Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy (Happier) New Year!

The dawning of a new year, and soon, the sunset of an era error.

I’ve been walking my dogs in this hoodie sweat shirt for over a year now. Other walkers, encountered, used to split 50/50 between congratulating me on it and asking me what the numbers meant.

Since sometime last midsummer, no one has asked me what the numbers mean. No one.

Most people want to look ahead; hopeful for competent leadership, faithful in our unique Constitution, and confident in our economic comeback. Most want to look toward dawns and sunrises as opposed to twilights and sunsets.

I like dawns. I’m somewhat hopeful, faithful and confident. And I agree with the people who wear shirts which say, “Yes, We did.” I totally like Barack Obama. I totally can get fired up and ready to go!

But I also respect sunsets. I will not forget the last eight years. Neither will I forgive. Forgiveness is for Christians.

The Israelis and the Palestinians May Deserve Each Other

But that's not the point.

The point is that it didn't have to happen this way.

In my mind, the Israelis have never been good neighbors; they have always been land grabbers. And the Palestinians have rarely had realistic political leadership; their demand for the so-called 'historical right of return' would be hysterical if it had not led to as much tragedy as it has.

But the real point, is what has America done about the fact that Palestinians and Israelis need their heads butted together?

In the last eight years, the answer has been "not much", as former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski clarifies on Morning Joe.
This clip of Zbig punking Scarborough is rendered all the more meaningful in that it occurs in the presence of Brzezinski's daughter, Mika Brzezinski who had to have been rolling her eyes as the commercial cut in!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Onward Christian Soldiers

Marching as to war....
Tony Blair:
Religious faith will be of the same significance to the 21st century as political ideology was to the 20th century.
George Bush:
I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq ... ' And I did.
What is this God thing, and what is it good for?

The crusades are back. After taking a century and a half off or so, religion is staging a comeback as the number one reason for war. Larry Beinhart is asking, Why did faith re-emerge as the driving force in America and in the politics of many Islamic countries?
A serious conversation about faith and how it works should have become one of the leading topics of our national conversation, in the press, on television, in books and in academia, instead of a public parade of politicians on television competing to prove how much faith each of them has.

God, religion, faith, spirituality -- whichever face of the prism we are looking at -- runs like a vertical pillar through all the levels of our lives. Our international policies are fixed largely around this war on terror. Our most volatile domestic political issues -- regulating our sex lives, abortion, birth control, homosexuality, separation of church and state -- are rooted in our religious views. Our social circles, our family structures, our individual lives, our world views, how we live and die, our health and happiness -- are organized around our spiritual views, or lack thereof.
I have been remiss in not researching and writing on these issues. The insidious force of God-driven impulses still distort the definition of our national interests in terms of foreign policy.

Barack Obama is about to anoint Rick Warren as the next evangelical-laureate, the next Billy Graham.

And look what Warren said just the other day about Iraq:
We've got this compassion fatigue in America. It's why we have a slow genocide going on in Darfur.

. . . . . we must do all we can. People say America is not the policeman of the world. We may not be, but the Bible says, if you have been blessed, then you are to care for people who can't care for themselves, you are to speak up for people who can't speak for themselves, and to defend the defenseless.

That's why whether or not they found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is beside the point. Saddam and his sons were raping the country, literally. And we morally had to do something. If you have a Judeo-Christian heritage, you have to believe it when God says that evil cannot be compromised with. It has to be resisted, it has to be overcome.
Mystery solved: It was not the Joker, but the God-Card that provided the inside straight allowing America's anti-terrorism hand to be trumped by Bush's crusade against tyranny. I had always been puzzled by that.

But the joke is that anyone can claim or kidnap any one else's god, just to make a point. In the United Kingdom, Channel 4 broadcast an Alternative Christmas Message by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who said, in part:
Upon the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, Son of Mary, the Word of God, the Messenger of mercy, I would like to congratulate the followers of Abrahamic faiths, especially the followers of Jesus Christ, and the people of Britain ....

All Prophets called for the worship of God, for love and brotherhood, for the establishment of justice and for love in human society. Jesus, the Son of Mary, is the standard-bearer of justice, of love for our fellow human beings, of the fight against tyranny, discrimination and injustice.

.... All the problems that have bedevilled humanity throughout the ages came about because humanity followed an evil path and disregarded the message of the Prophets.

..... Now as human society faces a myriad of problems and a succession of complex crises, the root causes can be found in humanity's rejection of that message, in particular the indifference of some governments and powers towards the teachings of the divine Prophets, especially those of Jesus Christ.

..... If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly He would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers.

If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly He would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over.

If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly He would fight against the tyrannical policies of prevailing global economic and political systems, as He did in His lifetime .....

Once again, I congratulate one and all on the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ .....
Of course Her Majesty's Government and the Church of England rebuked Channel 4 for broadcasting Ahmadinejad's Christmas message. After you have been taught - for centuries - that God's on your side, to be told that He's switched sides is intolerable.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Harold Pinter, R.I.P.

In my life, I have not been a devote of theater, but only because I haven't been able to afford the indulgence. Movies are another matter, and I remember Harold Pinter for his screen adoptations of
In 2005 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Pinter's Lecture, accepting the Prize was memorable for his attack on Bush's foreign policy. I single out these three paragraphs:
..... Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America's favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as 'low intensity conflict'. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued - or beaten to death - the same thing - and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer.

..... The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

..... The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading - as a last resort - all other justifications having failed to justify themselves - as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.
I remember him especially for being an early critic of the unprovoked invasion of Iraq - weeks before it occurred - in the speech he gave in the Lobby of Parliament at the House of Commons on January 21st 2003:
One of the more nauseating images of the year 2002 is that of our Prime Minister kneeling in the church on Christmas Day praying for peace on earth and good will towards all men while simultaneously preparing to assist in the murder of thousands of totally innocent people in Iraq.

I've been taken to task recently by the American Ambassador to Britain for calling the US Administration a bloodthirsty wild animal. All I can say is: take a look at Donald Rumsfeld's face and the case is made.

I believe that not only is this contemplated act criminal, malevolent and barbaric, it also contains within itself a palpable joy in destruction.

Power, as has often been remarked, is the great aphrodisiac, and so, it would seem, is the death of others.

The Americans have the ostensible support of the 'international community' through various sure-fire modes of intimidation: bullying, bribery, blackmail and bullshit.

The 'international community' becomes a degraded entity bludgeoned into the service of a brutal military force out of control.

The most despicable position is that of course of this country which pretends to stand shoulder to shoulder with its great ally while in fact being more of a whipped dog than anyone else. We are demeaned, undermined and dishonoured by our government's contemptible subservience to the United States.

The planned war can only bring about the collapse of what remains of the Iraqi infrastructure, widespread death, mutilation and disease, an estimated one million refugees and escalation of violence throughout the world, but it will still masquerade as a 'moral crusade', a 'just war', a war waged by 'freedom loving democracies', to bring 'democracy' to Iraq.

The stink of the hypocrisy is suffocating.

This is in reality a simple tale of invasion of sovereign territory, military occupation and control of oil.

We have a clear obligation, which is to resist.
Which continues.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Story

This actually happened a year ago, but I'm a year late hearing about it.Here's the real story, if you're not in to You Tubes. It's a feel good story! We need those every chance we get.

During these holiday days, I trust that my friends will be safe, warm, well-fed, and loved even as we all remember the untold numbers who are not.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Man of the Year?

Last Monday, Time Magazine named their Person-of-the-Year. It definitely came as no surprise. It's a foregone conclusion that a new POTUS-Elect is going to score that honor. What came to a great surprise to me were many of the so-called runners-up named by Time magazine. Many of these were supernumeraries of the first water.

Had Time's publication date come a day later, the news cycle could have coughed up a first class Runner-Up. So, a week late, and albeit probably a dollar short, I present my Man-of-the-Year. This, too, should come to no surprise to 95% of my dwindling number of regular readers - because I choose for my person-of-the-year,

The shoe man,

Muntadhar al-Zaidi

He scarcely needs an introduction, as some past Time selections have. By now, everybody and his brother, world wide, knows al-Zaidi as the man who finally bearded the chickenhawk-in-chief on his own stage. Last Sunday, for the first time in all medialand, a journalist has thrown Bush something besides a softball. And there was a follow-up, too! As he threw first one shoe and then the other, al- Zaidi shouted words which are already immortal - in Arabic as well as in their translated English:
This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people.

This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq.

You are a dog. You killed the Iraqis!
I thought so much of this history-making event, I immediately published the You-Tube. I was not alone in recognizing the importance of al-Zaidi's confrontation with Bush. It was this week's most popular, playing everywhere in print and media.

Muntadhar al-Zaidi is a 29 years old Iraqi broadcast
journalist who works as a correspondent for Cairo-based, Iraqi-owned Al-Baghdadia TV. Al-Zaidi's reports often on the front lines of the resistance, highlightly the plight of widows, orphans, and children in the Iraq war occupation. He’s seen plenty of action. For example, on 16-Nov-07, he was kidnapped by an unidentified militia. He has been arrested twice by American forces. He lives within central Baghdad in a furnished two room apartment. Ahmed Alaa, a close friend and colleague of Zaidi's at al-Baghdadia television, said of his journalism,
One of his best reports was on Zahra, a young Iraqi school girl killed by the occupation forces while en route to school. This report earned him the respect of many Iraqis and won him many hearts in Iraq.
Alaa also said. Zaidi once also turned down an offer to work for what he termed "a pro-occupation channel".

So much for his newly cobbled/minted biography. We can accept that he has blossomed into a Islam-wide urban myth by now.

The question is, how do I as an American nationalist react?

The first thing I have to put down is any notion that this shoeing of
the drugstore cowboy who occupies the White House was a physical attack endangering his life. It would have been an attack on the prez if the objects had been hand grenades or rocks. But the throwing of shoes in the Middle East in comparable to throwing eggs, tomatoes or pies in the West. It is a physically harmless act of casting contempt on the target.

Bush fully deserves this contempt.

The second thing I have to put down is the argument that the
shoeing of the American POTUS demonstrates how far his democratization of Iraqi society has proceeded. Quite the contrary. Just as before, al-Zaidi has been beaten after his arrest and tortured after imprisonment. This is typical, non-transparent Middle Eastern Medieval justice. Malicki (always the court jester) accuses al-Zaida, in a roundabout American-ist way, of being a terrorist:
Muntazer al-Zaidi has expressed regret in a letter I received from him in which he revealed that an individual persuaded him to commit this action and that this person is well-known for beheading people.
Would that American journalists throw something at Bush and Cheney besides salvos of soft balls. The two of them have been throwing their shoes of contempt at us for eight years. Deepak Chopra states my argument:
George W. Bush Has Been Throwing Shoes at Us:
  • The unilateral invasion of Iraq was an insult to our allies, who had been naive enough to trust in six decades of cooperation through NATO and the UN.

  • The distortion and outright lying about Saddam's imminent threat to the United States was an insult to everyone's intelligence.

  • The placing of responsibility for 9/11 on Saddam's shoulders was an insult to the truth.
As he makes the rounds of exit interviews, Mr. Bush continues to throw shoes at us. His "So what?" attitude toward the disaster he created is the first shoe, the second is his blind assertion that the war in Iraq is close to victory.
Al-Zaidi has cut a new path in journalism and has cast sunlight on the judgment of the Bush legacy.

Our emperor has no clothes, So someone has finally stepped forward to give him shoes. That deed makes the shoe-man not only a desperately needed man-of-the-hour, but it also makes Muntazer al-Zaidi my man-of-the-year.

The Liberal and Progressive Divide over Gay Marriage

Just a short comment.

I have never posted on this topic, because I have not really given it a lot of thought. There are a lot of things I haven't written about; and many of those things seem too trivial to waste time and declining mental powers on. Gay marriage is one of those 'issues'.

A short and quick distinction between Liberals and Progressives:
  • Liberals get all lathered up about every 'good' idea that pops into their heads, because doing good is what they they do best. They are harnessed to their values.

  • Progressives buy into Liberal values, but they are strategic and engage in triage. Politics is the art or science of addressing the necessary and the possible first; that done, history and progress will take care of the details.
Progressives believe in Progress. Liberals just believe in their values.

So, in my comments on this controversy around the blogosphere, I have made the point that Gay unions and partnerships, recognized under laws of the states and the United States, should constitute equal protection under the laws. That would be a necessity, and it is possible. It's a proper focus for Progressive politics.

If we take care of that, along with the 100's of other 10-ton gorilla problems in environmental, economic and foreign policy, then the Liberal and Progressive alliance will flourish. Progress in tolerance will be swept along in the historical current.

In the meantime, Gay marriage, is the proper domain of religion. Bob Ostertag makes my point:
I have an idea: let's accept equal rights for all. Equal rights are the issue when it comes to national politics. That's Obama's position, and I think he has it right. Then, for those of you who are truly concerned with marriage above and beyond the issue of rights, you should go to your church, or synagogue, or mosque, and have that battle. In your community of fellow believers. I wish you all the best. And the rest of us can move on to things that matter to everyone, regardless of religious beliefs. Like, say, global warming.
Yeah, settle down liberals. Let's get history back on course. Allow our Liberal-Progressive alliance to further marginalize the Republicans Retrogressives, and the details will take care of themselves.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Peace Through Playing for Change

"The last person who knew why we're fighting
died a long time ago."

I have to share something I just saw that I had Tivoed earlier this week.

I just heard Bill Moyer's (second) interview with Grammy award winning producer and engineer Mark Johnson, who has just completed making a documentary film entitled "Playing for Change: Peace through Music".

It took him ten years to complete, and features one hundred musicians, each of whom he recorded playing their music from their own unique and particular neighborhoods.

In a subway station in New York, he experienced music's ability to touch hearts, to uplift spirits and to bring people together. Listening to a street musician, playing in his neighborhood, Johnson had another epiphany: he would film individuals making music together. He would travel the world to film them as they performed from the familiarity of their own neighborhoods.

Johnson said that in his travels (which, as Moyers pointed out, included visits to some of the darkest and bloodiest places on our planet), he saw the beauty of the people he met, and he saw a deep longing that all of the peoples of the world would "unite together".
Johnson told Moyers that he remembered hearing someone say: "The last person who knew why we're fighting died a long time ago."

The only choice we have, says Johnson, is to come together. We don't know how long we get to be alive here in this world. So, "While we're here, let's make a difference together!"

Johnson is now building music schools in some of the neighborhoods he visited while filming. He wants to provide opportunities for more people across our planet to share the joy and hopefulness of making music together.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Franken-Coleman Recount Drama Continues

So does the Coleman Corruption Investigation

First off, I apologize for not providing more timely updates about the still-in-limbo Minnesota Senate election. It’s not for lack of news coverage as the story of the ballot recount has dominated Minnesota’s media. (My only sorry excuse is that I remain occupied trying to better expose the truth about the ongoing “war on dissent” involved in the continuing prosecutions persecutions of 800 plus arrested protesters that’s also occurring here in the aftermath of the RNC.)

In any event, the CBS News Report below provides a good summary of the current situation.

The reporter concludes that a flip of the coin may ultimately determine who wins which would probably be the fitting paradoxical end to this, the most expensive and bizarre race in Minnesota history. But what’s most likely ahead for the recount? Well the Canvassing Board meets (today) Friday Dec. 12 to decide on the fate of rejected absentee ballots as well as figure out what to do about 133 missing ballots in Minneapolis, and 12 uncounted absentee ballots from Hennepin County found during the search for those 133 missing ballots.

You probably don’t need all the detail that this blogger provides, but he’s undoubtedly right that “the pile of improperly rejected absentee ballots will prove the most consequential decision.” There are apparently somewhere from 700 to 1000 absentee ballots that were improperly rejected and Franken’s Campaign has identified some especially compelling reasons for counting their votes.

With the margin so thin, these absentee ballots seem crucial to determining the outcome so this is where any decision is most likely to end up being challenged in court.

But Norm Coleman might end up in court—criminal court—on an entirely different matter. He’s reportedly being investigated by the FBI in connection with allegations that his longtime friend, benefactor (and suit buyer) Nasser Kazeminy tried to steer him money. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the FBI has begun to contact people in Texas where the first of two lawsuits was filed alleging Kazeminy, a Bloomington financier, tried to steer $100,000 to Coleman via his wife's Minneapolis employer. The second suit, filed in Delaware, alleges Kazeminy initially tried to get money directly to the senator. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW—what a quaint, quixotic pursuit these days!—if only some responsibility and ethics in Washington, Chicago, or anywhere could be found in the pervasive and tangled “pay to play” culture of corruption, huh?) has the full background on Coleman’s latest legal troubles here.

As an aside, I happened to be talking on the phone today to a former FBI agent friend who retired out of the Chicago Office. We had to agree that we’re actually rather proud of the good job our old agency, the FBI’s been doing on the public corruption stuff—not only the new investigation launched of Norm Coleman but also the recent ones of Alaskan Ted Stevens; William “Cold Cash” Jefferson; and Rod “Pay to Play” Blagojevich. It’s going to be hard to make a dent in the thick culture of corruption that has encompassed the seats of power in this country though.

Back in 2006 I suggested it might be time for the FBI to get another “ABSCAM” undercover operation up and running as it’s obvious from the number of crooked politicians, that the deterrent effect of the last one (1978-80) has certainly worn off.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

In Afganistan, We Are Not in a Diên Biên Phú Moment

Not yet. It could take us years to reach it, But we will, inevitably.

A Second Taliban raid destroys Nato supplies bound for Afghanistan

Gunmen from the Pakistani Taliban torched supplies destined for NATO forces in Afghanistan for a second day running. The militants struck a container terminal on the outskirts of Peshawar, in north-west Pakistan, just over a mile from the previous day's attack, in which gunmen torched more than 100 trucks. Security guards at two depots in Peshawar were outnumbered by more than 200 militants at around 3am. About 70 Humvees loaded on some of the trucks were destroyed.Mullah Mohammed Omar in an email statement, urged western forces to leave Afghanistan before thousands of their troops were killed in the Islamist group's renewed insurgency:
I would like to remind the illegal invaders who have invaded our defenseless and oppressed people that it is a golden opportunity for you at present to hammer out an exit strategy for your forces. The current armed clashes which now number into tens will spiral up to hundreds of armed clashes. Your current casualties of hundreds will jack up into the thousands.
According to the Guardian, the independent think tank, the International Council on Security and Development estimates the Taliban has a permanent presence in 72% of the territory of Afghanistan, (up from 54% last year). The ICSD further says that the Taliban is expanding its control beyond the rural south of the country,and that three of the four main routes leading out of Kabul were threatened by the Taliban. In Pakistan, the Taliban have begun to focus increasingly on choking off the supply path through Pakistan, which is used to take more than 70% of military equipment, food, fuel and other vital provisions to western soldiers across the border.

My allusion to Diên Biên Phú is vastly overblown.

But I'll take a nano-moment for a brief historical note. In Vietnam, the French battle at Diên Biên Phú began on November 20, 1953. Seeking a decisive victory over Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh's army, the French dropped or flew 9,000 troops into the area over three days. This established a beachhead an airhead. No ground access for logistical support was available. By 8-May-1954, the French were forced to surrender. The Viet Minh counted 11,721 prisoners. I'm saying that the lack of ground logistics was a critical, even if it were not the decisive, mistake committed by the French in venturing to establish 'an airhead' in a remote and landlocked position.

Unlike the French endeavor in Vietnam, Our American Operation Enduring Freedom started off as a 'good' and 'just' war. Afghanistan's leader, Mullah Omar refused to summarily hand over Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks. We were fully entitled under international law to retaliate under the principle of self-defense. As is settled history, George Bush diverted critical resources from the effort to capture bin Laden in favor of preparations for his unprovoked invasion of Iraq. In the meantime, bin Laden escaped justice and Mullah Omar has regrouped Taliban forces.

Long, long story, short:

In the eyes of Afghanis, the nature of the conflict in their land has taken on a different hue. Afghans no longer understand the presence of Americans and their allies as punishment for 9/11 and for "fixing" their failed-state with "democracy". The Taliban, reformed or not, are inevitably more indigenous than our exclusively Christian NATO. Our government in Kabul will never achieve legitimacy or confidence of Afghans.

We might have pulled it off, this Operation Enduring Freedom, if we had concentrated and kept our eye on the ball. At the end of 2001, we held all the marbles; At this point, seven long years after Bush's blind ambition lead him astray, the marbles have rolled off the table. The moment has past. Our envelope of opportunity has eluded us. In Afghanistan, NATO is history.

I was wrong about Afghanistan.

It pains me to say this. Until 18 or so months ago, I believed, with Obama, that it comprised the central front of the so-called war against terror. Now I see it in a different light than do Senators and President-Elects. Their vision is constrained by what their constituencies accept as politic. I am not.

NATO's military-safe zone is an island surrounded by a hostile and rising sea. It is a large and expensive garrison which is not sustainable indefinitely, especially with our current economy. The Christian white eyes will ultimately have to cut and run; after pretending to have achieved some kind of honorable or symbolic modus vivendi of course. Of course, that's what the French were trying to extract with their Diên Biên Phú gambit.

My hope is that Obama can shuck it early enough that pop-historians will consign inevitable failure to Bush where it rightfully belongs. The longer we surge and splurge in Afghanistan, the more Talibinistan becomes Obama's quagmire. Operation Enduring Freedom is unsustainable. And the longer we're there, the longer our domestic economic quagmire is guaranteed to last.

I am not sanguine about the future.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Blue Water Yacht Racing for Blue Collar Skippers

In the winter of my discontent and lingering Bush Derangement Syndrome, I seek diversion from politics wherever it can be found. One of the distractions I have found is the Volvo Ocean Race.

Well, actually it's not the Volvo Ocean Race itself. I'm not nearly physically nor fiscally capable of racing around the world in anything as demanding as a sailing yacht. What I've sunk a few hours into is the Volvo Ocean Racing Game (VORG). Instead of eight physical yachts racing around the world in 10 legs in extreme conditions, I get to race with 82,000+ competitors from 191 countries around the world in the moderate conditions of my own study. And, more importantly, it doesn't cost me a dime.
However, it would be more fun and less impersonal to race with friends I know, so I thought I might entice my pals from the Blogosphere into testing the waters of the world.

On 13 December, 8 real yachts and 82,000 virtual yachts will start the 3rd leg which goes from Cochin, India to Qingdao, China, taking Singapore to port. I would like any of my readers to be in that number!

VORG (the virtual race) has been sanitized so that there are no collisions, no rules of rightaway to be enforced, and no piracy! The demands on steerage consist in adjusting sails and course at least twice a day, although more attention is recommended.

Between now and sometime on 11 December - the deadline for finishing the 2nd Leg - there's an opportunity to register, name, design (paint), and launch your virtual yacht. During this interval, you will be able to test-drive your yacht. And I'll have a boat in the water, giving you pointers. The game allows for communications between boats.

So, I hope some readers, you valiant few, will take me up on this invitation. In hopeful anticipation, I'm hoisting my very excellent second glass of Nerello del Bastardo Marchesi di Montecristo to all who do, as well as to an end to a diminution of politics.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Mumbai Parallel

I have been numbed by the events in India last week.

As often happens when events overwhelm me, I feel stunned and in shock. I have been a deer in the headlights as far as writing about it. Which way to turn? Which searing angle to burn? The absolute need to address it is there, of course. And to evade such a moral imperative is to squelch all other efforts at writing. One wants to strike back at such an outrage so as to avenge it. I have been weighed down by a feeling a hopelessness: the current blame-game environment is just too target-rich. In the meantime, a whole week has slipped past.

But Rosa Brooks gets me off my dime. Look at what she wrote in the Los Angeles Times, a couple of days ago:
. . . . The Mumbai metropolitan area is home to an estimated 19 million people, but it took just 10 men to shut the city down.

Last week's terrorist attacks involved a handful of men armed only with guns, grenades and homemade bombs. But they killed more than 170 people, closed universities and businesses, shut down India's National Stock Exchange and did incalculable economic damage to a country that boasts the world's third-largest military and internationally respected police and intelligence services -- none of which managed to prevent the attacks.

Sound familiar?

It should. It should remind you of 9/11, when 19 men armed only with box cutters ultimately killed nearly 3,000 people. And the 2004 Madrid train bombings, which killed 191, and the 2005 bombings on London's Underground, which killed 52. Each of these attacks involved a small number of perpetrators. Each was low-tech. Each caused enormous psychological and economic damage in addition to loss of life, and each occurred in countries with sophisticated security forces.

Get used to it.

Because the Mumbai attack should also remind you of Timothy McVeigh and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168, and the 2002 D.C.-area sniper attacks, in which two men killed 10 people and caused so much fear that for weeks people were reluctant to go to shopping centers or gas stations, and the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, in which one man killed 32 people.

The perpetrators of those attacks weren't Islamic extremists. McVeigh was a white supremacist; the D.C. snipers were a disgruntled African American Army vet and his gullible teen sidekick; the Virginia Tech killer was a psychologically troubled Asian American student. They had nothing in common except anger and a desire to cause death, pain and panic. And they succeeded.

We can't even stop school shootings by disturbed teenagers. Don't imagine we'll be much better at stopping ideologically motivated terrorists. As long as terrorists keep it low-tech and simple, they're hard to stop.

. . . . . I also wonder: Why would a terrorist bother to manufacture a nuke or "weaponize" a virus -- a complicated, costly, risky and time-consuming process -- when all he needs is a few determined people, some cheaply and easily obtained weapons or explosives, and boom? Even the most sophisticated society would be left paralyzed with fear. . . . .
I don't quarrel with where Brooks takes her readers with this - emphatically not.

What I am taken with is all this hysteria about weapons of mass destruction. Of course, a primary focus of American defense organizations (such as the NSA, CIA, State Department and Defense Department) should be to reduce the probability of dirty bombs being delivered to our cities in suitcases. But with that no-brainer voiced, let us not forget the weapons of individual destruction.

An unbelievably small contingent of highly trained men, unloading bulging knapsacks of weapons of individual destruction from dinghies, dragged their putative baggage into hotels and what-not. Altogether, they killed 170 (17 a-piece), demolished iconic buildings, held hostages and kept millions throughout the world glued to their teevees for half a week. Terrorism, perfect and incarnate.

Like the 9/11 attack on the World Trade center:
  • Everyone initially said no one anticipated it.

  • The attack was elaborately planned to strike at multiple sites.

  • They produced a television spectacle..

  • The delivery system was commonplace; no anti-missile missile system would have prevented it.

  • Weapons of individual destruction were used: knives, guns, hand-grenades.

  • Assailants came from abroad from a failed state which refused to give up the usual suspects and probable culprits.

To be sure, the Indians have some remedial work to do like training up some 21st Century SWAT teams to beef up their civilian defense. (Lee-Enfields?) Let's hope they don't have a George Bush type who goes off with an aerial bombardment of Saudi Arabia.

Instead, some intensive multilateral diplomacy is in order. That should be led by heavy-handed, hands-on leadership by our own new, 21st Century-competent national security team. In other words, I'm saying that we cannot afford to address Kashmir and related issues with the same hands-off, bystander approach which has characterized Bush's non-policy on Palestine for the last eight years.

But that said, let's remember those assault weapons of individual destruction. These are the same types of weapons the NRA says are guaranteed by the 2nd amendment. These will not have to come to our shores in the dead of night, dragged over piers, etc. They are readily available at neighborhood swapmeets, yours and mine.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Because Israel is a Failing State...

Palestinians will never have a nation-state of their own.

Security forces braced on Friday for more violence after Israeli hardliners went on the rampage against Palestinians in retaliation for the eviction of settlers from a disputed Hebron house.

The entire southern West Bank was declared a closed military zone to prevent Israelis from converging again on the flashpoint city where a mob of Jewish extremists on Thursday shot and wounded three Palestinians, hurled rocks at others and torched homes, fields and cars.

Right-wing Israelis have vowed to exact revenge for Thursday's forceful eviction of some 250 settlers from the house that had come to symbolise hardliners' determination to fight for what they consider their God-given right to all the biblical land of Israel -- including the Palestinian territories.

Israeli authorities were also worried about a Palestinian backlash amid simmering anger over the perceived failure of security forces to confront the rampaging mob in Hebron. Most Israeli media hailed the security forces, who used tear gas to finally drag the settlers from the house following an Israeli high court order on November 16.

The Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, says settlers shot and wounded three Palestinians.

But the governor of the Nablus region, Jamal Moheisin, has warned that if Israel did not control the settlers,
We will call on the Palestinian residents to go out to the streets and fight back.
UN envoy Robert Serry said in a statement,
I remain concerned about the potential for a further escalation of a tense situation. As the occupying power, the government of Israel is under obligation to protect Palestinian civilians, property and holy sites... actions of extremists continue to pose a threat to the peace process.
Time for a poll, Mr. Serry.

Will all those who believe there will ever be a Palestinian nation-state, please raise their hand?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Odetta (1930-2007)

Lifts me today, as she has so often before, whenever I needed lifting the most.
Speakers up, please.
Amazing Grace.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Silence Should Not Be Misconstrued as Satisfaction

Because I am not Content.

I am not finding my post-election voice, that's for sure. I sense that George Bush is winning. Most of the malignant tumors which he started in American foreign policy seem destined to be validated through their indefinite extension. I'm speaking of his interminal occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I'm basing this expectation on the appointment of pro-Iraq invasion people such as Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, and Jim Jones. These are not neo-cons. That's true enough. Even though Barack Obama is proving true to his word - that he is not a peacenik lefty but a realistic centrist - I am disappointed that the Iraq occupation will not be summarily disassembled and removed.

Neither does Bush appear to be threatened by incipient prosecution on inauguration day+1. Both are disappointments but not surprises. It's ironic that Bush may have escaped the fate he deserved by virtue, if I can use that word, of the penultimate wreck and ruin into which he has plunged our once-great country. I'm speaking not only of the two seemingly inextricable foreign occupations he is bequeathing the next two presidencies (or more), but also the constitutional, economic, and diplomatic damage the country has suffered. Ironically, it is the extremes of devastation from Bush's rule which promise to protect him the most.

So great will be the efforts and energies required to undo the unfathomable damage done to our American polity, that no political resources can be reserved to prosecute Bush or the horses he's riding out with. In a real sense, Busheney's are the perfect crimes. They have committed mass murder and they are getting away with it. O.J. Simpson has nothing on them.

I cannot muster much voice to complain about Obama's administration in its formulative phase. After all, I feel like I'm on my knees, grasping for consolations of some sort. We'll have an extraordinarily gifted and elite leader who is well-schooled in law, in history, in rhetoric, and in the world outside of our shores. For the first time this century. Going forward, neither I nor my dog will feel compelled to bark when his voice is heard on nightly TV news.

For the time being, that's a consolation that's going to have to do for me.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Canine Cavorting!

Caution! Dirty Pictures!

Buck-Nakid Dobermen photographed necking in the morning sun!
Like I said, carrying-on ...

And dancing through the freshly fallen dew on the morning heather!
Of course, Shalom's and Ballou's owners were oblivious - discussing over their coffees which breed of dog Sasha and Malia should be given to prevent them from feeling alone in the White House!

We found ourselves in perfect agreement.