Friday, November 30, 2012

Palestine at the UN

David Seaton's News Links 
Some commentators have said the UN vote, which, by a massive majority, gave Palestine observer status is meaningless... Meaningless?
Now, for starters, we finally are not talking about a stateless "PLO" or the "Palestinian people", we are talking about "Palestine", a country that now actually and officially exists as a sovereign state, although its territory is totally occupied and subjugated and slowly being colonized, by another state, Israel.
The Israelis, of course act as if nothing had happened, in fact to show their contempt for the UN vote they have authorized the construction of 3,000 settler homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, only a day after the UN upgraded the Palestinians' status.As always any body or anybody that backs Israel into a political or humanitarian corner immediately ceases to be "a credible mediator", or "partner for peace", that is the general hasbara line and always has been. Nothing new here, except it wont work anymore.
The significance of the UN vote is that as of now, the vast majority of the world's sovereign states, with their vote, or with their abstention, have simply told Israel that it ceases to have that special status of political and moral immunity that it has hidden behind until now.
Even Germany abstained!
That is how much moral legitimacy Israel has lost; Germany dared to abstain!
Not important? To begin with the UN vote is a universal slap down of American hypocrisy and the US role in the pantomime "peace process"... It also drains a lot of energy from the march to war with Iran.
But, in my opinion the most important thing the UN vote does is to firmly underline the validity and continuing relevance of the post - six day war, UN Resolution-242, which most Israelis consider a joke.
Now the West Bank territories that are illegally occupied by Israeli troops and "settlers" are clearly the legitimate property of a people whose existence and rights as the citizens of a universally recognized, but illegally occupied, state have now been overwhelmingly validated by the "international community"...
This leads us to the point that most worries the Israelis: the possibility that the state of Palestine will take the state of Israel to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. And well the Israelis may worry: for decades they have been in flagrant violation of international law as an occupying power with hundreds of well documented incidents, each of which could lead to international arrest warrants.
The UN vote has made it clear that if Israel doesn't change its ways, it is about to gain apartheid-South African-pos-Milosevic-Serbian status. This will certainly complicate things for them in dealing with their only friendly neighbors and major trading partner, the EU, both culturally and commercially.
Because Israel is about to replace apartheid South Africa as a universal pariah.
Not important? I cannot think of any comparable disaster in the entire history of modern Israel. DS

Friday, November 23, 2012

The American religious + economic right fractures

David Seaton's News Links
Losing the election seems to have really shaken the American conservative movement deeply and the most significant long term effect, that I perceive, is watching some important, born again, wooly-evangelicals slowly morphing into what, in Europe, would be classified as Christian-Democrats.
It might be that the descendents of people who voted for William Jennings Bryan, Huey Long and FDR may again be susceptible to the "populist" messages of Democrats bearing "gifts".
Surprising, perhaps, but eminently logical, because one of the most curious "strange bedfellows" effects of American politics has been the alliance between those who consider themselves followers of Jesus Christ and those who are demonstrably followers of Ayn Rand and who propose lowering the taxes for the super rich and cutting assistance to the needy, who they often refer to as "moochers".
The success of this alliance always depended on the infusing of the teachings of Jesus with racism, homophobia and the love of firearms. This is known as the "God, guns and Gays" formula.   Even a cursory reading of the teachings of Jesus would show us that this formula is more "tribal" than theological, to say the least. This is the center of the "What's the Matter with Kansas" conundrum.
Why Christians were ever interested in guns and pampering the rich passeth all understanding, however, the reasons for the Randistas to seek the company of Christians are not hard to figure out.
Since it is obvious that a political movement whose slogan was simply, "help the super rich to avoid paying taxes and to escape bothersome regulations that would cramp their style", besides not fitting on a bumper sticker, would not win enough votes to shape policy effectively, so it was necessary to craft something with broader appeal.
This simple idea began to take shape when Richard Nixon hatched his Southern Strategy, a tactic whereby by championing the dog-whistle, "state's rights", the Republican Party ceased to be the party of Lincoln, the party that freed the slaves, which nobody in the South (who was allowed to vote), ever ever voted for, became the party of choice of the all the racists, reactionaries, religious fanatics and assorted rednecks.
Ronald Reagan's "Reagan Democrats" strengthened the mix in the North with his talk of "welfare queens", thus weakening the unions and then this brew has come to its fullest fruition with Fox News and the Tea Party.
Of course, at the center of all the nuttiness of today’s Republicans, in reality, is their bankrollers’ fear of taxes and regulation… For them the ceaseless culture warfare is merely a tactic to simultaneously attract and confuse a sufficient number of the ignorant to enable the “one-percenters” to paralyze the political process and pack the Supreme Court in coming years with justices that would roll back all the progressive legislation going back to Roosevelt (I'm talking about Theodore Roosevelt here, not just FDR). It looks like in this post-Romney moment the arrangement may be unraveling.  
Precisely to pack the Supreme Court, winning the presidential election of 2012 and getting Obama out of the White House, and getting a union buster in, was dear to the hearts of America's billionaires, they spent hundreds of millions of dollars to that effect and came up empty... Republican politicians, men and women who would like to get into office and stay in office, have taken note of a simple fact -- the billionaires can't buy them power -- that a majority of the American people want what Mitt Romney calls "gifts": affordable health care and education... and are quite happy to see the rich pay for it.
Significantly, the religious right has also taken note.
The problem that the one-percenters have with the religious right is that on one hand for the Bible-thumpers, their ideology, "right to life" etc, is the center of their agenda: their ideological position trumps money. While, on the other hand, for the billionaires money is their ideology, nothing trumps money.
The two groups, evangelicals and one-percenters have different priorities, what Chairman Mao used to call different "primary and secondary contradictions".
I'll give you an example of what I mean, an excerpt from an op-ed that one of America's most important evangelical gurus wrote in the Washington Post, an article by Robert Jefress, which I don't think has received the attention it deserves.
They don't much more socially conservative than the Reverend Jefress, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, a preacher with a daily radio program that is broadcast on 725 stations nationwide.
To give you an idea, of how conservative Jefress is, although he generously denies that President Barack Obama is the Antichrist, he affirms that, "the course he is choosing to lead our nation is paving the way for the future reign of the Antichrist."
So check out Reverend Jefress's, "trip to Damascus":
Evangelicals need to remember that we are a diminishing minority in America. If we care about winning elections with candidates who will push back against abortion and immorality, then we have to be willing to compromise on some secondary issues to form a winning coalition with other Republicans. Unfortunately, evangelicals tend to resist “compromise” because of our propensity to label every issue a “spiritual conviction.” In the four weeks before Election Day, I spoke to thousands of pastors in cities across the country(...) In private conversations with some of these pastors, I discovered that for some, “standing for righteousness” meant more than pushing back against abortion and same-sex marriage. They saw opposing higher taxes, Obamacare and bans on assault weapons as equally important moral issues, even though such purely partisan positions have no biblical support. My message to fellow evangelical Christians is this: We must differentiate between biblical absolutes and political preferences. We must never compromise on the former, but we must be willing to bend on the latter if we want to see our moral agenda enacted. Breaking a pledge to Grover Norquist and embracing higher taxes for even higher cuts in expenditures is not tantamount to denouncing Christ. Acknowledging the need for governmental health-care reform does not necessarily pave the way for the rule of the Antichrist. I have a proposal for all Republicans. Instead of nominating a candidate who is mute or malleable on social issues but intransigent on political issues, let’s try the reverse. Let’s find a candidate who has a history of consistently and courageously embracing the social views of the majority of the Republican Party, as well as many Democrats and independent voters: that life in the womb should be protected and that marriage is for a man and a woman. But let’s also nominate a candidate who realizes that compromise with the other party is necessary if we are to restore our country’s fiscal integrity, protect our environment and provide the quality health care Americans deserve. Robert Jeffress - Washington Post
So, ironically, far from being a warm-up act for "the Beast", President Obama's victory seems to be healing a rift between Christians that opened when Martin Luther nailed his "95 Theses" to the church door in Wittenberg. Because what the evangelical Reverend Jefress is advocating could come straight from the Vatican or the pen of any Catholic bishop.  

Here is how conservative columnist and former chief speech writer for George W. Bush explains Catholic social teaching:
The Catholic Church — a politically and ethnically sprawling institution — has no natural home on the American ideological spectrum. Neither major party combines moral conservatism with a passion for social justice. So Catholic leaders have often challenged Democrats to be more pro-life and Republicans to be more concerned about immigrants and the poor. Michael Gerson - Washington Post
Without going too deeply into the many differences between the evangelicals insistence on charismatic conversion or being, "born again" and the Catholic church's rather plodding "salvation through works", we could cut to the chase by saying that most Catholic social thought has its roots in following words from the Book of Matthew:
'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least among you, you did not do for me.' Matthew 25:41-45
Such a text is one of the earliest expressions in Christian terms of the thirst for social justice. As such it helps give that thirst shape and a common, deeply rooted, electrifying language.
Imagine how that text would sit with Ayn Rand or the Koch Brothers, in fact, can you imagine it being spoken at a Tea Party event? It would be amusing to watch Willard Mitt Romney flippityflop when confronted with it.
Who is a "stranger" to be invited in? Who is a "prisoner" to be looked after? Who are the needy and the sick to be taken care of?
If you stop and think that the African-American and the Latino communities are often both over represented in the prison system and in need of "gifts" such as good health coverage, immigration reform (strangers to be "invited in") and good public education and at the same time these communities are often devoutly Christian and socially conservative (read "homophobic" etc), this split on the right could soon cause tensions on the left as different members of the liberal consensus (read single women and gays) assess their "primary and secondary contradictions".
If the white evangelicals, in order to achieve Christian unity, renounce racism and nativism and include blacks and Hispanics in a return to the populism of their ancestors, American politics could become a lot more class-based and a lot more interesting. DS

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The wacky Petraeus tacky attack tactic

With Gen Petraeus' public downfall, the American public can begin to grapple with why after 11 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan "we haven't won anything", (Andrew) Bacevich says. The consequences of the myth of "the great heroic general" have been dire, he says. "It's an excuse to not think seriously about war and to avoid examining the actual consequences of wars that we have chosen to engage." BBC

"See, the problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time." Robin Williams
David Seaton's News Links
Such a bad week for conservatives... first they lose the presidency, for the second time, to an African-born, Muslim, Communist of color and with it the chance to pack the Supreme Court with Tea Party vetted justices and then repeal a hundred years of social legislation; then to top that, their favorite general, a great white hope, a true man on horseback for conservatives in future presidential elections, turns out to be a nooky-whipped old fool.
The man in charge of all of America's countless spies is brought down because his dippy mistress used an amateur spy "dead drop" email which the United State's head spook activated himself, for general and mistress to discreetly exchange their billet-doux, to send threatening messages to Cent Com's "hostess with the mostest"... Who it turns out is herself drowning in debt.
And following the trail of said hostess, it turns out that Tampa Florida, from where all of America's wars are fought, from where young Americans are regularly sent to far flung lands to be killed or mutilated, is some sort of "Zenith of Winnemac on the blow", where the cheesy, greedy, parvenus, local babbitry, meet with the centurions of America's military elite, to greet and eat. The hostess then dragged in some minor FBI agents looking for dinner invitations and who knows what else, to investigate the messages, which contained no direct, physical threats: whereupon the agents, without a warrant, blithely opened the private correspondence of American citizens... Idiot citizens, but citizens, none the less. 
I could go on but I think I'd rather just go and throw up. DS

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What Romney has taught the American left

"The president was elected on the basis that he was not Romney and that Romney was a poopy-head." - Grover Norquist (ht:Doonesbury)
Just for argument's sake let us accept that Romney was right and that 47% of Americans will always vote against the Republicans because, as "dependent" parasites, they cannot take responsibility for their "own lives"... In other words, they need old age pensions, medical care, good public schools and universities etc. This means that, probably totally unbeknownst to themselves, they are what is known in most other developed countries as "Social Democrats".
What we have learned then in 2012, following the Romney analysis, is how easy it is to turn 47% into 50.6%.
What progressives need to learn is how they can turn 47% into a 60%, that is to say, an absolute majority. 
Perhaps the economy and the interrelated complexity of the modern world will do the job by itself. DS

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


At least the sinuous Romney isn't going to be president... At least the first African-American president gets to serve two terms... At least the Tea Party wont get to name any justices of the Supreme Court... and at least a hundred "at leasts" that we might not even imagine till they happened, but which wont happen because Romney and the Tea Party, and the Koch brothers and Shelden Adelson and Rupert Murdoch and a cast of one-percenters have lost... 
Please feel free to add to this list. DS 

Monday, November 05, 2012

Dear God, will it ever end?

Abbie has nailed it.... If anything defines the period we live in, it is the sight of a nation of over 300M people, with historically unsurpassed military and economic power in a state of sluggish political and social paralysis... and managing to make such a crisis, one so objectively earth shaking and transcendental, mendacious, mediocre and boring to boot. DS