Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010... locked and loaded


"I know that history will be dominated by an improbable event, I just don't know what that event will be."
Nassim Nicholas Taleb - "The Black Swan"
David Seaton's News Links
I put the quote from Nissim Taleb above this post, because it is, with the oracular pronouncements of Donald Rumsfeld and Yogi Berra, the most intuitive and insightful summing up of the art of prediction that I have ever read.

Anyone who studies history or has lived a few decades, and still has all their marbles, will easily recall how few of the major events he or she has lived through were ever predicted.

Therefore, making predictions is a mugs game, however at year's end people who entertain others by commenting on the affairs of the world are expected to come up with a few predictions for the coming twelvemonth. To make specific predictions, then, would be foolish, but it might be interesting to look at situations that are pregnant with, well... situations.

Now, with the attempted Christmas bombing of Flight 253, Osama bin Laden is luring the USA into yet another quagmire, this time in Yemen. As Steve Clemons writes in The Washington Note:
Bin Laden, hiding somewhere in Pakistan, remains the single most significant sculptor of global affairs today, pushing the buttons of an American superpower as well as other regimes, so that they engage in emotional, knee jerk crusades that undermine what is left of a global equilibrium and the perception of American power.
It is bad enough that the USA, like some wonderful, Spanish fighting bull in a dream, will charge endlessly after every red cloth offered it until it collapses... the tactics being used to fight the terrorists (their doesn't seem to be any strategy) are extremely counterproductive.

I have placed a video mash-up of America's remote control air "war on terror" above this post, because I think the blowback from the use of these instruments will be devastating, even though they appear so efficient and at the same time so sparing of American lives. Never has the cultural gap between civilizations been wider than on the question of drone attacks with Predator missiles.

How so?

It has been amply noted and much criticized, that Islamic culture is overly masculine, with an archaic, some say medieval, sense of honor and virility. This form of warfare is a studied insult to that archaic masculinity.

The sort of nameless terror caused by a drone attack; coming as it does literally out of the blue, is the sort of thing that makes small children wet their beds; but the effect it may be causing on some hard men, and the Afghan Pashtun, Yemenite tribesmen or the Hausa of Nigeria are hard men indeed, could be radically different.

This "antiseptic" form of warfare, where one's comrades and kin; women, old folk and children are vaporized from a model airplane... flown by some overweight desk jockey several continents away... between sips of coffee, is so insulting to a traditional culture's sense of honor and masculinity, that it just might make a fellow want to up and fill his underpants with dynamite and  go off and do something rash.



This brings us to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the young Nigerian terrorist that attempted to blow up the Christmas flight to Detroit. This is a major and perverse twist that Al Qaeda is giving to America's paranoia industry.

For some thirty years Hollywood's favorite villains that weren't chillingly blond Nazis, have been those with Arab faces... to the point that an immigrant Syrian cleaning lady might draw extra attention at an American airport. A face like Umar Farouk's is never seen on a Hollywood villain, it wouldn't be politically correct.

Umar Farouk has a West-African face, one like you see a hundred times every day of your life, in any American city. If you are an American you may very well see something like it in the mirror when you shave.

This is not an exotic Arab or a Pakistani face. This is a face seen in America for some three hundred years, ever since colonial times: a face as American as chitlins and chicken fried steak. The only thing that might distinguish Umar Farouk's face from hundreds of thousands of Americans, is the prayer bruise on his forehead, a sign of piety that very devout Muslims often bear from hitting their forehead on the floor five times a day at prayer for many years... a bruise easily lost in the darkness of Umar Farouk's skin.

Umar Farouk's face is a portent, for America's Arab and Pakistani population is very small, but Americans of West-African descent make up a sizable proportion of the US population... the majority in Washington D.C., to name an extremely sensitive and significant American population center.

American police are known to practice racial-profiling and being stopped and questioned for no other reason than their color is what Barack Obama described as "every African-American man's nightmare". Well dressed black men are routinely stopped and questioned on suspicion of everything from dealing drugs to stealing hubcaps... now suspicion of being a  terrorist will be added to the list. You can imagine how all this is going to play out.

I believe that al Qaeda deliberately gave Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab a faulty detonator so that he could be captured in flagranti and his picture published in all American newspapers with the word, "terrorist" underneath it.

His picture, right out of a  high school year book, linking an arch-typical West-African face with the word "terrorist"  ultimately could do more damage to American society than if the plane had actually crashed. An attack on a "soft target", like a crowded shopping mall, by someone looking like Umar Farouk Abdulmutalla wearing an exploding vest, might raise all of America's ancestral ghosts from their graves.

Conclusion: if we had only half the knowledge of Al Qaeda's weak points as they do of ours, we might at least fight this war to a draw.

Moving on to other situations pregnant with situations.

As grave and debilitating as it is, finally the war on terror is merely a running sore. There are other areas where an unexpected blow might have more immediate and traumatic consequences:

We have been living through the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, some think there is "light at the end of the tunnel" and some don't. Wall Street is in the first group and most everybody else is in the second.

There has been much talk about the need for deep reforms to avoid a crisis like this reoccurring. Somehow all this talk has come to naught. It seems that Wall Street has been able to neutralize any meaningful reform. Names like Rubin, Summers and Geithner are given to explain this lack of White House enthusiasm. Be that as it may, it stands to reason that if certain policies and systems caused a disaster and those systems and policies are not changed and reformed then the disaster could be repeated. So, if suddenly some sovereign default that dwarfs Lehman Brothers occurs, something that brings everything crashing down around our ears... again, we shouldn't be amazed or even startled... just stuffed, as the British would put it.

Next China:

China is where everybody in the know appears to have placed all  their hopes. America is China-dependent. Now China is almost as opaque a place as its bitch Tibet (formerly Shangri-la). All the most important decisions there are taken within innermost circles the Chinese Communist Party, which has got to be the world's tightest clique.

It might be feared, since they have come to capitalism from Marxist-Leninism, that the Communist Party of China is using capitalism as a tool to empower China without actually believing it to be the "end of history". Who knows? But it all comes down to that... the whole financial system now belongs to a group of people, who direct an organization created by Mao Tse Tung.

Now two alternatives strike me: (1.) the CPC doesn't really understand the workings of capitalism nearly as well as they seem to think they do, or, (2.) That looking at it so coldly they understand the workings of capitalism much better than we do. Either alternative could produce a disaster so sudden and so devastating that we would have to invent the candle-powered Internet in order to continue this conversation.

I haven't talked about a war with Iran, because as terrible, cruel and disastrous as that would be, it wouldn't be much of a surprise. Finally I imagine that, like seemingly happens with most everything else, "George W. Bush" will be cunningly repackaged and sold under the brand "Obama". I don't know if this constitutes change, but I know I believe in it.

When a dark horse becomes a black swan:

Everybody seems to have forgotten Korea, but a war on the Korean peninsula could bring globalization crashing down in a matter of days. The US armed forces are stretched to a point in Afghanistan and Iraq that to fight a war in Korea would probably require using atomic weapon  in the first few days just to keep the American soldiers there from taking unacceptable casualties. What would China do if atomic weapons were used on the North Koreans? Who knows? Maybe sell a lot of dollars?

Impossible? Check these facts from the Center for Defense Information:
More than 11,000 DPRK artillery weapons are pointed at over 10 million citizens in Seoul. North Korea’s 1.2 million-man Army is the world’s fourth largest fighting force. Two-thirds of those soldiers are stationed within 60 miles of the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ), along with thousands of tanks and armored personnel carriers.(...) war on the Korean Peninsula would likely mean hundreds of thousands killed and enormous damage. It must be avoided if at all possible. A negotiated solution should be sought, and be pressed upon the North’s government by all the means available.
A bitch of a war, if it ever got started, and an attack on Iran might be too much for North Korea's paranoid leadership. Not very likely, but it would dwarf anything except a major movement of the San Andreas fault.

Well, as I began this piece, none of these are really predictions, but simply pointing out what I have called "situations pregnant with situation".

So enough of this New Years cheer. Let us close today's chat with the advice of this traditional American folksong:
Jay Gould's daughter said before she died
Papa, fix the blinds so the bums can't ride.
If ride they must, they got to ride the rod.
Let 'em put their trust in the hands of God.
I'll close by saying that, despite all its perils, may 2010 be a beautiful and fulfilling year for all my readers. DS

To Lisa (1953 - 2009)


Down upon the steaming dregs of memory,


Where luminous squid and grinning dolphins feed


Where goddesses lurk, whose humid armpits reek of gold


And the gnawed over carrion of love gone cold


There I stumbled upon you,


Lost in the traffic of time's fell speed


Beyond all touch and comfort


Beyond all loss and need


Never was death so real

DS 12/30/09

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from News Links


The Holy Family with St Anne,
1628, Rubens, Museo del Prado, Madrid.


David Seaton's News Links
I have been posting this same piece every Christmas since 2006, so you might call it an "instant tradition". I wrote it in the depths of Bush's "war on terror", but I don't see any reason to change a line of it.

______________

Christmas is a time to be with family and friends, or to think of them and to remember them lovingly
if they are very far away or no longer among the living. It is also a time when Christians are urged to wish for 'peace on earth, good will to men' and consequentially obliged to practice the Christian virtues of forgiving and loving their enemies. However, in order to truly love one's friends and to truly forgive and to begin to love one's enemies, it is obviously essential to first begin by being able to distinguish between one's friends and one's enemies. This is not always as easy as it would appear at first glance.

Today the relations between Islam and Christianity need, more than ever, to be examined and revised. Westerners ignorance and lack of appreciation of Islam is doubly aggravated by their ignorance of Muslim's traditional knowledge and esteem of Christianity... An esteem born out by the number of Muslims named, "Miriam," (Mary) and "Isa", (Jesus).

Tragically, little is known in the West of Islam's affection for the Virgin Mary
(Umm Isa) to whom an entire chapter of the Koran is devoted. Karen Armstrong, a former nun and perhaps the English language's most interesting writer on comparative religions, published the article quoted below in The Guardian back in December of 2006. It makes a perfect Christmas meditation in these times of hatred and intolerance. DS


The Muslim prophet born in Bethlehem
Karen Armstrong - Guardian

Abstract: In 632, after five years of fearful warfare, the city of Mecca in the Arabian Hijaz voluntarily opened its gates to the Muslim army. No blood was shed and nobody was forced to convert to Islam, but the Prophet Muhammad ordered the destruction of all idols and icons of the Divine. There were a number of frescoes painted on the inner walls of the Kabah, the ancient granite shrine in the centre of Mecca, and one of them, it is said, depicted Mary and the infant Jesus. Immediately Muhammad covered it reverently with his cloak, ordering all the other pictures to be destroyed except that one. This story may surprise people in the west, who have regarded Islam as the implacable enemy of Christianity ever since the crusades, but it is salutary to recall it during the Christmas season when we are surrounded by similar images of the Virgin and Child. It reminds us that the so-called clash of civilisations was by no means inevitable. For centuries Muslims cherished the figure of Jesus, who is honoured in the Qur'an as one of the greatest of the prophets and, in the formative years of Islam, became a constituent part of the emergent Muslim identity. There are important lessons here for both Christians and Muslims - especially, perhaps, at Christmas. The Qur'an does not believe that Jesus is divine but it devotes more space to the story of his virginal conception and birth than does the New Testament, presenting it as richly symbolic of the birth of the Spirit in all human beings (Qur'an 19:17-29; 21:91). Like the great prophets, Mary receives this Spirit and bears Jesus, who will, in his turn, become an ayah, a revelation of peace, gentleness and compassion to the world.(...) The Muslim devotion to Jesus is a remarkable example of the way in which one tradition can be enriched by another. It cannot be said that Christians returned the compliment. While the Muslims were amassing their Jesus-traditions, Christian scholars in Europe were denouncing Muhammad as a lecher and charlatan, viciously addicted to violence. But today both Muslims and Christians are guilty of this kind of bigotry and often seem eager to see only the worst in each other. The Muslim devotion to Jesus shows that this was not always the case. In the past, before the political dislocations of modernity, Muslims were always able to engage in fruitful and stringent self-criticism. This year, on the birthday of the Prophet Jesus, they might ask themselves how they can revive their long tradition of pluralism and appreciation of other religions. For their part, meditating on the affinity that Muslims once felt for their faith, Christians might look into their own past and consider what they might have done to forfeit this respect.  READ IT ALL

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The old shell game: act two


"If the climate was a bank the US would already have saved it." Hugo Chávez in Copenhagen
David Seaton's News Links
When it is possible for Hugo Chávez to deftly sum up the United States administration in one short and witty phrase, things are not going well.

I went to the movies last night with a European -- whose identity I shall protect -- who like most progressive Europeans has been completly besotted by Barack Obama for months and months and has given me no end of flack for my own lack of enthusiasm for "The One".

Right before the feature started they put on the trailer of Michael Moore's new film, "Capitalism - a Love Story" and in it, George W. Bush suddenly appeared, horrible smirk and all, and I was amazed to hear this person exclaim, "I miss Bush!"... There was no time then to ask why, but a couple of hours later, out in the street, I got the chance:  "You miss BUSH? Why do you miss BUSH?"

"Well", this person shamefacedly said, "it's hard to explain, it came over me all of a sudden, I hadn't seen him since he left the White House, and there he was  on the screen and it was just like when he was president, I knew exactly who he was and more importantly I knew exactly who I am and with Obama I don't." I thought that was as good a definition of the situation right now as any I am likely to get.

My theory is that my friend's confusion was exactly what the meteoric rise of Barack Obama was all about: a political version of the old shell game.

Bush's problem was that it was always much too clear under which shell the pea was lurking and too many people were catching on to the game. What was needed was to substitute a tied tongue for a silver one. It worked like a charm at first, but now the natives are restless.

As Bush himself said, "Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again".

Frank Rich of the New York Times doesn't cut to the bone as playfully as Hugo Chávez, but he hits pretty hard with this phrase:
"Though the American left and right don’t agree on much, they are both now coalescing around the suspicion that Obama’s brilliant presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger’s public image." Frank Rich - NYT
Maybe the roughest of all is Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone:
What's taken place in the year since Obama won the presidency has turned out to be one of the most dramatic political about-faces in our history.
What I find amazing is the surprise.

Rolling all this around in my mind, I suddenly remembered a wonderful advertisement I saw quite a few years ago. I wish I had cut it out and saved it, but quoting from memory, it went more or less like this. The ad appeared in the soft-core porn mag, Hustler, and it was for pills, creams and lotions guaranteed to enhance sexual pleasure and performance. At the bottom of the ad in big, bold letters it said, "These products are genuine placebos".

Assessing the havoc that Bush had wreaked upon America's power and prestige and the rather awkward questions so many Americans were driven to ask by his bumbling and fumbling, it seems clear that the good and the great who decide this sort of thing realized in their wisdom that what America needed was a "genuine placebo" and that Barack Obama was just what the doctor ordered.

It is obvious to me, that when he proclaimed "a change we can believe in", either Barack Obama was trying to fool everybody or that he was fooling himself, but most probably it was a combination of both.

However, somewhere, some people, knew exactly what they were doing and what was going on. Matt Taibbi's article in Rolling Stone is probably the clearest, easiest read, road map of what it was all about and who these people are.

H.L. Mencken proclaimed that "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public" and a movie producer once said that "when the American public walks its knuckles drag on the ground." The desire to simultaneously fool and be fooled, which is universally human, is especially pronounced in Americans... Think Madoff and Madoff victims, some of them thought to be America's shrewdest  people...I repeat, what surprises me is the surprise.

Maybe it's my age, the Spanish say that the devil knows more because of his age than because he is the devil, maybe it's that, but as my readers know, I never expected anything else. The United States is a "regime" if ever there was one, and thick-skinned, solid, interlocked and long lived oligarchical regimes like America's die hard.

I was a close observer of both the Portuguese "carnation" revolution and the Spanish transition from Franco to democracy and both were near run things, with a lot of unfinished business til this day and many explosive situations still hanging fire.

Anyone that believes that such an old and established, battle-hardened system of privilege  as America's can be changed only by a mass of enthusiasts voting one day and then going home and waiting for it to happen by itself is just like the person who is sitting at home waiting eagerly for FEDEX to bring them their "genuine placebos".

I think my friend was groping toward an important truth, to wit: the Bush presidency was a lovely "teaching moment". There was an excitement in learning, as my friend said, "who he was and who I am".

Some of those who came out for Barack Obama will be made cynical by what is happening now, but others -- hopefully a critical mass -- will be made serious, on reflection. The first conclusion they should come to is that until the American people themselves become the biggest of all lobbies and pursue their interests with the same concentration as Wall Street, the Insurance lobby, AIPAC and the NRA do, there will never be any change that we or anybody else can believe in.

That simple, that difficult. DS

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Massimo Tartaglia and Berlusconi's busted face


Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said he is considering tougher limits on freedom of expression and pledged to crack down on social networking sites that “instigate” violence against the prime minister.(...) The internet is one of the few sources of news and information in Italy that aren't subject to some form of control by Mr. Berlusconi. His family media empire owns one of the two major Italian news magazines, two daily newspapers, and three of the seven major TV channels. Three more of Italy's major channels are run by his government. While there are a number of independent newspapers, Berlusconi has sought to limit their room for maneuver, bringing lawsuits against newspapers that have reported on his extramarital affairs and allegations that he used call girls.
Christian Science Monitor


David Seaton's News Links
Till Berlusconi took it over Italy occupied a special place in my mental landscape. If not the "mother" of western civilization -- that would be Greece -- it was the "stepmother" of western civilization, perhaps the "wicked-old-stepmother" of western civilization.

Some of the affection was a Hollywood construct, of course. Soon after WWII, Hollywood was quick to give Italy a fresh coat of paint, so  that, while, after all these many years, Germans are still the favorite Hollywood villains, Mussolini's people were given an immediate free pass, complete with "Roman Holidays" as the "moon hit your eye like a big pizza pie" and with Sophia Loren trotting her marvelous gazongas to the tune of "presto, presto do your very best-oh, live a your life with a zip and a zing".

But it wasn't all Hollywood horse apples. There were Antonioni, Fellini and Berlinguer, Vitorio and Marcello, Adriano Celentano and Mina, Alberto Sordi, Alberto Moravia and Rita Pavone too. They weren't all a dream...

Then the land that spawned Leonardo da Vinchi  excreted Silvio Berlusconi, a toxic mixture of Rupert Murdoch, George Bush, Count Dracula, Ronald McDonald and Wayne Newton. You could say that Italy doesn't do things by halves.

I truly cannot think of any leader since Adolph Hitler who has single-handedly  taken such a fine country and so spoiled it and despoiled it as Berlusconi has Italy: George Bush doesn't even come close, half the job was more than done before he could lay a hand on the United States.

Then the other day a computer geek named Massimo Tartaglia took an alabaster  model of Milan's cathedral and tossed it into Berlusconi's face making rather a mess of that much lifted part of the "cavilieri's" anatomy.

Something that a 19th century anarchist would have pulled off with a pawnshop pistol or a homemade bomb, injuring or killing innocent bystanders, a crazy Italian geek did with simple souvenir. Humanity has advanced.

Signor Tartaglia immediately got himself a fan club in Facebook of about 200,000 members until Berlusconi's government got it taken down. There is a new one which has just opened and is picking up a couple of hundred fans per hour and was just over seven thousand when last I looked. Here is the link if you wish to sign up.

Something in Massimo's nose of a Roman emperor and  his mad eyes make me think that it might be a bit too soon to write Italy off just yet. DS

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Prize Day at News Links

Reading his acceptance speech
Why did Obama accept the Nobel Peace Prize when he had already decided to take the war in Afghanistan to its ultimate consequences? Nobody forced him into an act of cynicism. Fidel Castro
David Seaton's News Links
Today the President of the United States received the Nobel Peace Prize. He read a stirring speech in which he used the Nobel Peace Prize to justify America's wars.

In my opinion this was one of the most interesting presidential statements since Bill Clinton speculated on the meaning of "is". In case you have forgotten that one, it went like this:
"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If the--if he--if 'is' means is and never has been, that is not--that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement....Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true." (footnote 1,128 in the Starr report)
In order to celebrate Obama endeavoring to reach Clinton's superb mastery of the fine American art of euphemism,  I have thought up a little contest to choose other unlikely prize winners. 

Here is my tentative list of possible awards, readers are encouraged to add to this selection by posting their own suggestions:
  • Nobel Prize for Literature: Dan Brown
  • Nobel Prize for Economics: Bernard Madoff
  • Nobel Prize for Physics: The Diet Coke + Mentos Development Team
  • Pulitzer Prize: Rush Limbaugh
  • Oscar of Hollywood for Lifetime Achievement: Sonny Tufts 
  • Something for poor Tiger Woods, but I haven't figured out just what yet
I am sure you can think up better stuff than this list and I am looking forward to reading them. DS

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Up in smoke


David Seaton's News Links
We are going to change the climate...

...cause it's too hot...

...too hot...

...The climate...

...yeah...

...and we are going to organize Afghanistan too...

...like we've got to... you know...

...stay.....the ...course...

...stay on it...

...you know...

...stay as long as...

...whatever...

...and we're going to regulate the financial sector...

...cause those guys steal a lot...

...uh huh...

....a lot, yeah...

...don't laugh, this is serious shit man...

... lots of stuff to do...

...like fix the schools...

....all the dumb kids...

...fix them too...

.....and repair all the roads...

...and the bridges...

...and the trains...

...lots of busted and worn out stuff...

...lots of other stuff too...

...like change the climate...

...Did I say that before? ...

... Too hot...

...Yeah...

... Lot's a stuff...

...We're gonna do it all man...

...Well, went to to the moon once...

... really, did, no shit...

...but of course when we got there...

...there was nothing there up there...

...but we went there... ...

...stayed the course...

...like Afghanistan, nothing there either...

...the important thing...

...stay the course...

...Yeah...

...and we came back too from the moon... and that's real important too...

... stay and leave...

...come back and all...

... after going...

... uh, huh...

...isn't it?
 
...Like Afghanistan...

...we're supposed to come back from there too...

...oh....

..uh...

...Hey, you got anything to eat around here? DS

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Street Musicians, Madrid, Christmas 2009


David Seaton's News Links
One of the many changes that has come over Madrid since Spain joined the European Union has been the appearance of eastern Europeans, who were rarely seen here before, and among them numerous street musicians.

Since Spain has such strong popular musical traditions itself, this might seem like taking coals to Newcastle, but in fact it has livened up the street scene considerably.

One of my favorites is a pickup group of buskers who I long ago baptized the "All Bucharest Big Band". Today was the first time I ever came across them with a movie camera in my hand, so I filmed them, which was something I had always wanted to do.

I like them  because they seem to embody hard work, cheerful suffering and the joy of music all in one little band. I wish they could become famous and  get to have groupies and trash hotel rooms too. DS

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

After the ball was over: America after Bush


After the ball was over
Nellie took out her glass eye
Put her false teeth in water
Corked up her bottle of dye
Put her false leg in the corner
Hung up her wig on the door
And all that is left goes to bye byes
After the ball
After The Ball Was Over

David Seaton's News Links
After reading Obama's speech and watching the video, I thought everything he said was reasonable... if he had been talking about Panama or Grenada... but Afghanistan, where every foreign invader over thousands of years has failed? At a moment when Americans are massively out of work and on food stamps?

The only ray of hope I find is that more and more Americans are beginning to ask the right questions and that consciousness is growing. Consciousness is everything in politics, it is really the force that moves mountains.

America has history's most highly developed industrial mechanisms to answer what seems to be its unquenchable thirst for irreality, but reality, that miserable son of a bitch, just wont let up.

I have a great faith in America, its fertility and capacity to produce on that day when reality finally wins its battle to emerge. That will be the day when our "Nellie" of the song, our grotesque, paralyzed oligarchical system, finally goes to "bye byes".

Right now, Obama seems bent on being Nellie's new boy-toy, giving the old girl one last thrill. It takes a hard heart to deny them their moment of magic, doesn't it? DS

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Here we go again


President Obama has decided to expedite the deployment of 30,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan over the next six months, in an effort to reverse the momentum of Taliban gains and create urgency for the government in Kabul to match the American surge with one using its own forces, according to senior administration officials. New York Times
More soldiers committed suicide this year than in any year for which we have complete records. But the military is now able to meet its recruitment goals because the young men and women who are signing up can’t find jobs in civilian life. The United States is broken — school systems are deteriorating, the economy is in shambles, homelessness and poverty rates are expanding — yet we’re nation-building in Afghanistan, sending economically distressed young people over there by the tens of thousands at an annual cost of a million dollars each. Bob Herbert NYT

David Seaton's News Links
I guess finally this is just who we are and what we do: go around killing people and blowing things up. If it wasn't Afghanistan it would be somewhere else.

"Looking on the Bright Side of Life", as the song puts it, at least while pouring sand endlessly down the Afghan rat hole, the US armed forces will be too overstretched to contemplate a war with Iran and since a war with Iran might send the world economy right over the edge into the pit, I suppose it is just as well to keep them puttering uselessly around Afghanistan and out of any real trouble.

And in keeping with my Pollyanna mood, I suppose that although quite a few human beings will get killed and maimed in this thing, Afghans mostly, but Americans too, there wont be nearly as many humans killed and maimed as there would be in a war with Iran.

In short, if the US armed forces really have to be somewhere, killing somebody, better Afghanistan.

They used to say about the Bourbon royal family that they "learned nothing and forgot nothing", but it looks like the USA is going the Bourbons one better by forgetting everything and learning nothing. 

More than decadent the USA is beginning to look and act senile. DS

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Abu Dabi, Dooby Dubai... Doowah

News Item: Tremors from the shock request by Dubai’s flagship government-owned holding company for a debt standstill spread through global equity markets on Friday, triggering a sell-off in Asia and heavy losses on Wall Street. Financial Times

Bye bye, Dubai by night
Got a handful of nothin'
And I watch it like a hawk
Well I'm doin' OK
I'm livin' in a great big way
Living in a Great Big Way
Dorothy Fields / Jimmy McHugh
David Seaton's News Links
The world comes unraveled in funny places sometimes, like Sarajevo in 1914 or a Polish frontier post in 1939 or in the bedroom where Mr. and Mrs. bin Laden once made Osama. Now, mostly because of the clever ways that debt has been "structured", the fickle index finger of the invisible hand may have suddenly arisen in Dubai.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that Dubai is a godforsaken place; because Dubai, being in the Middle East, probably has much more God than it can possibly digest, but certainly it is not the sort of place where you would imagine that the world would begin to unravel... However, it may turn out to be that kind of place and we will soon know.

If you don't follow finance the following random press selection will get you up to speed:
So this week we will be reading a lot about Dubai and we will find out if Abu Dabi has enough money to pay off Dubai's debt and save the world financial system from another collapse.

I have no deathless words to add to this cacophony, I simply want to be recorded as on of the passenger list when the Titanic hits the iceberg.

Mark Twain said that truth was stranger than fiction, because fiction had to make sense.

I think I'll leave it at that. DS

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving in the White House.


"Obama is more like a cold shower."
Maureen Dowd

"Whose side is Obama on?"
Steven Pearlstein - Washington Post


David Seaton's News Links
Disenchantment seems to have set in among the formerly enchanted.

Like mushrooms sprouting after a rain, all of a sudden dozens of articles have appeared from among some of Barack Obama's most fervent supporters criticizing  the president; not just his policies, but his personality too.

That is what interests me, the disappointed supporters, I don't pay much attention to the ultra-right frothing at the mouth; I only wish that Barack Obama was half the evil socialist that the teabaggers make him out to be. I am interested in this breaking of the spell and where it may lead.

I am surrounded by the formerly enchanted, most people I know, friends, family and the people I correspond with all belong to the enchanted. I, alas, having never been enchanted  have often felt like the poor little lame boy who could not run fast enough to follow the Pied Piper of Hamlin, when, as part of his debt collection policy, the piper took away all of Hamlin's children and left the wistful little cripple alone without his dear playmates.

So I am a bit at a loss to find so many of my old chums straggling back, apparently having weighed up the piper and found him somehow wanting.

I use the word "enchanted" and talk about "pipers" because since I don't fancy myself smarter than everybody else I feel that a spell has been cast on everyone and I have somehow been mysteriously spared from its mind-clouding effects

I am still where I started with Barack Obama. I still don't know who he is. Nearly a year has past and I still find him mysterious. His actions don't give me any more clues than his words do. Things don't fit, don't fall into place.

I tend to believe that the truth is just lying there staring you in the face most of the time and that it is very  difficult just to see the obvious. To counteract this I often practice the art of "what-you-see-is-what-you-gettism" to good effect. So using that method I have come to a tentative conclusion. Nothing fantastic, it's very simple and it goes like this.

Barack Obama, in my opinion, has an almost supernatural gift which enables people to project all their fantasies on him. The teabaggers think he is Lenin cum the anti-Christ and his supporters think of him as Lincoln cum the Christ-Christ. They all see and hear exactly the same things, but up till now, at least, they all see and hear what they want to: they, not Obama, do most of the real work.

This is the essence of Obama's magic: to be a screen on which one and all can write their dreams or nightmares. Or like the clouds which seem to take shapes that different people see differently.

If we removed Obama's fabulous "gift" for a moment and imagined the same actions taken by a president without it, we would simply see a three year US senator, who spent most of that time running for president, someone who did a bit of time in a state senate, someone who, except for having lived abroad as a child, has no particular experience in foreign affairs, who has never managed any organization before in his life, who has never even worked as a junior executive in any large organizations before, whose staff is a pick-up team of individuals that come from previous administrations, not people he has discovered in long years in public office, with even the men closest to him, Axelrod and Emmanuel on loan from Chicago's Mayor Daley.

So just imagine the same presidency without the "gift".

Without the "gift", his indecisiveness and ineffectual stumbling from "historic" speech to "historic" speech with nothing achieved between speeches would be seen as perfectly normal. What would you expect?

Of course reality being as inconveniently obtrusive as it is, even the "gift" is not enough.

It doesn't surprise me that people of the left are waking up, they are supposed to be smart. I am waiting for the right to wake up too and realize that their nightmares are no more likely to materialize than the liberal's dreams. That might get him reelected.

I wonder when Obama himself will wake up. Maybe he has, maybe that is why the charm seems to be breaking. DS

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The "Giant Switzerland" Fallacy

"Europe has shown it would rather be a super-sized Switzerland."
Simon Hix, professor of European politics at the London School of Economics


These are both monkeys.
A gorilla is a "super-sized" monkey.

Moral: size counts 

David Seaton's News Links
I think the idea is pretty clear, Why natter on? DS

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An interesting take on the sheikh


Innocent until proven guilty?
David Seaton's News Links
Read the following excerpts about the New York trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and see if they make sense to you.

I am posting them in case anybody reading feels up to rebutting their simple argument:
If we must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that KSM was complicit in mass murder, by what right do we send Predators and Special Forces to kill his al-Qaida comrades wherever we find them? For none of them has been granted a fair trial.

When the Justice Department sets up a task force to wage war on a crime organization like the Mafia or MS-13, no U.S. official has a right to shoot Mafia or gang members on sight. No one has a right to bomb their homes. No one has a right to regard the possible death of their wives and children in an attack as acceptable collateral damage.

(...) How does Justice handle a defense demand for a change of venue, far from lower Manhattan, where the jury pool was most deeply traumatized by Sept. 11? Would not KSM and his co-defendants, if a change of venue is denied, have a powerful argument for overturning any conviction on appeal?

Were not KSM's Miranda rights impinged when he was not only not told he could have a lawyer on capture, but told that his family would be killed and he would be waterboarded if he refused to talk? (...) And if all the evidence against the five defendants comes from other than their own testimony under duress, do not their lawyers have a right to know when, where, how and from whom Justice got the evidence to prosecute them? Does KSM have the right to confront all witnesses against him, even if they are al-Qaida turncoats or U.S. spies still transmitting information to U.S. intelligence? What do we do if the case against KSM is thrown out because the government refuses to reveal sources or methods, or if he gets a hung jury, or is acquitted, or has his conviction overturned?
I think these comments point out very efficiently and very graphically how contradictory the US culture of endless war is with our constitutional guarantees and how grotesque it can become when some sort of compromise between the two is attempted. I would find it very difficult to answer the questions this commentary evoke.

It looks to me as if the treasured constitutional traditions of the United States of America are going to be bent to the needs of a "show trial". That eventuality could end up doing worse damage to the republic, much worse, than anything Bush ever did.

This thing is so contaminated with politics that if English common law is still in force and if Johnnie Cochran were still alive, he probably could get KSM off. The trickiest, hungriest trial lawyers in the USA must be lining up to do this one pro-bono. Any shyster that could get KSM off will be the heavyweight champion of the lawyers.

And if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed walks the presidency of Barack Obama is toast.

If this is not a fair trial under our age-old rules than KSM will have done more damage to the USA through his day in court than he did with the airplanes.

What I also find interesting about the above comments is that they could easily come from the left, but in fact they come from the far, far, right, but not the neocon version, they come from the paleoconservative, old time, Father Coughlin, right: none other than Pat Buchanan.

Of necessity, I read a wide spectrum of opinion from left to right. I do this because we are all living in the same world and looking at the same reality, and like the famous story of  the blind men and the elephant, different people catch hold of different parts of the elephant. This practice helps me to constantly recalibrate my thinking... such as it is.

To enjoy reading somebody, I only demand that the commentator be intelligent, lay their cards face up and make well constructed arguments that challenge my preconceptions. Buchanan fits that.  Unlike the neocons, he isn't trying to fool anybody. You can see him coming from far off. He is an old  fashioned, pre-Vatican-II, lace-curtain, Irish Catholic, antisemite and anybody with Irish family probably has at least a great uncle like this, but not as smart as Buchanan, most likely.

So here is this rather perfect argument out of the pen of someone most of my readers loathe and despise. Go on, take a shot at picking his discourse apart. I confess that I cannot find any fault in it and I wonder how the US government has gotten itself in such a precarious position and dumb a fix. DS

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Europe in the world of the "G-2"


"Living well is the best revenge"
George Herbert (1593 - 1633)
David Seaton's News Links
The Lisbon Treaty, the European Union's de facto constitution, is finally ready to roll out. For euroskeptics it is much too much and for many europhiles it is much too little. In my opinion it is just one more patient step toward European unity. All the phases of European Union dating back to the European Coal and Steel Community of 1951, have been such small, patient steps. Lets look at what has been done up till now:
The EU has developed a single market through a standardized system of laws which apply in all member states, ensuring the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital. It maintains common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development. Sixteen member states have adopted a common currency, the euro, constituting the Eurozone. Wikipedia
The modern state is a European invention and the creation of the entities that became the states of Europe was far from instantaneous. The pooling of sovereignty, where powerful princes, wealthy cities and idiosyncratic regions, with all their traditional laws and privileges, submitted to be ruled by a single king didn't happen over night, or if it did it was usually accompanied by much blood; and even today there are quite a few regions in European states that feel restless. In  states such as Spain, France and the United Kingdom, the powerful centrifugal forces that were amply demonstrated in the disintegration of Yugoslavia are often active under the surface. So European unity is a work in progress... and always will be.

The Roman empire, created European unity and maintained it firmly under their sandals at sword point: until it finally fell apart. More recently both Napoleon and Hitler attempted to unify Europe at the point of a gun and both of them failed in rivers of blood. Today's unity is first and foremost about peace. Peace itself is the greatest conquest of all.

Europe has never before been such a peaceful place as it is today.

Europe has been the scene of the world's most horrific wars, both religious and mercantile and any euro-chauvinist would do well to remember what Mahatma Gandhi answered when asked his opinion of European civilization: "It would be a good idea", Churchill's "naked fakir" replied.

Today's European Union came into being in order to solve a specific problem: how to end the "Great European Civil War (1914-1945)" which had destroyed much of Europe, caused it to lose its foreign possessions and killed, mutilated and displaced countless millions of human beings. In 1945 Europe was what the Spanish call a "broken toy". That was the defining problem of Europe and it has been solved with enormous success. Until that problem had been solved, nothing else of importance could be done.

Although the combination of the words, "peace" and "process" have been devalued like a Wiemar Deutsch Mark in the Middle East, the European Union is, in fact, the result of a successful and ongoing, "peace process".  Those who are eager for the European Union to begin to act in the fashion of a classic nation state, super power or empire don't really understand this process, where it has come from and where it is headed.

The European Union is above all a stewardship, a husbanding of human resouces, of infrastructure, of culture, of wealth, health and perhaps above all an idea of the quality of human life... of what it means to live well in every sense: prosperity with social justice. That is a combination absent from every other part of the world... certainly absent from the "G-2", China and the USA.

There are many commentators that fear that Europe is going to become irrelevant as the USA and China divide up the world between them. Their fear of Europe's demise is premature. In fact, the EU may find itself "the last man standing".

China and America are entwined and tangled in an economic embrace that could damage both of them, if not beyond repair, enough to make them hardly recognizable for quite some time.
The Chimerican era is drawing to a close. Given the bursting of the debt and housing bubbles, Americans will have to kick their addiction to cheap money and easy credit. The Chinese authorities understand that heavily indebted American consumers cannot be relied on to return as buyers of Chinese goods on the scale of the period up to 2007. And they dislike their exposure to the American currency in the form of dollar-denominated reserve assets of close to $2 trillion. The Chinese authorities are “long” the dollar like no foreign power in history, and that makes them very nervous. Niall Ferguson and Moritz Schularick - NYT
So much for the intensely "relevant" USA and China.

It should not be forgotten that none of the great superpowers, not the USA, not China, nor Russia, is capable of building a decent automobile, something that Europe does splendidly, while simultaneously providing the workers who build the cars with a decent social net. Europe with its internal market of 450,000,000 people is still able to manufacture goods of a quality unmatchable anywhere except Japan and even Japan still cannot approach Europe in making high profit margin luxury goods: a Lexus, although a wonderful car, is not a Ferrari Testarossa.

The Americans now drown in debt, with deteriorating educational and transport systems, seemingly limited to what they apparently do best: killing people and blowing things up. The Chinese on the other hand, work day and night making cheap junk, without unions or health care and live like refugees from a Jacob Riis photograph.

All the while Europeans make top quality goods and protect their workers, maintain their infrastructure and health and education systems... and while the dollar and yuan race each other to the bottom, the Euro is a solid measure of value.

There is something of the fable of the ant and the grasshopper in all of this.

At the same time European regulations have become the world standard. The handiest example of this is the cell-phone, but this ability of the "faceless bureaucrats" of Brussels to define things like "butter" and "kilo" , or "plastic", or "bag", so that the entire world knows exactly what a kilo of butter or a cell phone or a plastic bag that can be sold to 450 million people consists of  is an achievement only rivaled by the law makers of ancient Rome. There is nothing irrelevant about this and certainly greater relevance is not gained by acting as the "tool kit" of an America struggling in the endless wars of its Götterdämmerung.

So Europe will continue its eternal round of boring committees, its purgatory of brain melting meetings that run into meetings and perhaps, someday, some dawn, the faceless bureaucrats of Brussels will stumble yawning out of another inconclusive meeting into the fresh air of a Belgian morning and suddenly realize that they have created the utopia that mankind has dreamt of since we trucked out of Eden. DS

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday morning noodles in Madrid



David Seaton's News Links
The food pictured is a small plate or "tapa" of what is called "fideua", which is a Valencian paella made with saffron-colored noodles and little bits of chicken, pork and shellfish mixed in; the wine is a robust, Ribera del Duero red and the whole thing, standing up, went for €2.50, this very morning in the center of Madrid.

I thought that today, for a change, I'd rather write about this little meal than about all the crap that is going on in the world.

I had a camera with me  because my wife and I were out collecting wall graffiti for her to use in her digital artwork, which she hangs on her web page.

I am trying to learn flash, but it's pretty heavy going. All I can do for now is to take a film made in Corel Video Studio and turn it into something that opens quickly and runs smoothly on the web page. I still have no idea how to construct all the lovely bells and whistles that morph  as you move the cursor across them.

Getting back to the photo: although I like to cook, to eat and to drink, I'm no foody. Good food and  good wine, without too much ceremony, in the informal atmosphere of a noisy Spanish bar, on a busy morning is one of my pleasures. No big deal. That is important for me... that it be no big deal.

When people talk too much about food it makes me uncomfortable  for some reason, like when people talk too much about sex and  most dissertations about wine are insufferable.

Things that are better to do than to talk about.

The picture expresses some of that, I think. DS

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Abbas outs out of the aba daba dab


The "peace process" explained
All night long they'd chatter away,
All day long they were happy and gay,
Swinging and singing in their honky-tonkey way.
"Aba, daba, daba, daba, daba, daba, dab"
"Aba Daba Honeymoon"
Words and Music By: Arthur Fields and Walter Donovan
David Seaton's News Links
Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian authority, you know, the gray haired fellow with glasses that is always being photographed shaking hands with the Prime Minister of Israel or the President of the United States, or the the Secretary of State or all the visiting "envoys", which is basically all that he really does, has said that he has had enough.
Abbas had understood from Obama that he would force Israel to stop all settlement construction and then launch peace talks. (...) Taking his cue from Obama, Abbas made a full freeze of settlement construction a precondition for talks. But when the Americans backed down several months later after Netanyahu offered a slowdown but not a freeze, Abbas was left high and dry. JTA
Many think that Abbas's threat to resign is a bluff, but I take him at his word.

Abbas is 74 years old and even if this pantomime of a peace process is programmed to go on forever his body isn't. I think Barack Obama was his last hope of getting anything achieved  before his body gave out and now that too has proved to be a Chimera, so Abbas is tired of being made a fool of and would simply like to regain some dignity and respect before retiring to live out his remaining days among his people.

So that Palestinian children don't point him out on the street and throw shoes at him when goes to pick up his pension.

However his threat to not continue has caught everyone by surprise and made them realize that the "two state solution", the idea of a free Palestine living in peace, side by side with Israel, is probably not going to ever happen.

The "peace process" has become so precarious that its existence is mortally threatened without Abbas there just to shake hands.

That is the status quo, Israel builds more walls, builds more settlements, builds more checkpoints, takes more water, evicts more Palestinians from their homes, cuts down more olive trees, etc, etc, while Abbas... shakes hands.

Many say that a two state solution is the only path that Israel can take in order to remain both a "Jewish state" and a democracy. This is not so, there is another path.

Let me explain.

The greatest danger to Israel, or at least to Bibi Netanyahu's version of it, is not Iran, it's a free, sovereign Palestinian state in "Judea and Samaria". Why?

Because, for those who call the occupied territories of the West Bank, "Judea and Samaria", those areas are an essential part of "Greater Israel", without which it would be mutilated, defaced, disfigured.

If an internationally recognized sovereign state called Palestine were recognized on that land, that "mutilation" would become permanent, eternal. This would be considered a heinous betrayal of the Israel Covenant. The treasonous, blasphemous betrayal of thousands of years of history, suffering and tribulations. Like Esau they would be selling their "birthright" for a mess of pottage. The children of Israel have not traveled this far, for so long, to settle for that... Or so the ultra-nationalists that govern Israel would think.

However, the majority of foreign observers and the Israeli left would rush to say that a one state solution would be either be the end of Israel as a Jewish state, because through its greater fertility the Arab population would soon outnumber the Jews, or the end of Israel as a democracy if the Arabs within its borders were denied their civil rights.

There is another path.

Perhaps Yasser Arafat's greatest achievment was to get the world to officially recognize the word "Palestine" and especially the word, "Palestinian".

This was not so before his struggle. 

Here is how Golda Meir expressed it:
"It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist."
And she also said:
"How can we return the held territories? There is nobody to return them to."
That is what Arafat changed and that is a lot, but some things he couldn't change.

Moshe Dayan addressed the Palestinians prophetically, when asked for a solution for their problem:
"We have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads."
But, they didn't leave and that is where the process has led. They exist, officially recognized  by the entire world, including the United States, as a people, as people with human rights and rights as an occupied people, but they live like dogs... and they wont leave.

They resist, they wont leave.

There is another path: one that is not spoken.

Ethnic cleansing.

That is impossible, you say.

In normal times yes, but not in times of a general war in the Middle East.

When the "chessboard" of international affairs has been knocked over and the pieces scattered.

Israel and the occupied could only be ethnically cleansed in the midst of a  general war, when thousands of refugees are fleeing death and destruction.

In my opinion that is what the entire Iran affair is leading up to: a casus belli to set the entire region alight and in the ensuing confusion, ethnically cleanse "Judea and Samaria".

The Iranian atomic bomb is simply a McGuffin to get the show on the road.

I see this coming very clearly and it makes me very sad: sad for the Israelis, sad for the Palestinians, but especially sad for the United States, because I know perfectly well that when the Israelis start their war and in the midst of it ethnically cleanse the West Bank and Gaza, the Congress of the United States will pass a resolution backing them and if the UN security resolves to condemn the ethnic cleansing, the United States will veto that resolution. That makes me very sad.

I confess that I don't care a fig if Israel is a "vibrant democracy", or not, but I care quite a bit if the USA is one... and that is at risk here too, make no mistake. DS

Monday, November 09, 2009

What Obama could learn from Bush




Why is this woman always laughing so hilariously?
I never thought I'd write the following words, but is it possible that Obama's handling of the I-P peace process might actually end up being worse than George Bush's?  Stephen M. Walt
David Seaton's News Links
In his blog in Foreign Policy magazine, one of the sharpest critics of George W. Bush's policies in the Middle East, Stephen M. Walt, linked to a pair of devastatingly critical attacks on President Obama's treatment of the Israel/Palestine conflict by Tony Karon of Time magazine and by Robert Dreyfuss of The Nation.

Tony Karon summed up the general drift of both articles with this phrase:
The Obama Administration's bid to relaunch an Israeli-Palestinian peace process is falling apart faster than you can say settlement freeze — in no small part because President Barack Obama began his effort by saying settlement freeze.
And as we read in his quote above, Walt then compares Obama's handling of the Middle East unfavorably with Bush's.

And this brings me to the title of my post: "What Obama could learn from Bush".

We could sum up George W. Bush's policy in the Middle East succinctly as, to let the Israelis do anything they wanted, no matter how outrageous and give them all the military aid they ever requested and give them diplomatic cover in the UN or any other international body wherever their behavior might be questioned, at the same time putting them off from carrying out a catastrophic attack on Iran... all the while wrapping this mishgoss up in a mixture of the language of Wilsonian democracy and the Book of Revelations.

What did he achieve by this?

Basically he kept AIPAC off his back and this allowed him to pursue his main goals without being disturbed.

What were those goals, if to the public eye everything he and his administration ever did reeked of failure?

Here we enter the perilous jungle of politic-fiction and have to speculate without access to any inside information.

In my experience the most valuable guides in doing so are, first, Ockham's Razor plus Sherlock Homes's rough and ready dictum of eliminating the impossible and whatever you see left... is what you get.

Using this method, I begin with a risky hypothesis: George W. Bush is not as stupid as he looks. Which I then follow with a simple observation of fact: Richard Cheney neither looks stupid nor is rumored to be stupid.

From there I make a huge leap toward a totally libelous and unprovable (for the moment) supposition: That they were both in it for the money.

Imagine for a moment that both Bush and Cheney received a commission of 0.3 percent in some numbered offshore bank account for every discretionary contract they awarded for the reconstruction of Iraq. That would add up to a pretty penny and suddenly everything we have lived through since 9-11 would make more sense. What to everyone else would appear a total failure would in fact be a huge -- if private -- success.

Now, I don't think for a moment that Obama is on the take, so what can he learn from Bush?

Bush's lesson, if my wacky, just for the sake of argument, hypothesis is correct, is that to succeed you have to keep your eye on the main chance and establish priorities so that all your projects don't start bumping into each other in the dark.

By giving Israel and AIPAC everything they wanted Bush was able to secure their support or indifference on a raft of domestic issues. It always seemed strange to me that despite his total incompetent bumbling he endured relatively little pressure until the economy tanked.

That is the lesson.

Bush learned it from his dad, who always believed that his attempt at a settlement freeze is what cost him his reelection, despite having won a war and with the economy recovering.

It goes like this:

To succeed in freezing the settlements you have to confront AIPAC, to confront AIPAC, you have to be so popular, so powerful that you can frighten the senators and congressmen more than AIPAC does and so popular that you can drown out AIPAC's echochamber, Rupert Murdoch's Fox, which is what empowers the AstroTurf, teabagger-type, movements, that somehow spring up so spontaneously.

So Obama has gotten it all backwards. First he should have, left the Israelis alone while he passed health legislation and reined in Wall Street and reactivated Main Street and got people jobs and then with his popularity soaring, he might have had some chance of winning a fight with AIPAC.

Now, as it is, just to survive politically, just to have any chance of second term, he finally may have to let the Israelis invade Lebanon and Gaza again this spring to prepare the ground for a full scale war with Iran this coming summer. Make no mistake Iran is the big one and Obama's power to control  the situation and avoid a catastrophe is weakening by the moment. DS

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Fort Hood Massacre




David Seaton's News Links
So much of this story defies simple common sense that it is difficult to get to grips with it.

I don’t know who was crazier, the shooter, Nidal Malik Hasan, or the people that assigned someone with his profile the task of treating traumatized soldiers returning from fighting Muslims.

It seems to me pure sadism on the US Army's part.

In the course of his work Nidal Malik Hasan was hearing the stories of soldiers returning from harrowing combat duty in Muslim countries, where the enemy was of the same religion as he is, and in the case of Iraq, of the same ethnic group as his.

Imagine the dynamic:

Dr/Maj Hasan is a first generation Palestinian-American and a pray-five-times-a-day-type, devout Muslim, surrounded in the US Army by a disproportionate number of born-again-Christian-racist-red-neck-scotch-irish-southerners many of whom consider his religion a form of satanism and his ethnic group, little more than animals.

I would imagine that quite often in treating these soldiers that many of them, as part of their “therapy”, would express extremely racist and hostile attitudes toward Islam and toward Muslims and narrate in great and explicit detail the atrocities they may have committed or the fantasies they might entertain of committing against Muslim men and women. Doing this would probably be a healing "catharsis" for the soldiers, but it might just have produced a malignant catharsis in Dr/Maj Hasan.

It may have been that Dr. Hasan became radicalized by this daily bombardment and had begun to identify with the Muslim suicide bombers that his patients pursued.

All said, what Hasan did was very American, he didn’t strap on an explosive belt and go for the 72 virgins, he got a gun and went on a shooting spree…. American as apple pie.

We take our comfort where we can these days. DS