Friday, May 30, 2008

It's True, you know*

image copyright Brendan I. Koerner
photo copyright Brendan I. Koerner

Who, you may ask, is Brendan I. Koerner? Mr K. writes periodically for Slate, and Hugozoom's (two or three) regular readers may recall I posted this arresting image* from his website from last fall. He informs me he has a book out, Now the Hell Will Start, which he describes as a "non-fiction account of an American G.I. who married into a tribe of Indo-Burmese headhunters, circa 1944." The book's website is here, and he has an article, "The Greatest Manhunt of WW II" referencing it in Slate this week. Oh, and congratulations Brendan, on your new little one.

photo cropped from original for proper formatting.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

They Might be People

I have been reading around the web that we should vote for Obama because Hillary Clinton feels she should inherit the presidency. I find that not very helpful. It is not even logical. Let me be clear about this I do not care about Hillary’s personality, nor Obama’s personality or McCain’s if he had one. The issue is issues as far as I am concerned. And as far as the “Anyone but a Republican” approach goes I find that less than helpful as well for it lends credence to the myth that the Democrats are not as bad as the Republicans when it comes to waging unjust and illegal warfare.

The reason I do not support Hillary is that she is part of the neo-liberal movement. That movement which believes in America’s right to dominate the rest of planet Earth. For example if Hillary was as much of a part of Bill Clinton’s presidency as she claims then she is a monster for sharing responsibility in the half million deaths of mostly Iraqi children when Bill urged the UN to place brutal sanctions against Iraq after the first Gulf War. Nor do I support Obama who has said he only disapproves of “dumb wars.” Obama has spoken of unilateral military violence against Pakistan and that though he would be willing to talk to Iran he also said nothing is off the table as far as Iran is concerned. That Iran is not actually a threat makes me conclude that Obama is either a moron or a liar and I suspect the latter rather than the former. In fact Obama has lied about funding from Wall Street lobbyists and likely his stance on NAFTA as well.

Justin Raimondo—

Editorial note: This is an excerpt from a pamphlet published in 1996, Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans. We republish it now, in successive installments, because the rise of Barack Obama as the putative Democratic presidential candidate augurs the rise of a new liberal internationalism – the very same sort of policy that led us to bomb Belgrade, one of the oldest cities in Europe, and paved the way for the establishment of the gangster state known as Kosovo.

This was deemed a "humanitarian intervention": we were told that the Serbs were "ethnically cleansing" the Kosovars from their own territory, and that tens of thousands had been slaughtered. As is the case with other more recent military actions, it all turned out to be a crock: the tens of thousands dead shrunk to a few thousand, including victims from both sides in what was, after all, a civil war.

Hillary Clinton recently had the nerve to call the Kosovo war an example of "how it should be done." If the near-complete emptying of Serbs from Kosovo and Bosnia, the burning of churches, and the establishment of a radical Muslim enclave in the heart of Europe is a Clintonian "success," then one has to wonder what failure would look like.

Be sure to read the rest for some very interesting and informative history.

I have also been reading how the wars now raging in Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan are referred to as “Bush’s wars” or the neo-con’s war. The Democratic held Congress and indeed the Republican held Congress before it have all conspired, if that is the right word, to keep the imperial war machine churning by fueling it with money. And why the strange silence on the slaughter we have sponsored in Somalia by all the candidates? The justification for this has been and continues to be the terrorist threat, an all inclusive term to describe anyone who for some strange reason object to being bombed, murdered really, by the American military in our never ending battle against the terrorist. I have often wondered if the news media and government did not constantly refer to the people we slaughter as terrorists, insurgents, and militants, would Americans be more concerned with the daily slaughter of innocent people than they are now? Just for example you might view the video posted by Jonathan Versen entitled--

Little Terrorist

If any neo-liberal humanitarians and neo-cons out there view the video it just might dawn on you that we are interfering in the lives of, destroying the lives of, gasp, people who are much like us rather than some kind of monster hatched in the brain-pans of our lunatic leaders steeped in the fairy tale of American exceptionalism. But I probably hope for too much.

While we are thinking about our humanitarian endeavors and in the vein of the Little Terrorist and the Clinton Iraq sanctions consider this essay by Dave Lindorff on what he calls—

Bush’s War on Children in Iraq.

In the 2004 assault by US Marines on the city of Fallujah, things were even worse. Dexter Filkins, a reporter for the New York Times, reported that before that invasion, some 20,000 Marines encircled the doomed city, which the White House had decided to level because it harbored a bunch of insurgents and had angered the American public by capturing, killing and mutilating the bodies of four mercenaries working for US forces. The residents of the 300,000-population city were warned of the coming all-out attack. Women and children and old people were allowed to flee the city and pass through the cordon of troops. But Filkins reported that males determined to be “of combat age,” which in this case was established as 12 and up, were barred from leaving, and sent back into the city to await their fate. Young boys were ripped from their screaming mothers and sent trudging back to the city to face death.

In the ensuing slaughter, as the US dumped bombs, napalm, phosphorus, anti-personnel fragmentation weapons and an unimaginable quantity of machine gun and small arms fire on the city, it is clear that many of those young boys died.

This is the war on terror. The word “terrorist” is today’s boogey man of childhood just waiting to spring out in the dead of night yet a case could be made that the worst terrorist nation is the United States with its untold numbers of “collateral” deaths resulting from our war against terror. Our forthright news media continues to call them terrorists, insurgents and militants despite the fact that most of the casualties are innocent civilians. In fact they just might be people.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

the Real News in Kentucky

5/25: Elsewhere, Barbara O'Brien of the Mahablog writes:

I believe I read somewhere that African Americans are the only voting demographic that never gave George Bush a majority of popular support, even during his glory days after 9/11. This, I believe, gives African Americans bragging rights as the smartest voting demographic.

Conversely, we might ask ourselves, Why are so many white voters so stupid? I’ll give that some thought.

A recent Newsweek poll suggests a “lurking racial bias in the American electorate,” Darman writes. Do tell. I’m not surprised by racism. I’m surprised people are surprised by racism.

I note that some people seem to have become a bit untethered of their common sense about this because of their support for one candidate or another. Avedon Carol for example-- whom I generally value-- seems to have developed a blindspot here(as well an unwillingness to admit she favors Clinton over Obama.)

In January, apropos of the NH primary results, she wrote:

"But I don't believe for a minute that Democrats said they were going to vote for Obama because it sounded acceptable but they were too racist to actually do it. I just don't."

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Friday, May 23, 2008

"Little terrorist"

Thursday, May 22, 2008

at the movies

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Big Con

It’s all a big con, a fraud, a fantasy, malarkey built on more malarkey. The nation state exists for only one reason which is the wielding and garnering of power by the few so that they can live like parasites off of the masses. These people we call national leaders who go down in history as figures of greatness are either the stooges for the elite or are the elite as is the case with President Bush but Bush is not the aberration that he is touted to be actually his foreign policies are the culmination of previous administrations on both sides of the isle. History is not irrelevant. History matters because if we are to solve the problems we face today we need to first identify those problems with accuracy without white washing the past. There are connections from the past to the present which reveal the truth of what nation states and their governments actually are and they are the problem not terrorists, not Iran, not Iraq, the problem is our own government and it has been for the last 100 years.

Using the Wayback Machine let’s return to the presidency of Lyndon Johnson and the Tonkin Gulf incident which Johnson used to expand the Vietnam War. In the words of Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon—

Thirty years ago, it all seemed very clear.

"American Planes Hit North Vietnam After Second Attack on Our Destroyers; Move Taken to Halt New Aggression", announced a Washington Post headline on Aug. 5, 1964.

That same day, the front page of the New York Times reported: "President Johnson has ordered retaliatory action against gunboats and 'certain supporting facilities in North Vietnam' after renewed attacks against American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin."

But there was no "second attack" by North Vietnam — no "renewed attacks against American destroyers." By reporting official claims as absolute truths, American journalism opened the floodgates for the bloody Vietnam War.

A pattern took hold: continuous government lies passed on by pliant mass media...leading to over 50,000 American deaths and millions of Vietnamese casualties.

The official story was that North Vietnamese torpedo boats launched an "unprovoked attack" against a U.S. destroyer on "routine patrol" in the Tonkin Gulf on Aug. 2 — and that North Vietnamese PT boats followed up with a "deliberate attack" on a pair of U.S. ships two days later.

The truth was very different.

Rather than being on a routine patrol Aug. 2, the U.S. destroyer Maddox was actually engaged in aggressive intelligence-gathering maneuvers — in sync with coordinated attacks on North Vietnam by the South Vietnamese navy and the Laotian air force.

"The day before, two attacks on North Vietnam...had taken place," writes scholar Daniel C. Hallin. Those assaults were "part of a campaign of increasing military pressure on the North that the United States had been pursuing since early 1964."

On the night of Aug. 4, the Pentagon proclaimed that a second attack by North Vietnamese PT boats had occurred earlier that day in the Tonkin Gulf — a report cited by President Johnson as he went on national TV that evening to announce a momentous escalation in the war: air strikes against North Vietnam.

But Johnson ordered U.S. bombers to "retaliate" for a North Vietnamese torpedo attack that never happened.

Prior to the U.S. air strikes, top officials in Washington had reason to doubt that any Aug. 4 attack by North Vietnam had occurred. Cables from the U.S. task force commander in the Tonkin Gulf, Captain John J. Herrick, referred to "freak weather effects," "almost total darkness" and an "overeager sonarman" who "was hearing ship's own propeller beat."

One of the Navy pilots flying overhead that night was squadron commander James Stockdale, who gained fame later as a POW and then Ross Perot's vice presidential candidate. "I had the best seat in the house to watch that event," recalled Stockdale a few years ago, "and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets — there were no PT boats there.... There was nothing there but black water and American fire power."

In 1965, Lyndon Johnson commented: "For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there."

Read the rest.

And just as today’s Congress obligingly gave President Bush a blank check which has led to the deaths of over one million Iraq people so did that Congress back in 1969 give Johnson a blank check to wage war without declaring war known today as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which opened the floodgates to the massacres in Vietnam.

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

Joint Resolution

To promote the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia.

Whereas naval units of the Communist regime in Vietnam, in violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law, have deliberately and repeatedly attacked United States naval vessels lawfully present in international waters, and have thereby created a serious threat to international peace; and

Whereas theses attacks are part of a deliberate and systematic campaign of aggression that the Communist regime in North Vietnam has been waging against its neighbors and the nations joined with them in the collective defense of their freedom; and

Whereas the United States is assisting the peoples of southeast Asia to protect their freedom and has no territorial, military or political ambitions in that area, but desires only that these peoples should be left in peace to work out their own destinies in their own way: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. That the Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.

Sec. 2. The United States regards as vital to its national interest and to world peace the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia. Consonant with the Constitution of the United States and the Charter of the United Nations and in accordance with its obligations under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, the United States is, therefore, prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom.

Sec. 3. This resolution shall expire when the President shall determine that the peace and security of the area is reasonably assured by international conditions created by action of the United Nations or otherwise, except that it may be terminated earlier by concurrent resolution of the Congress.

In section 2 the reference to vital national interests and world peace ought to sound familiar. This ploy is still in use today by our national leaders yet whose interests are they really in? Johnson also said that if we don’t fight them over there we would be fighting them in Hawaii and then in San Francisco a sentiment that later would be echoed by President Bush regarding the Iraq War.


President George W. Bush said on Saturday U.S. troops in Iraq were fighting to protect Americans at home from more attacks like those of September 11, 2001, starting a five-day focus on his case for the war amid growing public discontent.

"Our troops know that they’re fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere to protect their fellow Americans from a savage enemy," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

"They know that if we do not confront these evil men abroad, we will have to face them one day in our own cities and streets, and they know that the safety and security of every American is at stake in this war, and they know we will prevail," he said.

1.4 million military personnel died in the Vietnam War 50,000 of those were American soldiers and possibly over 2 million Vietnamese civilians died as a result of American involvement in that war. In Iraq today we are rapidly approaching similar numbers in civilian deaths and who knows what the final total will be before we end the occupation if indeed we ever do. So if we judge both Johnson and Bush by the numbers as well as their use of lies to involve America in unjust wars it would seem that Bush is not so much of an aberration as many believe him to be.

American imperialism has always been a bipartisan affair. Today national leaders and presidential hopefuls Republican and Democrat alike do not even question America’s right to intervene and wage war as they see fit in order to secure American interests. If we move forward in time from the Johnson era to that of Jimmy Carter we can see that when it comes to imperialism there is not much philosophical difference between Carter and Bush regarding the Middle East.

The Carter Doctrine

January 23, 1980 Carter State of the Union Address:

The region which is now threatened by Soviet troops in Afghanistan is of great strategic importance: It contains more than two-thirds of the world's exportable oil. The Soviet effort to dominate Afghanistan has brought Soviet military forces to within 300 miles of the Indian Ocean and close to the Straits of Hormuz, a waterway through which most of the world's oil must flow. The Soviet Union is now attempting to consolidate a strategic position, therefore, that poses a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil.

This situation demands careful thought, steady nerves, and resolute action, not only for this year but for many years to come. It demands collective efforts to meet this new threat to security in the Persian Gulf and in Southwest Asia. It demands the participation of all those who rely on oil from the Middle East and who are concerned with global peace and stability. And it demands consultation and close cooperation with countries in the area which might be threatened.

Meeting this challenge will take national will, diplomatic and political wisdom, economic sacrifice, and, of course, military capability. We must call on the best that is in us to preserve the security of this crucial region.

Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.

Note the reference to the importance of Afghanistan and the Straits of Hormuz and its importance to the flow of oil as it relates to our military presence in Afghanistan today. Also once again America is working for global peace and stability yet the Carter Doctrine clearly helped set the stage for our presence in Iraq today. Though oil has been as it remains today probably the main reason for our presence in the Middle East political gain on the part of our past and present presidents also plays a major role. Once again moving farther along in time to the Clinton years we see how political considerations played a major role in Clinton foreign policy just as was the case with President Johnson.

Andrew Cockburn writes –

A former senior UN diplomat has revealed to me details of how, just over 10 years ago, the Clinton administration deliberately sabotaged UN weapons inspections in Iraq.

American officials were fearful that Iraq would be officially certified as weapons-free, a development that was seen as a political liability for Bill Clinton. Thus the stage was set for the manufacture of the Iraqi WMD myth as the excuse for George Bush's catastrophic invasion of Iraq.

It was March 1997. For six years the UN inspectors had been probing the secrets of Saddam's weapons programs, in the process destroying huge quantities of chemical munitions and other production facilities. To enforce Saddam's cooperation, Iraq was subject to crushing sanctions.

Now, Rolf Ekeus, the urbane Swedish diplomat who headed the inspection effort, was ready to announce that his work was almost done. "I was getting close to certifying that Iraq was in compliance with Resolution 687," he confirmed to me recently.

At the time, he declared that although there were some loose ends to be cleared up, "not much is unknown about Iraq's retained proscribed weapons capabilities."

For the Clinton administration, this was a crisis. If Ekeus was allowed to complete his mission, then the suspension of sanctions would follow almost automatically.

Saddam would be off the hook and, more importantly for the Clintonites, the neo-conservative republicans would be howling for the president's blood.

The only hope was somehow to prevent Ekeus completing his mission.

Enter Madeleine Albright, newly appointed Secretary of State. On March 26, 1997, she strode on to the stage at Georgetown University to deliver what was billed as a major policy address on Iraq. Many in the audience expected that she would extend some sort of olive branch toward the Iraqi regime, but that was far from her mind.

Instead, she was set on making sure that Saddam effectively ended his cooperation with the inspectors. "We do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted," she declared. Sanctions, she stated without equivocation, would remain unless or until Saddam was driven from power…

…Finally, following 9/11, the war party in George Bush Jr's administration was able to make the case for invasion on the grounds that Saddam had refused to comply with UN resolutions on disarmament by refusing to grant access to the weapons inspectors. The Iraq disaster has many fathers.

The Iraq War has many fathers indeed. Bush foreign policy is the extension of Democratic foreign policy nothing more and nothing less. And despite the oh-so-noble references to world peace and stability not to mention keeping Americans safe the true motives are very dubious indeed. Though all national leaders make much of their heartfelt love of America and world peace it is for the most part as bogus as a plug nickel. And there could be no better example of this than the Bush family who made their fortune through ties to Nazi Germany prior to WWII and even after America had entered into the war. Though national leaders use tribalistic patriotism to manipulate people they care little enough about it themselves.

Robert Parry on Bush ties to Nazi Germany –

The archival evidence is now clear that Prescott Bush, the president’s grandfather, was a director and shareholder of companies that profited from and collaborated with key financial backers of Nazi Germany.

That business relationship continued after Hitler invaded Poland in 1939 and even after Germany declared war on the United States following Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. It stopped only when the U.S. government seized assets of Bush-connected companies in late 1942 under the “Trading with the Enemy Act.”

So, perhaps instead of holding up Sen. Borah to ridicule, Bush might have acknowledged in his May 15 speech that his forebears also were blind to the dangers of Hitler.

Bush might have noted that his family’s wealth, which fueled his own political rise, was partly derived from Nazi collaboration and possibly from slave labor provided by Auschwitz and other concentration camps.

Also see Chris Floyd on the same Bush history –

But the progressive hissy fit over Bush's speech has provided a massive distraction from the real scandal of his appearance before the Knesset, and his reference to Nazi Germany: the fact that this mass-murdering wager of aggressive war would not have been standing before the Knesset at all – if not for his own family’s extensive, and profitable, role in the rise of the Nazi war machine. A role which continued not only after “Nazi tanks crossed into Poland” (where Bush family investments helped finance the concentration camp at Auschwitz) but even after Nazi forces were killing American troops in North Africa.

This is the stark reality of national leaders and while not all of them profited from Nazi Germany most of them profit from condemning Americans and innocent people abroad to die horribly violent deaths, fire bombing in Germany, atomic bombs in Japan, bombs and more bombs for the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Palestine and the next war with Iran brewing, sacrifices on the altar of staying in power and personal gain. When will we learn? Maybe never. Suckers all to the bitter end. Many have high hopes for a Democrat win in November but in regards to endless war and interventions nothing will change. Partial withdrawal is not withdrawal and campaign promises are as ephemeral as a morning mist. When Woodrow Wilson was running for president he claimed he would not lead America into WWI yet soon after attaining the Whitehouse America entered the Great War.

I do not write this to just be negative about America I am trying to identify the actual cause of our very real problems. Before my way of earning a living as a mechanical designer evaporated shipped to foreign lands I worked in the high tech industry. I have designed parts for satellites, robotic machines for etching chips, worked as a checker for designs on the space station batteries and many other projects. If something did not work I had to know why. I could not hide my head in the sand and lie to myself and co-workers about problems with design or manufacture. Yet today what many Americans are doing is tantamount to hiding their heads in the sand when it comes to the Democratic Party. I wish I could believe in the Democrats yet the past seven years have shown that they are not worthy of trust as they mouth platitudes for ending the Iraq occupation while funding it non-stop and have been complicit with President Bush on torture and trashing the U.S. Constitution every step of the way not to mention the role Democrats have played in numerous wars stretching back in time for the last 100 years. The first step to solving any problem always has been and always shall be first recognizing that there is a problem. One cannot hope problems away. With all due respect to Obama hope is not a plan it is a recipe for disaster.

On a final note I am well aware of the part Israel has played in our Middle East adventures and many people have made a very good case identifying the Israeli lobby playing a crucial role in our foreign policy. On the other hand to believe that Israel is the sole reason for the Iraq War is to deny over one hundred years of bloody and brutal American imperialism. I see the relationship as something more along the lines of converging interests. That of Israel’s desires to expand their territory and that of the American government’s desire to dominate the Middle East to control the huge oil reserves in that area and perhaps as much to keep Russia or China from doing the same.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Beyond All That

I really don’t find much to get excited about in this election except the one-sided garbage spewed out by both sides of the isle, progressives and conservatives alike. When you tell only one side of the story it is very manipulative in that the person telling the one-sided story feels he/she knows better than the people they are trying to manipulate and no doubt this makes the story teller feel oh-so-noble with his/her infinite wisdom that they pour upon us ignoramuses. Whatever the motives it is still manipulative.

I don’t support any of the candidates because the system for electing them has one dominating factor and that is that no candidate shall be nominated much less elected without a stamp of approval from the American Establishment. Thus any candidate that turns him/herself into a whore for the American Establishment will do nothing to upset the status quo. That’s how I see it, and that is why I don’t support any candidate.

Everyone should decide for themselves without the manipulative one-sided stories that abound in the news media and the blogosphere what they wish to do in any election. To date it has been a typically disgusting race to the bottom. The only time I feel any empathy at all is for Obama (who I don’t support) when he is the victim of racial slurs and innuendo. But this has always been a racist nation from the very beginning and despite any legislation to make things a bit more equal the racist nature of many Americans remains a deeply engrained facet of this nation. Dennis Perrin has written a very thoughtful post on the racial aspect regarding Obama and I suggest you go read it.


Meanwhile the murder and mayhem abroad continues unabated. What concerns me the most is America’s Imperial slaughterhouse raging in Somalia, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and possibly soon in Iran. Since it is our militarism that is destroying our nation and ripping our culture – such as it is – apart I find that topic to be of far more importance than some changing of the guard for our next murderer-in-chief. But even more than what our one hundred years of endless war is doing to America what grieves me the most is the brutal and barbaric slaughter of innocents in other nations that is occurring even as I write this.

Though our flawed news media occasionally writes a somewhat truthful article that actually illustrates what is happening in our war against terror (a stupid term) for the most part it cheers us on to the next war and the next one after that. It happens time and again and coupled with the false history of America that is part and parcel of most American’s concept of what our nation actually stands for which is built upon the base of manifest destiny the progenitor of American exceptionalism it hardly seems likely that anything shall change anytime soon. Probably the best we can hope for is that as the American dollar devaluates we shall run out of money for our murderous pastimes and shall no longer be able to attack other nations with the impunity that has been the hallmark of American Imperialism.

The best and worst that America has to offer seems to stem from the educated elite who look down their snooty noses at the working and middle classes. At universities around the country the so-called think tanks such as the Hoover Institute at Stanford University have been among the strongest proponents of American imperialism and American exceptionalism. At the same time some of the best critics of our endless wars have come from these same universities. Not all Americans are ignorant. Not all Americans are stupid. Not all Americans are racists. Not all Americans worship the almighty dollar. Most Americans know when they are getting screwed. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of all Americans and because of that and the willingness of the powers that be to manipulate for their own benefit one day soon America is going to take a fall and we shall hit the ground of reality rather hard. For the sake of the decent Americans I do hope it will not be a fatal fall but none can tell.

There are many concerns right here at home from the demise of the middle class, the loss of jobs for the working class, the hardships of life for the poor and disenfranchised, the preservation of what is left of our natural world and wildlife which is a national treasure by any measure. But none of these looming problems can be affectively addressed as long as we spend our life blood on imperialism which always has been a fools errand perpetrated by fools at the great cost of other fools.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Al Nakba at 60

So many words have already been written about the Palistinian-Israeli conflict I'm not sure what I can add. Earlier this week I had a discussion in the comments thread at Karmalised with Diane Warth about a one state versus a two-state solution, which you can see here, apropos of an LA Times op-ed she linked to. Our discussion was and is for naught of course, because neither scenario is anywhere around the corner.

May 15th is commemorated as the anniversary of the Nakba, "the catastrophe", or the forced expulsion of the Palistinians by the nascent Jewish state in 1948. Last week, of course, was the celebration of the 60th birthday of Israel, the other face of the same coin.

Even though 1948 is not exactly ancient history, there is already dispute about the historical record and what really happened. The events at Der Yessin in April of '48 are one example. (More recently the events at Jenin in 2002 are another.)

Here are links to two short films about Deir Yassin, the first[here] is a somewhat impressionistic documentary told from the P.O.V. of an elderly lady who was there, the second["Deir Yassin- what really happened?"] has a more conventional narrative that minimizes the massacre, although it also acknowledges that civilians were killed and the town was attacked by Jewish forces.

As I told Diane, a friend once asked me if I thought there would ever be peace in the middle east, and I told him it would happen when they ran out of oil and the US no longer felt the desire to meddle, although we may well go broke first and find ourselves simply unable to meddle when our Chinese I.O.U.'s get called in. I suppose I'm not exactly objective.

My impression is most Americans really believe our government does care about peace in the middle east, or at least want this to be the case, and hope our apparent missteps in fumbling for peace are just due to our bumbling Western ways being ill-suited for dealing with the inscrutable East, rather than some darker truth. Like-- for instance-- that maybe American exceptionalism and the Israeli myth of the chosen people are schizophrenically complimentary myths that have helped bind the US and Israel together, two nations both invested in denying how their existence came to be at the expense of other people who were already there.

Wikipedia, "The 1948 Palistinan Exodus",
Glenn Greenwald, Salon, "Finding Obama guilty of insufficient devotion to Israel"

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

it's time to jump up and down

because today is Mike Gravel's birthday.

check out Eva Mendes's très chic hairdo,

according to the BBC, Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed got married in April.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Lucian Freud n' Sue Tilley

Yesterday I discussed Dorothea Lange and the subject of her iconic photo of a migrant mother-- and coincidentally, speaking of artists and models, there's this video from Reuters.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's day

Mother's day inevitably makes me think of my mother, who died 49 months ago in early April of 2004. This means my mother, who was an Iraqi-American, died roughly a year after the war against Iraq began but a few days before the Abu Ghraib photos came out-- so you could say she was spared that. She was 70, having been born in 1934, which also means that when she was born her native country was ruled by the British, and when she died Iraq was ruled by the US. My mother died a US Citizen, having surrendered her Iraqi nationality voluntarily-- unlike Iraq herself.

Naturally I would wish my mother could still be here, even though I know I was pretty fortunate to have my mother live till I was 40-- needless to say, others aren't so lucky. Mother's day also makes me think of the various things I wanted and still want to do to make her see me as successful and the shepherd of a meaningful life, so that she might be proud.

Also inevitably, Mother's day makes me think of the iconic photo of the migrant mother, taken by Dorothea Lange in 1936(above). Here's some verbiage about it from Wikipedia:

Lange's best-known picture is titled "Migrant Mother". The woman in the photo is Florence Owens Thompson, but Lange apparently never knew her name. The original photo had Florence's thumb and index finger on the tent pole, and was retouched in an attempt to hide Florence's thumb. Her index finger was left untouched .

In 1960, Lange spoke about her experience taking the photograph:

I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.

According to Thompson's son, Lange got some details of this story wrong, but the impact of the picture was based on the image showing the strength and need of migrant workers.

In 1941, Lange was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for excellence in photography. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, she gave up the prestigious award to record the forced evacuation of Japanese-Americans (Nisei) to relocation camps in the American West, on assignment for the War Relocation Authority (WRA). She covered the rounding up of Japanese Americans, their evacuation into temporary assembly centers, and Manzanar, the first of the permanent internment camps. To many observers, her photograph of Japanese-American children pledging allegiance to the flag shortly before they were sent to internment camps is a haunting reminder of this policy of detaining people without charging them with any crime or affording them any appeal.

Her images were so obviously critical that the Army impounded them. Today her photographs of the internment are available in the National Archives on the website of the Still Photographs Division, and at the Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley.

Children at the Weill public school in San Francisco pledge allegiance to the American flag in April 1942, prior to the internment of Japanese Americans.

This photo was taken by Lange in San Francisco 1942, shortly before these kids were to be shipped off with their families to the internment camps. What were they thinking as they stared at Lange's lens? Were they frightened, or curious? Did they even know what was in store at that point?

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Over the top? Sure, but so was Gloria Swanson

I suppose I'm avoiding discussing the real issues of the day, like the upcoming US-sponsored "cleansing" of Sadr city. It's too fucking depressing.

IOZ and Dennis Perrin like this video too. Auf wiedersehen fer now.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Alternate Focus:The rise and fall of Blackwater in Potrero

from Alternate Focus.(about 27 minutes)

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