Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Zombie Food Court

I guess that the death of Michael Jackson is as good a reason as any to link to this assemblage of speeches that Joe Bageant made to some colleges.

He calls it Escape from the Zombie Food Court and there are few examples more telling of where we live than when a mega-celebrity checks out unexpectedly.

Michael, as one who had his own relationship with zombies, was probably as much a victim of the ZFC as anyone. He was a poster boy for the American Psycho-socio-medical-complex, as Joe Bageant puts it:
In any case, the media culture's production of martyrs, good guys and bad guys, fallen heroes and concept outlaws, is not just big corporate business. It is the armature of our cultural behavior. It tells us who to fear (Middle Eastern terrorists, Mr. Chavez in Venezuela, and foreign made pharmaceuticals), who to scorn (again the same candidates, along with Brittney Spears for her lousy child rearing skills). Our daily news is the modern version of Roman coliseum shows. Elections are personality combat, chariot races, not examinations of solutions being offered. None are offered.

Big bummer

One of the berry best bloggers, Postman Patel, aka Lord Patel, aka (in real life) Edward Teague has handed in his dinner pail as well as his blogging rights.

He's been a favorite of mine for many years now, and has had a prominent place in my Google Reader line up since I starting using it, as well as a place on my blogroll. He will be missed. R.I.P.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Siachen Glacier War

Unless one is very attentive and has a good memory, it's hard to remember that India and Pakistan are going at it in a 'hot' war in northern Kashmir. There is an undefined border in some of the most inaccessible terrain on earth on the Siachen Glacier. It's been going on for 19 years now. Though it is routinely ignored by the press and pundits, one might think that when two countries are lobbing artillery shell at each other, killing and wounding each others soldiers, and spending very large sums of money it is going to effect their mutual relations.

Outside Online has one of the most remarkable pieces of reporting I've ever read about that war or any other. The reporter, Kevin Fedarko, visited both side of the front and gives a remarkable look at the continuing insanity and the damage it does to men and the earth when fighting at over 19,000 feet. It is long, but very worth reading.
(h/t Grand Trunk Road)

UPDATE: The article is from February 2003, not that it matters.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Eyeballing Iran

M K Bhadrakumar's reporting on the situation in Iran makes more sense than the other stuff I've read. His assertion that Saudi Arabia has been backing Rafsanjani is different, to say the least.

Also, this post at Moon of Alabama by an Iranian ex-patriot gives another look at what is going on at the street level. As you could imagine, it's complicated.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

G'bye Dan

Hope to see you again soon.

Dan Froomkin, daily on-line columnist for the WaPo was canned today. That's despite a large readership and much influence around blogtopia. He is, in my opinion, a straight-shooter, not given to exaggeration, careful about details and clear in his reporting.

Naturally, those qualities identify him as 'left' though he's been non-partisan towards most things except lies and bullshit. When Bush was in office he got a lot of flack for being an example of the 'liberal media', but he kept his job.

Since we've entered into the age of Obama, he's kept his reporting on the same keel, relentless in exposing the ever increasing lies and hypocrisy of HopeChange, but still maintaining a non-partisan approach to issues.

So now he's fired. Why?

We can speculate about political pressure, but I think this was an inside job, the Post dumped him because he was seen as attacking Obama from the 'left', and that's not what's wanted. Obama is to be attacked from the right, anything to the left is going to marginalized and then banned from 'serious discussions'.

Stop the wars, single payer health insurance, accountability and transparency in government and finance are all off the table, the purview of radicals and nuts.

Obama is happy, the maddog Krauthammer types are happy, and a rare voice of sanity is silenced.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Protest or terrorism?

Whether or not the Iranian election results were the result of chicanery (the WaPo, oddly enough, suggests that they may not have been), the demonstrations are certainly real enough.

As with the color revolutions in other countries, these demonstrations seem to be the result of genuine dissatisfaction with the powers that be amongst the middle class, possibly inflamed by some 'outside agitators' from you know where.

The really strange thing is that the US has made a specialty of suppressing demonstrations, the DoD regards protesting as 'low-level terrorism' but evidently just in the US. Iranians, Lebanese, Georgians are all encouraged to demonstrate against their governments, while here organizers are arrested before the demonstrations even start, 'free speech zones' are little areas tucked away from possible witnesses (not even necessary for the press, they ignore US protests instinctively), and anyone who does get to a protest is confined in steel grids until ordered to disperse (followed by the inability to disperse and subsequent beatings and arrests).

The main talent of the US press, like that of a good party member in Oceania, is to be able to believe two (or more) contradictory ideas simultaneously. This has been another good example and a lesson to all you budding 'journalists' out there. Protest or terrorism?, depends on who's doing it, and where.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gaddafi and Berlusconi

Gaddafi visits Italy. What a photo!

(Alessandro di Meo/EPA)

Note the photo pinned to Gaddafi's chest, it's Omar al Mukhtar who fought the Italians back in Mussolini's time. It's also amusing to note the similarities between the two men and their identical expressions.
(h/t Savonarola)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Freeze tag

The United States envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, reiterated on Tuesday that the Obama administration is adamantly insisting on a freeze of construction in all Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Mitchell said that opposition to Israel's settlement policy has been Washington's position for the last 40 years, and that the administration had no intention of backing down on the demand for a total freeze.
Or else, what? You're it?

For the last 40 years Israel has been creating and expanding settlements. The US response has been to give away more, always more money. Mitchell's 'adamantly insisting' must be code words for 'bending over and getting reamed'.

Monday, June 08, 2009


The estimable China Hand, who blogs at China Matters has an optimistic post there on the US posture towards North Korea.

Since I've been pulled in the opposite direction by the latest events, I was somewhat surprised by his take.

Read it yourself, please, but here's the punchline:
In other words, I see the prospect for some systematic “Nixon Goes to China” diplomatic engagement, rather than another session of ritualized extortion centered on Kim Jung Il’s nuclear program.
If that is true, then the following paragraph makes some sense with all the hostile rhetoric that is now coming from Washington:
We’ll see if the Obama administration can display the requisite ritualized aggression at the UN Security Council needed to deflect Republican charges of capitulation and appeasement.
The daily threats to put North Korea on the 'terror list', to stop and search their ships, and to impose new financial sanctions would then be primarily aimed at stopping the Rethugs from gumming up the works of a new diplomatic breakthrough. We shall see.

The EU hearts Pakistan

The tactics that are being used by the Pakistan army against the Taliban in Swat and other areas have been directly imposed by Washington. Holbrooke just finished a visit to the areas, tossing out dollars like a prince riding through the throng on an elephant, smiling with a benevolent eye upon the death and destruction.

Three million new refugees are only a part of the toll up to now, and it doesn't seem that the army is in any hurry to allow them to return to their homes. When a curfew is lifted, it is to allow more people to escape and become refugees, not to allow refugees to return home. Despite the pronouncements of victory, there seems to be no timetable for a return to normalcy, whatever that may be.

For Holbrooke, and, according to the Asia Times' Syed Saleem Shahzad, for the EU, this is all to the good. The EU is scheduled to have a big meeting in Brussels with Pakistan on June 16-17, where we can expect further 'counter-terrorism' efforts by Pakistan to be rewarded with Euros.

Since Pakistan's main tactic in fighting the Taliban causes widespread death, destruction and population upheaval, it's hard to see how that will help stop terrorism. Europe's rather clownish efforts to be a slightly softer version of the US big brother will probably end up causing more terrorism rather than less.

Despite Obama's lip service to diplomacy, there is still no movement for regional diplomacy to help bring peace to Pakistan or Afghanistan. The EU's effort would be much more productive if they would move in that direction, rather than trying to direct Pakistan's rulers with more money. But since the EU's foreign policy doesn't move unless Washington says jump, that remains off the table, as the situation becomes ever more dire.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Tough new stance?

President Obama’s new formulation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — along with his tough new stance against Israeli settlements in the West Bank — has rekindled fears among a few American Jewish organizations that Mr. Obama may be fundamentally less pro-Israeli than his predecessors.
As far as I can tell, there is no tough new stance. Back when Condi was 'running' US diplomacy, she was always careful to describe new settlement building as 'unhelpful' in her sternest schoolmarm way, but of course did nothing. Obama will doubtless proclaim them unhelpful, too.

So, if Israel expands the settlements, and Obama does nothing, what has changed?

And what will, what can he do? Very little, as so far he has shown no inclination to defy the powers that be. I'm ready, willing and able to be surprised.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Obama in Cairo

I had thought about writing something before Obama gives his speech in Cairo on Thursday, but I just read this post by Tony Karon that says everything I wanted to, and more. Read it!

As a companion piece, read also this by Uri Avnery illustrating how, in Israel, democracy is on the march, or should I say, Jewish democracy. Here's a taste:
This week, the Knesset voted by a large majority (47 to 34) for a law that threatens imprisonment for anyone who dares to deny that Israel is a Jewish and Democratic State.

The private member’s bill, proposed by MK Zevulun Orlev of the “Jewish Home” party, which sailed through its preliminary hearing, promises one year in prison to anyone who publishes “a call that negates the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State”, if the contents of the call might cause “actions of hate, contempt or disloyalty against the state or the institutions of government or the courts”.

One can foresee the next steps. A million and a half Arab citizens cannot be expected to recognize Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State. They want it to be “a state of all its citizens” – Jews, Arabs and others. They also claim with reason that Israel discriminates against them, and therefore is not really democratic. And, in addition, there are also Jews who do not want Israel to be defined as a Jewish State in which non-Jews have the status, at best, of tolerated outsiders.

The consequences are inevitable. The prisons will not be able to hold all those convicted of this crime. There will be a need for concentration camps all over the country to house all the deniers of Israeli democracy.

The police will be unable to deal with so many criminals. It will be necessary to set up a new unit. This may be called “Special Security”, or, in short, SS.

Hopefully, these measures will suffice to preserve our democracy. If not, more stringent steps will have to be taken, such as revoking the citizenship of the democracy-deniers and deporting them from the country, together with the Jewish leftists and all the other enemies of the Jewish democracy.