bones. I don't think that was all that it took, but it was the tipping point. What he really wanted was to understand human nature, because he started to apply evolution in his thoughts as he expressed them to me. I am the most wary of this strategy though, because he became disillusioned with religion shortly thereafter. I respect him for living out his life, and I think it's for the best that he was free from that doubt, but it's possible he was harboring a separate self, something he didn't understand fully, and it made him pursue more irresponsible things associated with that self -- not serious problems, just undeveloped wishes like a road trip and worshiping marijuana. I think it's important to ask people to anticipate those conflicts, so that the truth can be less shocking to the person.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Terrorism Is Not Random

As I write this highly civilized Israelis are flying over Gaza bombing various things and people, reportedly with the President's approval. Israel's attacking Gaza right now follows the usual pattern of violence and political insecurity lining up. Palestinians are at the UN this year asking for state recognition, Netanayahu's elections are coming up, and reports now are saying that a peace deal not only was on the table, but the Palestinian who was to be involved, was killed. This is significant for a reason.

I first developed an understanding of terrorism as I studied civil wars and assassinations in the US. But more recently, I found other people who discovered the same thing. They weren't bloggers either.

Some months back (my memory doesn't deal with timelines well) there was a massive rise in antiSemitic attacks across the world. My neighborhood was hit with graffiti and broken windows. It was worse in Europe, particularly France and UK.

Two explanations were possible. One was that this violence was chaotic and unpredictable -- a very scary option. The other is that terrorism is predictable. Every time there was political uncertainty between Israel and the Palestinians, serious violence broke out. I recall Glenn Beck disagreeing, citing the more scary version, but according to the people being hurt, who for their own interest have to figure out why, a different reason is available.

The first has one useful quality -- it easily parallels in justifications for more violence. If someone is choosing targets randomly, it's a greater more pressing threat, and deserves more effort, because more people will be hurt. That is to say some particular belief of a person is the problem, and they cannot be dealt with. This is already a predatory mindset, and I question whether it should be ever used on higher mammals, let alone people. If there was a reason why people seem to be acting stupid, I would put it on this. They have to be ignorant in order to justify violence.

There's another theory, and one does not have to rely on testimony from violent people. A study done by the group CRIF, the leading group of Jewish civil society in France, while cautioning that this evidence alone was not enough to confirm an exact parallel, confirmed that more reports of antiSemitic attacks occurred during the times of year when political insecurity in Israel/Palestine was greatest. It turns out there is quite possibly a reason for the terrorism, not a just cause at all, but an undeniable pattern.  It was traceable not just on a timeline but in the acts themselves. Graffiti in France named Israeli figures. This second theory is something I think any reasonable person can understand and apply. It suggests that terrorism, or violence against civilians in order to establish a political goal, can be predicted.

I think getting everyone on the same page about this is a good step. In my next essay I will outline strategies to stop political insecurity. These will include popular organizing, establishing rapport with people who work for powerful interests, and demanding accountability.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why Is Obama Vetoing CISPA?

There's a bill that everyone hates called CISPA that Obama is supposedly going to veto, because he just really believes in "privacy, confidentiality and civil liberties safeguards."

There's an interesting precedent in history, when Harry Truman vetoed what is called the Internal Security Bill. It let the government target communists. Here were his stated reasons:

1. It would aid potential enemies by requiring the publication of a complete list of vital defense plants, laboratories, and other installations.
2. It would require the Department of Justice and its Federal Bureau of Investigation to waste immense amounts of time and energy attempting to carry out its unworkable registration provisions.
3. It would deprive us of the great assistance of many aliens in intelligence matters.
4. It would antagonize friendly governments.
5. It would put the Government of the United States in the thought control business.
6. It would make it easier for subversive aliens to become naturalized as United States citizens.
7. It would give Government officials vast powers to harass all of our citizens in the exercise of their right of free speech.
What's funny is the government at that point was in the thought control business, and the great assistance of many aliens in intelligence matters is one of the most horrible scandals of the country's history. So there's really not much information in Obama's reasons, is there?

Friday, September 21, 2012


Was overjoyed to see that headline. But turns out, it's not what I thought: 

The number of U.S. forces there peaked at about 101,000 last year, and they have been coming out slowly over the past several months.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


In JK Rowling's Harry Potter series there is a demon called a Boggart. Its purpose is to frighten you. When it cannot solve the puzzle in a way to make everyone afraid, it compromises, and loses. It can only scare you by trying to appear as something it's not. To remove its power over you just give it too many goofy things to attempt to be all at once.

The most bullshit ever to come out of the left follows closely to this formula:
A. Someone made a point I'd rather not think about
B. Here's a lot of half-baked ideas that show how evil they are
C. Because I know where it's really at. I'm the authority on this subject.

When the Chicago teachers struck, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown was there on the scene to interview the teachers, he seemed like an ally -- but reading it closely he was keeping his distance.   (1)  On the 13th for example, he happily was bashing the right (for them?) for picking a fight and trying to anticipate the spin:

All week, this strike has been playing out on two different levels: locally, where most of the public has been on the teachers’ side, and nationally, where a strange cadre of union-bashing conservative cheerleaders, self-styled “education reformers” and newspaper editorial boards have been singing the mayor’s praises.
I have no idea what the latter group is going to say about the mayor’s final product. They may decide he’s won as well if he retains the right of school principals to pass over laid-off teachers when they fill job openings. I’m sure that’s what Emanuel will be saying.
Three days later he was starting his column "Some people just don’t know when to leave well enough alone." Yes, when push came to shove though, he lectured the teachers to stand down. Now as he hears Karen Lewis give a speech (that he doesn't cite a single time), he magnanimously declares "teachers need to be heard" while "traditional education" is destroyed or at least harmed. Of course, he can't help but add " those two extra days on the picket line after the deal was ripe did not help them."

Another instance of Boggart-dom is this whole controversy around a book: first popping up in Reddit with the phrase "Kindle censors Naomi Wolf's book's title" had me lulled into thinking the left was on her side. Then a Penny quote showed up on my Facebook. 

"‎"Writing about one's vagina has become shorthand for a style of feminist writing where the personal being political becomes an excuse for the political to collapse at every stage into the personal."

The formula is the same: the person offends in some way, and then the bullshit starts to flow. I checked out the article and was appalled. It was trashing Wolf in every way imaginable without a single citation. In fairness to the author, I looked up Laruie Penny's writing where she quotes approvingly of Wolf. . I was happy to post a comment there saying I recognized her betrayal of Wolf (I assumed her readers knew her work well enough, but I've added her introduction to Wolf below) (2).

Today I got the new edition of the Nation, and what did I see? Another review of Wolf's new book, filled with lots of rhetoric and very few quotes.

I just wish there were a more serious debate on what unions and Naomi Wolf actually are talking about, rather than what wins emotional points. The truth is bigger than what a "slam" piece will give you.

2.  "The formal rules of late capitalist pornography are the fulcrum of modern sexual affectlessness: an endless parade of disembodied cocks going into holes, a joyless, piston-pumping assembly line of industrial sexuality". Meat Market, Laurie Penny. p 21.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Class Privilege And The Mayor's Assault On Chicago's Labor

In my other analysis, I purposefully left out class since it is not one of the declared principles of the anti-union side. As I saw it, the principles were not being greedy, accepting responsibility of education, and making serious claims.

But I couldn't help but see the parallels. I was having a conversation with a former class mate of mine who is now a teacher. Paraphrasing, the standardized testing model Rahm is pushing an unfair standard because poorer students -- and especially the ones coming from broken homes -- do not test as well. I responded:

Douglas and Paine both argued that the society is responsible for preventing abuse of the workers and for education -- and Paine was put in jail for the arbitrary reason of being a British citizen because the French didn't like him. Douglass was not even allowed to learn to read and was put under a new master when he stopped fearing the current one. That's a part of their disciplining of you. They're not just being stupid. In the times of slave whippings, everyone knew the abuse was going on, it was quietly tolerated (not celebrated), so long as the master did not get a reputation for enjoying it. That's about as far as their logic takes them even today.

There are two ways to come at this, principle and fact. The fact is, they are horribly misinformed. And so was I. There is coverage of class and test scores and it explains that race and class play a role in test scores. Whether or not that can be reasonably accommodated in testing, or whether it does enough, is something I have to do research on. It's an uphill battle. Market journalists need money for advertising and for campaign donations and by and large that comes from the same private interests who lie to us constantly as well, to put it bluntly. It's not a conspiracy, it's a business.I'm ready to disagree with the teachers on this principle if testing can be reformed. Bloggers like this, filled with comforting snark, still manage to question the status-quo fairly even-handedly:

In the Texas public schools, all three major demographic groups have tended to outscore their peers from around the nation. It may be that funding cuts will harm this statewide performance. But in recent years, there have been large funding cuts to public schools in other states too. In our view, the failure to compare the size of the Texas cuts to those in other states was one of the obvious, groaning flaws with yesterday’s news report.
Bottom line: Conservatives do enjoy blaming the unions. Liberals like to mess with Texas. 
We live in highly tribal times. Such times may tend to lower comprehension among even the brightest players.

It's here where the liberal heartstrings must be muted. Obama, by not speaking out, is also considered a victim, which is effectively support for Emmanuel.  I don't even have to cite this, this is his own dogma, his spokesman said he knows he wants "both sides" to solve it. In reality, both Fox News and NPR support this delusion. Honestly, Obama just paraded Emmanuel down here, effectively trading him for another Daley, and I'm supposed to pretend he had no idea this was going to happen? The teachers aren't dragging him into this, it's the other way around. Or I suppose you can believe that "By walking out on Second City kids, the AFT’s Chicago affiliate has inadvertently handed Emanuel a new opportunity to take a different approach to reform. " Like the teachers are Jonah and are being rescued by the whale. Sure. That's more likely.

Sorry for the snark. Back to the facts.

This does not neccesarily mean become exactly like Texas in every way, for example while unions are not widespread, they have other (less dignifified in my opinion) forms of collective bargaining:

Texas public school teachers may vote to have a group represent them in discussions with school management in a process known as “elected consultation” — if the local school board allows it. Elective consultation is similar but not identical to collective bargaining, with the most crucial difference being that any agreement reached through elected consultation is not binding on the school board, says Rob D’Amico, spokesman for the Texas branch of the American Federation of Teachers, one of several public school employee organizations. Texas AFT represents 65,000 public school employees but not administrators.

 But it is definitely a powerful argument in defense of public schools. The claims of "reform" are not usually made without some mention of charters though. Here is a Daily Beast columnist arguing to "tie federal aid, and thus ultimately school revenues and teacher compensation, to measured results" which is "paying off in small but sustained improvements in test scores nationwide." The mayor also made this claim in today's paper. Timothy Stanley from CNN gave a long reasonable-style account of the facts, concluding with "austerity isn't just a tea party slogan. It's an inescapable necessity." It's clear why they like to scapegoat the unions. Both portray the management of government, the bigwigs, as the victims. "Stanley, an Oxford professor, is amazed that "the latest elected official to do battle with a public-sector union isn't the Republican governor of Wisconsin. It's Rahm Emanuel, the Democrat mayor of Chicago and President Obama's former chief of staff." the Beast's Frum's headline blares "Rahm Stands Up To Teacher Union Bullies."

It looks like the message is established but it's on shaky ground. Emmanuel is keeping the focus off of poverty for now, who knows when the media will ever start, and I really don't feel like preparing for how ridiculous they are willing to bend the facts to get out of that.

My personal belief undercuts all of this though, and that's the teachers have not stopped teaching. This is probably the most educational thing that has ever happened to this city in my lifetime.


A More Principled Attack On Emmanuel and Union-busters

By saying what follows I should rightly be seen as jumping to conclusions. This is because the principles of society are not for me to dictate. I will keep to widely accepted sources on living a principled life -- Adam Smith, Thomas Paine, and Frederick Douglass.

First, what should not be controversial. The teachers have undeniable facts on their side. Their ability to form a union was challenged (still got 90% with a 75% minimum), and the President did not come to their aid as promised (by the way, "both sides" kind of people in questions of freedom is who Martin Luther King explicitly told to go to hell). 75% of fired teachers were non-white and the public did not find solidarity then.

Market education is against American conception principled government
One only need to search for #CTU on Twitter or read the columnists from the New York Times. The only argument for charter schools is if they are in fact a better form of protection to the students. The research is not clear on this, but as far as it is about the parent's authority, the argument loses merit. From the "first principles of government" liberty to control someone is not a defense of liberty. Keeping with the definitions of rights set out by Thomas Paine, "their rights are under the sacred guardianship of the aged" who "have not and cannot have the right to make a law to set up and establish hereditary government, or, to speak more distinctly, an hereditary succession of governors." 

Following this, parents cannot impose control on students, they can only act as guardians. Charter schools and private education are brought up in arguments opposing the teachers as being too expensive, not as bad guardians (although it is usually concluded for good measure).This is the ground for a principled debate, not whether the teachers or the city is asking too much. It's clear who sees this part on their side based on who is spinning more. The solution is to stop the spinning, not to spin the other way. Chicago  has indeed been making steady improvements in literacy.

Both sides can make principled arguments with Adam Smith's capitalism:
Doing the same thing day in and day out is the easiest way to make a person stupid. One only needs to look at Joe Biden who has been a professional politician for about half of his life to see this is the case.

There are serious questions that follow: What part of teaching is routine? What encourages students to break out of routine? Again, there is room for a debate here. If teachers are a problem at all, it's because they do the same job their whole lives. But the solution to that is not to make them work year-round, with a curriculum mandated by standardized tests, with less recess, and so forth. They are not babysitters, they are educators. Is allowing for natural intelligence important at all to the mayor and the charter school advocates? It's obvious whose side I see this point favoring but it's the facts that support me, not my ideology.

Why a strike is only the start
The easiest and probably least controversial example of self-defense should not be taken out of context. The most significant form of resistance this country's history provides comes down squarely on the side of the laborer, an educated one. Frederick Douglass did not fight his master until he knew that his master feared him being educated in ideas he did not like. Before resistance, Douglass could only survive as a by holding back. If you worked too efficiently, that raised expectations, which were impossible to live up to. His master was used to whipping him and was not about to lose this habit.  That's what is at stake with education since it should hold for all contracts, if self-respect and self-defense are to mean anything at all. There is no leader who can free you if you cannot demand freedom at all costs.

Emmanuel should live up to his principles of defending Chicago like he thought he was doing with Chick Fil A. Just give them the raise like the contract says and talk about the real issues. That's what the city wants. Nobody has his back except the president and various sophists in the media.

No sane person denies another the right to resist abuse. I can't imagine a more useful lesson in life. But it only now that they are demonstrating that ability. That ability is for anyone else to judge. That is why the common principles must also be addressed. Until, now, the teachers were in this situation alone to a considerable degree. The strike is the right thing to do. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Maddow Doubts Her Abilities Too Much

Fairly recently, NBC News' Rachel Maddow had this to say about studying terrorism (note 1):

But all of these little tweaks — all of these little changes that we made — had the effect of letting a president wage war without political restraint and letting us wage war in a way where we didn't necessarily notice or know the names of all of those who were deployed in our name. Because a lot of them were working for companies that didn't have any obligation to report to us when their people were killed. We ended up doing stuff in a way that insulated the American public from what our military was doing to the point where we don't feel much friction when Americans go downrange."

In this interview she also observed (I'm paraphrasing, there is no record of this online anymore) that she cannot imagine stepping into the shoes of a terrorist. But she gets all hot around the collar at the thought of interviewing Dick Cheney. Let me interview you is literally her plea in her book and in the interview.

What's odd is that she is perfectly capable of understanding most of the logic of terrorism, in fact, she assumes everyone understands it already. For a benchmark, here's Bin Laden arguing for why his friends should be acquiring WMD's:

"It would be a sin for Muslims not to try to possess the weapons that would prevent the infidels from inflicting harm on Muslims." -- Bin Laden 

MADDOW: One of the things that people have questioned is if the U.S. has this high level of electronic capability, why is Libyan state TV still on the air? Is that not one of the things they would want to shut down?

From NATO's website on bombing Libyan journalists via WSJ:

‎"Striking specifically these critical satellite dishes will reduce the regime's ability to oppress civilians while [preserving] television broadcast infrastructure that will be needed after the conflict" -- NATO

Her chirpy rebuttals are therefore false, Here's Maddow mockingly interprets Republicans "Terrorism isn't the big battle. It's the battle between us and the liberals." It's okay to say the truth, just do it in a funny voice. 

Note: I've since contacted NPR about this quote. It appears that either the interview is clipped or I'm mixing them up.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Why Is the Truth Always An Aside?

Forbes columnists ;like to bullshit a lot, and they have an interesting tell. Right before they say something totally ridiculous, they first go through a "yes there's this other point of view but Serious People Know Best Just Ask Me."

You know what's the first sign of Nazis? Angry letters from your Congressman:

And it isn’t strictly about the First Amendment. Yes, it’s disgusting that a state legislator who purports to have a PhD knows nothing of his constituents’ free-speech rights (or the proper use capital letters), but he’s far from the only ignorant, hypocritical politician in America.[...]Earlier this summer, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino foolishly told a business, Chick-Fil-A, that it wasn’t welcome in his town because of the company’s political advocacy. He was lambasted and rightly so. This incident is far worse: Menino was targeting a business, not an individual, and it was a business he currently has no jurisdiction over. While repugnant, it was political blathering....Burns’ Gestapo tactic goes a level further, and it should make any business owner wince. 
The economy will be destroyed if the government goes into debt!

For most of us, the debt seems like an abstraction. We can’t see or feel the debt. The debt doesn’t appear to have any tangible effects. But the debt is a serious problem. It’s become a bit of a cliché to point out how the debt crisis is wrecking Europe. And the European situation is different from our own.
But rest assured that if foreign governments like China stop buying our debt, interest on that debt will rapidly rise.

 Imagine an America where all purchases are made with cash, and where nobody can buy or sell a home. That is an economy in free-fall.
I like to suspect the gods are angered by lies. They demand a sacrifice.