Thursday, August 17, 2006

and the Oscar for "Best Craven Sanctimony" goes to... 

Meanwhile in Hollywood... uncommon valor is a common virtue:

Nicole Kidman has made a public stand against terrorism.

The actress, joined by 84 other high-profile Hollywood stars, directors, studio bosses and media moguls, has taken out a powerfully-worded full page advertisement in today's Los Angeles Times newspaper.

It specifically targets "terrorist organisations" such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine.

"We the undersigned are pained and devastated by the civilian casualties in Israel and Lebanon caused by terrorist actions initiated by terrorist organisations such as Hezbollah and Hamas," the ad reads.

"If we do not succeed in stopping terrorism around the world, chaos will rule and innocent people will continue to die.

"We need to support democratic societies and stop terrorism at all costs."

A who's who of Hollywood heavyweights joined Kidman on the ad.

The actors listed included: Michael Douglas, Dennis Hopper, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Danny De Vito, Don Johnson, James Woods, Kelly Preston, Patricia Heaton and William Hurt.

Directors Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Michael Mann, Dick Donner and Sam Raimi also signed their names.

Other Hollywood powerplayers supporting the ad included Sumner Redstone, the chairman and majority owner of Paramount Pictures, and billionaire mogul, Haim Saban.

Ah..."we must stop terrorism at all costs." All costs? Really?

Let's see...

The per capita income is $4800 in Lebanon. $3700 in Occupied Palestine.

Combined, Saban and Redstone alone are worth roughly $11 billion, half of yearly GDP in Lebanon.

The entire Palestinian GDP is roughly equivalent to Saban's estimated worth, $2.5 billion.

The company Redstone owns, Viacom, clocks in at about $9.9 billion in yearly revenues, almost five times the GDP of Palestine.

That's just two of the 84 signatories to this bit of 2D excrement.

Kidman herself is worth $150 million, forty thousand times what the average Palestinian makes in a year, 553 times the money an average Palestinian will see pass through his hands in his entire lifetime.

So not quite all costs. The cost of a full-page ad in the LA Times should be a sufficient sacrifice to stop terrorism.

Maybe I'm being unfair though by not taking into account the opportunity costs involved. After all, these 84 heroes will surely be blacklisted from the multi-thousand dollar Terrorist Entertainment Empire for the rest of their lives!

Godspeed on your journey through the wilderness, brave ones!

Judge sentences American children to fiery death at hands of Qaeda-types 


A federal judge ruled Thursday that the government's warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered an immediate halt to it.

Greenwald's got the post-game.

Get ready for Civil War #2 

Sorry for another post on this, but maybe you'd like a heads-up about what's coming next.

International forces and the Lebanese army are going to South Lebanon. 10.6 billion U.S. bucks are going to Lebanese forces to train them and arm them and help them "resist" Hizballah.

Meanwhile, Italian TV and then worldwide TV are showing a general in the Lebanese Army having tea, laughing, and joking with an Israeli commander in one of the Lebanese border towns a couple of weeks ago, when the town was briefly under Israeli occupation.

So: Hizballah, the force that led the successful resistance to a criminal invasion--which, as the details of its incompetent planning and execution make clear, was undertaken with the blitheness and ignorance and barbarism of men who do not know or care about the complexities of the government of human beings or the preservation of their safety--the force, the only force, that successfully resisted this wanton invasion, undertaken unthinkingly for purposes of infantile self-aggrandizement in Israel and the U.S., this force is expected to turn over its weapons to an army that has always been known, and has now been shown on worldwide TV, to support and facilitate the crimes of Lebanon's mortal enemy.

Do you think Hizballah will give up its weapons? Do you think it should give up its weapons?

Note: many Lebanese did not support Hizballah, an authoritarian fundamentalist organization, before this war. And most now do not want a Hizballah government. But all polls, all interviews, all statements by sectarian leaders indicate that Lebanese of all sects--Shi'ite, Sunni, Christian, Druze--overwhelmingly supported Hizballah's resistance of the U.S./Israeli invasion. This is only to be expected.

(And, I would add, the Hizballah "victory" did save lives: imagine the orgy of demented violence Bush, Olmert, Cheney, Cunt-o-leena, et al., would be planning if this war had proceeded according to "plan.")

Hizballah will not give their weapons to the Lebanese Army. Nor will anyone in Lebanon--including the many who hate and fear Hizballah--want them to give up their weapons.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Integrity Test 

Lifted in its entirety, and without apology, from the Smirking Loon:

This test only has one question, but it's a very important one. Please don't answer it without giving it some serious thought. By giving an honest answer you will be able to test where you stand morally.

The test features an unlikely, completely fictional situation, where you will have to make a decision one way or the other. Remember that your answer needs to be honest, yet spontaneous.

Please scroll down slowly and consider each line - this is important for the test to work accurately.

You're in Florida... In Miami, to be exact... There is great chaos going on around you, caused by a hurricane and severe floods... There are huge masses of water all over you... You are a CNN photographer and you are in the middle of this great disaster. The situation is nearly hopeless.

You're trying to shoot very impressive photos. There are houses and people floating around you, disappearing into the water. Nature is showing all its destroying power and is ripping everything away with it.

Suddenly you see a man in the water, he is fighting for his life, trying not to be taken away by the masses of water and mud. You move closer. Somehow the man looks familiar.

Suddenly you know who it is - it's George W. Bush!

At the same time you notice that the raging waters are about to take him away... forever. You have two options. You can save him or you can take the best photo of your life. So you can save the life of George W. Bush, or you can shoot a Pulitzer prize winning photo. A unique photo displaying the death of one of the world's most powerful men.

And here's the question (please give an honest answer)

Would you select color film, or go with the simplicity of classic black and white?

Use sparingly at office watercooler when necessary.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Lebanese see, think, speak 

Contrary to the assumptions of Washington and Tel Aviv, the thoughts of people who have survived massive aerial bombardment tend to be braced and sharpened:

“Bush did this,” said Majid Kubaisy, standing in the broken glass and rubble of his sportswear shop in a largely Shiite area of southern Beirut. Residents returned to a desolate landscape of ruined apartment buildings cascading dust and the smell of explosives.

Like many of the people who were finding their way back to their old neighborhoods, Mr. Kubaisy blamed the United States as much as Israel for the destruction, saying the conflict had only redoubled his allegiance to Hezbollah.

“If Nasrallah will raise his hand, everyone will follow,” he said. “This time we defended our land, next time we will take the offensive.”

In Sanayah Gardens, a nicely groomed park in an upscale Sunni neighborhood of West Beirut, the 7,000 mostly Shiite refugees who had set up a tent city began to leave for home. The tents that had crowded the garden were taken down, and people were piling mattresses and cooking gear in their cars to leave. Young, Western-educated volunteers brandishing clipboards moved about efficiently Monday as a truck unloaded Red Crescent boxes of aid from Kuwait.

“Why does your government give bombs and intelligence to Israel?’’ asked Rahih al-Tiwwi, one of the volunteers.

Nearby, a family in a packed minivan was loading up with foam-rubber mattresses. The front of the van was decorated with a portrait of Sheik Nasrallah and a bumper sticker that depicted a rocket with the slogan “the divine victory.”

The volunteers who ran the park refuge were an ad hoc group that spanned Lebanon’s religious divisions. Asked for his religion, normally an important aspect of identity here, one of the volunteers, Saarjaoen Vautter, snapped, “I am Lebanese.”

“And damn for this question,” he added. “No offense.”

teh funny 

Moneyquote: "That's the beauty of propaganda: it has no internal logic or integrity to violate."

Billmon concurs:

The bottom line, which even the odd member of the punditburo might eventually get to, is that this is an administration that no longer makes any sense at all -- not even on the most formal, semiotic level. Shrub's speechwriters are literally babbling now, a relentless on-message babbling that shows just how ill suited the tools of domestic politics are for conducting a half-way serious foreign policy, much less an extremely serious war.

Also, notice the screens behind Stewart at the end of the bit. Perfection.

Halutz: an American-style "hero" 

Halutz resignation inevitable, says Ha'aretz, after revelation of "ethics violation."

Ethics. E-thics. Eh-thix. Eeeee-thicks. A-thux. Ent-fix. E-fic. Eh. Eh. Eeeeee. Zzzz.


Senior sources in the Israel Defense Forces General Staff and field officers who took part in the war in Lebanon said on Tuesday that Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, who went to his bank branch and sold an NIS 120,000 investment portfolio only three hours after two soldiers were abducted by Hezbollah on the northern border, cannot escape resignation.

The sources say there is a clear ethical flaw in the chief of staff's behavior during the hours when soldiers were killed in Lebanon and others were attempting to rescue wounded. Halutz should resign the moment the military completes its pullout from south Lebanon, they said.

Read more.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Liberal morality equals death 

What is liberalism? It is the political theory that holds that the basic political unit is the sovereign individual--whether an individual person or an individual collective (an individual collective being a sovereign state, controlled absolutely by a government and having an absolute unity of interest among its unified citizens).

Liberalism conceives of this individual unit, at whatever level, as existing in a state of permanent competition/violence with other individuals. This competition, the natural state of relationship between individuals, can be controlled only by law: the law of contract. Contract regulates competition between individuals. Contract is also the basis of collectivity--individuals give up their sovereign rights (to aggrandize themselves) to a state that protects them from other self-aggrandizing individuals. And at the international level, law mediates the relations between sovereign states.

Now, liberalism is the basis of the world political system, and it is no worse than many other political systems. One cannot "oppose" liberalism. But unfortunately, liberals like Michael Walzer and John Rawls confuse liberalism as a necessary mode of political organization with an ontological account of the nature of reality itself. Thus it is assumed that human beings, as such, are first and foremost "individuals" in a state of life-and-death competition; that violence is the default relationship between individuals; that love--as the miraculous power of humans to see and even to enjoy the presence of the other as other--cannot be described and has no place in systematic accounts of morality.

These assumptions--based on a confusion of the pragmatics of political organization with the nature of humanity and moral life--lead in turn to the obscenity of "liberal intellectuals" speaking as if the state itself, the sovereign protector of sovereign individuals--is itself the sole arbiter of morality. Any morality that does not comport with the exigencies of state power is effaced from the consciense of such "intellectuals."

A prime example is a recent open letter from Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, and David Grossman, three darlings of the Israeli intelligentsia, celebrated relentlessly in the New York Times and other organs of the American liberal establishment. These three good men have seen fit, after a month of uncritically supporting Ehud Olmert and Dan Halutz, to publish a letter in Ha'aretz calling for an end to "hostilities."

As the historian Tom Segev notes (also in Ha'aretz, where the debate is infinitely more diverse and intelligent than in the Times):

The three writers worded their ad as though they were working in the legal department of the Foreign Ministry: The aggression of Hezbollah "was carried out inside Israeli territory," they emphasized; Israel's reaction "was in accordance with international legitimization of self-defense in the face of the aggression of an enemy country." Also, the Lebanese casualties were addressed as a legal entity - as "many citizens of the enemy country" - and not as human beings, first and foremost.

As befits a self-respecting government, the three recognize only Lebanon, not Hezbollah. Hezbollah operates "under the aegis of the Lebanese authorities," they wrote, stating: "The Lebanese people has no right to demand that its sovereignty be recognized if it refuses to take full responsibility for all its citizens and all its territory."

It is not clear how the trio discovered that someone had asked the "Lebanese people" whether it wanted to "take full responsibility" for Hezbollah and when exactly it "refused" to do so...

This is the logic of the liberal pseudo-morality of the state. The state has not only the right but the obligation to defend its citizens against any and all violence. It must fulfill this obligation by any means necessary, including but most certainly not limited to indiscriminate bombing of civilians; displacement of one million people; bombing of fleeing columns of refugees; the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of square miles of foreign territory; the transformation of this territory into a cratered and smoking free-fire zone.

Committing these crimes is the duty of the state to its citizens. And what about the victims? First and foremost--the state is not obliged to protect them, as they are not its citzens.

But second and more horrifyingly--these victims appear to have surrendered any and all "human rights" (that dispensable trinket adorning the machine of state power)--they have surrendered all rights, they have surrendered their very humanity, because their "state" has attacked Israel. They are not people but individual units of the enemy state.

And it does not matter that Lebanon has no control over Hizballah, that it never has and that everyone knows it, that the people of northern Lebanon actually strongly disliked Hizballah (until this war, when they began to see the Party as their sole defender). Legally speaking, the residents of Lebanon are all citizens of this state, which makes them all equally guilty of whatever comes from within its borders.

Of course, this whole way of talking is a charade, dissimulating the real logic of state power: Lebanon is not really a state; it cannot control its sovereign territory, and so the residents of this territory find themselves in a legal no-man's land. Quite literally--they are not "men" (or "women") with "rights" but part of a state-less area that needs to be "cleaned up" by being incorporated into a zone controlled by a more effectively sovereign state.

The IDF has been spewing this obscenity since the start of the war, and here we see that its liberal supporters also speak the language of militaristic state power, as a way of disavowing the reality of what their state has done. We were told by Olmert that the Hizballah attack came from Lebanon, a sovereign state, and that the state would have to be held accountable. And this is what we are told today about the new "cease-fire": Olmert says that all violations will be laid at the door of the state of Lebanon. Which he knows is not sovereign, does not really exist, has never existed. Which will only make more urgent the inevitable future necessity of Israeli "discipline" in the area.

And perhaps now we can see how this logic applies even more cruelly in the case of the Palestinians. Israel must--by the exigencies the of law and "morality"--stop the terrorists; conversely, any violence emanating from the unconstituted vortices of the territories cannot be legitimate; it can only be terrorism. Thus the U.S. "State" Department says that acts of violence committed against occupying Israeli soldiers in the West Bank are formally classifiable as "terrorism," that they are as terroristic as a suicide-bombing in Tel Aviv. Because the perpetrators are "non-state actors."

That the U.S. "State" Department and the IDF would apply this obscene bureacratic chop-logic is not, perhaps, suprising. Is it surprising that the guardians of enlightened "morality" in Israel and the U.S. speak the same way?

Update: today Consortiumnews issues a report, in line with Hersh's New Yorker piece, suggesting that at a May 23 meeting, Bush and Olmert planned a process of gradual escalation in Gaza and Lebanon designed to give Israel a pretext for an invasion of Lebanon. Bush even urged Olmert to invade Syria, as was reported late last month in the Jerusalem Post. The Israelis, apparently suffering from severe stupidity but still remaining on this side of a psychotic break, dismissed the "invade Syria" idea as "nuts," but thought that the Lebanon proposal was spot-on. Now, amid the calls for Olmert's resignation, military types are blaming Bush for egging Olmert into this catastrophe.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

i think i just threw up in my mouth 

Some are apparently not content with just having a mere vile disgrace of a penal system that makes the phrase "free country" a corpse in the mouth of everyone that utters it:

An influential federal panel of medical advisers has recommended that the government loosen regulations that severely limit the testing of pharmaceuticals on prison inmates, a practice that was all but stopped three decades ago after revelations of abuse.

The proposed change includes provisions intended to prevent problems that plagued earlier programs. Nevertheless, it has dredged up a painful history of medical mistreatment and incited debate among prison rights advocates and researchers about whether prisoners can truly make uncoerced decisions, given the environment they live in.

Supporters of such programs cite the possibility of benefit to prison populations,and the potential for contributing to the greater good.

Until the early 1970’s, about 90 percent of all pharmaceutical products were tested on prison inmates, federal officials say. But such research diminished sharply in 1974 after revelations of abuse at prisons like Holmesburg here, where inmates were paid hundreds of dollars a month to test items as varied as dandruff treatments and dioxin, and where they were exposed to radioactive, hallucinogenic and carcinogenic chemicals.

In addition to addressing the abuses at Holmesburg, the regulations were a reaction to revelations in 1972 surrounding what the government called the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male, which was begun in the 1930’s and lasted 40 years. In it, several hundred mostly illiterate men with syphilis in rural Alabama were left untreated, even after a cure was discovered, so that researchers could study the disease.


The discussion comes as the biomedical industry is facing a shortage of testing subjects. In the last two years, several pain medications, including Vioxx and Bextra, have been pulled off the market because early testing did not include large enough numbers of patients to catch dangerous problems.

What really offends my sensibilities is the shortsightedness and inefficiency of the whole idea. If the pharmaceutical companies could just cool their jets for a year until Homeland Security gets all those shiny new detention centers built, then they're not going to have to shell out good capital for all this R & D. Don't they get it? You don't have to pay illegals because they don't have any rights!

A steady hand on the rudder with the patience to get through the next four quarters and they could probably cut their overhead by 50%! 50%!! The shit doesn't grow on trees people!

But no, all these young bucks who can't see the forest for the trees are screwing it up yet again. God I miss the good old days when an shrewd executive could calculate some rational self-interest on behalf of the shareholders before reaching over to hit the snooze button.

These new economy spendthrifts will be the death of us. Has it really come to this, America?


Does this count as a 'but for' too?

Citing an unnamed Middle East expert with knowledge of the current thinking of the Israeli and US governments, Israel had devised a plan for attacking Hezbollah - and shared it with Bush administration officials - well before the July 12 kidnappings.


Citing a US government consultant with close ties to Israel, Hersh also reports that earlier this summer, before the Hezbollah kidnappings, several Israeli officials visited Washington "to get a green light" for a bombing operation following a Hezbollah provocation, and "to find out how much the United States would bear".

So, like: but for the advance planning, the green light from Washington, and Hezbollah predictably providing the pretext, Israel would not be doing what its doing.

Ned Lamont and the neoconservative nightmare 

Clearly Ned Lamont's victory is something good--though the question is how big a thing and how good? Clearly Ned Lamont is a good guy and a better Democrat than Joe Lieberman or the rest of the members of the Democratic Establishment Suicide Machine (DESM). I was hoping that these things could be taken for granted.

My post was an expression of my frustration with the fact that much of the left blogosphere has been focused on Lamont's race as if that, and not the U.S./Israeli War on Lebanon, were the biggest issue of the day. This has bothered me so much that I haven't had the stomach even to read Atrios and Jane Hamsher anymore.

Everyone here seems to think that in attacking Ned Lamont--in a petulant and silly and hopefully symbolic way--I was letting my own obsession with the Israel question prevent me from seeing and acknowledging a relatively simple good thing that a lot of people have been working hard to make happen. And I do apologize to any readers who actually have worked hard to help Lamont win. I'm grateful for your effort, and I'm glad you made it happen.

But I really do see the Lebanon War as being so terrible as to overshadow the significance of Lamont's win. And I also think that the Democratic support for Israel (Lamont's unstinting support included) is not just wrong, but part of the still ongoing failure of the Democrats to oppose the Bush administration. That is my bottom line here. I'm not trying to insist that everyone care about my own preoccupations. I'm trying to say that the Lebanon War cannot be separated from the Iraq War, from the neocon ascendancy, from rising fascism and Christian nationalism in the U.S.A.

As I emphasized in a comment at the end of the thread on the Galloway post below, I find it impossible to look clearly at the devastation being wrought in Lebanon and then to assert that this war is really about Hizballah. Heymann Bredt himself admitted that this war seems disastrously disproportionate or misdirected insofar as it is against Hezbollah. He also said that perhaps the IDF has some strategy or set of targets that we don't understand.

Rather than speculate, I will take things at face value. Israel is destroying the civil infrastructure of Lebanon, killing thousands, and setting the stage for total chaos within Lebanon for years to come. I believe, then, that this is what Israel is trying to do.

The leader of this operation, General Dan Halutz, said at the start of the war that he wanted to "turn the clock back on Lebanon 20 years." He said this. It's not a rumor. He said it at a press conference. What does this mean? It means, beyond any doubt, that the purpose of the war is to reduce Lebanon to the state it was in 20 years ago. Does it not mean this? And what was happening in Lebanon 20 years ago? Full scale civil war between Sunni, Shi'a, and Christians.

The Christians--a neo-fascist militia called the Phalange--were supported by Israel, and their leader was installed in Beirut by the Israelis, before he was killed. Ariel Sharon, the architect of that first Lebanon war, told his old IDF comrade and fellow 1948 veteran Uri Avnery that the purpose of that war was to foment chaos and then to install a Christian dictator in Beirut. Of course, the publicly avowed purpose was to protect the Galilee from PLO rockets--but it is a matter of widely reported historical record that there were no PLO rockets fired from Lebanon for 11 months before the launching of "Operation Peace in Galilee."

Now we have General Dan Halutz saying that he intends to turn the clock back 20 years in Lebanon. Does that mean routing out Hizballah and exacting a few civilian casualties as unfortunate but necessary instances of "collateral damage"? Or does that mean just what it appears to mean--a meaning which corresponds very well to what Israel is actually and manifestly doing?

Why would Israel want to foment chaos in Lebanon? I don't know. It is a question I've been asking repeatedly. But I do know that IDF representatives have been sharing their plans for this war with American generals for the last year. I know tht this war has been undertaken with American approval and, more, encouragment. And in the early days of the war, when it first became clear that Hizballah wasn't going away, it was the Americans who made sure the war continued by refusing to provide the Israelis with any way out. In those days, there were numerous interviews with IDF people who said that it was clear that the Americans were more in favor of the war than the Israelis themselves. And note something else: the war in Iraq has created chaos in Iraq. To create chaos in Lebanon would be to realize further the neocon vision of "creative destruction" (or, to use Cunt-o-leena's phrase, "birth pangs") in the Middle East.

As Daniel Levy, an Israeli negotiator at Oslo, writes in this important piece from Haaretz, there is a group of radical Americans and Israelis, Jewish and Christian, who have gotten the President's ear and are bringing about an unprecedented fusion of U.S. and Israeli foreign policies. They were responsible for Iraq, and they are responsible for whatever it is that is going on Lebanon.

These people are the enemies of humanity. They are the true masters of Lieberman, whose defeat I would like to celebrate. And yet Lamont, the vanquisher of Lieberman, along with every single Democrat, has leapt to support this new phase of the neoconservative nightmare. We may wish that Lebanon could be separated from Iraq, that the Democrats could oppose Bush and fascism without opposing Israel, that a reckoning isn't at hand. But I think that that wish is only a wish--a fantasy. The War in Lebanon is it, it is the next step, it is the Bush junta once again seizing the initiative and changing the rules of the game. It is where and how the global catastrophe will continue to unfold.

New Post 

Whew! So...stuff going on out there? How's the stock in British sports drinks doing?


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