Sunday, December 31, 2006

Resolutions for corporate media

Dean Baker, one of the few smart economists, offers corporate media commentators and reporters resolutions when reporting on matters economic. It is well worth the read for those who read, watch or listen to corporate media reports on the economy, so that we can more critically analyze such reporting.

One quibble: Baker is correct that the Social Security pays out everything it is supposed to pay out until 2046 per the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). However, the CBO still assumes our economy grows at an anemic pace of less than 2% every year for the next 75 years. This is garbage, as Baker and others have previously noted. If, for example, we assume, more reasonably, an average annual growth rate of 2.2% through the death of the Baby Boomer generation (1946-1964), the Social Security system does fine and needs no tweaking whatsoever. The biggest threat to our economy, using the same analysis used to attack Social Security, is the Republican led tax cuts of 2001 through 2003, in terms of lost revenue to the government to fund our nation's needs.

This is why, overall, there is no "Social Security crisis," and the failed Chilean experiment is not only wrong, but unncessary for the USA. Now, can someone who knows Tim Russert or Chris Matthews clue them in on this? That would at least be a start among corporate media commentators, let alone reporters. Or is Upton Sinclair correct when he said:

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."


Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam executed. Can we go home now?

Saddam Hussein, a notoriously bloody and brutal dictator who was enabled by successive US government administrations from Carter to Reagan to Bush I, has been executed Saturday (Iraqi time) following a military tribunal controlled, in at least some measure, by the US government.

Steve Benen, at the Washington Monthly, says (while linking to an article from the execution of Saddam, a Sunni by religious heritage, on a Saturday, was a sign of Shi'ite disrespect of the Sunni Muslim tradition of not executing a person on a Saturday. The civil war among Sunnis and Shi'ites thus becomes a backstory even to Saddam's execution.

I had thought (see here and here) Bush II was only waiting for Saddam to be executed before agreeing with the Iraq Study Group's plan of a draw down of troops. However, with the new fervor about sending more US troops, I am less sure of the accuracy of my prediction. Still, Bush II said he did not want to make a decision until January 2007, which may mean that Bush II knew earlier this month that Saddam's execution was coming soon, but wanted to be sure it occurred.

Either way, with no more hope of Saddam escaping, it is time for our troops to start coming home. Regardless of whether Saddam becomes a martyr to the Sunni insurgent cause (the author of the article may think so, but I don't), again, it is time for our troops to leave Iraq. Saddam is toppled and executed. The majority of Sunnis and Shi'ites appear to want to fight among themselves, not enter into a federation, and our troops are too often sitting ducks and are not able to contribute to a solution that would create a peaceful co-existence among Sunnis and Shi'ites.

As for the Kurds in northern Iraq (the Iraqi Kurds are mostly Sunni Muslim, but define themselves more by ethnic heritage), if Kurdish leaders want our troops to temporarily stay in northern Iraq, perhaps that may be advisable. The US, however, could possibly end up betraying Kurdish sovereignty or autonomy once again, and might refuse to provide even a temporary US military presence in northern Iraq. Why? Because next-door-neighbor Turkey has its own Kurdish population along the Turkish-Iraq border. And Turkey has become increasingly concerned over the possibility of Kurdish sovereignty in northern Iraq spilling into a movement of Kurds in Turkey to revolt against Turkey--and combine with the Iraqi Kurds to establish something that may be called "Kurdistan."

Why would I support a temporary stay of US soliders in northern Iraq to help the Kurds? Because there is a big difference in maintaining troops where the leaders and their population truly want you there (think Europe and NATO)--and where your presence would actually help people from a humanitarian standpoint--and maintaining troops where the population either doesn't care enough or wants you out, the latter situation facing our troops in most of the rest of Iraq. We should, in my view, consider a temporary stay in northern Iraq to help maintain the autonomy the Kurds have continued to develop there since the mid-1990s (which was the result of Clinton's successful execution of the "no fly" policy, which kept Saddam largely out of the area during the 1990s).

However, I don't have any influence with the current US president and his administration. Also, based upon past US foreign policy history, I would not count on the US government, especially under this current president, to sacrifice much for Kurdish independence or continued autonomy if the Turkish government decided to increase their level of oppression of their own Kurdish population and perhaps terrorize the Kurdish population in northern Iraq.

What a mess this war in Iraq has made. That is why I repeat what I have said in various previous posts, including the time when the Republicans controlled Congress: Bush and Cheney must be impeached and the US must seriously reconsider its foreign policy objectives and policies.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford: Only good compared to Bush II


Let's remember that Gerald Ford was a right winger, in his time, who cynically introduced a bill to impeach Supreme Court Justice William Douglas (Here is an interesting real-time article on the subject, which shows that Scalia is probably Douglas' right wing counterpart on the bench). Check out Ford's view of what constitutes an impeachable offense, as quoted in the linked article:

"According to Gerald Ford, "an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history."

Ford was also an equally cynical informant for J. Edgar Hoover's FBI office. See here for details (look up "Gerald Ford" in the "Search Inside" engine at the Amazon site for the book linked to). Ford was a water boy for the right wing and Hoover, including serving as an informant of the activities of the Warren Commission for Hoover.

This is why I believe there was a quid pro quo reached between Al Haig, a leading Nixon adviser in Nixon's last year of office, and Ford to pardon Nixon in return for Nixon's resignation. This article summarizes part of the case against Ford, straight from his own memoirs, as well as other sources. See this admittedly over the top article, which accurately describes the Woodward book and another book by a former Ford aide that provides further evidence of a deal between Haig and Ford.

Ford, as president, backed the Indonesian military in its brutal, genocidal attack against East Timor in 1976. His hands were also quite bloody from his support of the Pinochet government's murder of oponents and American citizens on US soil in the mid-1970s.

Yes, it is true that, compared to Bush II, Ford looks like Paul Wellstone to some extent, especially when one considers that Ford opposed Bush II's invasion of Iraq. But, let's not get caught up in the nonsense that Ford was a "brave" leader or someone who had the "highest integrity." He was no Senator Robert Taft, either.


In the USA, pro-choice is part of a winning coalition

I see Digby and Atrios are discussing how some in the Democratic Party are trying to convince other Democratic Party members to drop or soften the Democratic Party's position on abortion.

I agree with Digby and Atrios it is a wrong move for the Democratic Party to dilute its support for abortion rights. The discussion also proves, once again, how the Beltway political consultants in the Democratic Party are still living in fear of the religious right, when in fact the religious right is fracturing as it recognizes a religious view built on forcing women to carry babies to term and hating homosexuals is less than "Christian." If the Democrats wish to win more Congressional/Senate seats and the presidency in 2008, it must lead with its economic populism--something the Beltway Dem political consultants detest. But, let's talk about the abortion issue anyway.

If anything, last month's election result in South Dakota on the abortion initiative proved that, even in so-called Republican stronghold states, a majority of people want to ensure the government does not force a woman to bear a child against her will. Yes, I'll agree there's a baby growing in the Mom's womb, but Mom is still the full fledged person whose rights must be paramount until at least the time of the baby's viability--and even then, Mom's health and life must be paramount until the birth of the baby.

Would someone please tell the Beltway Democratic Party political consultants how that position contains the most common sense and decency, and is a position most Americans can agree with? Here is also what the most recent (2004) Democratic Party platform says about abortion:

"We will defend the dignity of all Americans against those who would undermine it. Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman's right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare."

The difference between the platform statement and my statement is mine simply explained, in non-legalese, the essence of the holding of Roe v. Wade (1973) 410 US 113.

And if we want to get detailed, let's say the following:

Partial Birth Abortion laws: The laws the Republicans continue to pass are hopelessly overbroad. Roe (and Doe v. Bolton, the companion case) simply and correctly states that third trimester (now, post-viability) abortions may be outlawed except for the health
or life of the mother. Arguing over the way in which an abortion is performed, rather than simply passing laws that would define "health" for post-viability abortions, is a conscious design of the anti-abortion rights leadership to outlaw abortions pre-viability.

Parental Consent laws: I initially thought these laws were punitive against vulnerable teenaged girls, and as case law and experience has developed, these are punitive in their effect. Most teen girls tell one or both parents. The ones that don't are usually abused by one or both parents or have poor relationships with both parents. Would Jesus really support such a law that places the most painful burden on the most vulnerable of teenaged girls?

Now, really, Barack and Hillary, is that so hard? Those two politicos are prime examples of what happens when one listens to Beltway Democratic Party political consultants. There is really nothing to "soften" on the abortion issue. One should be strong in saying, "Yeah, it's a baby, but I won't force women to bear children against their will, either."

Final comment: Some anti-abortion advocates will then say: "Well, she had a will, and a choice--to have sex. She should live with the consequences." To which I respond: I see. What you really are is not "pro-life", but pro-punishment. That type of remark means you see pregnancy as a punishment. It's not. It's difficult enough for a woman to be pregnant when she wants to have the baby. So, let's show some of the humanity Jesus would have shown and give the woman a break, huh? Don't be casting first stones, folks.

Again, that is not so hard to say, is it?


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Holy Words of Peace in a Land of War and Recrimination

David Grossman speaks sensibly and with a righteousness that remains humble and hopeful.

Would it be too much to ask for President Abbas at the Palestinian Authority to respond directly to Grossman? Perhaps someone from the ranks of these folks might find it a fruitful idea to speak directly with Grossman about the need to end the cycle of recrimination and revenge.

One may venture a hope on Christmas Eve...But one day, after a peace is reached, people in the area of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank may wonder, as modern French and German folks sometimes do, what the fuss was all about.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Random thoughts for Christmastime

1. In my days at Rutgers College in the late 1970s, when certain professors, who were not leftists, by the way, would tell me that the worst thing to fear is mobocracy--I would often disagree with such a sweeping statement. And this past week, if we look at the election results in Iran, we see once again that, contrary to fears about the "mob," if given an opportunity, the mass of people tend to vote against war mongering and hateful political leaders. Yes, this is not always true, either, but why hold the so-called masses to higher standards than the elites? Surely we should not judge elites as a general proposition simply by the current US president, for example. But back to the elections in Iran this week: We should be somewhat hopeful that a reformist movement will sustain itself this time around, unlike last time.

As once said in an earlier post, much of Iran's people like Western music and films, and further, many Iranian citizens are under 30 and see more of the bad side of religious authority in the way that those who came of age in the US in the early 1960s had seen enough of abused authority. One worrisome thing for for Iranians is that the mullahs don't go away quietly and, instead, ferment the conditions for a civil war in Iran. Ironically, if Iran does reform its government and opens its culture, do not expect the reformers to stop Iran's nuclear program. Think instead of India. For I would bet that most Iranians want nuclear weaponry for their own nation in the same way most Americans don't want to give up nuclear weaponry. And again, contrary to what our nation's insiders tell Sy Hersh, I believe Iran will successfully test a nuclear weapon within the next three years. Our nation's elites haven't been right in telling us how many years away a nation would go nuclear, except once: When US scientists, not politicians, said the Soviets were less than five years, not twenty years, away from successful testing of nuclear weapons.

UPDATE 12/26/06: Cunning Realist echoes my hunch about Iran gaining nukes in a shorter time than the US intelligence estimate, with a report from Israeli sources.

Life goes on and it remains, as usual, interesting...

2. I thought, at this time, to provide a not so humble guide to my favorite Christmastime films:

a. "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946). My favorite all time film, as well. It is largely misunderstood as merely a story about how important an individual is in the community. That is definitely true, but incomplete. It is also about where the individual is in the social hierarchy of a society, e.g., where the individual works, and the ability of that individual to effect change or protect one's community. If James Stewart's character, George Bailey, was, for example, merely the taxi driver, he would not have likely saved the town during the Depression by making sure people did not sell their shares in the town's "home building" cooperative (more socialist than a savings and loan) to the rich guy, Henry Potter (played to perfection by Lionel Barrymore). Watch the film from this perspective and listen carefully to George Bailey's speeches after his father dies and again during the scene when the bank almost fails during the Depression. And note the mature Marxist analysis behind the "never been born" scenes where the economics in a society has an effect on culture, which washes back into the economics again. This is Michael Harrington's analysis of Marx's later writings on screen. It was also perhaps the last "New Deal" film as our nation entered a heavy propaganda period when the Cold War began to unfold. From a cinematic point of view, a viewer should also note director Frank Capra's use of shading and contrast, particularly in the wedding night scene and when George and Uncle Billy pick up George's brother Harry at the train station. It is stunning how black and white can be made so beautiful.

(Personal note: I have sometimes explained my book on RFK surviving as an overtly political version of "Wonderful Life"...)

b. "The Shop Around the Corner" (1940), another James Stewart film, but one that gets slighted when we speak about Christmas films or even "classic films." This film was remade twice, most recently in a film called "You've Got Mail" with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. It was a nice remake because it changed the plot line and went from a "Charles Dickens" sensibility to a "E.F. Schumacher-small is beautiful" sensibility. The original film nonetheless has more gentleness and humanity, perhaps owing to the environment in Hollywood film-making at the time, and is more focused, through the end, on human longing for kindred spirits and companionship. Both films, though, remind us not to judge too harshly the people with whom we come closest in contact, and warn us not to dismiss the good in other people. Frank Morgan's performance in "Shop", as the store owner, Mr. Matuschek, is brilliant in its evocation of pathos, and his presence is everpresent, even when not on screen. The rest of the cast, starting with Stewart, play off Morgan and there is a strong sense of family that emanates from the cast's performances. NOTE: Avoid the dreadful musical film remake of this film, with Judy Garland, called "In the Good Old Summertime" (1949), which is only watchable for Garland's magnificent singing. The plot is flattened and the cast, especially Van Johnson, seems aware of how flat the writing is for this version. Again, though, "You've Got Mail" is worth a watch--and it is part of my proof for the proposition that Tom Hanks is our generation's Jimmy Stewart.

c. "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947). It is as clear a film as can be in terms of presenting a plot line. One feels the brisk weather at the Macy's parade and the tension during the courtroom trial where Edmund Gwenn's Santa Claus is almost locked away. The New Deal politics are all over this film, too, with remarks about workers' rights, consumerism, the Democratic Party political machine in New York and unions. However, the gender role issues are fascinating to watch, with a strong, beautiful and deeply moving Maureen O'Hara filling up the screen in nearly every scene she appears. There is a poignancy in watching a young Natalie Wood, already growing up too fast. Still, this is the most pure of Christmas films in reminding us that our children deserve a right to believe in Santa and how our adult cynicism is ultimately degrading to a safe, childhood experience. Oh, and please stay away from any remakes and the colorized version of the original. They are, sad to say, without any soul.

d. "Toys" (1992). This wrongly maligned film begins and ends at Christmastime, and therefore qualifies as a Christmas film. It is not, however, a shallow anti-war film, as nearly all corporate media critics scornfully said upon its release. In fact, this film is about wars one must fight to protect one's community. It is a metaphor for World War II, if anything. Intrigued? Then, rent this film, if you can still find it, and watch it. This film has amazing performances and is well beyond a Robin Williams turn. There is little of Williams' ad libbing, for example (However, when the ad libbing shows up during the beginning of the final battle scene in the toy factory, it is fabulous!). The performances from Donald O'Connor's opening scene, to Joan Cusack's and LL Cool J (!!) humanity (that word again), to Michael Gambon's perfectly studied bureaucratic villany, are marvelous to see. Oh, and the soundtrack music may be the most underrated of at least the past thirty years..."Happy Workers" by Tori Amos and "Closing of the Year" are favorites of mine.

Director Barry Levinson, who wrote the screenplay with his former wife, Valerie Curtain, always shook his head at why critics were so vicious about this film. The answer is one Occam would understand: Simply put, the critics at large media outlets hate sentiment. That is the underpinning of this and these other Christmas films. They see a portion of reality that is hateful and cynical and judge all of reality by that portion. If a film is sentimental, it is not "real" to these critics and therefore, showing sentiment is a fatal flaw deserving nothing but derision.

e. Nearly any version of "The Christmas Carol," but especially the Patrick Stewart version, which is the closest to the book I've seen, and the brilliant musical version from Mr. Magoo. Yes, you read that last part correctly. The songs are wonderful and the film is well worth watching (it's only an hour), even without children nearby!

As we reflect on another Christmastime, I would merely ask the people of our nation to have more faith in each other, more faith in our nation's ability to survive its challenges and current incompetents and boors who are in leadership positions, and to realize that people around the world also want better lives for themselves and their loved ones. I don't say that because I always practice that, God knows I don't, but because it is a value worth preserving and striving to achieve. Skepticism is also an important value, but cynicism is just giving up and is akin to nihilism. We owe it to ourselves and each other to highlight and exault our best, not our worst, values, especially at this time of year.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Human Rights Watch nails its point against Likudnik attacks

This article, in the New York Review of Books, by Aryeh Neier, whose work I have followed for almost three decades, nails the facts to the foreheads of various Likud-supporting detractors on the reporting of the Human Rights Watch during the recent hostilities between Hezbollah (he writes Hizbollah) and Israel.

It is worth reading in full because it not only reveals important information about Hezbollah, but especially Isreali conduct during those hostilities. It also reveals how the widespread US media belief that the Hezbollah regularly used civilians as shields is not accurate. There is no doubt Hezbollah did use civilian shields in several instances, but not as much as even I had thought.

It is then fun to read this exchange between Neier and the former chair of the psychology department at UCLA, who castigates Neier through a blatant misreading of Neier's article. This pysch professor (who obviously needs some personal lessons in projection) accuses Human Rights Watch of not asking the IDF to conduct an investigation of a particular incident, when it did. The professor also says Neier was not condemning Hezbollah for using civilians and civilian locations as shields, when it did condemn Hezbollah for precisely that violation of international law.

The UCLA professor, Seymour Feshbach, is obviously of my same religious heritage. He provides, unfortunately, a good example of how an otherwise intelligent American Jew can become a hack on behalf of a foreign nation. But don't draw too broad a conclusion from that: For Neier is Jewish as is Kenneth Roth, who is leading the Human Rights Watch. And me, too!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mid week thoughts about Iraq, Bush and Obama

1. If we want our nation's troops to begin leaving Iraq, then we must impeach both Bush and Cheney. Bush will not leave unless and until Saddam is dead and buried. It's that simple for that simlpleton (Bush) and that jerk (Cheney). They misled the nation into war, and sent our troops into war without adequate gear or post-war planning. These matters alone are at least an arguable case for criminal fraud or a conscious disregard for life and limb, which should require an investigation directly against them for their fitness to continue in office. An impeachment is the investigation and trial of a president and vice president, after all is said and done. Why a lie about sex was impeachable but this is not merely shows a lack of political will.

2. Obama-mania is media driven. Obama is also not Robert Kennedy (This last link is to a book on RFK's tenure as Attorney General and how strong he truly was as Attorney General). If you want to compare Obama to someone in politics named Kennedy, then Obama, on his best and luckiest days so far, is Jack Kennedy: meaning he is someone with a piddling record in the Senate, has what Marshall McLuhan called the "cool" that Jack was perceived to possessed, and will not take chances on important policy matters. In saying this, I don't mean to disrespect Jack Kennedy, but there is a difference between Jack and Bob Kennedy when we isolate one man from the other.

And yes, Obama is better on the war than Biden or Hillary Clinton (though I wonder if Obama had been in the Senate in 2002, whether he would have supported the resolution for war the way Biden, Hillary Clinton and Kerry did...). Yes, Obama is better than Kerry in terms of knowing how to speak among and with media power brokers and reporters. Yes, he's better than any Republican even thinking of running for president. But part of the reason for the media hype is Obama's love of corporate trade deals and his refusal to have any "audacity of hope" for the American working class. And finally, Ken Silverstein's article about Obama in Harper's is on the web.

Bottom line: There are better candidates for president out there, starting with the true Al Gore, Wes Clark and my surprise candidate, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. It's 2007 and let's remember: Candidates with media hype this far away from a presidential election tend not to get out of primary season. Think George Romney in 1967 (Mitt's Dad), Muskie in 1971, Bill Bradley in 1999, just for starters.

And if you want to read an essay about the 1968 election and why Robert Kennedy was going to win, despite being a "hot" personality in McLuhan parlance, then (shameless plug) see here. It's why I also think there are severe limitations to McLuhan's "cool" vs. "hot" medium analysis.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Jimmy Carter's conclusions may be too rough on Israel, but errors so far found are relatively few

I haven't yet read Jimmy Carter's book, "Palestine: Peace,not Apartheid", but I have read about it and have read his two main critics' attacks on the book. From those criticisms, I would tentatively conclude that Carter's errors are small in number. However, there appear to be significant omissions of information and questionable conclusions drawn by Carter that sound much too harsh against Israel. I will withhold a definitive conclusion until I read at least significant portions of Carter's book.

Still, it's worth dissecting the critics' positions:

1. Alan Dershowitz:

It is somewhat ironic for Dershowitz to say of Carter and his book: "I don't know why Jimmy Carter, who is generally a careful man, allowed so many errors and omissions to blemish his book." Here's why. And here, too. Regarless of Dershowitz's own errors and charges of plagarism against him, Dershowitz's book on Israel is a particularly one-sided polemic on the topic of Israel.

But, in this article at the Huffington Post, Dershowitz makes a case for one outright error of a fact, significant omissions of various facts--and a few simple disagreements with Carter over conclusions Carter draws.

Carter's one outright error, per Dershowitz: Carter says Israel attacked Jordan first in the Six Day War of 1967. That is wrong. Israel attacked Eygpt first in that war, but Jordan attacked Israel first in that war.

The alleged ommissions in Carter's book, however, are more significant, and include, again, per Dershowitz, the following (space tells me not to discuss every omission):

1. Carter's book discusses UN Resolution 242, the basic resolution that calls for all sides to negotiate final boundaries for all parties, including refugees, which many correctly believe includes Palestinians. However, Dershowitz says Carter does not admit the Israelis accepted Resolution 242 and that the Arab and Palestinian leaders rejected Resolution 242. However, in making that statement, Dershowitz is himself misleading. In fact, many Arab leaders, from Eygpt, to Saudi Arabia and even the PLO have accepted Resolution 242. Plus, Hamas came close this year to accepting Resolution 242.

2. Carter does not acknowledge that Jews have continually lived in Hebron, Jerusalem, and Tzfat for over two millennia. Per Dershowitz, Carter only describes how the Arabs have lived there "since Roman times..." That would be misleading for those reading Carter's book and not being familiar with the history of the area.

3. Carter blames Israel for an exodus of Christians in the area without discussing how the rise of Muslim fundamentalism has been a major reason for Christians leaving Israel, Lebanon, and other Arab nations. That omission is egregious as Muslim fundamentalist persecution of Christians is quite extensive.

Dershowitz is wrong, however, to count, as misstatements or omissions, simple disagreements over conclusions. For example, Dershowitz says:

"Carter blames Israel, and exonerates Arafat, for the Palestinian refusal to accept statehood on 95% of the West Bank and all of Gaza pursuant to the Clinton-Barak offers of Camp David and Taba in 2000-2001. He accepts the Palestinian revisionist history, rejects the eye-witness accounts of President Clinton and Dennis Ross and ignores Saudi Prince Bandar's accusation that Arafat's rejection of the proposal was 'a crime' and that Arafat's account 'was not truthful'--except, apparently, to Carter. The fact that Carter chooses to believe Yasir Arafat over Bill Clinton speaks volumes."

If Carter completely exonerates Arafat and completely blames Israel, that would be a misleading. Somehow, I doubt that Carter was that bad. Dershowitz however has himself committed a sin of omission. It is not "Palestinian revisionist history" that Carter appears to accept. Contrary to Dershowitz, Carter is merely likely agreeing with the facts and conclusions of another member of the US Middle East peace team (Robert Malley), who, with a Palestinian negotiator, wrote detailed articles in the New York Review of Books, stating Arafat was largely justified in his actions. They also concluded Clinton and Barak were not as clean as many have assumed in the failure of Israel, the Palestinians and the US to reach an agreement in 2000 and January 2001. See here for the original article, here for Barak's response and here for the authors' reply to Barak.

Carter also apparently states it was wrong for Israel to bomb the Iraqi nuclear facilities in 1981. That is not an error or omission. That is an opinion. I don't share that opinion and neither does Dershowitz.

Overall, if Dershowitz thinks the items he lists are the "most egregious," well, I expected far worse.

2. Kenneth Stein:

Stein, a history professor who served as the first executive director of the Carter Center, and has now formally resigned, claims there are "glaring errors" in Carter's book. But he has not published anything yet explaining the nature of those errors.

However, there is a related new controversy regarding the book: Carter apparently borrowed, without attribution, a map of Israel and surrounding areas from Dennis Ross' book on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Ho hum.

Tentative conclusions:

What bothers me about Carter's book, from the above, is that he may not be providing enough of a critique of Arab leaders, including Hamas. For if these Arab leaders ever defeated Israel in a full on war, these Arab leaders would have likely led a massacre of every living Israeli Jew they could find. It is horrible and disgusting for Arab leaders, including those in Iran, to continue to want to destroy Israel, which takes up a small sliver of land in a vast Arab world. Carter sounds like he could have written a more even handed book--and ironically Dershowitz's own recent, troubled book could also have been more even handed.

Still, let's say the following for Carter and his book: Carter has dared suggest a comparison of life for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank that bears more scrutiny and discussion. There is some resemblance to the treatment of blacks in South African "homelands" under the white person dominated South African apartheid government (1940s through 1980s). Unlike Carter, I have more narrowly phrased this point. Carter, however, wanted to grab our attention--and considering how Democratic Party and Republican Party leaders pander to the far right elements of Israeli politics, we should be more supportive of Carter's larger efforts than dismissive.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Feeling one's enemy's pain; and why the Holocaust did help usher in Israel

A Muslim man in Israel has created a museum to help Arabs understand that the genocide against Jews in Europe did occur and that the Jewish experience of the genocide forms a deep scar on the Jews living in Israel.

See here and here for news stories in the LA Times and Boston Globe, respectively.


The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a Jewish oriented organization, is quoted in the articles as being outraged by the linking of the establishment of the State of Israel to the Holocaust. Yes, there is no doubt that the British had promised the Zionist movement leaders a state of their own, or "homeland," through the Balfour Declaration in 1917, over three decades before the Holocaust. However, despite that promise, the British, by the late 1930s, had begun to renounce that promise (See here) against the backdrop of the growing "oil politics," pushback by the Arabs to the growing Jewish population in what was then called Palestine, and the coming of World War II. After World War II, when people saw more fully the horror of Nazi and other European nations' genocide against Jews, and where Europe's Jews continued to find they were not welcome in Europe (or even here in the USA), there can be little doubt that the genocide of Europe's Jews provided a new and decisive push that led to the British partition plan of November 1947, which recognized a separate "homeland" for Jews and Arabs, and the May 1948 formal declaration of the State of Israel. Just read the ADL's own web site here and note how it strains (link fixed!) not to connect World War II, the decline of the British Empire, and especially the genocide of Jews in Europe to the creation of Israel.

At every Temple I've ever belonged to--and that's a few, due to moving to different areas--I've heard Likud-supporting American Jews tell me how, without the Holocaust, the State of Israel would not have been "born." I recently heard, at my local Temple, two Jewish college students, who were ardent pro-Israel supporters, make this connection explicit--with one of them going so far to say that the Holocaust's only positive aspect was the creation of Israel after World War II. The two students were speaking to the Temple, from the pulpit, recounting their experiences after one of those awful propaganda tours American-Jewish organizations offer for young people.

And see here for a somewhat scholarly article on this subject by the then-chairman of the Jewish student group, Hillel, at University of California, Santa Barbara (also a history major, per this article).

So why does the ADL deny a connection that many Jews in America see quite clearly for themselves?

Because what really upsets the ADL is that the museum also includes photos and information describing the pain of Palestinians in losing land and communities, especially since 1947. God forbid that more Jews in Israel should understand the pain of Palestinians than simply reading what is a wonderfully penetrating book, "The Yellow Wind," by David Grossman, who lost a son in the last war with Hezbollah this past summer.

Ironically, an old Polish Marxist who came from a family of Jewish rabbis, Isaac Deutscher, long ago catpured a great metaphor for the situation facing Jews and Arabs in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank in a prescient article written just after the Israelis' victory in the so-called "Six Day War". In his essay, "The Isareli-Arab War, June 1967," which was published in his posthumous book of essays, "The Non-Jewish Jew" (Oxford University Press, 1968), he wrote:

"A man once jumped from the top floor of a burning building in which many members of his family had already perished. He managed to save his life; but as he was falling he hit a person standing down below and broke that person's legs and arms. The jumping man had no choice; yet to the man with the broken limbs he was the cause of his misfortune. If both behaved rationally, they would not become enemies. The manwho escaped from the blazing house, having recovered, would have tried to help and console the other sufferer; and the latter might have realized that he was the victim of circumstances over which neither of them had control. But look what happens when these people behave irrationally. The injured man blames the other for his misery and swears to make him pay for it. The other, afraid of the crippled man's revenge, insults him, kicks him and beats him up whenever they meet. The kicked man again swears revenge and is again punched and punished. The bitter enmity, so fortuitious at first, hardens and comes to overshadow the whole existence of both men and to poison their minds."

The metaphor is not perfect because the argument takes place on a public sidewalk, not the injured person's own property. Arguments over land go to basic human emotions of fear and security, are often irrational and are never pretty. Still, the metaphor is helpful to understand what is beneath various arguments bandied back and forth between partisans of Israel and the Palestinians,. The Muslim man who has started this important museum is simply trying to explain why each side's pain and experiences are real and should be acknowledged and understood. Good for him, and bad for the ADL for attacking him.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

LA firefighter's case against the city is big, but not $2.7 million big

As this story appears to be widely reported outside of Los Angeles...

This article by the lawyer for the Los Angeles firefighter with the discrimination and retaliation claim against the City of Los Angeles proves why the right wing radio commentators were full of it to make the firefighter's lawsuit sound like a single, small incident that should not be settled for more than a nuisance payment. In fact, the firefighter's lawsuit is not just about one incident of a African-American firefighter having had dog food put into his meal while on duty. It is about retaliation against an individual for standing up to an already proven hostile environment for African-Americans in the Los Angeles Fire Department--and losing his job for standing up for his rights as a citizen and employee.

However, when I add up the firefighter's likely economic losses, they are not as significant as the attorney makes it sound in her article. For the firefighter has a duty to mitigate his damages by trying to get another job that pays decently--but it need not be any job, nor even a low-paying job. But even with a lower wage loss component, the lost pension issue could significantly increase the value of the economic loss component of the damages. Still, this overall limit to the economic losses will also affect, to some extent, a jury's likely award of "emotional strain" or general damages; meaning the "emotional strain award is likely to be lower as a result. An added factor, however, will be the attorneys' fees and litigation costs the firefighter's attorney will likely be awarded, which fees and costs could end up being over $500,000 (cases like these, with lots of witnesses and paper trails, are very expensive to prosecute). With that in mind, the firefighter, assuming he prevails against the City of Los Angeles, will likely receive a jury verdict (and post-verdict attorneys' fees and costs) of approxmiately $1.5 million--and on a great day, with a likely jury of fellow public employees in downtown Los Angeles, he might get $2.0 million.

But what about punitive damages, you might ask? Well, under California Government Code section 818, the City cannot be held liable for punitive damages. There is only a potential recovery of economic and general damages, and then an award of attorneys' fees and costs. That's it.

The Los Angeles City Attorney, normally no pushover, had recommended the Los Angeles City Council accept a proposed $2.7 million settlement. The City Council, however, after a contentious public meeting, and following an outcry led by local right wing talk radio, rejected that settlement proposal. If I'd been on the City Council, I'd have probably voted that settlement down, too. But, I would not have joined in the virulent attacks that sprouted from right wing radio, which at least indirectly proved the point, once again, that being an African-American male is just one more "thing" to deal with, even in "modern" America.

At the end of the day, if I was the firefighter and the attorney, I'd see about settling for $1.0 million, but still getting the pension, as with the original settlement. That would probably pass muster with the City Council and the mayor, especially with the City's fire chief suddenly "announcing his retirement" just a couple of days after the City rejected the settlement proposal. If that is not another admission of a major problem in the department (though its admissibility at trial may not be so obvious...), I don't know what is.

The City's fire department has been and continues to be a long-standing problem in creating a hostile environment for African-Americans. The Pierce lawsuit has proven to be an exclamation point to that previous sentence. The best thing to happen would be for the department to take immediate steps to curb the racist-tinged frat boy atmosphere and get this lawsuit resolved before it goes to trial.

Could I be wrong in my analysis? Sure can. But, with the evidence that is likely to come into the courtroom, even the evidence of some photos of the firefighter taking part in a far less outrageous "hazing" for a retiring firefighter will not likely save the City from an adverse verdict. For a jury will be constantly reminded that the case is about the retailiation against the firefighter and the fact that he was hounded from his job for standing up to the hostile environment. That's what the case is really about.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Gates is to Clifford what Iraq is to Vietnam...and building a lasting Democratic Party majority

I continue to agree with Atrios and others that Bush is showing no inclination to leave Iraq. I also continue to believe this is because Bush won't leave until he knows Saddam is hung and dead.

I was then going to offer you my Clark Clifford is like Bob Gates as Vietnam is like Iraq historical argument; but Fred Kaplan at Slate beat me to it.

Related to this point, I continue to be amazed at how Republicans leaders, from Bush, Cheney and Rummy on down the hierarchy, many of whom built political careers out of saying that President Lyndon B. Johnson failed to heed generals as to how to fight the Vietnam War, could have been even more brazen in refusing to heed generals as to how to fight the Iraq War II. When one adds in the lies about the level of Saddam's WMDs, especially nuclear, and the refusal to properly outfit our troops, one may reasonably conclude that the Republican leaders have a cruel indifference and perhaps a contempt for people who serve in the military. That is the logical conclusion of their hatred of government employees, though, isn't it?

It is that indifference to and contempt of the military, and their refusal to understand that sending people to die in unmeritorious and wrong wars is also an example of that indifference and contempt, that could form the basis of a Democratic Party majority for years to come. But, at some point, Democrats may have to convince people like this idiot and maybe this person, too, that they are merely nice bankers who should take their elitist/corporatist economic positions, and their continued love of this horrendous war, and join the Republican Party. Really, why are those two even thinking of running for president in the Democratic Party in 2008? Do their egos and vanity overwhelm their common sense that badly?

And yes, once again: Please click on and maybe even download my essay "How Bobby Kennedy wins the 1968 election" over at Amazon Shorts. Thanks!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Yesterday's songs, today's reality

Phil Ochs wrote a song in the late Sixties called "White Boots Marching in a Yellow Land," which was obviously about Vietnam. The lyrics are here (as are the chords in case someone is adventurous enough to play it).

One of the verses is this:

Train them well, the men who will be fighting by your side
And never turn your back if the battle turns the tide
For the colours of a civil war are louder than commands
When you're white boots marching in a yellow land

Today, we read an article about the so-called top unit of Iraqis we are training. Since the LA Times makes it hard for some to access, allow me to restate what I think are the relevant paragraphs:

U.S. officials say an imminent expansion of the Military Transition Teams — squads of American military advisors traveling with Iraqi army units — will meet demands Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki made of President Bush at their meeting in Amman, the Jordanian capital, last week for more authority over his own security forces.

But interviews at their joint Rustamiya base with U.S. advisors and Iraqi soldiers involved in Friday's battle revealed a different story. The operation was hastily prepared and badly executed, they said, and plans to let the Iraqis take the lead in the battle were quickly scrapped.

"It started out that way," Baxter said. "But five minutes into it, we had to take over."

Staffed with veterans of the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s and equipped with a complement of refurbished Soviet tanks and American Humvees, the 4,000-soldier 9th division is considered Iraq's best hope for an eventual U.S. troop withdrawal.

But confusion swiftly reigned as insurgents in Fadhil pummeled dismounted Iraqi troops and their American advisors. U.S. radio jammers seeking to hinder communications between insurgents ended up blocking the Iraqi soldiers' walkie-talkies, forcing them to use unreliable cellphone signals to stay in contact. Voice commands were lost amid the explosions and gunfire echoing off the walls.


At one point he noticed Iraqi soldiers in their armored Humvees pulling away in panic.

"I tried to halt the Iraqi army trucks to stop the trucks to give us cover," he said. "The driver gives me this dumb look."

The U.S. military is ramping up its training program to add 30,000 Iraqi troops by mid-2007 to make up for soldiers who have abandoned their posts or died. The new recruits are also intended to supplement the small number of Iraqi troops willing to travel away from their home bases despite dangerous conditions or the possibility of being ordered to fight against members of their own sect.

Most soldiers in the 9th division, for example, are Shiites, and U.S. and Iraqi officers said they doubted the troops would obey if ordered to fight in Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad such as Sadr City.

"In August, when we started Operation Together Forward to secure Baghdad, we called on a bunch of units to assist," said U.S. Army Col. Douglass S. Heckman, the commander for the 9th Division Military Transition Team. "This division was the only one that moved into the operation. The others balked."

But Friday's battle suggested that even Iraq's best trained and equipped division is far from having the ability to operate independently. Heckman said attrition and liberal leave policies meant that only 68% of the 9th division is even on duty at any given time.

Another American advisor complained that the division had only 65% of the weapons and other equipment that it had been allocated by the U.S.

"And it's not just my guys," said the advisor, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "As I look across the division MiTT teams, they all tell me the same thing. Some of them have 50% of their equipment, some have 75%, but it's the same thing all over Iraq."


If you want to hear the melody of Och's song, try here.

Oh, and in case you're wondering who is Phil Ochs, take a purusal around this web site for starters. Ochs is the voice of the Sixties student movement, hands down. He is right up there with Woody Guthrie.

PS for Shameless Plug:

Pick up my just published essay, "How Bobby Kennedy Wins the 1968 Election" here at Amazon Shorts.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Why Bush won't leave Iraq

Remember when Bush was telling us Rummy was going to stay till the end of Bush's term--and then, after the election, Bush kicked Rummy out of the administration? See here for Eric Alterman's excellent discussion of Bush's stunning admission of a full-on lie on this subject.

That should be the last straw for anyone who thinks Bush tells the truth about nearly anything, especially when it comes to why we are in or staying in Iraq.

I have long believed the reason Bush doesn't leave Iraq is not because he cares about whether Iraq is stable or whether he is promoting democracy in Iraq. He would like to have permanent bases in Iraq, but even he must see the screwed up situation for American troops there. The reason I believe Bush doesn't withdraw troops from Iraq is because he is afraid, yes, afraid, Saddam would escape if US forces left Iraq. That is why, if Saddam is hung for his crimes, and Bush gets to kick the body of Saddam to be sure Saddam's dead, Bush will suddenly announce the US is leaving. If the US military left Iraq and Saddam escaped, he knows, politically at least, even his most loyal Busheviks will say Bush miserably failed. So, if Saddam is spared, or somehow delays proceedings, Bush will stay and stay through the rest of his term as president.

Apart from the misleading headline in this Yahoo!/Bloomberg story, Bush shows no current sign of saying US forces will leave soon. However, it is clear there is pressure on the administration from the elite corridors of our nation, and from within the Malaki so-called "government," for the US to set an immediate timetable to leave.

Sad to say, but I bet what Bush said to Malaki: Hang Saddam and US military forces will leave. That is what I think Bush wants. He's that simple minded and that cynical.


As noted in the post below, my new essay
"How Bobby Kennedy Wins the 1968 Election"
is up at Amazon Shorts. Just type in my name (Mitchell J. Freedman) and the essay link will pop up--it costs 49 cents to download for reading.


My Amazon Shorts essay has been published!

This afternoon, Amazon Shorts has published my essay:

"How Bobby Kennedy Wins the 1968 Election"

It looks really nice the way Amazon put it together. I don't get the Roman numeral footnotes (my footnotes were with our Arabic numerals), but the layout is great.

I am told Amazon Shorts doesn't accept every submission and often rejects submissions. I am therefore quite honored it published this essay.