Beinart Pwns Foxman on The Changing Israel

May 31, 2010

Just one of the scary parts:

Firstly, Palestinian rejectionism cannot explain Avigdor Lieberman’s crusade to humiliate, disenfranchise, and perhaps even eventually expel Arab Israelis, the vast majority of whom want nothing more than to be accepted as equal citizens in the country of their birth. Lieberman is not a marginal figure. He was Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff; he heads Israel’s third-largest party; he serves as foreign minister; and when Israel held mock elections in ten high schools last year, he won.

“The Big Takeover”

March 23, 2009

The global economic crisis isn’t about money – it’s about power. How Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution.

Rolling Stone gets off to a good start (I haven’t gotten far, article came recommended):

The latest bailout came as AIG admitted to having just posted the largest quarterly loss in American corporate history — some $61.7 billion. In the final three months of last year, the company lost more than $27 million every hour. That’s $465,000 a minute, a yearly income for a median American household every six seconds, roughly $7,750 a second. And all this happened at the end of eight straight years that America devoted to frantically chasing the shadow of a terrorist threat to no avail, eight years spent stopping every citizen at every airport to search every purse, bag, crotch and briefcase for juice boxes and explosive tubes of toothpaste. Yet in the end, our government had no mechanism for searching the balance sheets of companies that held life-or-death power over our society and was unable to spot holes in the national economy the size of Libya (whose entire GDP last year was smaller than AIG’s 2008 losses).

Obama’s message to Iran: BBC’s breakdown and Iran’s response

March 20, 2009

The BBC deconstructs Obama’s message to Iran: (that’s my boy!)

Incidentally, the US position now diverges quite strongly from the Israeli. The Israelis have recently been making increasingly worried statements about Iran’s potential nuclear weapons capacity, suggesting that while diplomacy might come first, military action might come second.

Iran seems open to the overture, with an aide to Ahmadinejad saying he “welcomes” the approach from Washington:

Iran today hailed an unprecedented direct appeal by the US president, Barack Obama, for better relations between the two countries, but urged the US to “realise its previous mistakes” as well as end sanctions and drop its support for Israel.

I can’t call the man crazy when he talks like that—sanctions should end when we address their desire for nukes; either by offering them more attractive carrots, or, the highly unlikely but perfectly just course: denuclearize the entire Middle East to stop the escalating arms race (ahem, Israel?).  And there is also this component:

However, there was no official response from Tehran to a far blunter message from Shimon Peres, the president of Israel, who called on Iran to “return to the enlightened world” and halt the uranium enrichment that could allow it manufacture nuclear weapons.

It looks like the Iranians have a real opportunity here:  their hostility to Israel is mostly driven by their strategic sovereign interest–given that Iran is an emerging power whose dominance in the region was secured by Sadaam’s ouster but is challenged by Israel–and they may very well see that it is deeply in their own interest to highlight their moderates, push for reconciliation with the US, and “enter the international community” as Obama mentioned…this all makes it very hard for us to keep supporting Israel’s push for war against Iran and Israel’s push to generally subvert and weaken it.  I recently read an Israeli columnist who commented along the lines of “what happens if Iranians elect (an Iranian moderate) while we have Avigdor Lieberman as our foreign minister…who will the international community say is more extreme then?”  I think that logic very-much applies to us.  We want to stabilize the shit out of that region, while Israel’s private interests lean toward instability (freeze’s the peace process, enhances their claim to being the only non-savage in the region and therefor worthy of our protection and aid).  Obama is more likely to take the pragmatic road of stability and peace in the region over Israel’s (then increasingly deranged) cries of “wolf” regarding some imaginary existential threat from Iran.  We simply can’t afford to ignore the costs in favor of blind adherence to principle–not since Iraq, and not against Iran.

 

Final Comment:  I am hopeful that Iran tries to subvert Israel by improving its relations with America.  My goodness; the political potential energy of this situation!  Our problems in Iraq diminish, our beefs with Syria and Lebanon cool-off.  I bet if the situation thaws down enough, the Arab players in the region may back off their nuke-pursuit, feeling confident that their normalization of relations with the USA will prevent Israel from attacking them (we will not support, and hopefully not tolerate, a unilateral Israeli attack amidst our succeeding efforts to ease tension and increase cooperation).  And what if Israel does attack, with or without our consent?  Well then Iran simply beats the shit out of Israel. (Citizens, Iran is not Iraq.  They have a conventional, generally modern military…which is far bigger than Israel’s band of nationalist boy scouts).  If Israel uses its nukes against Iran, my bet is that the international community will cut them off.  And the US will not be able to save them in the face of the diplomatic and political winds that would follow a preemptive nuclear strike by Israel.

A Nowruz Message from President Obama (Iranian New Year)

March 20, 2009

I can’t help but agree with Ezra Klein of The American Prospect on this one:

There are times when it’s hard to believe that this is how my country acts now. That somewhere in government, some young bureaucrat had the idea that the President should publicly honor the Iranian New Year, and that bureaucrat felt that her superiors would also think this a good idea, and, indeed, the thought went all the way to the President, who agreed that a display of engagement and goodwill was consonant with our national values and foreign policy goals. It is hard to believe that five years after we were ordering “freedom fries” in the congressional cafeteria, we’re posting Persian translations at Whitehouse.gov.

The Century of the Self –BBC

March 17, 2009

This video might change your life.

Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure

March 13, 2009

“I’ve seen horrors… horrors that you’ve seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that… but you have no right to judge me. It’s impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face… and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies. I remember when I was with Special Forces. Seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn’t see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember… I… I… I cried. I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized… like I was shot… like I was shot with a diamond… a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God… the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters. These were men… trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love… but they had the strength… the strength… to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral… and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling… without passion… without judgment… without judgment. Because it’s judgment that defeats us.”

The End of Prohibition Growing Less Unlikely

March 12, 2009

One curious advantage that the economic crisis presents is the opportunity to reexamine conventional wisdom regarding the prohibition of drugs in this country.  Many states are facing enormous budgetary challenges in the face of the worsening economy and it appears that many are considering the potential revenues for the state if it legalized, regulated, and taxed drugs (or most realistically: marijuana) and the potential savings in expenditures devoted to policing, arresting, processing, and incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders.

We already learned, weeks ago, that Attorney General Eric Holder said the official policy of the Obama WH will be that “federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws”–in response to a question regarding states with laws allowing medical marijuana.  Decriminalization–in this economic climate, under this president–may be much closer than we thought.

California is taking the lead, with its history of wide popular support among Californians for the decriminalization of marijuana.  Here is Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) her state could be a great host for an experiment in reform.  Here’s the video from CNN:

ForeignPolicy.com also highlights changing attitudes in the EU.  A report by the European Commission “found no evidence that the global drug problem was reduced…from 1998 to 2007”.

The UN, now meeting in Vienna for the first time in 10 years to reassess global drug policy, is reaching even more dramatic conclusions: It’s worse than mere inertia…. drug policy is making matters worse, not better. UN Office of Drug and Crime’s head, Antonio Maria Costa, “acknowledged that drug control policies had, as an unintended consequence, led the growth of organized crime,” as the BBC put it.

Chas Freeman is the public target, and victim, of a smear and destroy campaign by neocons and the hawkish side of the pro-Israel Lobby

March 11, 2009

I have been closely following the nomination of Charles “Chas” Freeman to the position of Chairman of the National Intelligence Council for about 7-10 days.  He was nominated by Admiral Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence, but received no public support from the White House, who stayed silent on the issue throughout.

The public response to his nomination began with Steve Rosen, former AIPAC official currently on trial for charges of espionage for passing secret documents to reporters and an official of the government of Israel.

a look at Chuck Schumer’s consistency: http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/03/11/schumer/

Hypocrisy on China from humanrightsers

http://www.amconmag.com/blog/2009/03/10/freeman-and-the-cognitive-dissonancing-of-sino-israel-relationship/

WashPo “article”    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/10/AR2009031003223.html?referrer=emailarticle

Walt  http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/node/16250

Rothkopf @ FP.com http://rothkopf.foreignpolicy.com/node/16237

More to come (as I can stomach revisiting all the articles I read)

Middle East Reality Check –Roger Cohen, NYT

March 10, 2009

This is column by Roger Cohen is very good.  It gives a good summary of the emerging sentiments among the new administration, and among the citizenry as voiced by J-Street and other progressive groups, regarding the way forward with the middle east.  The Realist school of foreign policy is finally overpowering neoconservatism.  Rejoice.

Here is a quote worth highlighting.  The entire column has been pasted after the jump.

The 1988 Hamas Charter is vile, but I think it’s wrong to get hung up on the prior recognition of Israel issue. Perhaps Hamas is sincere in its calls for Israel’s disappearance — although it has offered a decades-long truce — but then it’s also possible that Israel in reality has no desire to see a Palestinian state.

One view of Israel’s continued expansion of settlements, Gaza blockade, West Bank walling-in and wanton recourse to high-tech force would be that it’s designed precisely to bludgeon, undermine and humiliate the Palestinian people until their dreams of statehood and dignity evaporate.

The argument over recognition is in the end a form of evasion designed to perpetuate the conflict.

Read the rest of this entry »

World Events Roundup

March 4, 2009

News bulletin for today from around the world.  Happy perusing!

 Middle East

While visiting Israel, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to a two-state solution. Nathan Brown thinks it’s time for Plan B.

Clinton told an Arab foreign minister that it’s “doubtful” that Iran will respond to U.S. offers of negotiations.

International donors have pledged $4.48 billion to rebuild Gaza.

Asia

Sri Lanka’s cricket team was attacked by gunmen in Lahore, Pakistan.

The United States’ new North Korea envoy Stephen Bosworth arrived in Beijing to being work reviving the stalled six-party talks.

An aide to Japanese opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa has been convicted of bribery.

Americas

Congressional Democrats are cracking down on tax havens.

U.S. stocks hit a 12-year low on Monday.

Raul Castro has ousted two top officials who were loyal to his brother Fidel.

Africa

The head of Guinea-Bissau’s parliament will become interim president after Monday’s presidential assassination. 

Tanzania has launched a campaign to prevent the widespread murder of albinos.

A prominent Rwandan minister has been convicted of genocide.

Europe 

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is in Washington to meet with Barack Obama.

Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party dominated local elections in Russia.

Poland has renewed its commitment to early entry into the Eurozone.

The Bush Obama two step

March 3, 2009

brought to you live from the Daily Dish:

Damon Linker sees it:

…will the country really stick with Obama as he attempts to enact his stunningly ambitious agenda? They just might. But not because the 44th president has reawakened the liberalism that’s been slumbering in their souls since the summer of 1968. As National Review’s Rich Lowry noted in a brief post last week, Obama is defending his agenda not in ideological but in pragmatic terms — saying, in effect, “Hey, I’m not a big-government guy; it’s just that the Republicans made such a wreck of the place that I have no choice but to do some big things to clean up the mess.” And as Lowry recognizes, that’s an argument that just might just persuade the American people to go along for the ride, shifting the political spectrum to the left for a generation, while also managing at long last to bury Reaganite conservatism.

Welcome to the realignment.

I saw it coming.

Pulitzer Preview!

February 28, 2009

Editor & Publisher magazine runs its Annual Pulitzer Preview.  I was surprised to find myself somewhat inspired by this article.  I know it can be hard to get “truth” or the full story from “the media”, but this article highlights the somewhat noble pursuit of truth of dedicated journalists across the country.  This is the sorta investigative/long-form journalism that I love. 

Here are a couple examples:

Two Washington Post series in the running include Debbie Cenziper and Sara Cohen’s “Forced Out” investigation that revealed how local landlords drove tenants from rent-controlled apartments…The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has already gotten notice for its six-part series on toxins in everyday products and the failure of regulatory agencies to monitor them. “Chemical Fallout” has received a Polk Award and the 2008 John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism.

It just feels good to know journalists are still chasing the truth, yaknow?

Al Sharpton, on the secret of dieting

February 28, 2009

Jeffrey Goldberg bumps into Al Sharpton on the shuttle in DC and asks him for secrets:

“What’s your diet secret?” I asked him. After all, stripping weight away is somewhat easy, compared to keeping it off. Sharpton put his arm around my shoulder and said, “I’ll tell you the secret. You ready for the secret?” He lowered his voice. “Never, ever eat anything after 6 p.m. Never.”

Now say that again in your best black-preacher-voice.  Aw-Huh.

Jindal = Kenneth (part II)

February 27, 2009
The Jack McBrayer Response To The Internet Response To The Republican Response To The President’s Address To Congress
Video Recaps | Full Episodes | Webisodes

Real-life Plagiarism!

February 27, 2009

See mom…adults do it too!!

The NY Observer reports that Fortune magazine is issuing an apology in its March issue for passages lifted from a 2004 NYT Magazine article.  It’s kinda wild to read matching paragraphs from the “new” and original articles and realize: yeah, that’s the art of good writing…that this drew carey look-alike seems to lack.

Here is the first of several side-by-side comparisons from the article:

TIMES MAGAZINE:

Alekperov’s titanium-and-glass desk is fastidiously neat — he hates disorder — and behind it hangs a frieze of the double-headed eagle, which is Russia’s coat of arms. If a visitor doesn’t yet grasp his message, there is just one photograph on his desk, a black-and-white portrait that shows not his wife or teenage son but President Putin. If, in your mind’s eye, you replace the eagle with a hammer and sickle, and if you imagine a photo of Leonid Brezhnev on the desk, you could be back in the U.S.S.R.

FORTUNE:

Behind his glass desk is the double-headed eagle, which is Russia’s coat of arms, and photos of Medvedev and Putin. Replace the eagle with a hammer and sickle and substitute a photograph of Nikita Khrushchev, and you could be back in the USSR.

As much he deserves it, I can’t help but call it a shame; he really seemed to be a rising star of sorts, but this will likely follow him throughout his career as a journalist.  I mean he took it from the New York Times of all places.  Who’s gonna notice that, right?  (HatTip: Chew-dog)

Bobby Jindal = Kenneth, the NBC page

February 26, 2009

http://gawker.com/5159908/bobby-jindal-channels-kenneth-the-page-in-gop-response

Gawker has edited together several sections of Bobby Jindal’s response speech to show how he has a rather large resemblance to Kenneth, from 30 Rock.  They don’t butcher words to make him say things he doesn’t already, they just put together all the Kenneth-like moments so you can better see the connection. 

I can see Jindal’s political potential, or at least I considered him a dangerous opponent before his response to Obama.  He has the identity politics and personal biography stacked in his favor (ps: watch for the India lobby to break out bigtime in the next few years, son…they are overtly learning from the Israeli Lobby how to build political clout and financial leverage, while so far avoiding the dissent-suppression and bully tactics of the neocon Israel Lobby), is a Rhodes scholar, and holds the GOP-winning-lottery-ticket that is his “colored skin”.  I can’t help but feel like he blew his wad last night though.  He asked too much of himself, following Obama like that.  As one Arena contributor put it at Politico, “It’s like seeing a fake Rolex after you’ve seen the real thing”.  I mean, it’s still a pretty watch.  It’s just obviously of lesser quality than the original.  He used his hands to make the same gesture over and over again, was reallllly folksy and down-home-anecdotal, and probably woulda done much better with a live audience to feed off of:  all unfortunate, trivial aspects of politics that end up mattering in real life (think Nixon v. Kennedy, first TV debate ever). 

Maybe he can still carve out an image for himself, but even then: I struggle to believe this country will elect a Catholic who doubts evolution in favor of Intelligent Design…not after someone like Obama is president (or against someone like Barack Obama…please).  I mean, the Vatican has rejected a literal reading of Genesis and has conveniently decreed Evolution to be God’s work.  If Catholics think he’s crazy and evangelicals don’t forget he’s Catholic…what rubes does he command?

Judge Rules Anti-Gay Marriage Donors Can’t Remain Secret

February 26, 2009

This is somewhat of an old story, but I had saved it to come back to after the LSAT.  I found it very interesting because I wasn’t entirely clear how I felt about it.  On some level, I do find it kinda creepy that political donations are entirely in public view (name, address, amount), but I also think that’s a very important principle that I wish would extend far further: it forces a small degree of accountability for one’s beliefs, as if political opinions should be something you can declare and defend publicly. 

There is a certain delicious* irony to sentences like this:

Supporters of the ban on gay marriage said public disclosure of their financial supporters had put the donors at risk of personal harassment or boycotts to their businesses.

I first thought their claims were BS merely because of the somewhat inherent harassment that lay in voting to ban gay marriage, but apparently some pro-Prop-8ers were threatening to boycott people who didn’t donate!:

Fred Karger, founder of gay-rights group Californians Against Hate, said the initiative’s backers had threatened boycotts against businesses that failed to donate to their effort during the campaign.

MY THOUGHTS

Is this your homework, Larry?

February 25, 2009

LebowskiFest has new t-shirt designs!!  For those who don’t know The Truth and The Way, LebowskiFest is a yearly event that occurs in various cities around the US, involving costume and trivia contests, screening of The Film, bowling (obviously, you’re not a golfer), White Russians, and general What-Have-You.

They also issue some pretty money t-shirts, like the new Is this your homework, Larry?

is-this-your-homework-larry-1

On the back, The Immortal Question:

is-this-your-homework-larry-2

  Who makes these things?? GOD???

Art according to Creedo

February 25, 2009

my friend Creedo loves cartoons.
he sent me this today. “It’s Art”, says Creedo.
you decide; I think that’s the point.

Michael Paulus Charlie

Michael Paulus Bubbles

Michael Paulus Pikachu

(HatTip: Creedo, and StreetAnatomy)

The Hardest Job in Football

February 18, 2009

Here’s a meaty read from this month’s issue of The Atlantic: an interesting piece about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the orchestral dance of directing cameras and choosing which view will appear in your TV screen during NFL football games.  It is by Mark Bowden, a great narrative and investigative writer, whose books Killing Pablo and Doctor Dealer I have read (I currently own and will soon dig into his Guests of the Ayatollah, about the Iranian hostage crisis).

The article gives a really interesting inside-look at things.  You get a feel for the mechanics of the cameras and what they can do, a larger survey of the evolution of the sport and its marriage to TV, and an appreciation for the role Fish plays as the conductor in the orchestra that produces the drama unfolding for you at home.

These are the basics, cameras one through five, that are used to cover every televised football game, college or pro. The rest are specialty cameras. Six and eight are mounted on three-foot-high platforms behind each end zone, to one side of the goalposts…Fish will sometimes instruct these cameras’ operators to focus on specific players—in this game they were Justin Tuck, the Giants’ gifted pass-rushing end, and Bengals receiver Chad Johnson—in order to put together a video package that summarizes those players’ ups and downs during the game.

THE HARDEST JOB IN FOOTBALL  –Mark Bowden

Read the rest of this entry »