Thursday, February 26, 2015

My letter to Al-Jazeera

To whom it may concern,

Al-Jazeera has retracted its account of the floods in Gaza. I believe I can show this retraction is unnecessary and an incomplete response to a propaganda campaign. The response makes two claims. (A) there are no dams that can be breached in southern Israel, and (B) it was an error to attribute this flood to Israeli intentions.

The journalist Richard Edmondson and the American analyst Yousef Munayyer have firmly debunked (A). Munayyer writes it is not only false, but "demonstrably false. There are MANY dams in the negev area." He includes a video showing how fast water can run in the area. Both Munayye and Edmondson note that the JNF has written about dams  as well. The Nahal Oz dam was analyzed in the April 2014 issue of Geomorphology, which found that in 2001 it had breached and flooded "roads, neighborhoods and agricultural fields." The Palestinian Twitter user "48Refugee" has noted "Israel uses rainwater reservoirs in Gaza for agriculture. During rainy season, Israel allows reservoirs to flood."

I have been able to challenge (B) with the help of the internet. The newspaper Walla! News had a Hebrew story off the AP wire, exclusively, in which they cite an Israeli army official explaining their reason for flooding Gaza. It is no longer on the main site of Walla! News but can still be read on Newshub Israel mirrored. In the final paragraph it reads "Military sources said that following the stormy weather south much water accumulated within the system and therefore it was necessary to drain them." One of the lead agitators  of this media campaign has asked the IDF spokesman to comment on this, and has seen no reply. The story has since been deleted, but Associated Press has not issued a retraction.

The people CAMERA has marshaled to dispute what they believe is anti-Semitic libel have done their best to belittle this when I've brought it to their attention, calling me "biased" and a
"bigot" who is "complicit" in helping you attack Israel. I hope you recognize these are the real
motives of these agitators, not facts. Unfortunately, what they don't know is I would be critical of this story even if it were written about Honduras.

Thank you for your time,
Lewis from Chicago

For those trying to say "Why would Israel _____?" please see this excerpt from the Noam Chomsky book Fateful Triangle:

UPDATE 2 (3/8/2015):
Here is a picture of the Israeli government widening the Beersheva river in 2004, increasing its output into Wadi Gaza:

A look at Deir al-Balah

For example, Hamas members serving the municipalities of Beit Hanun and Deir al-Balah are well educated, non-ideological, uncorrupted and responsive to the needs of their constituencies. In one instance, according to Jolle, newly elected Hamas members immediately impounded and then sold municipality vehicles previously given out on the basis of personal connections to those in power rather than professional need. Hamas members elected to professional associations in Gaza have proven to be competent and committed to democratic practices in governing these organizations. Nevertheless, Jolle said he and his government are still wary of Hamas's intentions and remain uncomfortable attributing anything positive to what they still consider to be a terrorist organization.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Democracy isn't a beauty contest

There is a clear pattern emerging about what prison is being used for: confessions. Thankfully, The Atlantic monthly has picked up the story from Guardian US adding more details to the reasons Chicago police are keeping a no-lawyer "black site." It should bring to mind the Chicago police won their fight in 2013, with an unfair demand that a citizen peace group called Cure Violence file reports on their clients. They refused, and the mayor canceled the contract, favoring the police.

The police set an unfair standard. It's not bad enough we put people in jail and traumatize them, but then we have to come up with pleasant illusions about how the people exposing this crime are over-reacting.

In a democracy, the press would be critical. Yet after giving him their endorsement, today's "independent" Chicago Sun-Times is celebrating the sites as largely non-violent and effective:
The Guardian story didn’t allege that Church suffered from physical abuse at Homan Square other than his complaint that his left wrist was handcuffed to a bar behind a bench and his ankles were cuffed together.
In April 2014, Church and his two co-defendants were convicted of felony counts of possessing an incendiary device and misdemeanor mob action, but they were acquitted of more serious terrorism charges tied to the NATO summit in May 2012.
But this response itself is a calculation. The Chicago Sun Times lead editorial writer has been  Steve Huntley, who writes with his his jaw clenched in hate at people criticizing torture. His reason is it undermines his project of war.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Obama did not claim to obey international law, just Jeh Johnson did

Via Foreign Policy's link to

First: in the conflict against an unconventional enemy such as al Qaeda, we must consistently apply conventional legal principles. We must apply, and we have applied, the law of armed conflict, including applicable provisions of the Geneva Conventions and customary international law, core principles of distinction and proportionality, historic precedent, and traditional principles of statutory construction. Put another way, we must not make it up to suit the moment.
 Obama only uses words like "commitment" and "support."

Breaking the Geneva Convention on industrial targets that can cause secondary harm to civilians (passed in 1975), the US just bombed an oil rig in Al-Hasakah.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Big Coal likes to think "way ahead"

On the conference room wall, a map of North Antelope Rochelle shows two big shaded areas containing an estimated one billion tonnes of coal. Peabody is preparing to acquire leasing rights when they come up in about 2022 or 2024. “You’ve got to think way ahead,” said Durgin.

(From The Guardian)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Our "good" and "smart" terrorism in Afghanistan

Writer Tom Clancy, a biographer of non-Nazi Chuck Horner, has a bone to pick with "the movies" about military leaders:

"In the movies, military leaders are all drunken Nazis," said Clancy, who has worked on books about retired Gen. Chuck Horner, who led U.S. Central Command Air Forces during the Gulf War, and retired Gen. Carl Stiner, whose missions included the capture of Panama leader Manuel Noriega.

"In fact, these are very bright people who regard the soldiers and Marines under them as their own kids. I thought the people needed to know about that. These are good guys, and smart guys."
Let's take a look at Afghanistan, which is under our military rule. We're treating them pretty awfully:
While infrastructure improvement has been hampered in active war zones, notably in rural Helmand and Kandahar provinces, significant change has been achieved elsewhere. Numerous roads have been graded or asphalted, electricity installed in many villages, and agriculture has improved, particularly in the eastern provinces along the Pakistan border. Much of this headway, however, was not instigated by donor aid but rather individual Afghan investment. NATO’s military approaches, particularly in hard-line insurgent areas, have been criticized for not allowing recovery initiatives to reach parts held or otherwise influenced by the Taliban. At the same, some insurgent commanders have pointedly refused to allow any aid project that might show international aid workers in a positive light.

This strategy is a war crime. It is indistinguishable from an espionage operation which we exceuted Nazis for:

But we don't call it terrorism. Instead it's called "centers of gravity" or, more negatively "benign neglect"( dead link, alt link here). Chuck "not a Nazi" Horner believed in targeting "national leadership and command and control to railroads, airfields, and ports."

Monday, February 9, 2015

Rebuttal to the Chicago-Sun Times endorsement of Emanuel for mayor

This is the website that has your voting location

The mayor is smart enough to know it doesn't hurt to have a 30 million dollar war chest. Rahm Emanuel's campaign has been sending out full-color election flyers that stress issues of taxes and corruption, even though they're mostly minor infractions compared to his own. In the Sun-Times endorsement, these standards continue. I strongly disagree with their take. This is not the man who is "the right mayor for difficult times."

Peppered throughout the endorsement is the antichrist of the horrible teachers union who might be "talking strike" just like when Emanuel childishly "threw" the words "Fuck you" at them before. This version of the teachers union story is so far from the truth I'm amazed they printed it. The editors write the teachers went on strike over such "salty language." In fact, he is a pro-charter school evangelical. According to Ben Joravsky, Emanuel lied to impress his business allies and "insisted that the top-scoring high schools in Chicago are charters—even though no charters are in the top ten." Beyond a sharp tongue wagged at the teachers, Emanuel "increased their hours, cut their pay, portrayed them as money-grubbers, closed unionized schools, and opened more nonunion charters, thus depleting the union's power through attrition."

In the eyes of the editors, the closed mental health clinics and schools are either not important, or somehow a badge of honor for him. The real threat though, according to the emotional pleas of the editors, is that Chicago will stop being a tourist destination, and that the pension fund will "go belly up."

On the first issue, it's hard to believe tourists are all that interested in the projects Emanuel set out. From what I can tell they seem like kickbacks to a favorable alderman. When he built a playground and a half a million dollar garden tucked away in Roger's Park he put up a sign that he was building a better Chicago. He also did that on roads where he fixed pot holes. Debra Silverstein and Joseph Moore returned the favor by going along with his ballot sabotage.*

Onto the pension system with gaps "that threaten to sink the city." It happens to be run by Emanuel's campaign donors. These are the people he treats with more respect for the civic process than should be allowed. According to the investigative journalist David Sirota, while crying poverty the city has a "secret slush fund of taxpayer money" that is burgeoning with business handouts. Tom Ryan of the Firefighters Union Local 2 has argued that we are "asking those who are most vulnerable and who have based the remainder of their lives on what was promised to them, to shoulder the bulk of this sacrifice." To this situation, the self-professed independent newspaper regrettably calls in the big guns. The pensions are "challenges" for the "bullies" to figure out, not a firefighter. The city has "no other way." The hardworking Chicago families he pretends to care for are mistaken for trying to "be happy."

The editors also brag about a renewed Red-Line, but ignore the outrage at the closing of twelve bus lines, including one down Lincoln Ave. The new Chicago Transit Authority president has called this a "balance of some very complicated things" but seems to me to come down to color. Complicated is usually just how politicians say they're helping the upper class white people. Maybe I'm wrong but I doubt it. I've been to Lincoln avenue and seen the life there. Rather than earning their respect, if anything he owes a debt.

Emanuel got his start purifying his party of the anti-war voices. If you didn't like our crusade in Iraq you had to face his wrath. Today he continues a policy bought and paid for by the financial industry. Too bad for Chicago's janitors, bus riders, pensioners, teachers, parents and schoolchildren.

There really is only one thing to say about him in the end: Anybody but Rahm.

* A previous version of this article implied that Joe Moore was the 50th ward alderman.