Tuesday, August 31, 2010

the Carbon Starved Earth Argument, the Debunking of

via Pacific Views and Climate Progress.

Update: Xymphora, from earlier today:

"USGS Confirms Himalayan Glaciers Are Melting & Climate Change is to Blame"

"Lomborg: Just Kidding. We Do Need Climate Action Now" "Bjørn Lomborg: $100bn a year needed to fight climate change" Convenient how this asshole changes his mind right after his bullshit was used to derail climate change action.

Labels: , ,

Doug Henwood and the Econo-misers

in "The Non-Crazy Left" Jonathan Schwarz over at ATR posts 3 Real News videos of a Paul Jay interview with Doug Henwood. I've posted the second of these above because I think it relates to yesterday's essay by Rob, "Tipping point." You should go see the 1st and 3rd parts of the interview at ATR as well.

I note, however, that neither Paul Jay nor Henwood touch upon the reasons for the Republicans screaming for austerity and Obama's tepid response to them. Maybe that's because if they honestly addressed this they'd have to acknowledge that the behavior of both the GOP and BHO are part of a generation-long project to dismantle the New Deal and the middle class it created. They don't want the economy to recover; their friends and masters are doing OK.

Let me be clear that I don't fault Paul Jay or Doug Henwood; the interview is well worth your time, more so than a lot of crud on CNN, CBS, and so forth. Jay is trying to maintain objectivity. It's not his fault if the facts have a strange liberal slant that makes neither the GOP nor the president(or his supporters) look good.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tipping point

I had really thought it common knowledge that manufacturing was the engine that drove the creation of the middle classes in America but I have to wonder because hardly any of the experts discuss it. Some say ‘education’ is the key. That’s really not true in one sense and sort of true in another. First of all what good is a college education if there are no jobs for people with degrees? Secondly, people don’t necessarily need a degree when they could be trained on the job, there’s no education like actual experience. But the whole education as opposed to experience debate is beside the point which is without manufacturing the economy, whatever an economy is, will stay the way it is or get worse until some genius figures out a way to bring manufacturing back to these oiled shores. And frankly I just don’t see that happening.

Another ignored problem that is related to the education/experience thing is America is slowly losing its capability to even be the manufacturing giant it was. The most valuable engineers in any manufacturing plant are the experienced engineers, engineers with degrees who also have years of experience. Without those the company would be at the mercy of greenhorn engineers right out of school. There is nothing more useless than an engineer without experience (no offense meant to young engineers). If you recall the history of the Japanese auto here in America you might remember that the first Japanese cars to arrive were much more like the little British cars like the Hillman Minx and such than they were like American cars. The Japanese invested heavily in learning about quality control for years and today they build some of the most reliable cars on the market and that only comes with experience. And engineers are only part of manufacturing.

Then you have a shelf life anyway. If you are out of work too long your shelf life expires. When I was a mechanical designer new design programs appeared on the market with more and more rapidity and companies dumped them as fast as new ones appeared. This meant going back to school at night or in between jobs just to keep up. The last one I took was for a program called Pro Engineer, a solid modeling program and a powerful engineering tool, which cost six thousand dollars to attend. Right after that the job market dried up completely but you get my drift regarding shelf life. Even if jobs magically appeared I doubt I could even qualify for one any longer since I haven’t worked in manufacturing for years. I still know how to design stuff but I wouldn’t be up on whatever program companies are using (somewhere) to do their designing on hence I have become a dinosaur, useless in the eyes of companies. Naturally I find it stupid because there isn’t a program in the world that can turn a layperson into a designer. There are a whole slew of other issues like the need to specialize but this is getting boring. The point is the longer America does nothing to cause a resurgence in manufacturing we may reach the point of no return where we would have to begin from scratch while other nations would have a huge edge on us or to spell it out we may never again regain our manufacturing capability which would be the end of the middle classes or as things already are.

This is why I think most people are idiots. They rant and rave about building a Mosque in New York and elsewhere, they are distracted by what are largely idiotic distractions engineered to do just that. But when it comes to the important issues most cannot even recognize them, even if they fell in their lap. They talk about Obama’s “historic” moment as president and agonize over being patriots and god knows what other ridiculous nonsense, mostly their genitals I suspect. Oh god, global warming! Glen Beck is an asshole! Oh god, what shall we do, Beck is an asshole! Oh no, the Tea Party will destroy us all! Oh bullshit, what is destroying us all is our government wasting our resources on wars whose basis is domestic politics pure and simple because nothing else explains it and not spending it on job stimulus and coming up with legislation that makes it more attractive for manufacturing companies to reside here and employ Americans.

It all has to do with greed pure and simple. It has nothing to do with the ruling elite deciding the working class had it too easy, the elite could care less what the working class does or thinks. The ruling elite saw that they could use cheap labor in China, Mexico, Taiwan, India, and elsewhere so they forced legislation that allowed them to do just that. It wasn’t personal, it wasn’t Victorian mores it was profit. You can set aside all the pissing and moaning over illegal aliens, terrorists, leakers, peepers, and cheaters because there are only two burning issues of the day and those are the imperial wars and jobs. Everything else, even though important, should be set aside to first resolve these two issues which of course is why it won’t happen. Instead we get Glen Beck and Terror Babies, Terror Babies – I could scream.

Friday, August 27, 2010

27 August: blind lib

Digby has a silly post up in which she suggests, based on a Washington Post story, that anti-Islamic prejudice didn't exist in the US before people started stirring it up recently.

She writes:

The only time anybody ever looked at a Muslim (or Arab looking person) askance was on airplanes. I live in Los Angeles and there are millions of Muslims here and they have been mingling and working and living like any other American since the day of the terrorist attacks. Aside from some brief apprehension in the very early days when the authorities were looking closely at Muslim organizations, things have been remarkably and quite inspirationally normal here in the US especially since we have been involved in two wars with Muslim countries during that time.

So, tell me, what the hell has happened recently that made everyone suspicious of Muslims all of a sudden? We haven't been attacked. There has been no public debate.

The only thing that's happened is that we elected a black president to whom his political enemies conveniently attached the Muslim label. And thus they have extended the hatred for him to hatred of Muslims in general. It's not that these people hate American Muslims. It's that they hate Barack Obama and everything he stands for.

This is ridiculous. First, it sounds like she's saying that only manifestations of prejudice that she's aware of could possibly exist or matter. It's as if racism only exists when it serves Digby's purpose and allows her to score rhetorical points for Team Democratic Party and all the swell people who support it. There are good people and bad people, and the good people luv their Obama. In my comment at Ethan's 6th or 7th I wrote:

Ethan, the WaPo article that Digby quotes minimizes intolerance towards Muslims because it taps into one strain of the Arab-American experience: Assimilation. Arab-Americans (and other Muslims) who can pass for WASP generally try to do so, because it's understood you should do this, and not wear your ethnicity on your sleeve.

In a sense there are two US Muslim communities; one that tries its best to "pass for white" as it were, to reduce the impact of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice, and another which is alienated by the US and has a harder time fitting in. (The former generally comes from a more well-heeled background, so there is also a class frisson operating here.)

But if the WaPo writers just went to the campuses of GWU and Georgetown and the like, they are less likely to see the second group.

Anyway, Digby is less likely to see the 2nd group herself, so that fits.

I hadn't yet read all of the WaPo article when I wrote that, but as it turned out I was partly right, in that the students they talked to were at George Mason U. in tony Fairfax, students at American U. in D.C., as well as the Muslim chaplain of Georgetown. The kids are young people who've presumably lived sheltered lives, even if they may have done some volunteering here and there, so I think they deserve a pass. Digby however, is at least around my age, in her mid-40s or older, so her myopia is harder to excuse. So too, the WaPo writers, who apparently couldn't be bothered to talk to students at a grubby junior college. Don't they have any in D.C.?

Prejudice towards Arabs and Muslims has always been there. Although I don't think my experiences are more relevant than hard data or the news accounts that corroborate my view and that Digby doesn't mention, I note that a man called me a sand nigger to my face in 1995, not so long ago but years before most of us had heard of Bin Laden.

Maybe things are better to some degree in Digby's LA than they are here in the South; I wouldn't know. But I don't believe it has suddenly appeared recently, there or here. One of the problems with people like Glenn Beck and Pam Geller beating racist drums is they make millions of people out there feel as if their otherwise unexpressed darker impulses are legitimate and deserve expression. They enable, even if you can't hold these shit-stirrers liable, and I mean meaningfully liable, in a courtroom. If you could, even someone as wealthy as Rush Limbaugh would suddenly find he couldn't afford the insurance. I'm not saying it should be that way, or that all people are that prejudiced. But the Digbys (Digbies?) of the world speak as if they haven't got a clue, whether this is a result of sincere blindness, or because they think they can will the world to conform to their expectations, or something else.

Today Friday the 27th, is Lyndon Johnson's 102nd birthday. In the 1990s when I worked for the state of Texas, we used to get 8 hours comp time for every 8/27. (we also got 8 hours comp for Robert E. Lee's birthday in January and for Texas Independence Day in March.) I wanted to write something about how complicated LBJ seems to me in comparison with BHO, how he tried to do good at home while he killed thousands of people in Southeast Asia. Obama, by contrast, seems like somebody who would never try to push through a Great Society program, not just because it would hurt his party but also his own future speaking fees. (I don't count so-called healthcare reform as anything more than an oily, budget-busting debacle that will make ever getting to single payer that much harder.)

Back to August 2010- I was glad when Obama spoke out in favor of the Cordoba Center, however briefly he took this stance. Of course if he really wants to support Muslims he could support not killing them. I want to write more about BHO and the Great Society, and the Cordoba Center. I will, soon.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, August 26, 2010

26 August 2010

Joe Bageant: "honk if you love caviar" OK, the essay is actually entitled "Understanding America's Class System," but I like the subtitle Joe appends to it. The video above is an excerpt from a documentary about him that's due out shortly.

Helena Cobban, "The Iraqi skeleton in America's closet"

Aug. 14, CBS News, "Historians Rethink Key Soviet Role In Japan Defeat"
Historians: Soviet Offensive, Key To Japan's WWII Surrender, Was Eclipsed By A-bombs

Oh please. This new "theory" is a smokescreen designed to obscure the better established and better documented position, put forward by Gar Alperovitz and James Carroll and others, that Truman used the bomb precisely because of the Soviets, to send them a signal of postwar resolve and strength. At any rate, the Japanese were ready to surrender before the first atom bomb was dropped.

CNN Poll: Opposition to Iraq, Afghanistan wars reach all time high

Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report: "Obama Snarls at the Left, But Winks at the Right"

For some reason the Christian Science Monitor seems to be shifting ever so slightly rightward. This is very discouraging to me because for the longest time they struck me as one of the last decent yet sort of mainstream US news portals. But consider these two recent items:

"Amid record debt, we need a welfare state we can believe in – and afford" This was authored by one "William Voegeli." Sounds like a pseudonym to me. I wonder if he also answers to Alan Simpsoni.

"Jimmy Carter: Can Obama trust him in North Korea talks?"

Maybe it's just the op-eds. Either way, I have a hard time understanding the supposed need to add right-wingers for "balance" when they're durn near everywhere already.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Vote

People drank beer so you could vote. Please, please! Let that sink in.

Democrat good Republican bad. Republican bad Democrat good. Do good, vote-vote-vote. Vote by rote, vote from a moat, vote today! Hooray.


Obama, obama obama obama obama obama obama obama abomo abomo abomo abomo omoba omoba VOTE FER OMAOBA:?#&

Save yer kin, save yer skin, vote-vote-vote. Vote from a boat or cut your throat but vote. ISRAEL MUST BE SAVED@^^^^^.

Beautiful women surrounded by millions of hordes of darkies. Save them. ISRAEL IS INNOCENT2


Can Israel be saved? Ask the amoeba.

Amoeba sea slugs have sex just like people. People aren’t much smarter than amoeba sea slugs. Which came first, the system or the people? Answer: People. People should vote because their fathers and their fathers and their fathers and their fatheres and any farther further fathers will be annotated below. Please see the appendumendixs.

Save the Israel. Little eensie teensy weensy itsy bitsy innocent little Israel. THE DARKIES ARE COMING>


Watch the skies. Everyone. Watch the skies. Keep looking up! Don’t ever stop!

Id-side out

It’s interesting that people, or some people I should say, have been fascinated with monsters ever since Hollywood began cranking monster movies out from early films like Dracula to Jaws to the wide range of slimy dripping hideous and gooey monsters who lurk and pounce on today’s modern screens, the nightmare spawn of computer graphic magic.

As a kid I grew up with Lon Cheney Junior, Boris Karloff, and the like. My personal favorite was the Wolfman as played by Lon Cheney Junior whose transformation into the ravening beast ‘neath the fool moon “when the wolf bane blows” as the old gypsy intoned was just about the greatest thing under the sun (or moon I should say) or so I thought at the time. Then there was the march of the rubber monsters, men in monkey suit movies I used to call them the most classic of them all was of course Godzilla (great name) who many amateur shrinks associate with the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of WWII. I suppose that could well be for wasn’t that a monstrous act? The wiping out of so many Japanese civilians in such a short amount of time is perhaps one of the all time monster acts of, well, all time.

I think deep down we know who the real monsters are and where they lurk and skulk hidden from the light of day lest they evaporate like one of Stoker’s vampires. We know who the bogy man is hidden in the velvet darkness of our childhood closet. It’s that chaotic spot at the core of our being, the fear that turns to anger, the violence that we are all capable of as human beings and it is frightening. We know that monster, that slavering idiot monster that rages and wails while hiding behind the veil of civilization just waiting to be released at the right provocation. Israeli soldiers taking pictures of each other standing over their trophy kill a dead Palestinian. American soldiers laughing as they cut down civilians, national leaders promoting themselves on the merit of the Mount Everest sized pile of bodies they stand upon, indeed bet their careers on, people who see and say nothing while the monster rages on, a news media that encourages wars to increase their profits, respected news anchors or whatever you call them using their very respectability to tell you less than nothing, perhaps that it rained last Thursday. These are the monsters, shake their hands, they don’t look like monsters or talk like monsters but the results of their action or inaction is monstrous indeed.

On any given normal day in anywhere USA people aren’t monsters. Well, most aren’t but what the government does in our name with our money with our silent consent is not too different than a crowd of people standing disinterested as a girl is gang raped in front of them repeatedly. On a larger scale Americans stand by as our government rapes the world, an act most monstrous. These are the most monstrous acts, not the mindless violence of the righteous or the depraved, it is the plotters and the planners and all the little weenies that enable the plotters and the planners who use violence like a tool because it is a tool, their tool. It’s not even personal because their victims are but bugs crawling on the floor, it’s about money and it’s about power and if they could get it without the mayhem and the chaos, without the mass murder they surely would but these are the tools of choice used without anymore remorse than when you spear a pea with your fork. There is something unspeakably evil about the idiots who rule our lives, the lack of any scant atom of humanity, incapable of any kind of empathy sympathy or remorse. Their actions have ruined lives and whole nations and left strewn in their terrible wake a multitude of body parts exploded over a Salvador Dali landscape in some LSD drenched dream as their thugs slap the grace from their victims with hails of bullets and bombs. And all this planned and done with the same level of emotion you would get from adding two plus two. Almost equal to this is another form of evil idiocy the determined and adamantine refusal of all too many Americans to admit that their government is a monster doing monstrous things with monstrous results on a daily and hour to hour basis.

Still, I don’t mind a good monster movie. Perhaps the person that monster just tore in half was the jerk that cut me off in traffic last month.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

U.S. troops out of Iraq

It has recently come to my attention that the United States military has roughly 50,000 troops in Iraq.

I find this deeply offensive.

Members of this same military attacked and invaded Iraq less than 8 years ago. By conservative estimates, this has lead to hundreds of thousands of Iraqis being killed, injured or maimed. U.S. troops have subjected Iraqi prisoners to unspeakably sick acts of cruelty and bizarreness at Abu Ghraib. The heavily bombed city of Fallujah has seen dramatic increases in cancer, leukemia and birth defects since the invasion began. This ensures that, for unknown years into the future, Iraqis will be cajoled by their coworkers into donating one dinar in exchange for a sticker and the right to wear jeans on some randomly selected Friday.

Emotions are understandably still raw and most consider Iraq to be sacred and/or hallowed ground. The presence of these 50,000 troops in Iraq is therefore nothing short of a poke in the eye, or perhaps even the equivalent of rubbing salt in the wound.

Some say that these soldiers are from the moderate branch of the U.S. military. While I have heard differently on Democracy Now! these troops may very well be there to help with the cultivation of dates. But that doesn’t change the fact that they wear the same flag as those that invaded Iraq. Is there any doubt that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney take great delight in the seeing troops stationed in the land they once invaded? If you know anything about them, you would know that they consider this presence to be a monument to their victory.

I want to be clear that I am not disputing the right of the United States to station troops in Iraq. The 14th amendment to the Magna Carta plainly guarantees this right. But is it too much to ask of Uncle Sam for him to take into account our sensibilities and our feelings?

Having troops stationed in Iraq is the ultimate provocation. It harms relations. Several years ago, some in Ohio wanted to reform the Ohio National Guard. The president of the United States at the time said that while the state had the right to do so, that they shouldn’t because the wounds of of Kent State were still not closed and bandages big enough had yet to be produced. The good people of the Birthplace of Aviation listened to this and then made the right decision by giving up their ambition of having a national guard. I hope that the United States will follow this example and remove all of its troops from Iraq.

Spitting in the sea

Every day when I visit Antiwar.com there are more deaths at the hands of NATO and American soldiers in news reports, every day. Obama is expanding the war in Afghanistan in another futile attempt at victory whatever that is. Nobody who is even slightly honest with themselves believes we have left Iraq or that the war there is over. As Putin once said, “Who would want this?” referring to the true state of Iraq when young dog Bush was prez. Today there still is no government except for the American backed puppet thug club populated mostly by murderers and thieves. The infrastructure is still a shambles with raw sewage in the streets, violence is still very real making Iraq a very dangerous place to be for those citizens that remain.

Back here in States the job situation is worsening as is the decline of housing which has resulted in the loss of savings for the baby boomers that now face retirement with little income. As if right on cue social security is being scrutinized under Obama’s orders and the results are sure to be awful. Social security is not in trouble, it could go on for the next 27 or so years without running out of funds and 27 years is a long, long time. A lot can happen. At any rate if Obama screws with social security which translates into serious cuts the future will be grim for many Americans. But as always the government creates false alarms when they want to hoodwink the public. As for the Republican Party, they have always wanted to dismantle social security so don’t look to them to save social security from the Obama administration.

And guess what, nobody is going to save you, not your heroes, not the bloggers, not the leakers, nobody. I guess you’ll have to just save yourselves. Personally I wouldn’t put odds on it. The truth is people are comfortable being idiots, they like to be led about by the nose and Obama is the perfect father figure to do it. But then Obama is in trouble politically speaking. Americans may not care one way or the other about the Afghan War but they do care about their jobs and savings (now long gone) and that is what is going to kill the Democratic Party in the coming election which will likely be a bloodbath for the donkeys. So on it goes another election and another changing of the guard and that’s about it, rinse, wash, repeat. And surprise, surprise! We get the same results! Then everyone goes back to sleep or whatever.

To date I haven’t seen any example of any tactic that has worked in any way to halt the wars. Sure, blogs are great with some talented and entertaining writers out there but that’s about all it is, blogs certainly have done nothing to halt the wars. Here, I wrote this great post, now give me money. Great. Just how ineffective can we be? Perhaps the root cause of our apathy is that Americans have it way too good even now to bother with organizing (with notable exceptions of course) or involving themselves in something more real than a keyboard and screen.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Productivity vs. Progress

part 2 is directly below-

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Risk Factor


"When we deal with such serious issues and such (a) large amount of information, we have to accept the risk that it might, but this is balanced by the understanding that such information is also likely to save a great many lives."

--Julian Assange


Arguing that the additional risks to soldiers were a price worth paying, General McChrystal believes that if civilians began to support the Taliban, it would make the war unwinnable.

"In the long run it is more economical in terms of loss of life to operate this way because we can gain the support of the population," he said.

General McChrystal, who took over as commander of Nato's International Security Assistance Force last month, said: "We want to protect the lives of civilians, but I believe that risks we accept now save coalition soldiers in the long run. If you create antipathy in the population, you are going to create more insurgents.


"War is tough and difficult and mistakes are going to be made, and our troops put themselves at risk oftentimes in order to reduce civilian casualties," he said.

--Barack Obama

Regarding Assange I do not claim to know that what he did will cause more deaths or not. However, and this is a big however, I note that Assange now perceiving himself to being in a position of power is already misusing it by dismissing the deaths of human beings as unimportant. Well, let’s ask those people who though dying for the greater good how they feel about dying for the greater good. What? They are already dead? Well, that is a shame, better them than me, er, I mean I’m sure they would be happy to know that they died for a greater good. Obama, McChrystal, Assange, all willing to sacrifice other people’s lives, just not their own, for the greater good of course.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Eden is a place we leave

It seems Israel is always in the news in some fashion, but these two items from earlier this week really got my attention:

1. Harvard divestiture: there are conflicting reports regarding whether or not Harvard has divested its endowment of all Israeli investment. They have sold all their directly held Israeli stocks, but their PR guy says they still hold Israeli stocks indirectly, via funds that hold Israeli stocks. Sounds like divestment to me, and if so it’s a real coup for the global boycott/divestment/sanctions movement. However I wonder if it’s a temporary gesture intended to test the waters for something more formal(Harvard did not actually announce they had divested, but journalists scoured their endowment’s quarterly statement and picked up on it.).

I also wonder if it’s just temporary because it may be meant as a signal from the Ivy community to Israel to not push so much on bombing Iran. I wondered the same thing about BHO saying he was supporting the Islamic center in Manhattan, if it was his way of indirectly telling Israel he’d rather just engage in bellicose rhetoric towards Iran but not actually attack, what with US personnel in Iraq and elsewhere in the region being rendered sitting ducks afterwards. It could also be that Obama would send such a signal because of being troubled by the needless deaths of Iranians, but I doubt this.

Links: Business Insider, Guardian UK, Boston Globe.

2.The flap about Eden Abergil's photos:

Abergil is an ex-IDF soldier who posed in photos with Palestinian prisoners in 2008, yucking it up for the camera with involuntary models who were blind folded and twist-tie handcuffed. She posted the photos on Facebook(!), without restricting their access just to FB friends, although she has since done so. I imagine if this story eventually becomes bigger news in the mainstrean US media that we'll hear pompous op-ed types wringing their hands about whether or not it was "appropriate" to out Abergil.* I note that the Guardian and the BBC both pixilate her face in the images they show, but the un-edited pics are freely available at lots of sites, such as Gawker.


"This shows the mentality of the occupier, to be proud of humiliating Palestinians," Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib told the Associated Press news agency. "The occupation is unjust, immoral and, as these pictures show, corrupting."

AP/Daily Mail:

"These are disgraceful photos," said Capt. Barak Raz, an Israeli military spokesman. "Aside from matters of information security, we are talking about a serious violation of our morals and our ethical code and should this soldier be serving in active duty today, I would imagine that no doubt she would be court-martialed immediately," he told Associated Press Television News.


"Israeli blogger Lisa Goldman contacted the former soldier via Facebook, who replied: "I don't speak to leftists."

*Arguably, the more readily people here decide to interpret this story as simply an issue of whether or not it was right to out Eden, the more likely that the corrupting "mentality of the occupier" applies to the proponent of such a view.

OK, so the title is not a JV original. It comes from an old "Ironside" episode.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Grand Farce

I did a second take when I read the following headline in the New York Times, "Petraeus Opposes a Rapid Pullout in Afghanistan” prattles the Times article title. Since we were told nine years ago that we would only be there for a few months that must mean we have been pulling out for about eight years and six months because I know our government wouldn’t lie to us.

The lies and the “reporting” have long ago reached the level of farce. How could we possibly have a hasty retreat after nine years? Indeed, the Afghan War has reached the level of farce itself. The Washington Post has just reported that the Taliban have moved to the northern region of Afghanistan as the American forces are concentrated in the southern region. The army denies that the Taliban moved north to avoid confrontation which must be true because the army certainly wouldn’t lie to us.

So we continue to play the game where American and NATO troops move into an area and the Taliban correspondingly move to another area so that they might live on to fight another day. This makes clear that due to the size and rugged terrain of Afghanistan there aren’t nearly enough troops to defeat the Taliban. Indeed, it would take a real war with an all-out invasion requiring a concentrated effort of all American resources dedicated to defeating the Taliban to even begin to think about defeating the Taliban. Fortunately for our heroes (and unfortunately for everyone else concerned) they know they don’t have to defeat the Taliban, they know that they cannot defeat the Taliban. Instead we build fortresses to house the troops and sundry attendants while propping up a fake and fraudulent “government” whose “rule” is confined to the city of Kabul. This aspect of the grand farce of course is to gain the gift of legitimacy from our various allies and other bullied victims. Naturally our friends are only too happy to recognize Karzai and his band of bandits as being legitimate in order to make their American masters happy dappy (and to get their share of the loot).

The news keeps reporting that some members of Congress are unhappy with the war and that they don’t feel dappy at all about it. We note that this occurs only in those periods directly preceding Congressional elections and that they continue to fund the wars no matter how much they may weep and curse. Anyone can write “some members of Congress are unhappy about the war,” but what does it mean? It doesn’t mean anything really. It’s just more meaningless words in a meaningless culture in a meaningless world. It sure sounds great though, doesn’t it? I mean, it’s like democracy at work before our very eyes! Look, see the great debate over the Afghan War, it means we have serious and adult leaders who are considering all the important and relevant factors in order to come to a sane decision that will benefit the American public the most. Actually, no it doesn’t, but it’s what they would like you to think.

And so when the midterm elections arrive the American public will vote, some as they always have done and always will do which is vote the party line. Some will react to the economy and blame the Democratic Party. Then in a kneejerk reaction they will vote for the “opposing” party since they are unhappy with the current party. Many won’t pay much attention or even vote, or will vote on local issues only. This is exactly how Obama gained the Oval Office, by banking on ye olde knee jerk reaction and indeed rode it right into shore. Of course he’s hitting a few reefs and oil wells on the way in but nobody is really paying attention to that. The Deep Horizon has been deep sixed down the memory hole and some of the worse aspects of “health care reform” have yet to manifest themselves though they will, probably about four years after Obama leaves office.

Rather than solve problems the elections continue to reinforce the great farce. Elections help to divide the public over superficialities while more important issues are ignored. People are obsessed with their symbols and cling to their symbols even in the face of self-destruction. Our presidents have become symbols themselves. George Bush was the Midwest symbol of a good ol’ boy that made it good ridin’ the range and cutting brush on his Texas ranch. Obama is the symbol for wealthy sophisticated liberal elites who like to think of themselves as better and above the slobbering working classes. Symbols are powerful tools in the right hands and keep us divided over non-issues. I fear the so-called left and right will never be able to work together in order to bring pressure to bear upon our leaders to end the empire. It’s just not going to happen.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

One for the Gibber

Robert Gibbs, White House spokesman, is gibbering about the “left” and their criticism of The Obama (May he flounder on) for not pushing a more progressive agenda whatever progressive is, that is. Progressive, liberal, it’s all gibberish to me. In this modern world names and symbols fuse and fission freely where meanings drift or are forgotten completely. If you tell me you are liberal you have told me nothing because I still would not know what you are as a human being.

The gibbering Gibbs on “those” liberals:

"I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested," Gibbs said. "I mean, it’s crazy."

Ah, so that’s it. If you don’t appreciate The Obama and all the grand and wondrous things he has wrought why you must be just crazy and probably because you are on drugs. And worse still, you are probably a liberal. The connotation is inescapable for you liberals out there. Which is, if you are a lefty liberal The Obama and his administration find you …disgusting.

Then, ol’ “Gibbering” Gibbs tells us that he, and he only, as a duly appointed mouthpiece for the Grand Obamatola, knows what reality is, and then generously lets us know what reality is, or at least, what it isn’t:

The paper described the president's spokesman as "simmering with anger" and "in furious disbelief" over some of Obama's liberal detractors, from whom he has faced regular criticism for not pushing a progressive agenda more authoritatively.

“They will be satisfied when we have Canadian health care and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon," Gibbs retorted. "That’s not reality.”

Oh yoo-hoo, Mr. Gi-ibbs, you seem to have forgotten that that is not really what the left wanted when they were suckered into voting for Obama. Even so, what your charming boss did give Americans was the gift of being sold into slavery to the insurance industry who is laughing all the way to the bank. Also what the left wanted was an end to the Iraq War (even if they have forgotten that themselves) but that isn’t exactly what they are getting now is it? Not with 50,000 combat troops still there, and they are combat troops no matter what ridiculous name you concoct for them, assistant secretaries to the first cause of the fifth order of Round Table Pepperoni Pizza, or whatever, but they are still combat troops. Still more is revealed regarding how liberals are regarded from on high upon mighty Mount Olympus:

One topic of liberal dissent was the administration's handling of health care reform, which the Democratic base was underwhelmed by. Gibbs mocked and dismissed them.

“They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president," he said.

Gibbs clarified that the "professional left" is not representative of the progressives "in America" and outside Washington, who organized and mobilized in favor of Obama.

The tone of Gibbs’ interview signals brewing frustration in the White House over parts of its base as midterm elections approach. It might hearken back to when White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel privately and pointedly described some liberals as "fucking retarded."

Get that part about mocking and dismissal? And do you think that Emanuel is the only member of the Obama administration to feel that way? You know, that you are “fucking retarded”? I’ll bet you five bucks that Obama feels that way as well and not without reason for he certainly snookered the left because Obama isn’t really just like Bush, Obama is worse than Bush. At least with Bush you knew what he was and what he would do, not so with The Obama for many.

Clearly the Democratic Party is worried about the upcoming election. As for myself, I’m not worried a bit. I’ll probably sleep through it anyway. Frankly I cannot see what Gibbs has to be “simmering with anger” over. He and his boss have gotten away with murder, literally. Oh, and you conservative Republicans out there have nothing to feel smug about because the people you support find you to be disgusting morons as well.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Manning: Odd man out

Honest to god, I don’t know why I read the New York Times. If there is such a thing as evil idiocy, and I believe that evil idiocy exists with all my heart, surely its corporeal manifestation is none other than the New York Times. And every time I read the New York Times I find the way they report and their method of propaganda to be so transparent you wonder why they bother for surely any child could see through the New York Times fog, or maybe its smog. Today the New York Times presents us with a tale of Manning’s troubled youth complete with asinine title.

It’s not enough that Bradley Manning’s (You remember Manning, the guy who is accused of giving Wikileaks those “secret” documents) life is over, no, the NYT isn’t satisfied with leaving it at that because it is doing its patriotic duty as sniveling weasels always do ( I dislike patriotism intensely) by defaming Manning in every rotten below the belt cowardly way possible, and then some in order to provide cover for the rotten Obama and the rotten Obama administration and well, the whole rotten federal government. But then that is exactly what I would expect of patriots because the word patriot is short for patently ridiculous idiots or PATently RIdiculous idiOTS if you prefer, or not. Whatever.

The Times portrays Manning as an odd man out, one of those, you know, quiet ones. And you have to always watch out for those quiet ones. The Times reveals the awful tortured truth that Manning -- now hold on to your shorts -- was made fun of for being a geek by his classmates in his youth! Gods! Horrible! Gasp! Oh still my racing heart!!! The brutes, they called him a geek. I can’t believe it, no wonder Manning stole “secrets”, he was getting even with those childhood tormentors. Who needs shrinks when you have the writers of the NYT? But it gets worse yet. It turns out that Manning is gay. And doesn’t that just about explain it all? I mean, gay, c’mon, why that practically makes Manning an Arab terrorist!

Okay, I know we are all shocked by these revelations regarding Bradley Manning, whose mother is a native of Wales we learn from the intrepid NYT, which only shows the geeky and gay Manning is practically a foreigner. But it gets worse still, I hesitate to reproduce the following information and I would request that pregnant women and those with a heart condition to not read the following or please leave the room. It turns out that Manning refused to say the pledge of allegiance. You know, the more I learn about Manning the more I like him. Anyone who refuses to pledge allegiance to a stupid piece of cloth, old glory though it may be, is all right in my book. I refused to pledge allegiance as well, I think you had better watch out, I might be capable of anything, anything. I might even piss on your hubcaps.

And the New York Times drivels on even more but it isn’t worth bothering with, actually none of it was worth bothering with. As I read through the article (while pausing to wipe slime from my eyes) it struck me how much the New York Times reinforces and codifies the worst aspects of American culture with this hilarious send-up of Manning’s oh-so “troubled” youth. I mean, who didn’t have a troubled youth? Oh yeah, the people writing the article, but look how they turned out, automatons for the State. They probably don’t even drool on their pillows. It would never occur to them that perhaps the reason that Manning did what he did was because he felt it was the right thing to do. In all fairness I know the NYT cannot tell right from wrong so we cannot be too hard on them.

I keep wondering just what secrets could there be? What secrets do States hold in their hidden dank and cold hearts? The best potato salad recipe in the whole world? That Richard Nixon wore women’s undies? The real truth about the Loch Ness Monster? What secrets, that’s what I wonder because States don’t have secrets. They like to pretend they know things that they cannot tell you because it might jeopardize national security, which is to say the purpose of pretend secrets is to make you more subservient than you already are (if that is possible), but the only secrets are in the private lives of politicians and frankly, I have no desire to learn them nor would anyone else in their right mind. True there are manufacturing drawings for nuclear bombs and space age weapons (that were tested out in Iraq) but that had nothing to do with the documents that were released. I think the real reason Manning must be punished, and Assange as well, is because they are seen as defying the State. And just like gangsters of yesteryear the State must not appear to be weak thus Manning and Assange must be made examples of.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

7 August 2010

reuters: kids in Chile commemorate the 65th anniversary
of the bombing of Hiroshima.

Tony Judt (2 January 1948 – 6 August 2010)

(from December 2007, here is "The wrecking ball of innovation" his review of Robert Reich's book Supercapitalism. I haven't read Reich's book but I suspect Judt's observations apropos of reviewing it are more interesting than the subject per se.

100m Facebook users' data listed

Details of more than 100 million Facebook users have been harvested and published on the net by a security researcher.

BBC:Pampered pigs 'feel optimistic'

Dr Catherine Douglas describes the technique for determining the pigs' happiness level. Pigs feel optimistic or pessimistic about life depending on how pleasant their environment is, researchers at Newcastle University have found.

what Avedon Carol said recently:

It's time to stop quivering in our boots over the possibility that if we start fighting back for real we will elect someone slightly more right-wing than the current crop of right-wingers leading the Democratic Party. There is no substantive difference between Bush's policies, McCain's stated policies, and the Democratic leadership's actual policies, so you might as well step up and admit that, you know, just because you're on their side doesn't mean they're on your side.*

(The asterix over at the Sideshow resulted in Teresa Nielsen Hayden when you hovered over it, albeit without the hyperlink to Making Light where TNH is a co-blogger with her husband. I gather she's saying she said that first.)

"How CNN went from breaking records to yesterday's news"

the security state at the water park

Adam Serwer, "Oscar Grant, A Victim Of American Fear"

This aged fear is not the only thing preventing justice for Oscar Grant. We live in a time when Americans are also possessed by a fear of terrorism. In the thrall of that fear we've done more than just cede civil liberties; we've come to accept extraordinary government power over life and death in the name of Keeping Us Safe. Instead of believing that people who hold the power of life and death in their hands should be held to the highest standards of conduct, we remember our fear and just feel thankful for their presence. Instead of believing that great power comes with responsibility, we shrug at the collateral damage, because at least it isn't us.

But of course, unlike the distant deaths of Pakistanis on the front of a "secret" war, Oscar Grant is some of us, or at least he's someone we know or care about, someone we'd go out in the street in the dead of night to look for if he wasn't home on time. For others, he's the embodiment of what makes us glance over our shoulder as we fish around in our pockets for the keys to our front door.

What's worse is that we don't just fear; we fear talking about it. Our president tried once. He mentioned the fear his own grandmother felt for men who looked like he does, and we responded with the level of maturity we've come to expect from our political discourse. If you've ever had a relative of another race confess to you that they'd find you frightening if they ran into you in a dark alley, you know what he meant. But we fear what this fear says about us more than we fear letting it go.
America remains in the thrall of this ever-present fear, even in the aftermath of the Mehserle trial, as the media concerns itself not with the verdict or with justice but with the potential for more violence from the black community in Oakland. Fear is always the enemy of justice.


Friday, August 06, 2010

Ceremony without a name

One of the things that doom us is the constant rewriting of history. Today’s New York Times has an article regarding a ceremony held in Japan for the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which it refers to only as “the annual ceremony,” for some odd reason as I’m sure it must have a name. However that may be the article reinforces the false narrative that the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs in order to shorten the war and save both American and Japanese lives. That’s an interesting addition, the Japanese lives saved that is, because mostly what I’ve heard before is that it saved American lives. Both are outrageous lies of course. Japan was seeking surrender as Truman well knew and the reason he used the atomic weapons against Japan was not to end a war that had essentially already ended but to impress the Russians who of course hadn’t yet joined the nuclear club.

Here we see not only the lies but the stupidity of a national leader, Truman. Truman had to believe that the Russians would never be able to make an atomic bomb. Not only was it short sighted but displayed a lack of understanding regarding the history of the weapons race. It was also the act of a brutal murdering monster who felt no remorse for the destruction of hundreds of thousands of human beings since it was the power of the State that was all important. In this case power over Russia. The Cold War that followed was equally destructive.

The article goes on about how the Japanese want Obama to visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima because they believe Obama is truly interested in nuclear disarmament. They believed Obama’s speech about doing so but sadly they do not know who or what Obama is. A common malady here in the States as well. They’ll learn soon enough. It’s an interesting example of our Peace Laureate’s method of operation and of how gullible people are. We see much the same pattern here in the States where Obama comes off as the great savior, or did at first, to many people.

The United States isn’t about to dispose of the black heart of its power, our nuclear weapon stockpile. To believe that we would do so would be to ignore how people and nations pursue power. Once you let the nuclear cat out of the bag you just can’t stuff it back in no matter what you do. What is far more likely to end the nuclear weapons race is that some weapon entirely different and even more destructive will be invented by some demented souls. Nations don’t dispose of weapons until they get better newer ones as a rule. So the New York Times paints us a pretty picture of well meaning national leaders and a “painful” past (smothered in bullshit) reconciled in false hopes and dreams that will never be realized.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A losing proposition

Your heroes aren’t going to save you. After all, they are only too human just like you. What is it about liberals that they just love to lose? I’ll give them this, once they find a losing proposition nobody snaps it up faster than a liberal. So, Wikileaks has changed everything has it? Wikileaks is the perfect example of how liberals love to lose. Look at Assange, you think he isn’t a marked man? I think the CIA is going to make him disappear if they can. How would you describe that as a win? Look at Manning, he’s already in jail, you think he’ll see the light of day any time soon? Wow, I’m really impressed with that, another winning technique! Be sure to mark that down in your notes on how to lose at everything. And by the way, have you noticed how low the bar for ethical behavior has fallen? Both Assange and Manning did something that any sane and normal person should do and people are flabbergasted. It says much less about Assange and Manning than it does the rest of us.

Here’s another thing, we already knew that a war was going on and that it was going poorly, even MacChrystal said as much quite honestly. He also said a lot of other things less honestly but you don’t get to be a general by collecting bottle caps. No, I’m not defending him, he’s a murderer many times over just like many of your liberal heroes, my point is that there was no great secret regarding a losing war. And speaking of the war, the Afghan War, it’s rolling along fine, in fact now that Obama has said we aren’t going to “nation build” in Afghanistan rather we are going to step up dropping love letters on Taliban leaders a lot of civilians are going to die but do liberals care? No, they have their symbolic heroes in the form of Assange and Manning. Admirable though these two may be they can’t even save themselves which is why liberals love them so. Lose, lose, lose, and lose again, that’s the liberal motto.

Good things are happening in Iraq! According to The Obama. We’re pulling out be we aren’t and while contradiction may be the hallmark of the Obama presidency what it means is that we are leaving 50,000 or so combat troops in Iraq who shall continue to pursue combat missions despite being renamed as “advisors.” That’s rich, I mean you gotta laugh. Advisors? But never mind liberals, you have Manning in jail with members of Congress whipping out their dicks and yelling for Manning’s execution and Assange likely running for his life. You’re way ahead liberals, keep it up and someday, way,way, way, way, way, way, way in the future you might lose a little less than you are losing now.

I’m beginning to think liberals can’t walk down a hall without bumping into the walls. What can liberals lose at next? The real and true tragedy is liberals are running out of things to lose so they might be forced to win something by default. Surely the mountains shall tremble and the very earth itself shall be rent asunder and despoiled with noxious fumes.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Shirley Sherrod's crocodile tears

Shirley Sherrod, who is the center of controversy over her racial dismissal from the USDA, the latest “hero” to hit the news media echo chamber, said the following regarding The Obama (another hero, so many heros!):


"I'd like to talk to him about the experiences of people like me, people at the grassroots level, people who live out here in rural America people, who live in the South. I know he does not have that kind of experience."

You know, I’d really love to hear that conversation since Shirley Sherrod doesn’t have the “experience” either. Rather Shirley has a whole different experience. Still, Shirley is an expert on race though not quite in the way most imagine. While you read the following by all means keep in mind what Shirley said in the above quote:


Imagine farm workers doing back breaking labor in the sweltering sun, sprayed with pesticides and paid less than minimum wage. Imagine the United Farm Workers called in to defend these laborers against such exploitation by management. Now imagine that the farm workers are black children and adults and that the managers are Shirley Sherrod, her husband Rev. Charles Sherrod, and a host of others. But it’s no illusion; this is fact.

The swirling controversy over the racist dismissal of Shirley Sherrod from her USDA post has obscured her profoundly oppositional behavior toward black agricultural workers in the 1970s. What most of Mrs. Sherrod’s supporters are not aware of is the elitist and anti-black-labor role that she and fellow managers of New Communities Inc. (NCI) played. These individuals under-paid, mistreated and fired black laborers–many of them less than 16 years of age–in the same fields of southwest Georgia where their ancestors suffered under chattel slavery.


The unfortunate story of Mrs. Annie Hawkins and her family in particular is instructive. Persuaded by NCI that their lot would be improved, the Hawkins family stole away from the Georgia plantation that they had called home. After suffering abuse meted out to them and others at NCI, Mrs. Hawkins sadly stated that, “We stole away from one plantation, but just ended up on another.” For her courageous role in demonstrations against the Sherrods and NCI management, Annie Hawkins and her family were fired and kicked out of the house that they were promised. My last encounter with an ailing Mrs. Hawkins took place several years ago in a nursing home where she resided.

Afghanistan: A new strategy, a new surge

The secret documents released by Wikileaks may have unintended consequences that will be important to the people who will live, or not, with those consequences.

Alexander Cockburn writes the following:


The bitter truth is that wars are not often ended by disclosures of their horrors and futility in the press, with consequent public uproar.

Disclosures from the mid-1950s that the French were torturing Algerians amid the war of independence were numerous. Henri Alleg’s famous 1958 account of his torture, La Question, sold 60,000 copies in a single day. Torture duly became more pervasive, and the war more savage, under the supervision of a nominally Socialist French government.

After Ron Ridenhour and then Seymour Hersh broke the My Lai massacre in 1968 in Vietnam with over 500 men, women and babies methodically, beaten, sexually abused, tortured and then murdered by American GIs, -- a tactless disclosure of “methods” -- there was public revulsion, then an escalation in slaughter. The war ran for another seven years.

It is true, as Noam Chomsky pointed out to me last week, when I asked him for positive examples, that popular protest in the wake of press disclosures “impelled Congress to call off the direct US role in the grotesque bombing of rural Cambodia. Similarly in the late 70s, under popular pressure Congress barred Carter, later Reagan, from direct participation in virtual genocide in the Guatemalan highlands, so the Pentagon had to evade legislation in devious ways and Reagan had to call in terrorist states, primarily Israel, to carry out the massacres.”

Even though New York Times editors edited out the word “indiscriminate” from Thomas Friedman’s news report of Israel’s bombing of Beirut in 1982, tv news footage from Lebanon prompted President Reagan to order Israeli prime minister Begin to stop, and he did. (On one account, which I tend to believe, the late Michael Deaver, was watching live footage of the bombing in his White House office and went into Reagan, saying "This is disgusting and you should stop it.")

It happened again when Peres's forces bombed the UN compound in Qana in 1996, causing much international outrage, and Clinton ordered it ended. There was a repeat once more in 2006, with another bombing of Qana that aroused a lot of international protest. But as Chomsky concludes in his note to me, “I think one will find very few such examples, and almost none in the case of really major war crimes.”

So one can conclude pessimistically that exposure of war crimes, torture and so forth, often leads to intensification of the atrocities, with government and influential newspapers and commentators supervising a kind of hardening process.
"Yes, this - murder, torture, wholesale slaughter of civilians - is indeed what it takes." Even though this pattern is long-standing, it often comes as a great surprise. A friend of mine was at a dinner with the CBS news producers, shortly before they broke the Abu Ghraib tortures. Almost everyone at the table thought that Bush might well be impeached.

Bush should have been impeached for his war crimes as should Obama but that could only happen in an ideal world, one which we certainly do not inhabit. However, we can already see the intensification of the atrocities with what the Times announces as a “rethinking” of the Afghan strategy. The Times tells us that Obama’s first “strategy” is now a failure and that under David Petraeus the military, rather than winning the hearts and minds and “protecting” civilians, will now concentrate on assassinations of Taliban leaders. So is it a coincidence that right after the Wikileaks release of “secret” documents Obama is stepping up the hostility by increasing the bombing and the murders? It almost makes sense in a twisted way. When habitual liars are confronted with the truth most often they start telling more lies. Lies on top of lies. Or more to the point perhaps, the Imperial Masters cannot afford to let Wikileaks challenge their power in any way. What better way to show their aloofness to such paltry challenges to their power than to step up the murderous campaign of violence in Afghanistan? Still, there is little doubt that Obama would have done the same without the leaks. Petraeus is the axe man brought in to “surge” once again and those plans were in place before the Wikileaks latest leak.

By stepping up the assassination program the consequences are guaranteed. More innocent people will die because the assassination program kills civilians almost exclusively. A lot of people like to tell me what to write and what I should think while espousing the virtues of not telling people what to do and think. Rather than put into words my first reaction to this I would say we need to watch out for the do-gooders as much as anyone else because the do-gooders often do more damage than anyone else. History has too many examples of this to be ignored.

Sunday, August 01, 2010


Reuters/US State dept
Rob Payne:
"The idea that Americans, much less people like Obama and Clinton, care about Afghan women is absolutely priceless. And if things aren’t hunky dory in Afghanistan for women it isn’t for anyone else either."

Rob's discussion[here; also here] of a recent NYT item about women in Afghanistan reminded me of some thoughts I had about the death last month of Lebanon's Grand Ayatollah Fadlallah. I heard about the death of Ayatollah Fadlallah's death very indirectly, via an ATR item about CNN firing Octavia Nasr for praising him on Twitter, where she called him one of "Hizbollah's giants." (Just as with McChrystal mouthing off to Rolling Stone earlier this year, I wondered if this was a case of a smart person who wanted to be fired and decided to produce the circumstances that would make it so...). Then I came across Robert Fisk's discussion of Nasr's firing--

Well, he wasn't Hizbollah's man, but no matter. He was definitely a giant. A man of immense learning and jurisprudence, a believer in women's rights, a hater of "honour crimes", a critic of the theocratic system of government in Iran, a ... Well, I'd better be careful because I might get a phone call from Parisa Khosravi, who goes by the title of CNN's "senior vice president" – what these boss types do or what they get paid for their gutless decisions I have no idea – who said this week that she had "had a conversation" with Nasr (who'd been with the company for 20 years) and "we have decided that she will be leaving the company".

Oh deary, deary. Poor old CNN goes on getting more cowardly by the hour. That's why no one cares about it any more. That can't be said about Fadlallah. The Americans put it about that he had blessed the suicide bomber who struck the US marine base in Beirut in 1983, killing 241 service personnel. Fadlallah always denied this to me and I believe him. Suicide bombers, however insane we regard them, don't need to be blessed; they think they are doing God's duty without any help from a marja like Fadlallah. But anyway, Washington used Saudi money to arrange a car bombing to assassinate Fadlallah in 1985. It missed Fadlallah. But it killed more than 80 innocent people. I do wonder what Ms Khosravi would have thought of that. No comment, I guess.
In those days, we journos called Fadlallah Hizbollah's "spiritual mentor", though that wasn't true. He did support the Lebanese resistance during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and he was a fierce opponent of US policy in the region – like almost everyone else in the world, including the US, it seems – and he demanded an end of Shia blood-shedding ceremonies at Ashura (when Shias mourn the killing of the Prophet's grandson).

As an Arab-American and more specifically an Iraqi-American, the Ashura rites have always troubled me. During the Ba'athist era the Ashura ceremonies were forbidden by Saddam, but after the US invasion some Shi'ite men (and adolescent boys) have started it up again, whipping themselves till their backs bleed in honor of the Shi'a martyr Ali. Of course Saddam banned the Ashura ceremony for political reasons, seeing it as a rallying point for Shi'a malcontents who opposed Ba'athist rule. But Fadlallah was Shi'a, and wanted to end a savage and unnecessary practice. He also issued fatwas condemning honor killings and female circumcision, and condemned the 9-11 attacks.

American TV journalists and op-ed types frequently lament the lack of a so-called Muslim Gandhi, a rhetorical game that's designed to glide past the need to discuss any actual moderating influences within Islam. The rub of course is that Fadlallah was not consistently against violence. At one point he praised suicide bombings, which I wish he hadn't, although by 2006 he had backed away from such rhetoric when he condemned the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers.

All the same, Fadlallah doesn't have to be a Gandhi for the point about Fadlallah's positive aspects to be worth communicating to regular American TV viewers and readers. To be fair the Yahoo/AP article linked below does touch upon these; even the Fox News online obit does. But I imagine that the next time a TV talking head wants to bemoan the lack of moderate figures in Islam they wont remember him. You'd think they could at least call him a "problematic figure" while acknowledging the existence of those kinds of views. I guess I'm tilting at a straw man, at least at this point, since I haven't seen such an op-ed since he died in early July. We'll see.

Incidentally, an international treaty banning the use of cluster bombs went into effect today, August 1st, 2010. Most of the European countries, including the UK, signed on, as did Japan, Australia, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq- but not the US.

Fadlallah obits: Yahoo/AP, Fox News, Reuters, BBC

Labels: , , , ,