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Hamas presents its “price tag”

By: David Seaton Friday August 1, 2014 1:52 am

 

The US has said the shelling of a UN shelter in Gaza is “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible”. In its strongest criticism yet of Israel’s offensive in the Palestinian territory, the US – Israel’s closest ally – also said the civilian casualties were “too high”. It urged Israel to do more to protect civilian life. BBC News

The European Union on Thursday condemned the shelling of a United Nations school and crowded Gaza market the previous day, urging an immediate probe into the “unacceptable” deaths of civilians. “It is unacceptable that innocent displaced civilians, who were taking shelter in designated UN areas after being called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes, have been killed,” the EU’s diplomatic service said in a statement. Agence France-Presse

I’m no fan of Hamas, quite the contrary. But Israel’s attempt to put all the blame on Hamas is outrageous. The international community will soon judge this war’s atrocities. Hamas may be reprimanded, deservedly, but Israel will be condemned and ostracized far more. And then Israelis will say, ‘It’s Hamas’ fault. And the world will laugh. Haaretz

AIPAC rules. It’s the Jewish community’s National Rifle Association, which also uses its clout against children. To be fair, it is not the Jewish community that AIPAC represents but the organized Jewish community, a small minority of Jews. I still believe that most American Jews, always progressive and humanitarian, have not abandoned 3000 years of Jewish history and tradition to support this barbarism. M. J. Rosenberg

The story here is not the condemnations themselves, but how long they took in coming and how little space they initially receive in the American media and how that was organized… That is the real story of the Gaza “war” (massacre).

I am about to turn 70, and when I was a boy Jewish people were, for me, Albert Einstein, Arthur Rubinstein, Sandy Koufax and Sid Caesar… Today, I’m sorry to say, they are: Binyamin Netanyahu, AIPAC and Sheldon Adelson… way to go Israel, Mazel tov.

Cross posted from: http://seaton-newslinks.blogspot.com

 

My Gaza rant (part two)

By: David Seaton Saturday July 26, 2014 3:43 am
Gaza
photo mmansour

To whom it may concern:

“Oppressed beneath the weight of their own corruption and of military violence, they for a long while preserved the sentiments, or at least the ideas of their free-born ancestors” Edward Gibbon – “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”

Relevant quotes:

“There is no more Palestine. Finished . . .” Moshe Dayan As quoted in TIME Magazine (30 July 1973)

“We don’t have a solution, and you will continue living like dogs, and whoever wants will go, and will see how this procedure will work out.” Moshe Dayan speaking of the Palestinians, in Mehiro shel Ihud (Revivim, 1985) by Yossi Beilin, p. 42

“Um-Shmum” David Ben Gurion

Cross posted from: http://seaton-newslinks.blogspot.com

My Gaza Rant

By: David Seaton Thursday July 24, 2014 10:39 am

Dov Lior, the rabbi of the settlement of Kiryat Arba, has issued a religious ruling permitting the total destruction of Gaza if Israel’s military leaders deem it necessary. Lior is considered one of the more extreme rabbis on the religious right. In his ruling, he wrote (…) “The defense minister may even order the destruction of Gaza so that the south should no longer suffer, and to prevent harm to members of our people who have long been suffering from the enemies surrounding us,” he wrote. Haaretz

A statement like the above in the mouth of say, Harry Truman, would have been rather normal during World War II; the days of Hiroshima and the fire bombing of Dresden and might even make sense in today’s Israel… that is if Israel were in any danger of being overrun and destroyed by her many enemies… but that is far, far, from the case.

Leaving moral reservation’s aside, Israel’s reaction is purely hysterical and enormously counterproductive to their interests, both long and short term.

This hysteria is what frightens me most.

One of the things that worries me most is that, having the Iron Dome anti-rocket system that destroys over 90% of incoming missiles the Israelis don’t have the sense to hunker down and sweat it out till the blockaded Hamas runs out of rockets, just using drones etc to keep the Hamas fighters off balance…

Because with their monumental lack of sangfroid they have allowed Hamas to sucker them into a street by street, house by house, toe to toe, man to man, infantry battle, where all their technological advantages are neutralized. The Palestinian’s secret weapon, their greatest war resource in the long run is their birthrate and their willingness to die for their cause. They are using these strategic advantages now.

Although the ratio of casualties is around ten to one the IDF is taking what by hysterical, Israeli standards are very heavy casualties and what is much more important in the long run, they are getting the sort of worldwide “baby killer” reputation that did so much damage to America’s prestige and influence during the war in Vietnam… And Israel is far from being as unsinkable as the USA… and perhaps more important… the mechanisms by which the tail wags the dog in Israel’s relationship with America are getting creakingly obvious to even the dullest American wits.

 Cross posted from: http://seaton-newslinks.blogspot.com

Lady Thatcher’s Koan

By: David Seaton Sunday July 13, 2014 10:24 am

In almost any question, no matter how complex, there is an axis, hinge, fulcrum, upon and around which the entire question revolves. Discovering that point is often produced after concentrated immersion in the problem in all its facets, but the discovery itself is experienced as an intuitive flash…. what Zen Buddhists call “satori“. In their discipline they make use of riddles called “Koans” to trigger such insights.

Koan:  a paradox to be meditated upon that is used to train Zen Buddhist monks to abandon ultimate dependence on reason and to force them into gaining sudden intuitive enlightenment. Merriam-Webster

Here is a sample koan:

A monk asked Zhàozhōu, “Does a dog have Buddha nature or not?” Zhaozhou said, “Wú”.

Margaret Thatcher, of all people, once delivered herself of a koan, which, in my opinion,  if meditated upon sufficiently, explains much of what we are living through today with the triumphant “Conservative Revolution” that she and Reagan led and also gives valuable insights in how to resist and perhaps even reverse that revolution.

Here is Maggie’s koan

“Who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families.” Margaret Thatcher – 1987

In my view, this “koan” encloses all the contradictions and even the agenda of the Thatcher/Reagan,  Conservative Revolution, the political, social and economic wasteland that we inhabit today.

Let’s get into our lotus position and have a closer look at this thing, let us in the words of the immortal Spike Milligan, “scrutinize it with an intense scrute“.

First question, “who is society”?

a. The totality of social relationships among humans.
b. A group of humans broadly distinguished from other groups by mutual interests, participation in characteristic relationships, shared institutions, and a common culture.
c. The institutions and culture of a distinct self-perpetuating group. The Free Dictionary

In other words: anyone who actively participates in the affairs of a community within the larger community, be it a church, mosque or temple, or someone who canvases for a political party or a charity… or simply anyone who takes the trouble to pick up a piece of litter, that he/she didn’t drop on the sidewalk and walks over to a public wastebasket and throws it away. That is society… Maggie said it doesn’t exist… If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Who are the “individual men and women” that Lady Thatcher mentions?

Knowing her a little, I would think that she was referring to what I would now call “Piketty individuals”, one-percenters like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or the Koch brothers, people whose activities are constrained by little more than the laws of physics… I think Lady Thatcher would prefer that other, lesser, “individuals” be of  the “Bowling Alone” variety; sitting by themselves on their soft sofas in a dark living room watching endless TV series, while eating popcorn and guzzling super-size, sugary drinks.

And the families?

Again, knowing her, I imagine that she was thinking of “Piketty” families:

The book argues that the world today is returning towards “patrimonial capitalism”, in which much of the economy is dominated by inherited wealth: Their power is increasing, creating an oligarchy. Piketty cites novels by Honoré de Balzac, Jane Austen and Henry James to describe the rigid class structure based on accumulated capital that existed in England and France in the early 1800s. Wikipedia

I certainly don’t imagine she was thinking about couples with a high school education both working 60 hour weeks, weekends included, at minimum wages, whose children are being raised by a TV set, going to sub-standard, tax-starved public schools and without medical care.

And strangely enough, this is where the sado-libertarian ideology that Thatcher-Reagan represent has exposed a vulnerable flank in its defenses… religious conservatives… yes the, “every sperm is sacred“, crowd. The new Pope has said that our economic system is “inhuman”, more anti-Thatcher than that is hard to imagine.

Respect for the person means not only guaranteeing their political and civil rights, the pope said, but also “offering each person the possibility of having effective access to the essential means of sustenance: food, water, shelter, health care, education and the possibility of forming and supporting a family.”(…) “There cannot be true peace and harmony if we do not work for a society that is more just and marked by solidarity, if we don’t overcome selfishness, individualism and special interests at every level,” he said. Catholic News Service

Maggie would turn in her grave reading the above.

With that in mind, the Christian pro-life movement should be pressed to define what sort of society would be “human” enough to allow families to bring endless children into it and more importantly, how such a society could be achieved.

Progressives should hold Christians’ feet to the fire on this question. “OK, agreed, so no more abortion, so no more contraceptives, then where is the tax money coming from to pay for the nurseries, the schools, the universities, the hospitals, etc for all these humans?” “Can a system organized like ours do all this and if not, how could it be organized to be ‘human’ or are you OK with a system that the Pope defines as inhuman?” The Ayn Rand crowd couldn’t care less about this, but certainly any person raised in the Abrahamic traditions would be discomfited by these questions.

In my opinion this is the “sound of one hand clapping” moment for progressives.

The Israelis are playing with fire…

By: David Seaton Sunday July 6, 2014 7:35 am

Nick Cook, 36, of Grand Ledge did two tours in Iraq and, as an Army troop commander, lost five soldiers. “For me, it’s very upsetting,” he said, “I watch what’s happening there. My first six months, it was very intense fighting in Baghdad, but then there was prosperity and good news. And to see that now on the verge of collapse, and knowing I lost five soldiers, it’s very hard. These kids may have died in vain.” (…) It also was a costly war financially for the U.S. The war will eventually cost U.S. taxpayers at least $2.2 trillion, including long-term care for wounded veterans, according to a 2013 study by the Costs of War project, based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. Detroit Free Press

“If people don’t do politics, others will do it for you. And when others do it for you, they can steal your rights, your democracy and your wallet.” Pablo Iglesias – Podemos

The Middle East now has been torn apart by American invasions and attacks, and careless ideas about how to remake other peoples’ lives according to our own ideas about how they should live and behave and believe. It’s been like the Huns passing through: millions are dead, cities in ruins, the Muslims at war with one another. Iraq and Syria, and probably Jordan, as they exist today, and possibly Lebanon, may never recover from this. The Arabs will survive, and one day Palestine and ancient Syria and Mesopotamia will undoubtedly be reconstituted. Israel? It has existed as a modern state for little more than six decades, although it too existed in antiquity. Will modern Israel still exist at the end of this century? After all that has, and will, happen? I wonder what is the answer. William Pfaff

Through their actions, young American Jews can shape the way a Jewish state wields power. And how Jews behave with power represents a post facto referendum on the Jewish ethical tradition itself. We should tell them that if they believe Jews possess a special passion for justice, they must prove it. And they must prove it in Israel, because although justice is endangered in the United States and all over the world, only in Israel is the Jewish people’s honor at stake. Peter Beinart – Haaretz

Things change if people make them change.

Things have changed since the American people were encouraged to put Vietnam behind them and “move on”. The “gate keeper” function of  “mainstream media” which worked mightily to that end is, if not dead, very, very sick and not expected to recover… especially when confronting something as stubborn as Middle Eastern reality.

Unlike “manufactured consent” social media opinion  today is largely grassroots, village-like. It is a  sullen, brooding, self-confirming, bench tested, consensus, slow to build, hard to budge and in this sense “authentic”.

Many commentators discount the sullen power of public opinion, this is most unwise. Publicists and think tanks can spend billions trying to convince the public that the sky is green and the grass is blue, but to no effect, finally their efforts boil down to Redd Fox’s cheating wife, who, when caught in the act, tells her furious husband, “go on, believe your goddamn, lying eyes!“.

This is now the case of American public opinion and the Middle East. Liberal-Interventionists can whine and Neocons can howl, but Americans have had enough of the Middle East, they will not be easily dragged back there again to spend blood and treasure poring sand down a rat hole and will resent mightily anyone who tries to drag them back.

Netanyahu and the settlers should not press their luck much farther, if Israel negotiates a two state solution with the Palestinians and pulls back to something like the 1967 borders, I believe that Americans would still be willing and still be able to defend that status with decisive armed force and considerable soft power, but that is certainly not the direction things are moving. What I don’t think is that Americans will agree to sending their sons and daughters to die defending apartheid and ethnic cleansing or agree to pay for that out of their taxes. Time is running out.

Cross posted from: http://seaton-newslinks.blogspot.com/

The “Piketty Effect,” or the 1% can be harmful to your health

By: David Seaton Saturday June 28, 2014 11:14 am

 

Collage – David Seaton

Anybody who reads the newspaper will be aware that, in the United States, the “one per cent” is taking an ever-larger slice of the economic pie. But did you know that the share of the top income percentile is bigger than it was in South Africa in the nineteen-sixties and about the same as it is in Colombia, another deeply divided society, today? In terms of income generated by work, the level of inequality in the United States is “probably higher than in any other society at any time in the past, anywhere in the world. Thomas Piketty – quoted in The New Yorker

I don’t want some rich person’s mansion or bank account. I just don’t want to pay for them with our schools and roads and postal service. Marym in IL- Firedoglake

While mulling over the huge impact of Thomas Piketty’s book,”Capital in the Twenty-First Century“, I got this nagging feeling that I had been here before, that this was so familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was…

Then it came to me… This is like when it was statistically proven that smoking causes cancer, and then a shockingly cancer ravaged, near death, much loved, proverbial chain smoker, John Wayne, showed up on that Oscar night in 1979… Only this time, in the case of the side-effects of inequality, the sequence has been reversed: first we are ravished, then near death and then we get the explanatory statistics.

However, I find the similarities striking: an enormous “public-relations” industry, including (massively) Hollywood, devoted over decades to convincing millions of men, women and children that something useless, expensive and totally harmful, was not only not harmful, it was “cool.”

Finally the statistical evidence combined with the sight of iconic personalities wasted by the smoking habit has brought about a sea change in public opinion, which has caused millions of people to give up the habit or never start smoking in the first place and forced the passage of stringent legislation, bucking the efforts of big tobacco, one of America’s most powerful lobbies.

Today, far from being seen as cool, smokers are forced to huddle pitifully outdoors in the dead of winter, to get their “fix”.

Statistical evidence combined with raw emotion caused this massive change in public opinion.

Does this mean that thanks to the ravages of the financial crisis and the findings of professor Piketty we are going to see pitiful, former billionaires huddling on America’s sidewalks anytime soon?

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it.

What we are going to see, I think, is an enormous, tectonic conflict between the sea change of Piketty empowered public opinion and the enormous power of the one-percent to corrupt the political process, which will dwarf anything that the tobacco lobby could ever even have dreamt of.

Cross posted from: http://seaton-newslinks.blogspot.com

Notes on the new populism

By: David Seaton Sunday June 22, 2014 8:07 am

Classic left wing parties are missing the boat today, almost to the point of irrelevance, because the traditional “working class”, which was their power base, has been largely fragmented and is now practically powerless as the enormous “reserve army of labor” that globalization provides means that the worker´s principal weapon, withdrawing their labor, is no longer effective, increasingly even in skilled or jobs requiring higher education: if an American legal assistant is expensive, get an Indian lawyer in India to do the paperwork at a tenth the price per hour. But this has a certain “death spiral” effect.

The “killer contradiction” today is that while workers are no long needed more and more consumers are. Globalization has also brought on overproduction, a glut of consumer goods flood the markets.

How are unemployed or underemployed formerly middle class people, brought up on the idea of their right, even duty to consume, consume? Credit? Been there, done that.

So the real “revolutionary protagonist” today is the enormous, but increasingly declassé and naturally resentful middle class that was created before globalization. Some sort of populism, “us against the one-percent” is the only possible progressive game in town now.

The challenge is to keep this populism international, progressive and not nationalistic-racist, reactionary etc.

That is why Thomas Piketty´s work, “Capital in the Twentyfirst-Century” is a great help, especially among statistic loving Americans, in building objective political consciousness in the middle class for this struggle, which is really just beginning.

Groundhog Day in Iraq

By: David Seaton Friday June 20, 2014 10:06 am
Onward and upward

Sometimes, when you get older you get what Yogi Berra called the “dejá vu all over again” feeling while observing life and especially world affairs; a little like an usher in an all day movie theater might get… the moviegoers are glued to the screen to see if the hero gets the girl or the bad guy gets his just desserts, while you who have seen this film a dozen times or more before are pulling back curtains, opening doors and spraying air freshener… From Vietnam through Iraq and back to Iraq… from 1964 to 2014: 50 years of my life watching, the drip, drip, drip, of useless bloodshed, death and stupidity…

Perhaps the time has come to put on a saffron robe, take up a begging bowl and retire to a forest hermitage to contemplate my navel or maybe just take a big dose of fruit salts.

Cross posted from: http://seaton-newslinks.blogspot.com