Saturday, November 28, 2009

Abu Dabi, Dooby Dubai... Doowah

News Item: Tremors from the shock request by Dubai’s flagship government-owned holding company for a debt standstill spread through global equity markets on Friday, triggering a sell-off in Asia and heavy losses on Wall Street. Financial Times

Bye bye, Dubai by night
Got a handful of nothin'
And I watch it like a hawk
Well I'm doin' OK
I'm livin' in a great big way
Living in a Great Big Way
Dorothy Fields / Jimmy McHugh
David Seaton's News Links
The world comes unraveled in funny places sometimes, like Sarajevo in 1914 or a Polish frontier post in 1939 or in the bedroom where Mr. and Mrs. bin Laden once made Osama. Now, mostly because of the clever ways that debt has been "structured", the fickle index finger of the invisible hand may have suddenly arisen in Dubai.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that Dubai is a godforsaken place; because Dubai, being in the Middle East, probably has much more God than it can possibly digest, but certainly it is not the sort of place where you would imagine that the world would begin to unravel... However, it may turn out to be that kind of place and we will soon know.

If you don't follow finance the following random press selection will get you up to speed:
So this week we will be reading a lot about Dubai and we will find out if Abu Dabi has enough money to pay off Dubai's debt and save the world financial system from another collapse.

I have no deathless words to add to this cacophony, I simply want to be recorded as on of the passenger list when the Titanic hits the iceberg.

Mark Twain said that truth was stranger than fiction, because fiction had to make sense.

I think I'll leave it at that. DS

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving in the White House.

"Obama is more like a cold shower."
Maureen Dowd

"Whose side is Obama on?"
Steven Pearlstein - Washington Post

David Seaton's News Links
Disenchantment seems to have set in among the formerly enchanted.

Like mushrooms sprouting after a rain, all of a sudden dozens of articles have appeared from among some of Barack Obama's most fervent supporters criticizing  the president; not just his policies, but his personality too.

That is what interests me, the disappointed supporters, I don't pay much attention to the ultra-right frothing at the mouth; I only wish that Barack Obama was half the evil socialist that the teabaggers make him out to be. I am interested in this breaking of the spell and where it may lead.

I am surrounded by the formerly enchanted, most people I know, friends, family and the people I correspond with all belong to the enchanted. I, alas, having never been enchanted  have often felt like the poor little lame boy who could not run fast enough to follow the Pied Piper of Hamlin, when, as part of his debt collection policy, the piper took away all of Hamlin's children and left the wistful little cripple alone without his dear playmates.

So I am a bit at a loss to find so many of my old chums straggling back, apparently having weighed up the piper and found him somehow wanting.

I use the word "enchanted" and talk about "pipers" because since I don't fancy myself smarter than everybody else I feel that a spell has been cast on everyone and I have somehow been mysteriously spared from its mind-clouding effects

I am still where I started with Barack Obama. I still don't know who he is. Nearly a year has past and I still find him mysterious. His actions don't give me any more clues than his words do. Things don't fit, don't fall into place.

I tend to believe that the truth is just lying there staring you in the face most of the time and that it is very  difficult just to see the obvious. To counteract this I often practice the art of "what-you-see-is-what-you-gettism" to good effect. So using that method I have come to a tentative conclusion. Nothing fantastic, it's very simple and it goes like this.

Barack Obama, in my opinion, has an almost supernatural gift which enables people to project all their fantasies on him. The teabaggers think he is Lenin cum the anti-Christ and his supporters think of him as Lincoln cum the Christ-Christ. They all see and hear exactly the same things, but up till now, at least, they all see and hear what they want to: they, not Obama, do most of the real work.

This is the essence of Obama's magic: to be a screen on which one and all can write their dreams or nightmares. Or like the clouds which seem to take shapes that different people see differently.

If we removed Obama's fabulous "gift" for a moment and imagined the same actions taken by a president without it, we would simply see a three year US senator, who spent most of that time running for president, someone who did a bit of time in a state senate, someone who, except for having lived abroad as a child, has no particular experience in foreign affairs, who has never managed any organization before in his life, who has never even worked as a junior executive in any large organizations before, whose staff is a pick-up team of individuals that come from previous administrations, not people he has discovered in long years in public office, with even the men closest to him, Axelrod and Emmanuel on loan from Chicago's Mayor Daley.

So just imagine the same presidency without the "gift".

Without the "gift", his indecisiveness and ineffectual stumbling from "historic" speech to "historic" speech with nothing achieved between speeches would be seen as perfectly normal. What would you expect?

Of course reality being as inconveniently obtrusive as it is, even the "gift" is not enough.

It doesn't surprise me that people of the left are waking up, they are supposed to be smart. I am waiting for the right to wake up too and realize that their nightmares are no more likely to materialize than the liberal's dreams. That might get him reelected.

I wonder when Obama himself will wake up. Maybe he has, maybe that is why the charm seems to be breaking. DS

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The "Giant Switzerland" Fallacy

"Europe has shown it would rather be a super-sized Switzerland."
Simon Hix, professor of European politics at the London School of Economics

These are both monkeys.
A gorilla is a "super-sized" monkey.

Moral: size counts 

David Seaton's News Links
I think the idea is pretty clear, Why natter on? DS

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An interesting take on the sheikh

Innocent until proven guilty?
David Seaton's News Links
Read the following excerpts about the New York trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and see if they make sense to you.

I am posting them in case anybody reading feels up to rebutting their simple argument:
If we must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that KSM was complicit in mass murder, by what right do we send Predators and Special Forces to kill his al-Qaida comrades wherever we find them? For none of them has been granted a fair trial.

When the Justice Department sets up a task force to wage war on a crime organization like the Mafia or MS-13, no U.S. official has a right to shoot Mafia or gang members on sight. No one has a right to bomb their homes. No one has a right to regard the possible death of their wives and children in an attack as acceptable collateral damage.

(...) How does Justice handle a defense demand for a change of venue, far from lower Manhattan, where the jury pool was most deeply traumatized by Sept. 11? Would not KSM and his co-defendants, if a change of venue is denied, have a powerful argument for overturning any conviction on appeal?

Were not KSM's Miranda rights impinged when he was not only not told he could have a lawyer on capture, but told that his family would be killed and he would be waterboarded if he refused to talk? (...) And if all the evidence against the five defendants comes from other than their own testimony under duress, do not their lawyers have a right to know when, where, how and from whom Justice got the evidence to prosecute them? Does KSM have the right to confront all witnesses against him, even if they are al-Qaida turncoats or U.S. spies still transmitting information to U.S. intelligence? What do we do if the case against KSM is thrown out because the government refuses to reveal sources or methods, or if he gets a hung jury, or is acquitted, or has his conviction overturned?
I think these comments point out very efficiently and very graphically how contradictory the US culture of endless war is with our constitutional guarantees and how grotesque it can become when some sort of compromise between the two is attempted. I would find it very difficult to answer the questions this commentary evoke.

It looks to me as if the treasured constitutional traditions of the United States of America are going to be bent to the needs of a "show trial". That eventuality could end up doing worse damage to the republic, much worse, than anything Bush ever did.

This thing is so contaminated with politics that if English common law is still in force and if Johnnie Cochran were still alive, he probably could get KSM off. The trickiest, hungriest trial lawyers in the USA must be lining up to do this one pro-bono. Any shyster that could get KSM off will be the heavyweight champion of the lawyers.

And if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed walks the presidency of Barack Obama is toast.

If this is not a fair trial under our age-old rules than KSM will have done more damage to the USA through his day in court than he did with the airplanes.

What I also find interesting about the above comments is that they could easily come from the left, but in fact they come from the far, far, right, but not the neocon version, they come from the paleoconservative, old time, Father Coughlin, right: none other than Pat Buchanan.

Of necessity, I read a wide spectrum of opinion from left to right. I do this because we are all living in the same world and looking at the same reality, and like the famous story of  the blind men and the elephant, different people catch hold of different parts of the elephant. This practice helps me to constantly recalibrate my thinking... such as it is.

To enjoy reading somebody, I only demand that the commentator be intelligent, lay their cards face up and make well constructed arguments that challenge my preconceptions. Buchanan fits that.  Unlike the neocons, he isn't trying to fool anybody. You can see him coming from far off. He is an old  fashioned, pre-Vatican-II, lace-curtain, Irish Catholic, antisemite and anybody with Irish family probably has at least a great uncle like this, but not as smart as Buchanan, most likely.

So here is this rather perfect argument out of the pen of someone most of my readers loathe and despise. Go on, take a shot at picking his discourse apart. I confess that I cannot find any fault in it and I wonder how the US government has gotten itself in such a precarious position and dumb a fix. DS

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Europe in the world of the "G-2"

"Living well is the best revenge"
George Herbert (1593 - 1633)
David Seaton's News Links
The Lisbon Treaty, the European Union's de facto constitution, is finally ready to roll out. For euroskeptics it is much too much and for many europhiles it is much too little. In my opinion it is just one more patient step toward European unity. All the phases of European Union dating back to the European Coal and Steel Community of 1951, have been such small, patient steps. Lets look at what has been done up till now:
The EU has developed a single market through a standardized system of laws which apply in all member states, ensuring the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital. It maintains common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development. Sixteen member states have adopted a common currency, the euro, constituting the Eurozone. Wikipedia
The modern state is a European invention and the creation of the entities that became the states of Europe was far from instantaneous. The pooling of sovereignty, where powerful princes, wealthy cities and idiosyncratic regions, with all their traditional laws and privileges, submitted to be ruled by a single king didn't happen over night, or if it did it was usually accompanied by much blood; and even today there are quite a few regions in European states that feel restless. In  states such as Spain, France and the United Kingdom, the powerful centrifugal forces that were amply demonstrated in the disintegration of Yugoslavia are often active under the surface. So European unity is a work in progress... and always will be.

The Roman empire, created European unity and maintained it firmly under their sandals at sword point: until it finally fell apart. More recently both Napoleon and Hitler attempted to unify Europe at the point of a gun and both of them failed in rivers of blood. Today's unity is first and foremost about peace. Peace itself is the greatest conquest of all.

Europe has never before been such a peaceful place as it is today.

Europe has been the scene of the world's most horrific wars, both religious and mercantile and any euro-chauvinist would do well to remember what Mahatma Gandhi answered when asked his opinion of European civilization: "It would be a good idea", Churchill's "naked fakir" replied.

Today's European Union came into being in order to solve a specific problem: how to end the "Great European Civil War (1914-1945)" which had destroyed much of Europe, caused it to lose its foreign possessions and killed, mutilated and displaced countless millions of human beings. In 1945 Europe was what the Spanish call a "broken toy". That was the defining problem of Europe and it has been solved with enormous success. Until that problem had been solved, nothing else of importance could be done.

Although the combination of the words, "peace" and "process" have been devalued like a Wiemar Deutsch Mark in the Middle East, the European Union is, in fact, the result of a successful and ongoing, "peace process".  Those who are eager for the European Union to begin to act in the fashion of a classic nation state, super power or empire don't really understand this process, where it has come from and where it is headed.

The European Union is above all a stewardship, a husbanding of human resouces, of infrastructure, of culture, of wealth, health and perhaps above all an idea of the quality of human life... of what it means to live well in every sense: prosperity with social justice. That is a combination absent from every other part of the world... certainly absent from the "G-2", China and the USA.

There are many commentators that fear that Europe is going to become irrelevant as the USA and China divide up the world between them. Their fear of Europe's demise is premature. In fact, the EU may find itself "the last man standing".

China and America are entwined and tangled in an economic embrace that could damage both of them, if not beyond repair, enough to make them hardly recognizable for quite some time.
The Chimerican era is drawing to a close. Given the bursting of the debt and housing bubbles, Americans will have to kick their addiction to cheap money and easy credit. The Chinese authorities understand that heavily indebted American consumers cannot be relied on to return as buyers of Chinese goods on the scale of the period up to 2007. And they dislike their exposure to the American currency in the form of dollar-denominated reserve assets of close to $2 trillion. The Chinese authorities are “long” the dollar like no foreign power in history, and that makes them very nervous. Niall Ferguson and Moritz Schularick - NYT
So much for the intensely "relevant" USA and China.

It should not be forgotten that none of the great superpowers, not the USA, not China, nor Russia, is capable of building a decent automobile, something that Europe does splendidly, while simultaneously providing the workers who build the cars with a decent social net. Europe with its internal market of 450,000,000 people is still able to manufacture goods of a quality unmatchable anywhere except Japan and even Japan still cannot approach Europe in making high profit margin luxury goods: a Lexus, although a wonderful car, is not a Ferrari Testarossa.

The Americans now drown in debt, with deteriorating educational and transport systems, seemingly limited to what they apparently do best: killing people and blowing things up. The Chinese on the other hand, work day and night making cheap junk, without unions or health care and live like refugees from a Jacob Riis photograph.

All the while Europeans make top quality goods and protect their workers, maintain their infrastructure and health and education systems... and while the dollar and yuan race each other to the bottom, the Euro is a solid measure of value.

There is something of the fable of the ant and the grasshopper in all of this.

At the same time European regulations have become the world standard. The handiest example of this is the cell-phone, but this ability of the "faceless bureaucrats" of Brussels to define things like "butter" and "kilo" , or "plastic", or "bag", so that the entire world knows exactly what a kilo of butter or a cell phone or a plastic bag that can be sold to 450 million people consists of  is an achievement only rivaled by the law makers of ancient Rome. There is nothing irrelevant about this and certainly greater relevance is not gained by acting as the "tool kit" of an America struggling in the endless wars of its Götterdämmerung.

So Europe will continue its eternal round of boring committees, its purgatory of brain melting meetings that run into meetings and perhaps, someday, some dawn, the faceless bureaucrats of Brussels will stumble yawning out of another inconclusive meeting into the fresh air of a Belgian morning and suddenly realize that they have created the utopia that mankind has dreamt of since we trucked out of Eden. DS

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday morning noodles in Madrid

David Seaton's News Links
The food pictured is a small plate or "tapa" of what is called "fideua", which is a Valencian paella made with saffron-colored noodles and little bits of chicken, pork and shellfish mixed in; the wine is a robust, Ribera del Duero red and the whole thing, standing up, went for €2.50, this very morning in the center of Madrid.

I thought that today, for a change, I'd rather write about this little meal than about all the crap that is going on in the world.

I had a camera with me  because my wife and I were out collecting wall graffiti for her to use in her digital artwork, which she hangs on her web page.

I am trying to learn flash, but it's pretty heavy going. All I can do for now is to take a film made in Corel Video Studio and turn it into something that opens quickly and runs smoothly on the web page. I still have no idea how to construct all the lovely bells and whistles that morph  as you move the cursor across them.

Getting back to the photo: although I like to cook, to eat and to drink, I'm no foody. Good food and  good wine, without too much ceremony, in the informal atmosphere of a noisy Spanish bar, on a busy morning is one of my pleasures. No big deal. That is important for me... that it be no big deal.

When people talk too much about food it makes me uncomfortable  for some reason, like when people talk too much about sex and  most dissertations about wine are insufferable.

Things that are better to do than to talk about.

The picture expresses some of that, I think. DS

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Abbas outs out of the aba daba dab

The "peace process" explained
All night long they'd chatter away,
All day long they were happy and gay,
Swinging and singing in their honky-tonkey way.
"Aba, daba, daba, daba, daba, daba, dab"
"Aba Daba Honeymoon"
Words and Music By: Arthur Fields and Walter Donovan
David Seaton's News Links
Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian authority, you know, the gray haired fellow with glasses that is always being photographed shaking hands with the Prime Minister of Israel or the President of the United States, or the the Secretary of State or all the visiting "envoys", which is basically all that he really does, has said that he has had enough.
Abbas had understood from Obama that he would force Israel to stop all settlement construction and then launch peace talks. (...) Taking his cue from Obama, Abbas made a full freeze of settlement construction a precondition for talks. But when the Americans backed down several months later after Netanyahu offered a slowdown but not a freeze, Abbas was left high and dry. JTA
Many think that Abbas's threat to resign is a bluff, but I take him at his word.

Abbas is 74 years old and even if this pantomime of a peace process is programmed to go on forever his body isn't. I think Barack Obama was his last hope of getting anything achieved  before his body gave out and now that too has proved to be a Chimera, so Abbas is tired of being made a fool of and would simply like to regain some dignity and respect before retiring to live out his remaining days among his people.

So that Palestinian children don't point him out on the street and throw shoes at him when goes to pick up his pension.

However his threat to not continue has caught everyone by surprise and made them realize that the "two state solution", the idea of a free Palestine living in peace, side by side with Israel, is probably not going to ever happen.

The "peace process" has become so precarious that its existence is mortally threatened without Abbas there just to shake hands.

That is the status quo, Israel builds more walls, builds more settlements, builds more checkpoints, takes more water, evicts more Palestinians from their homes, cuts down more olive trees, etc, etc, while Abbas... shakes hands.

Many say that a two state solution is the only path that Israel can take in order to remain both a "Jewish state" and a democracy. This is not so, there is another path.

Let me explain.

The greatest danger to Israel, or at least to Bibi Netanyahu's version of it, is not Iran, it's a free, sovereign Palestinian state in "Judea and Samaria". Why?

Because, for those who call the occupied territories of the West Bank, "Judea and Samaria", those areas are an essential part of "Greater Israel", without which it would be mutilated, defaced, disfigured.

If an internationally recognized sovereign state called Palestine were recognized on that land, that "mutilation" would become permanent, eternal. This would be considered a heinous betrayal of the Israel Covenant. The treasonous, blasphemous betrayal of thousands of years of history, suffering and tribulations. Like Esau they would be selling their "birthright" for a mess of pottage. The children of Israel have not traveled this far, for so long, to settle for that... Or so the ultra-nationalists that govern Israel would think.

However, the majority of foreign observers and the Israeli left would rush to say that a one state solution would be either be the end of Israel as a Jewish state, because through its greater fertility the Arab population would soon outnumber the Jews, or the end of Israel as a democracy if the Arabs within its borders were denied their civil rights.

There is another path.

Perhaps Yasser Arafat's greatest achievment was to get the world to officially recognize the word "Palestine" and especially the word, "Palestinian".

This was not so before his struggle. 

Here is how Golda Meir expressed it:
"It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist."
And she also said:
"How can we return the held territories? There is nobody to return them to."
That is what Arafat changed and that is a lot, but some things he couldn't change.

Moshe Dayan addressed the Palestinians prophetically, when asked for a solution for their problem:
"We have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads."
But, they didn't leave and that is where the process has led. They exist, officially recognized  by the entire world, including the United States, as a people, as people with human rights and rights as an occupied people, but they live like dogs... and they wont leave.

They resist, they wont leave.

There is another path: one that is not spoken.

Ethnic cleansing.

That is impossible, you say.

In normal times yes, but not in times of a general war in the Middle East.

When the "chessboard" of international affairs has been knocked over and the pieces scattered.

Israel and the occupied could only be ethnically cleansed in the midst of a  general war, when thousands of refugees are fleeing death and destruction.

In my opinion that is what the entire Iran affair is leading up to: a casus belli to set the entire region alight and in the ensuing confusion, ethnically cleanse "Judea and Samaria".

The Iranian atomic bomb is simply a McGuffin to get the show on the road.

I see this coming very clearly and it makes me very sad: sad for the Israelis, sad for the Palestinians, but especially sad for the United States, because I know perfectly well that when the Israelis start their war and in the midst of it ethnically cleanse the West Bank and Gaza, the Congress of the United States will pass a resolution backing them and if the UN security resolves to condemn the ethnic cleansing, the United States will veto that resolution. That makes me very sad.

I confess that I don't care a fig if Israel is a "vibrant democracy", or not, but I care quite a bit if the USA is one... and that is at risk here too, make no mistake. DS

Monday, November 09, 2009

What Obama could learn from Bush

Why is this woman always laughing so hilariously?
I never thought I'd write the following words, but is it possible that Obama's handling of the I-P peace process might actually end up being worse than George Bush's?  Stephen M. Walt
David Seaton's News Links
In his blog in Foreign Policy magazine, one of the sharpest critics of George W. Bush's policies in the Middle East, Stephen M. Walt, linked to a pair of devastatingly critical attacks on President Obama's treatment of the Israel/Palestine conflict by Tony Karon of Time magazine and by Robert Dreyfuss of The Nation.

Tony Karon summed up the general drift of both articles with this phrase:
The Obama Administration's bid to relaunch an Israeli-Palestinian peace process is falling apart faster than you can say settlement freeze — in no small part because President Barack Obama began his effort by saying settlement freeze.
And as we read in his quote above, Walt then compares Obama's handling of the Middle East unfavorably with Bush's.

And this brings me to the title of my post: "What Obama could learn from Bush".

We could sum up George W. Bush's policy in the Middle East succinctly as, to let the Israelis do anything they wanted, no matter how outrageous and give them all the military aid they ever requested and give them diplomatic cover in the UN or any other international body wherever their behavior might be questioned, at the same time putting them off from carrying out a catastrophic attack on Iran... all the while wrapping this mishgoss up in a mixture of the language of Wilsonian democracy and the Book of Revelations.

What did he achieve by this?

Basically he kept AIPAC off his back and this allowed him to pursue his main goals without being disturbed.

What were those goals, if to the public eye everything he and his administration ever did reeked of failure?

Here we enter the perilous jungle of politic-fiction and have to speculate without access to any inside information.

In my experience the most valuable guides in doing so are, first, Ockham's Razor plus Sherlock Homes's rough and ready dictum of eliminating the impossible and whatever you see left... is what you get.

Using this method, I begin with a risky hypothesis: George W. Bush is not as stupid as he looks. Which I then follow with a simple observation of fact: Richard Cheney neither looks stupid nor is rumored to be stupid.

From there I make a huge leap toward a totally libelous and unprovable (for the moment) supposition: That they were both in it for the money.

Imagine for a moment that both Bush and Cheney received a commission of 0.3 percent in some numbered offshore bank account for every discretionary contract they awarded for the reconstruction of Iraq. That would add up to a pretty penny and suddenly everything we have lived through since 9-11 would make more sense. What to everyone else would appear a total failure would in fact be a huge -- if private -- success.

Now, I don't think for a moment that Obama is on the take, so what can he learn from Bush?

Bush's lesson, if my wacky, just for the sake of argument, hypothesis is correct, is that to succeed you have to keep your eye on the main chance and establish priorities so that all your projects don't start bumping into each other in the dark.

By giving Israel and AIPAC everything they wanted Bush was able to secure their support or indifference on a raft of domestic issues. It always seemed strange to me that despite his total incompetent bumbling he endured relatively little pressure until the economy tanked.

That is the lesson.

Bush learned it from his dad, who always believed that his attempt at a settlement freeze is what cost him his reelection, despite having won a war and with the economy recovering.

It goes like this:

To succeed in freezing the settlements you have to confront AIPAC, to confront AIPAC, you have to be so popular, so powerful that you can frighten the senators and congressmen more than AIPAC does and so popular that you can drown out AIPAC's echochamber, Rupert Murdoch's Fox, which is what empowers the AstroTurf, teabagger-type, movements, that somehow spring up so spontaneously.

So Obama has gotten it all backwards. First he should have, left the Israelis alone while he passed health legislation and reined in Wall Street and reactivated Main Street and got people jobs and then with his popularity soaring, he might have had some chance of winning a fight with AIPAC.

Now, as it is, just to survive politically, just to have any chance of second term, he finally may have to let the Israelis invade Lebanon and Gaza again this spring to prepare the ground for a full scale war with Iran this coming summer. Make no mistake Iran is the big one and Obama's power to control  the situation and avoid a catastrophe is weakening by the moment. DS

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Fort Hood Massacre

David Seaton's News Links
So much of this story defies simple common sense that it is difficult to get to grips with it.

I don’t know who was crazier, the shooter, Nidal Malik Hasan, or the people that assigned someone with his profile the task of treating traumatized soldiers returning from fighting Muslims.

It seems to me pure sadism on the US Army's part.

In the course of his work Nidal Malik Hasan was hearing the stories of soldiers returning from harrowing combat duty in Muslim countries, where the enemy was of the same religion as he is, and in the case of Iraq, of the same ethnic group as his.

Imagine the dynamic:

Dr/Maj Hasan is a first generation Palestinian-American and a pray-five-times-a-day-type, devout Muslim, surrounded in the US Army by a disproportionate number of born-again-Christian-racist-red-neck-scotch-irish-southerners many of whom consider his religion a form of satanism and his ethnic group, little more than animals.

I would imagine that quite often in treating these soldiers that many of them, as part of their “therapy”, would express extremely racist and hostile attitudes toward Islam and toward Muslims and narrate in great and explicit detail the atrocities they may have committed or the fantasies they might entertain of committing against Muslim men and women. Doing this would probably be a healing "catharsis" for the soldiers, but it might just have produced a malignant catharsis in Dr/Maj Hasan.

It may have been that Dr. Hasan became radicalized by this daily bombardment and had begun to identify with the Muslim suicide bombers that his patients pursued.

All said, what Hasan did was very American, he didn’t strap on an explosive belt and go for the 72 virgins, he got a gun and went on a shooting spree…. American as apple pie.

We take our comfort where we can these days. DS

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A reminder for gloating Republicans

Alfred E. Newman from Hell
David Seaton's News Links
There seem to be a lot of Republicans walking around with familiar smirks on their faces today.

This is entirely premature.

I know that Americans are famous for their short memories and  even shorter attention spans, but only one year has passed since a great affliction  and a daily humiliation was extirpated from our "hearts and minds".

I made this video over three years ago and I am reviving it in case there are any Republicans who think that people are going to soon forget what they have inflicted on the country and mankind. DS

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Republic, if you can keep it

Good King Michael the First?
“Well, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”

 “A Republic, if you can keep it.” 
Reply attributed to Benjamin Franklin at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787
David Seaton's News Links
Right off the bat let me assure my readers that this is not a personal attack on the billionaire Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg. The word is that Bloomberg is a very fine mayor, one of the best that New York has ever had.

This is more like a riddle,

Question: "When is a republic not a republic?
Answer: "When it's for sale."
I am convinced that the principal problem of the United States  more than its endless wars, more than the devastation of climate change, more than anything else, is the way that its politics are financed.

The foundational idea of government of the people, by the people and for the people is completely short circuited at every turn by way US politics is financed today.

Bloomberg is a product of this system, not its cause. He has simply taken it to its logical conclusion.

Like ABC: Government in the USA is for sale and Bloomberg has bought some.

Running for public office in the United States is insanely expensive and politicians, people who are supposed to be serving their voters, must constantly go hat in hand to wealthy men and women like Michael Bloomberg to finance their campaigns.

Bloomberg, the richest man in New York, has simply cut out the "middlemen", the political parties, which are at bottom machines for raising campaign money, and has decided to run things himself financing his campaigns with his own money, massively outspending the opposition.

Now, this may be rather quixotic on Bloomberg's part, I imagine most rich people would prefer to simply buy or rent office holders instead of taking the trouble of administrating  public affairs themselves; much in the same way that they have a gardener to tend their gardens and a chef to cook their meals; easier and cheaper too, although some may like to potter around the roses on weekends or try their hand at a souffle now and then.

In his enthusiasm for politics, Bloomberg apparently has taken it in to his head to cook everybody's meals and manure all the roses.

The eccentricity of wealth? Thirst for power? Noblesse oblige?

It is even said that Bloomberg is going to buy the New York Times.
Of course, if this were just about New York it wouldn't matter that much, but Hizzoner probably will end up taking a shot at the White House and I think he'll have a very good chance of taking it... as an independent.

The Republican party is now and perhaps irremediably in the hands of its nut fringe: the Bible thumpers and the teabaggers. It appeals only to white people, but not to all white people and it has become poison for nearly everyone whose complexion is not pinkish-gray or whose name ends in a vowel.

And unless employment surges dramatically from here to 2012 and the wars end in something less than a rout, etc, etc, etc, Obama may only be attractive to voters if the only alternative is crazy, stupid republicans of the Sarah Palin variety.

At this point a man with a brilliant record of achievement, both in the private sector and in one of America's most demanding and politically sensitive public jobs, who is obviously every bit as intelligent and hip as Barack Obama is, who, just by reaching in his pocket can raise much more money than the president's fabled Internet operation, might have a very good chance of being the first independent ever elected President of the United States.

From the point of view of how he might carry out his duties once in office this probably wouldn't be a tragedy because Michael Bloomberg has never given any indication of being a crooked slime bag like Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, but the idea of a man with a huge private fortune and a powerful communications empire also controlling the levers of American political power directly, the same way that Berlusconi does Italy's, makes me nervous.

In my innocence I always thought that democracy was about stopping powerful men like Michael Bloomberg, no matter how talented and well intentioned they might be, from having too much power over us little folk, less they end up oppressing us. Silly me. DS