Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Did Jacko get whacked?

David Seaton's News Links
I was chatting with a Spanish banker friend, a man with lots of dealings in Latin America and the conversation turned to Michael Jackson. He said something interesting.

"I'm not saying he was murdered, but his dying is going to make things a lot simpler for a lot of people" he said.

"How so?" I asked.

"Well, apparently he was deeply in debt, but if you look his finances over you can see that his realizable assets far outweigh those debts." he said.

"So where is the problem?" I asked.

"Well" my friend took a deep breath, "it seems that not only was he justifiably paranoiac, because with reason, he hasn't been able to trust a single person in his entire life... especially his family; to top it off, they say he is very canny in his business dealings, very good at reading contracts and so on, so even if wasn't bat shit crazy, which he was, he would have been difficult to deal with... being crazy to boot, makes trying to collect from him like having root canal work done without anesthetic."


"With him dead, it's going to be easy to finally collect. Even if there is a huge battle over the inheritance, whoever finally gets the loot is going to want to settle the debts right away and then take the money and run".

"So somebody had him killed?" I asked.

"I'm not saying that, but there are a lot of people who are going to save a lot of time, money and aggravation, with him dead. The world is filled with people who will have you killed professionally for only small quantities just to send a message... imagine what happens or can happen when millions of dollars are at stake in the hands of a nut."

That's what the man said... it makes sense to me. DS

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Honduras, a simple case of is you is or is you aint

Top banana?

David Seaton's News Links
The Honduran coup d'état is more important than many might think, as absorbed as we all are in mourning the passing of Michael Jackson.

The United States is in immediate danger of being seen as either helpless or hypocritical or both.

In fact, from a point of view of American credibility the situation in Honduras is more relevant than even Iran or Afghanistan, because the situation in those countries is obviously quite intractable, but Honduras is a client state of the USA, practically an American colony.

Honduras, the classic "banana republic" is seen by the world as America's creature.

If Zelaya is returned to office because of US pressure to respect the democratic process, then the USA will gain a tremendous amount of credibility all over the world very cheaply.

If this doesn't happen then Obama and the USA will lose credibility accordingly. No one anywhere will ever believe that the USA couldn't turn this thing around if it wanted to.

In fact no one, anywhere will ever believe that the USA was not behind any final resolution of this question.

In fact that cynicism would be the last shred of dignity left to American power.

If the world ever thought for even a moment that the USA was impotent to influence the events in Honduras either as a paladin of democracy or as imperialist brute then that could be the beginning of the end. Things would begin to unravel very quickly for the United States of America.

The skinny:

This little coup could be more important for US credibility than Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan... If the USA can't control the situation in Honduras, how can anyone expect the USA to control anything in the Middle East or Southwest Asia... or the dollar for that matter? DS

Monday, June 22, 2009

Obama and the return of the chicken hawks

David Seaton's News Links
Such an unlikely commentator as the paleo-conservative curmudgeon, Pat Buchanan, has said something quite wise in defense of US president Barack Obama's policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of Iran:
It is impossible to believe a denunciation of the regime by Obama will cause it to stay its hand if it believes its power is imperiled. But it is certain that if Obama denounces Tehran, those demonstrators will be portrayed as dupes and agents of America before and after they meet their fate.

If standing up and denouncing the Ayatollah and Ahmadinejad from 7,000 miles away is moral heroism, it is moral heroism at other people's expense.
Buchanan has defined the situation with precision. when he speaks of "moral heroism at other people's expense.

In his analysis of the futility of international pressure on the Ayatollahs he is seconded by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:
One could assume that any country with a "supreme leader" whose power is handed down by God probably has a regime that doesn't care about the beating they'll take on Facebook forums.
But, if perchance I give the impression that Buchanan and Haaretz -- strange bedfellows if ever there were -- are reading off the same page, I should quote the closing lines of the Haaretz article which are a thinly veiled invitation to war:
Pray for the Iranian people, because it will take much more than a handful of martyrs and an endless stream of online flotsam to set them free.
Who exactly are Haaretz suggesting should bell the cat and "set them free"?

Who are the people pressuring Obama to get involved in Iran's internal affairs?

What we are witnessing is the return of the "chicken hawks", those "brave hearts", who have never fought and never intend to, or ever intend to send their children to fight, but who are in favor of American intervention in armed quarrels around the globe.

At the bottom, this is all about the neocons-Likud wanting an American war with Iran, just like they did with Iraq: we even had an article by Paul Wolfowitz, of all people, in the Washington Post.

All of this is just part of the media preparation for another war. The objective of the Israeli right wing is to break up the powerful nation states of the ME into their weakened component parts like they have in Iraq.

This, as the saying goes, is where Obama finds out who his real friends are.

One of the best defenses of Obama's reluctance to get involved in the neoconerie is from Leslie Gelb a former New York Times columnist and senior government official writing for the Council on Foreign Relations:
However "right" open condemnation might be, would it be influential in a helpful direction, i.e. to settle matters without undue bloodshed with highly uncertain results? Wolfowitz, the master strategist of the Bush administration for the Middle East, argues a resounding yes. He points to the color revolutions of Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, and yes, there's something to this. But Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was actually dismantling the Soviet empire-doing our work for us-and neither Ronald Reagan nor George H.W. Bush wanted to interfere with that process. Wolfowitz also cites the Philippines and the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos. But of course, Washington had enormous influence with the Filipino security forces to back up our calls for democracy, which we totally lack in Iran. Wolfowitz fails to mention moral calls in the 1950s by John Foster Dulles and the C.I.A. for uprisings in Hungary and its neighbors. The result? Soviet armies crushed the revolutionaries, and we did nothing, as President Eisenhower had made clear was his position beforehand. And Wolfowitz doesn't mention H.W. Bush's urging the Shiites of southern Iraq to rebel against Saddam in the wake of the first Gulf War. This resulted in a Shiite rebellion and in Saddam's killing tens of thousands of those poor souls, while Washington did absolutely nothing. And what about Tiananmen? Would going to the moral mattresses have prevented the awful crackdown by the Chinese communist government? Not a chance. And look where we are today-with China as America's biggest holder of U.S. securities. Wolfowitz and his fellow neocons are well aware of these histories and historical complexities. So, their disregard of any fair-minded exposition of the issue suggests a hidden motive-the Krauthammer goal of confrontation and regime change.
Why are they taking this trouble, with all the risk it entails?

Because they are desperate, that's why.

Israel has painted itself into a such a terminal corner that we are watching the death throes of a democratic Jewish state: either it becomes officially a totalitarian, apartheid state or it disappears.

The Palestinian "state", which is supposed to solve this would only be a giant prison camp administered by the trustees, and even that is too much for Israel's right wing

As a pariah apartheid regime, scorned by what is left of the civilized world the best and the brightest will leave the country to the semi-literate Haredi, who don't recognize the legitimacy of the "Zionist entity" any more than Hamas does.

Like a drowning man pulling his rescuers down with him, the moral blackmail the Israeli Likudnics assert on American Jewish people is warping the entire political and communications scene of the USA completely out of shape and if some distance is not put between the USA and Israel this grotesque partiality for a foreign state and the endless series of wars it drags the United States into, will eventually lead to a different relationship between American Jewish people and the rest of Americans: let me be clear that I'm not talking about traditional antisemitism, but rather a cooling, a skepticism, a cynicism... nonetheless tragic for all of us.

This is where, as the saying goes, Obama finds out who his real friends are.

Lets hope he stands fast and doesn't crack under this tremendous pressure because the principal challenge facing the USA is to provide good education, health care and gainful employment for all its citizens, not to eternally pull Israel's chestnuts out of the fire.

To p
rovide good education, health care and gainful employment for all its citizens the United States of America must stop tilting at windmills around the world and concentrate its resources on these tasks.

This means dismantling to a great degree its grotesquely bloated military-industrial complex and disengaging from many of the areas which were a priority during the cold war.

Israel is one of the most significant of these areas. DS

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I knew it! The truth behind the Tehran tweets

David Seaton's News Links
I have found myself getting more and more suspicious about the western media coverage of the Iranian elections and their aftermath.

As I wrote before, What I do know for sure is that there are two simultaneous stories:

1.) What is actually happening in Iran


2.) How it is being reported here.

What I see is that my point two is pushing Bibi Netanyahu and his version of a Palestinian "state" off the front pages.

It is a good thing to remember that while Iran, in reality, actually poses no threat to Israel's existence (Persians are not suicidal), a free, sovereign Palestinian state in "Judea and Samaria" does. or at least to Bibi's version of it. In my opinion the neocons are back at work.

The run up to Iraq made me a bit paranoid I'm afraid, and all those who whooped up that war, haven't folded their tents or committed harakiri either, they are still with us. I simply don't trust the intentions of the US media, not then, not now.

Just like during the run up to the war in Iraq, the US media is not checking the sources, they are just gushing over the twitters and their tweets. And that is professional negligence if there ever was, because they are quite fishy.

Have you noticed that you can read all these Iranian "tweets"? Are you aware that the language of Iran is Farsi, not English? Does this piece of information suggest anything to you? Perhaps, the world is like in Hollywood movies where all the exotic character speak English, albeit with charming foreign accents? Or maybe, the dial on a person's bullshit meter might tremble a bit?

But, unlike the run up to the war in Iraq, this time some amateurs have take the trouble to do the homework that the "professionals" seem too understaffed to do themselves.

A financial website, "Charting Stocks", has taken the trouble that the MSM can't be bothered with and has exposed a very effective Israeli psy-op.

So, whatever is actually happening in Tehran, we now know that the Israelis are manipulating our perceptions.

Sit back and read this:

Proof: Israeli Effort to Destabilize Iran Via Twitter #IranElection

Right-wing Israeli interests are engaged in an all out Twitter attack with hopes of delegitimizing the Iranian election and causing political instability within Iran.

Anyone using Twitter over the past few days knows that the topic of the Iranian election has been the most popular. Thousands of tweets and retweets alleging that the election was a fraud, calling for protests in Iran, and even urging followers hack various Iranian news websites (which they did successfully). The Twitter popularity caught the eye of various blogs such as Mashable and TechCrunch and even made its way to mainstream news media sites.

Were these legitimate Iranian people or the works of a propaganda machine? I became curious and decided to investigate the origins of the information. In doing so, I narrowed it down to a handful of people who have accounted for 30,000 Iran related tweets in the past few days. Each of them had some striking similarities -

1. They each created their twitter accounts on Saturday June 13th.
2. Each had extremely high number of Tweets since creating their profiles.
3. "IranElection" was each of their most popular keyword
4. With some very small exceptions, each were posting in ENGLISH.
5. Half of them had the exact same profile photo
6. Each had thousands of followers, with only a few friends. Most of their friends were EACH OTHER.

Why were these tweets in English? Why were all of these profiles OBSESSED with Iran? It became obvious that this was the work of a team of people with an interest in destabilizing Iran. The profiles are phonies and were created with the sole intention of destabilizing Iran and effecting public opinion as to the legitimacy of Iran's election.

I narrowed the spammers down to three of the most persistent - @StopAhmadi @IranRiggedElect @Change_For_Iran

I decided to do a google search for 2 of the 3 - @StopAhmadi and @IranRiggedElect. The first page to come up was JPost (Jerusalem Post) which is a right wing newspaper pro-Israeli newspaper.

JPost actually ran a story about 3 people "who joined the social network mere hours ago have already amassed thousands of followers." Why would a news organization post a story about 3 people who JUST JOINED TWITTER hours earlier? Is that newsworthy? JPost was the first (and only to my knowledge) major news source that mentioned these 3 spammers.

JPost, a major news organization, promoted these three Twitterers who went on the be the source of the IranElection Twitter bombardment. Why is JPost so concerned about Iranian students all of a sudden (which these spammers claim to be)? I must admit that I had my suspicions. After all, Que Bono? (who benefits).

There's no question that Israel perceives Iran as an enemy, more so than any other nation. According to a recent poll, more than half of Israel's population support using military force against Iran if they do not cease from developing nuclear energy (which they have the legal right to do as per the NNP treaty). Oddly enough, this comes out of a country which is not a cosigner to the NNP treaty and has no right to develop nuclear energy, yet posses an arsenal of nuclear BOMBS.

Of course, Mousavi himself plays an important role in causing the social unrest within Iran. How often do you see a candidate declare himself the winner before any votes are counted and then, when faced with defeat, call the entire election process a fraud? As obvious as it was in our own 2000 election, Al Gore would not touch the topic of voter fraud. No major US politician goes near the subject. They know full well that such an accusation would shake the entire foundation of our democracy and threaten the political structures that are in place.

These twitting spammers began crying foul before the final votes were even counted, just as Mousavi had. The spammer @IranRiggedElect created his profile before a winner was announced and preformed the public service of informing us in the United States , in English and every 10 minutes, of the unfair election. He did so unselfishly, and without any regard for his fellow friends and citizens of Iran, who don't speak English and don't use Twitter!

Meet The Spammers

3146 followers. 31 friends.
340 tweets in past 4 days. none before that.
Top 5 words - iranelection, cnnfail, mousavi, tehran,
All tweets in English
Time: Bulk between 12pm and 2pm eastern standard time
Most retweets: @StopAhmadi @IranElection09 @change_for_iran

14,000 followers. 0 friends
117 tweets in 2 days. none before that.
All tweets in English
Time: Bulk between 8:00 pm and 11:00 pm eastern.
Top 5 words: iranelection, people, police, right, students
No retweets

800 followers. 9 friends.
196 tweets in 3 days. none before that.
185 in English. 11 in Farsi (Arabic appearing letters. Not sure if it's Farsi)
Time: bulk between 2:00pm and 6:00pm eastern. Also 1:00am.
Top 5 words: iranelection, rt, mousavi, tehran, march
Most retweets: @IranRiggedElect @StopAhmadi

6199 followers. 53 friends.
1107 tweets in past 3 days. None before then.
top 5 words: iranelection, ppl, news, rt, iran.
All tweets in English
Time: bulk between 9:00am and 5:00pm eastern
Most retweets: @mohamadreza @mahdi

1433 followers. 142 friends
(protected account. cant see data)

The following all have the same photo in their profile and are followed by the profiles previously mentioned.


http://twitter.com/Change_for_Iran (14,000 followers)
http://twitter.com/IranElection09 (800 followers. 9 friends.)

One of the few things that I am sure of and understand in this situation is that the government of Israel, and those they influence, would like the USA to attack Iran. Up till now there has been little or no enthusiasm in the USA for doing so. How to "create" that enthusiasm? Stay tuned. DS

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iran: keeping our eye on the ball

David Seaton's News Links
With our 24x7 news cycle it is easy to miss the forest for the trees.

Right now the question for me in evaluating the situation is if the serious (read violent) disturbances are spreading beyond Tehran. How about Moussavi's home town for starters?

If the protests begin to spread all over the country, then I will begin to think that this is all something 100% genuine, impossible to manipulate.

At the moment all I really see is a battle between two Ayatollahs: Kameini and Rafsanjani, using surrogates. At this point Kameini is ahead on points.

The best write-up of the whole thing that I have seen so far comes from the Asia Times.

What I do know for sure is that there are two stories here:

  1. What is actually happening in Iran


  2. How it is being reported here in the west.

What I see is that my point two is pushing Bibi Netanyahu and his version of a Palestinian "state" off the front pages.

It is a good thing to remember that while Iran, in reality, actually poses no threat to Israel's existence (Persians are not suicidal), a free, sovereign Palestinian state in "Judea and Samaria" does. or at least to Bibi's version of it.

In my opinion most the furor over Iran in the western press, now and before, can be explained by this simple fact. The whole "Iran is a threat to the world", could easily be a massive red herring. DS

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Hundred Persian Flowers

David Seaton's News Links
Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo asks
the following question:
Bill Keller (editor of the whole operation) and Michael Slackman have a piece in Times arguing that Ahmadinejad and the hard line clerical establishment emerge from Friday's selection with a stronger hand than ever before. I'm curious whether others share that impression.
In this case, the answer is probably yes.

How so?

The first thing that someone who has grown up in a democracy has to get clear is the difference between a lone dictator and a regime.

A regime, even with an unquestioned, charismatic leader such as Mao T'se Tung can live and even thrive without the charismatic leader, while when the lone dictator like Uganda's Idi Amin Dada or the Congo's Mobutu Sese Seko disappears so does his entire ruling apparatus.

Obviously Iran, whether qualified democracy or iron fisted autocracy, is a regime; one which has handily survived the death 20 years ago of its über-charismatic founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. A regime that lasts this long under successive leaders, of necessity has a complex, multi-layered, organization and a wide popular base.

In the case of Iran the regime's popular base is made up of the traditional peasants and urban poor and finds the body of its critics among the urban middle-classes: people who would have the education, money and the leisure time to enjoy freedom of speech, a more relaxed dress code and travel abroad.

How does the present situation re-enforce the regime? The easiest example would be Mao T'se Tung's "Hundred Flowers" campaign, where he encouraged criticism of the party under the slogan;
"Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land."
When the flowers had "bloomed", when the intellectuals had spoken their minds, Mao lowered the boom on them. This is how Wikipedia describes the result,
The result of the Hundred Flowers Campaign was the persecution of intellectuals, officials, students, artists and dissidents labeled "rightists" during the Anti-Rightist Movement that followed. During this time, over 550,000 people identified as "rightists" were humiliated, imprisoned, demoted or fired from their positions, sent to labor and re-education camps, tortured, or killed.
That is what I imagine is happening or going to happen in Iran right now. Iran, certainly the regime, feels itself to be threatened by the USA and Israel and has every reason to feel so threatened: even a paranoiac can have enemies.

What they have done by encouraging a free and outspoken presidential campaign is to encourage any serious opposition to the status quo which might collaborate in any way with the west in time of war, to come forward and identify themselves.

Now they will round them up or at least know exactly who to round up at a moment's notice in case Obama doesn't turn out to be quite so friendly as he'd like them to believe.

So yes, the regime is strengthened by all this dissent: all the rallies and the demonstrations have been filmed, the regime's dissenters have taken the bait and all Khomeini's successor, Khameni has to do is reel them in.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Iran: stop and take a deep breath

David Seaton's News Links
In regard to the Iranian elections, I think it would be wise to pause before jumping on any bandwagon.

The western media reaction is beginning to remind me a bit of all those "(choose color) Springs", that the CIA organizes here and there, from time to time.

I am surprised at how much footage of police brutality is being freely filmed by western journalists and how freely they are allowed to beam this footage out of Iran. My experience of dictatorships tells me that this sort of thing is not typical of dictatorial behavior. (check Burma etc)

If I was going to make a "dark" reading of all of this, I might come to a tentative conclusion: that if someone wanted to start a war with Iran, this media frenzy would be just the sort of agit-prop to prepare western public opinion for something "surgical".

We lived through this same "Hitler of the month" thing with Bush and his neocons in the run up to the war in Iraq. This might be similar, only much better done this time.

In short, I don't trust US corporate media, or its "opinion makers" any more now than I did then. DS

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Taking the settler's "hate" seriously

David Seaton's News Links
First this from Haaretz:
Asked by Israel Channel Two Television reporter Shai Gal what would happen if Israeli forces tried to evacuate Havat Gilad, Arele replied, "At most, they'll demolish one measly shack, so they'll have something to show - that Kushon [a Hebrew slur equivalent to the "N" word] in the United States, in order to have an Etnan [the biblical term for a fee paid to a prostitute] to give him - if you [secular] guys know what an Etnan is."
I ask myself the following question:

If an Israeli wingnut was able to kill the prime minister of Israel and has received a lot of support in Israel for doing so, why should anyone think that an attempt on "Kushon" Obama would be out of the question? One of the drunk kids in the video, "Feeling the Hate" even says he would like to kill the president. OK, so he is just a drunk kid, but there are a lot of settlers, who aren't drunk, but are very dangerous and are American citizens.

What I am really afraid of is that one of these settlers, who is an American citizen, who can enter the US without any restriction, who can blend into an American crowd without being noticed as "foreign looking", who has had military training, will try to kill Obama the same way they killed Yitzak Rabin... Then the shit will really hit the fan.

I think this is a real problem and perhaps the only way to keep it from happening is to talk about it. Normally this would be putting ideas into people's heads, but I think the ideas are already there.

Let me make myself crystal clear: I am not talking about the drunken American louts in the video and I am not talking about wingnuts and sons of the wild jackass in general. There are always lone crazies around in the USA like the guy who shot Reagan. I am talking about the Israeli settlers "movement".

We are talking here about a group of people which is not only messianic and fanatical like Al Qaeda, but which also is closely connected to the Israeli establishment. We are talking about people who practice racist violence on a daily basis, who have weapons and have been trained to use them and who have used them, not just had fantasies about using them.

It also happens that some of the most fanatical and violent settlers are Americans of dual-nationality, who have many connections and admirers in the USA; these are people who can enter and reside anywhere in the USA without restriction, speak the language without a "foreign" accent and blend into the landscape without calling attention to themselves. In short "ordinary" Americans.

So what I am saying is that we have a climate of hate and group of well-connected, armed fanatics that consider themselves "on a mission from God", who are also native Americans. This has all the ingredients for a history making disaster. DS

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The European elections

David Seaton's News Links
How should we read the European Parliament elections?

To begin with, elections to the European parliament are usually fought country by country as local referendums entirely on national issues and despite the growing power of the European parliament in the daily life of all EU citizens, its role is hardly mentioned in these campaigns, which therefore are extremely boring and so abstention is normally very high.

In Spain's European parliament elections, for example, it usually happens that the party in power is roundly defeated by the mobilized base of the opposition party who come out en masse because they see an easy win, this happens because the party in power's voter base, seeing nothing much at stake, leaves them hanging in the wind. This is what has happened this time too.

This particular victory of the Partido Popular has had the perverse effect of consolidating Spain's conservative leader, Mariano Rajoy, who is considered so unattractive that even most of his own party think he has no chance against president Zapatero in the general elections three years from now.

If Partido Popular had lost the elections, this would have probably led them to change their candidate for the general elections, and since they have several candidates that are more charismatic than Rajoy, this victory may cost them dearly. So as you can see that in a European-wide election it is hard to see the forest for the trees.

The disaster in waiting

Probably the most dangerous result of this election has been the literal collapse of Britain's Labour Party under the leadership of Gordon Brown, which came in third behind the ultra-right UK Independence party (UKIP). If this leads to an early election before the the Lisbon Treaty is ratified it might lead to the British either leaving the EU or actually being expelled from it. Here is how the Financial Times columnist, Phillip Stephens lays it out:
Hang on in there, Mr Brown. Europe needs you for a while yet. The alternative could be a Conservative prime minister leading Britain towards the European exit. Such are the whispered anxieties in continental capitals, and among pro-Europeans in Britain, as Gordon Brown’s troubles stir speculation about an early general election.(...) the leaders in Berlin, Paris and elsewhere have selfish reasons for hoping that the present British government can stagger on until next year. They have spent the best part of a decade designing, redesigning and patching up an agreement to remake the European Union’s institutions. Once it was called the European constitution; now it goes by the name of the Lisbon treaty. But, horror of horrors, with the end at last in sight, David Cameron’s Conservatives are threatening to wreck the project.(...) The timing of the government’s demise could mark the difference between a serious argument about Britain’s relationship with Brussels and a rupture that would set in train its eventual departure.(...) It is clear to all that Mr Cameron wants to derail the process of European integration. His decision to withdraw from the European People’s party, the European parliament’s mainstream centre-right group, is a step in that direction. By aligning with a hotchpotch of small far-right parties, Mr Cameron has downgraded his party’s relationship with its French and German cousins. To move Britain to the sidelines of influence is one thing. To threaten to blow up the Lisbon accord is another. This is what Mr Cameron proposes by pledging to campaign for its rejection in a British referendum. And this is where the timing of the general election really matters.(...) Mr Cameron might argue that earlier versions of the treaty were rejected in referendums in France, the Netherlands and Ireland. But these were not conscious acts of government. Withdrawal from the EPP is a Tory shot across the bows of European integrationists. Wrecking the Lisbon treaty would be a declaration of war.(...) One thing is certain: neither Britain nor Europe needs an autumn general election. Nor, unless he wants to sleepwalk towards Europe’s exit, does Mr Cameron.
So the British results are the only ones that might have direct and historic consequences.

What happened to the European Social Democrats?

Most of the left's classic battles have already been won in Europe, from strong labor unions, a sturdy social net and free health care, right down to even "free love": all of these have been adopted by the center right. What have the social democrats got left to sell?

Here is how columnist Henryk M. Broder described in in Der Spiegel
Germany, and a large part of Europe, has in recent decades incorporated vast swaths of social democratic values into their societies. The Social Democrats have lost their unique selling point. With the exception of the business-friendly Free Democrats, Germany's parliament is full of politicians who are, in some shade or another, adherents of the social democratic worldview. The Christian Social Union (the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union) is to the left of the SPD on some issues. Merkel's CDU is sometimes greener than the Greens and the far-left Left Party continues to cozy up to Germany's mainstream parties. When almost all the parties on offer are center-left, there is no longer a compelling reason to vote SPD. On the contrary, there is nothing wrong with taking a look at those who offer something a bit different -- not unlike the way loyal Aldi shoppers take an occasional look at what rival supermarket chain Lidl is offering.
In general the problem right now with the European left is that they have not shown that they have a coherent critique of the system, which is what the voter of the left really wants from them. Until they produce that critique or the ultra-right makes more significant gains that frighten them sufficiently many left wing voters will simply abstain. It is interesting to note that the one figure of the left who did well in the elections was the French "Green", Daniel ("Danny the Red") Cohn-Bendit, who campaigned solely on European issues with a strong progressive message that would be far to the left of any mainstream American discourse.

An American reading (take care)

Americans may be tempted to see the European social democratic parties representing the same things as the Democratic Party of Barack Obama and the European center right taking the same positions as the Republican Party in the USA: this reading would be erroneous. For one thing, the Republican Party would be very far to the right of any mainstream party in Europe on economic and social issues and also foreign policy.

It is also important to clarify that the USA's Democrats are not really a party of the "left" in European terms. The reforms that the Democrats timidly put forward, like universal(?) health care and reasonably tight financial regulations are defended by European conservatives. The Democratic party is well to the right of the European center on most issues, most of the time.

You could say that the years of Thatcher-Reagan-Friedman have intellectually castrated the left. This is a problem in Europe, whereas the progressive voter in the USA is quite happy with neutered tom cats. DS

Monday, June 08, 2009

"Feeling the Hate"... looking on the bright side

David Seaton's News Links
This is certainly the year that a lot of stereotypes have bitten the dust: of course the top of the list of broken prejudices is symbolized by our president, Barack Obama, the first person of known African descent to occupy the Oval Office and soon we will have the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice.

This is wonderful. But the destruction of other stereotypes, though they fill the observer with wonder are anything but wonderful.

Max Blumenthal's little film "Feeling the Hate" has broken more stereotypes for me, personally, than the election of Barack Obama or the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

The success of either Obama or Sotomayor is no surprise to me on racial or ethnic grounds, as I have never thought that the color of a person's skin or ethnic origin had any bearing on their ability to carry out the duties and responsibilities of high office.

However, I also never thought I would ever hear Jewish people throw the word "nigger" around with such practiced aplomb as in this video.

As a matter of fact, I don't ever remember seeing a Jewish person as drunk as those portrayed in Blumenthal's interviews in my whole life; in my youth it was proverbial that, "Jews don't drink": getting roaring drunk was something that was left to brutish, wife-beating, Polish peasants and to feral Russian Cossacks.

So here, thanks to Mr. Blumenthal, we have a group of future "my son the doctor(s)" and Jewish Princesses, stumbling drunk, talking with the same disgusting bigotry as the Polish peasants and Russian Cossacks that used to rape their great grandmothers or the rednecks that spat on the Jewish Freedom riders in the 1960s or that lynched Leo Frank.

To whom do we owe this transformation, this leveling?

To the USA?

To Israel?

In the words of a great American poet, "C'est la vie say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell". DS

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Cairo: George Bush gets his lipstick


Let’s not forget that President Bush, and Condi Rice, also went to the Middle East and made lofty speeches about freedom and about how the U.S. was not in conflict with Islam. It was not the rhetoric that failed them; it was the disconnect between the rhetoric and the policies.(...) What he says in Cairo will make little difference to the way he’s perceived in the Arab world and beyond; he’ll be judged by what he does. Tony Karon

Speaking about a policy of pursuing a war against extremism and working towards two states for peoples on Palestinian lands is no different from the policy of his predecessor, George W Bush. Ayman Taha, Hamas spokesman in the Gaza strip - BBC

Arabs are waiting for pressure to be exerted on Israel so it can stop its violations in Gaza and the West Bank. Iraqi government spokesman - BBC

“The United States is in a weaker position now,” said Omar Amiralai, a well-known 65-year-old Syrian film maker. “They are stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan and don’t know how to get out. Bush, after the Iraq war, had some ability to pressure Sharon on Israeli settlements, but I don’t see that the United States has the ability to impose its law or desires on Israel now.” New York Times

David Seaton's News Links
What is the Obama administration's objective in the Middle East?

I ask the question because the stated objective, the Palestinian state, if it ever gets off the ground, will be nothing more than a huge concentration camp with no sovereignty over its borders or air space, with the most trusted inmates being allowed to run the day to day affairs of the prison,
keep order among the prisoners, keep their jailers well informed of the other prisoner's doings and presumably to skim the cream off the "state's" budget for their pains.

This, of course is essentially repackaged Rice/Bush.

On assessing the timing of Obama's Cairo speech, one essential thing to remember is that on Sunday Lebanon will be holding elections, which very well may be won by Iran-backed Hezbollah. Any large advance for Hezbollah will be true "game changer" in the Middle East and signal a major failure of US policy in Syria and Lebanon. The Cairo speech and the massive media coverage it will get in the region should be seen in this context and are directly connected to offsetting that.

This brings us to an essential problem that the USA has had in the Middle East for many years and which the arrival of Obama is not likely to change. The problem is that -- as Bush always maintained -- the people of the region, in fact, do thirst after democracy, but the rub is that whenever they are allowed to vote freely, they seem to vote for Islamist parties, which are hostile to the USA.

So in fact this ongoing democratic revolution which the neocons imagined would benefit the USA is, in fact benefiting Iran, whose regime, with all its faults, is infinitely more democratic than Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan or Kuwait and all the tiny oil sheikdoms, which are America's clients. Iran's policies toward Israel and the Palestinians are simply much more in tune with the feelings of the region's people. Adjusting to the inconvenience of democracy in an essentially colonial situation, is at the heart of the US's problems in the Middle East.

So, the "assalaamu alaykums", and quoting the Koran, combined with being seen to be putting some pressure on Netanyahu are basically just an exercise in playing for time; hoping to keep America's clients from being swept from power or especially the situation in Iraq from deteriorating too much, too fast, before the new administration has really found its feet

My assessment of the situation is that Obama, with his pressure on Israel to make what Ariel Sharon called, "painful concessions", and his Muslim-friendly rhetoric is trying to hang a fig-leaf on the authoritarian and unpopular American client regimes of the area: Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. Simply to buy them some time.

The danger is twofold: these regimes may be beyond salvation and the Israelis, specifically the settlers that Obama appears to want to evict are some of the most dangerous people in the world for an American president to pressure... and I don't mean politically, I mean physically. These are the spiritual descendants of Meir Kahane, Dr. Baruch Goldstein of the Abraham's Tomb massacre and Yigal Amir, Yitzak Rabin's assassin. Many of the most fanatic settlers are American citizens, men and women who can enter the United States with no restrictions whatsoever,
who can blend perfectly in any American crowd and who are very familiarized with firearms. These people are as American as apple pie... or as the person who pulled the trigger on Dr. Tiller. So I must say that I think that Barack Obama is a very brave man.

Here we have the president of the USA putting his life on the line to create, what for all extents and purposes will, at worst, be a huge Palestinian concentration camp, or at best, a Palestinian Potemkin village. DS