Monday, November 26, 2007

Thoughts on the Middle East summit

Hey, the figurehead president (Bush) and I agree on something. I'm cautiously optimistic too about the Middle Eastern nations' summit the US is sponsoring. I am cautiously optimistic because these nations' leaders know how incompetent and craven this administration is, so maybe they are thinking to themselves, "You know, we might as well do this peace talking ourselves. The US leadership is sooooo pathetic these days." Really. I am cautiously optimistic about this, and wish these nations' leaders would take some chances for peaceful overtures to each other. They might be happily surprised at the answers.

Yossi Beilin
agrees with me, and not for the first time.

Yossi would likely laugh at this statement from Hamas (i.e. that Abbas is a traitor and that Hamas will not abide by any peace agreement), and say this shows how the majority of Hamas' leadership is deathly afraid of peace above all else.

Olmert is also so low in the polls in Israel, and so much a lame duck, that he now has nothing to lose by trying to create a peace settlement with Abbas and maybe somebody from Hamas, eventually. I see it this way: When oppression and war fails, you might as well try peace.

Yes, I am cautiously optimistic about this summit. More than I've been in a long time. Let's hope Bush stays on the side lines and lets Condi walk through this--and let the Middle Eastern nation leaders take the initiative themselves.

ADDENDUM AND UPDATE: My, my, aren't Hamas and the current leader of Iran a nervous bunch? They make threats because they are afraid a peace agreement might occur, and that worse for them, people in the streets in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as in Israel, will rejoice. I'm at work and I couldn't link, but I couldn't resist this one!

MUCH LATER IN THE EVENING: Okay, now I'm home and here is a link about Iran and Hamas blasting the peace conference.

(Edited)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving

Bill Moyers, in a wonderfully phrased speech before the Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, nicely explains the appeal of FDR in a way that makes me say "Thank you, and amen, brother."

The Institute's web site is here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A brilliant video from a semi-retired writer

Irv Brecher, a legendary writer who is 93 years "young," as they might say, spoke into the camera about what he calls "The Same Old Story."

I loved it, and hope you might find it at least enjoyable.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Writers of the world, unite!

This strike called by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) is such a difficult strike to maintain--because there are any number of "non-WGA member" writers out there who will jump at the chance to write for radio, television or film.

Still, I hope people can understand that writers are getting screwed in the digital age by corporate executives who truly are gaining an unfair advantage over the writers.

And I hope at some point Ellen Degeneres and the Directors' Guild of America (DGA) will realize that they should support the writers and not worry about whether the Directors' Guild contract is breached by such support. The writers' strike will not last too long if the DGA went on a sympathy strike. When the DGA stands on the sidelines, however, it is taking sides and is acting for management.

I have two dear and close friends who are husband and wife, who are, respectively, in the WGA and DGA. I understand why the one friend who is a member of the DGA is continuing to work. She has to earn a living for her family and the DGA has said that anyone not working (in order to support the writers' strike) is breaching the DGA contract.

The DGA leadership needs to truly lead here and not tell its members to hold to their contract in this circumstance, and the DGA leadership should really not be talking about the directors' need to control "product" when writers are fighting for their most basic rights as part of the broadcast or film process. When I read DGA's justification for their position regarding the writers' strike, I concluded the DGA leadership has imbibed too much of that intellectual liquor known as the "auteur theory." Gore Vidal, among others, has ripped that theory quite well in my opinion. If, however, the theory is valid, then the directors are bascially saying they are aligned with management, and the writers are more like their employees or independent contractors. They are certainly not co-employees in that respect.

If I am wrong in any way here, I welcome comments. But from my perspective, as an outsider who nonetheless believes unions should be re-invigorated in the private sector of the United States, I am standing fully in support of the WGA strike.

(Edited)

Will Israel act in good faith for the new peace negotiations?

Today, the Palestinians did something smart: They have requested the US to push Israel to stop all building of settlements, including those under construction or planned for construction.

The Israeli government can do something equally smart by agreeing to this proposal. Accepting this proposal could help reignite talks that may actually lead to something substantial for peace. If the Israeli government rejects this proposal or plays games with semantics about stopping the "growth" of settlements (which means those being constructed or planned are going to continue to be constructed and planned), as the Palestinian diplomats have said, then the Israeli government will be telling the Palestinians that they are not presently interested in peace.

Some moments are really this simple, and the Israelis must not miss this opportunity.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Heinous criminal indicted...Huh?

Let's see. A top federal government official discloses the identity of an undercover CIA agent to punish the agent's husband, all for crass political motives, and then lies about it...That official gets pardoned by the so-called president of the United States.

But now the President's Justice Department helps convince a federal grand jury to indict a baseball player for lying about whether he took steroids.

Priorities, priorities...

My new priority I guess is: Free Barry Bonds!

But unlike some Mumia* supporters, at least I know Bonds is guilty. I just think Bonds should be left alone. Baseball owners looked the other way during the Steriods Era and Bonds should not be made a scapegoat.

* Calm down, Mumia fans. I don't think Mumia was guilty of first degree murder. I think he just came upon his brother getting unfairly beat up by a white police officer, got into it with the officer, and the officer ended up dead. That is less a first degree than a second degree murder, and not one where a person should be sentenced to death under the circumstances. There were also some questionable prosecution tactics and scam witnesses in the trial, which occurred in an atmosphere not conducive to due process.

Thursday night reading...for the weekend

Here is Mike Davis, who appears to be living in San Diego these days, writing in the London Review of Books about the recent fires here in San Diego County. Somehow I don't think the San Diego Union-Tribune is going to publish even part of this...

And here is an article by Frederick Crews, entitled "Talking Back to Prozac," which is the type of article that truly informs and enlightens. It helps articulate what I have had concerns about for some years now: The growing sense among scientists and researchers that being sad is just another "sickness" that has to be cured. This concern was articulated well in Aldous Huxley's novel, "Brave New World" with the idea of taking "soma" to make you feel better. However, we as a society seem to have ignored Huxley to a point where we should now begin to resound the cultural alarm. There is something sinister in wanting to "cure" what may be a mechanism that helps us ultimately cope and adapt, and yes, sadness is at least sometimes something that helps us focus on an issue we have ignored. And I love the article's closing paragraph, which provides one more reason why we as a nation should reject the overwhelming power of private enterprises in providing insurance to pay for medical services and producing medication "products."

Finally, an interesting review of a new book positing how Palestinians and Jews live together in some areas of Israel. The book is entitled "Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel and Palestine" (U of Chicago Press, 2007).

(Edited)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Nation writers pick their candidates

In The Nation magazine on line, Gore Vidal pens a nice and succinct essay supporting Kucinich. What is great about it is Vidal makes the case that Kucinich is fearless and prophetic about his community in Cleveland and our nation.

Meanwhile, The Nation writer Katherine Newman makes a wonderful case for John Edwards.

Elsewhere, though, one finds John Nichols inexplicably concludes that Biden is the most appealing presidential candidate (He forgets, however, Biden's horrible leading role in the Bankruptcy Deform bill, Biden's corporate trade whoring and overall weakness concerning New Deal policies and philosophy). Worse, Ellen Chesler tells us at the end of her essay that we should vote for Hillary because of Hillary's genitalia. Earlier, she tries to fool us--after fooling herself--into thinking Hillary might know what a union is without tripping over one. And she also claims Hillary delivered an "impassioned" opposition to now Justice Alito. It is to laugh, as Daffy Duck would say.

Finally, Michael Eric Dyson makes a fool out of himself as well. He assumes Barack Obama is "Black Like Me." Sorry, Michael. Barack is green like financial equity house money, not even green like "Green." Don't believe me? Then, start with this essay in Harpers magazine. And then listen to Obama tell us the Social Security system is in "crisis." Wrong!

The "woman" candidate and the "black" candidate were carefully vetted by corporate media, Big Pharma and the financial industry. That is why, for the past year, they have sucked out the air in which broadcast media breathes. The sooner voters wake up and realize they can vote for who they want, the better.

My hope, not a prediction: Since Gore is not wanting to run in the primaries, we should push for an open convention where nobody gets a majority. It may be the only way to stop Hillary, Inc. At the convention, on the second vote around, the delegates are free to choose--and out from behind the curtain comes Al Gore.

Run, Al, run!

(Edited)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

NY Review of Books: Another great issue!

Here is Peter Matthiessen in the NY Review of Books writing about the warming of the northern upper reaches of our sphere that further reveals why the so-called Al Gore "worst case scenarios" may end up being too optimistic. The article is called "Alaska: Big Oil and the Whales."

And this article, from the same issue of NY Review of Books ("The Green Versus the Brown Amazon"), reveals that even President Lula of Brazil, one of the better socialists running a national government, is a being blind to the effects of destroying important habitat and greenery such as the Amazon River, which bends and weaves through Brazil. I see Lula's point that his nation should not alone pay for protecting the river, but it does show again where US leadership could have played an important and positive role all these years.

Here
is perhaps the best review of Paul Krugman's new book, "Conscience of a Liberal." Writer Michael Tomasky reminds us what I have said about Krugman these last six or seven years: Krugman started out in the 1990s as a Clintonoid, and has learned why he was a naive and shallow fool about things like the NAFTA and the hoax known as the "Social Security crisis." I remember Krugman getting his butt handed to him around 1999 in Slate.com when he tried to push his then Clintonoid economics line to web readers of that on-line magazine. He immediately started to re-examine his previous beliefs on trade, for example, and he and we larger reading public are better for it.

But there are clunkers, such as Richard Bernstein's pathetic response to two professors who nail him about Bernstein's review of the horrible last David Halberstam book on the Korean War. First, Bernstein thinks that in "all" of America's previous wars, our nation insisted on "unconditional surrender of the enemy..." which he then says made the peace President Eisenhower negotiated with the North Koreans "unsatisfactory." Excuse me, but World War II came to an end against Japan with a conditional surrender. Oh, Truman called the Japanese surrender "unconditional," but he was lying. To achieve peace with the Japanese, Truman expressly agreed to protect the Japanese Emperor Hirohito from war crimes prosecution, and to leave him in place as a figurehead leader--and that's how the Japanese High Command decided to surrender. The surrender came a week after the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagaskai on, respectively, August 6 and 9, 1945. Before August 6, 1945, the US position was that Hirohito would highly likely be prosecuted for war crimes following surrender.

Further, the US-Mexican War of 1848 did not end in an "unconditional" surrender of Mexico. After hostilities ceased between Mexico and the US, the US paid Mexico millions in reparations for taking the land we now call California, Arizona and New Mexico. We therefore placed a significant monetary and economic condition upon our military victory.

And let's not forget the end to the War of 1812, where we were lucky to end that war against the British with our nation intact. There was no "unconditional" surrender by the British "enemy."

Thus, when Bernstein refers to "all of the country's wars before Korea," he sadly means those wars which only occurred after he was born in 1932. Bernstein is, unfortunately, the latest American who proves Gore Vidal's generalization that too many Americans don't know squat about matters before they were born.

Bernstein (who I usually respect, I must say!) then compounds his ignorance with an unfair interpretation of Bruce Cumings' position on the start of the war between North and South Korea in June 1950. Cummings was merely saying that the war had started a couple of years earlier and that June 1950 was a continuation of the earlier clashes, this time with the North invading the South (after two Southern Korean invasions of the North in the previous two years). Cumings' point was recently reaffirmed by a fairly conservative military historian of the Korean penninsula, "The War for Korea, 1945-1950," by Allan R. Millett (U. Press of Kansas, 2005). That Bernstein is unaware of Millett's book reveals his ignorance of the state of scholarship about post-WWII Korea. The NY Review should have used Cumings as a reviewer, but it appears, from my review of the NY Review archives, the magazine has not used Cumings as a reviewer since 1975 (!). Cumings must have been crossed off its contributors' list around the same time as they crossed off Chomsky's name. Too bad. That's how the magazine got burned by Bernstein, who this time, was clearly out of his league.

Overrated author dies

Norman Mailer has passed away at age 84.

I am less interested in seeing how corporate media reports will cover his passing as much as how the literary establishment will discuss Mailer's literary output.

Personally, Mailer was a jerk to most people in his life--and his attempted murder of his then wife Adele ranks as perhaps the most criminally sick acts ever committed by any American intellectual over the last 100 years or more.*

But since more than a few justly famous authors over the past few hundred years were jerks in their private lives, that is less important than discussing the writer's literary work. On this important count for posterity, Mailer also fails. For Mailer was an overrated writer who, if he never existed, would leave the world of literature no better or worse off than it was with his presence. He never wrote anything that matched the best of his North American contemporaries, such as Gore Vidal, Kurt Vonnegut, John Cheever, Saul Bellow, Mordechai Richler or Philip Roth. Would anyone, for example, recommend "The Naked and the Dead" over any number of war novels? Does anyone really believe "The Armies of the Night" holds up as an important book to read to understand the 1960s?

Mailer liked to think he was a macho sort of guy, which was ultimately a pose. Like Warhol, he was about posing more than producing anything of substance. In the last thirty years, I saw Mailer as more like Zsa Zsa Gabor, more famous for being famous than anything or anyone else.

I know that sounds mean, but really, why hold back when it comes to guy who relished being a bully with others?


* Louis Althusser, the French Stalinist philosopher, of course, remains the King of Sick and Violent Intellectuals. Althusser was also incredibly overrated and is now mostly and thankfully forgotten. The great British mind, E.P. Thompson, wrote the definitive smack down of Althusser and others of his ilk in "The Poverty of Theory" (1984, Monthly Review Press). However, to see Thompson's extended essay in book form as a mere smackdown of a pompous Stalinist philosopher does a disservice to Thompson's insight. "The Poverty of Theory" is a brilliant and ringing endorsement for British empiricism over French philosophical theory--and should be required reading for any Philosophy major. That the critique comes from a British Marxist, Thompson, made it all the more interesting and ultimately rewarding.

(Edited)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Dramatic week in Congress

Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), a longtime favorite of MF Blog's proprietor (that's me, last time I checked), delivered a brilliant, tough, passionate and poignant statement on the bill in Congress that would simply make it a federal law that businesses can't discriminate against someone for being gay or a lesbian. This bill, however, has little chance of passing with enough support to withstand a veto from the Cheney (Bush) administration, despite the fact that, even back in 2005, up to 90% of Americans polled support Barney Frank's position.

And Congressman Dennis Kucinich tells it like it is in seeking to impeach Vice President Cheney.

Yes, lots of drama this week in Congress.

However, when it comes to action, the right wing won again. Tonight, the phony, cynical yutz, Mukasey, won approval from the Senate 53-40, to become the newest Attorney General of the United States. That such a man is now Attorney General of the United States is simply one more example of how shameful our nation's government has become. And a double shame on the six Democrats and Lieberman who voted with every Republican--and triple shame on Republican Senator John McCain, the only man in the Senate, who suffered torture, for not having the guts to oppose the nomination of a man who supports torturing people.

(Edited)

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Mess that is Pakistan

This New York Times article ("Pakistan Rounds Up Musharraf’s Political Foes") is refreshing in its relative candor as to the true intent of Pakistan's political and military leader. Any thought that President Musharraf was really interested in preventing a Muslim fundamentalist takeover appears to be naive. Musharraf has arrested his secular opponents, pressured various Supreme Court Justices to resign (likely Justices who might have found Musharraf's electoral victory to be illegal) and has pursued a policy of "zero tolerance" with regard to any political dissent.

Instead of preventing a Muslim fundamentalist takeover, such actions help to further legitimize Muslim fundamentalists as they are most likely to survive and thrive in such an atmosphere of repression--as happened in Iran in the 1960s and 1970s when the Shah exiled or killed many secular opponents, leaving the crazies to represent the voice of an oppressed people.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Caving in to waterboarding...

What CrooksandLiars.com said.

And more:

If you can't say waterboarding is torture, then you are not fit to be the nation's Attorney General. And if you're worried about saying waterboarding is torture because you are against potential prosecutions against those who authorized waterboarding as part of torture, then you are also unfit to be Attorney General--and you ought to consider moving to Uzbekistan. The prosecutions can easily be focused on who authorized it and provide immunity to those "following orders" if we're the least bit squeamish about the prosecutions.

Add Democratic Senators Feinstein and Schumer, plus every Republican Senator supporting Mukasey, to the Shame Hall of Fame with the Cheney (Bush) administration. What is particularly galling about this nominee, Mukasey, is that he is supposed to be a religious man. Well, by his actions, he has proven he has no faith in God or our country. He's a coward and a social climbing jerk.

Every Democratic Senator who supports this ridiculously cynical nomination should be excommunicated from the Democratic Party. This is no time to cave in to a lame duck criminal president who can't poll past 30%.

Yeah, I'm on fire about this issue this morning...