Sojourn into the outer recesses of a nation bordering on madness, into a land deeply disturbed and emotionally bewildered, a world of anti-intellectualism and anti-rationalism, of fanaticism and fundamentalism, entering a case study into fantasyland and escapism, taking a pilgrimage into realms both of purposeful ignorance and blindness, , of electing lifelong incompetents based on wanting to have a beer with them, walking through the dark valley of indifference, climbing the monolithic mountain of hubris, finally reaching the hallowed halls of smoke and mirrors, a place where only the blind lead the blind and where the deafening roars of death and destruction are easily suppressed in delusion and denial. Journey, if you will, into a nation that lost its moral compass inside the dungeons of fear and hatred.
Crusade of Surge and Siege: Part Two of Four Cages of Conquest Hear No Evil, See No Evil
Americans’ ever-enduring, catatonic sleepwalk through the Empire’s vast array of bread and circus, as always produced by the Ministry of Truth and the Department of Propaganda, better known as the corporatist media, has succeeded in the creation of an ignorant, incurious and dumbed down populace completely bereft of knowledge of what is done in its name. With no concern for or understanding of geography, cultures, history, alien societies, the outside world and of the imperial aspirations of the Empire, Americans have proved easy targets to the manipulations and deceptions of the corporatist world. Seemingly unwilling to gain knowledge of anything outside American Idol or the weekly NASCAR rat race, the soldier ants and worker bees of the Empire are content to circumvent the horrors of war and the myriad crimes against humanity committed in their name in order to maintain their beautiful minds at peace.
In order for the peoples of America and the West to understand what has been and is currently being done to the peoples of the Middle East we must envision ourselves as human beings living and going through life in that most troubled of regions. We must exercise a humanist form of empathy that places us squarely inside the lands of desert and sand, the lands of the people of the Bible, of terrain full of mirages and complexities, of alien and unfamiliar cultures and languages and religions, of a history that predates any western beginning or thought, of a complexity we know almost nothing about.
From the very beginning, the American crusade of surge and siege – with much of it predating the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq; think to early 20th century agreements with Saudi royalty of protection for petroleum, or the overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected nationalist leader, or CIA coups and installing of tyranny, or support for Saddam, or provocations of war, or fanning the flames of violence, or importation of billions worth of weapons – has been a catastrophe for the people of the Middle East. For years the United States has guided policy and fates in the region, with its unchallenged domination of and immoral support in the regimes of the Middle East causing a complete devolution of a dynamic, intelligent and proud amalgam of peoples, continuing a stagnation of a civilization that has given humanity so much, and which has so much yet to offer.
If you think we are living in scary times, your worst fears may be confirmed by reading Naomi Wolf's newest book, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. In it, Wolf proves the old axiom that history does repeat itself. Or more accurately, history occurs in patterns, and in order to understand where our country is today and where it is headed, we need to read the history books.
Wolf began by diving into the early years leading up to fascist regimes, like the ones led by Hitler and Mussolini. And the patterns that she found in those, and others all over the world, made her hair stand on end. In "The End of America," she lays out the 10 steps that dictators (or aspiring dictators) take in order to shut down an open society. "Each of those ten steps is now under way in the United States today," she writes.
If we want an open society, she warns, we must pay attention and we must fight to protect democracy.
I met with Wolf to discuss what she learned while researching this book, how the American public has received her warnings, and what we can do to squelch the fascist narratives we are fed in this country each day.
The Myth of the Surge Hoping to turn enemies into allies, U.S. forces are arming Iraqis who fought with the insurgents. But it's already starting to backfire. A report from the front lines of the new Iraq by Nir Rosen
It's a cold, gray day in December, and I'm walking down Sixtieth Street in the Dora district of Baghdad, one of the most violent and fearsome of the city's no-go zones. Devastated by five years of clashes between American forces, Shiite militias, Sunni resistance groups and Al Qaeda, much of Dora is now a ghost town. This is what "victory" looks like in a once upscale neighborhood of Iraq: Lakes of mud and sewage fill the streets. Mountains of trash stagnate in the pungent liquid. Most of the windows in the sand-colored homes are broken, and the wind blows through them, whistling eerily. House after house is deserted, bullet holes pockmarking their walls, their doors open and unguarded, many emptied of furniture. What few furnishings remain are covered by a thick layer of the fine dust that invades every space in Iraq. Looming over the homes are twelve-foot-high security walls built by the Americans to separate warring factions and confine people to their own neighborhood. Emptied and destroyed by civil war, walled off by President Bush's much-heralded "surge," Dora feels more like a desolate, post-apocalyptic maze of concrete tunnels than a living, inhabited neighborhood. Apart from our footsteps, there is complete silence.
Iraq is disintegrating faster than ever. The Turkish army invaded the north of the country last week and is still there. Iraqi Kurdistan is becoming like Gaza where the Israel can send in its tanks and helicopters at will. The US, so sensitive to any threat to Iraqi sovereignty from Iran or Syria, has blandly consented to the Turkish attack on the one part of Iraq which was at peace.
The True Cost Of War In 2005, a Nobel prize-winning economist began the painstaking process of calculating the true cost of the Iraq war. In his new book, he reveals how short-sighted budget decisions, cover-ups and a war fought in bad faith will affect us all for decades to come. Aida Edemariam meets Joseph Stiglitz
Fitful spring sunshine is warming the neo-gothic limestone of the Houses of Parliament, and the knots of tourists wandering round them, but in a basement cafe on Millbank it is dark, and quiet, and Joseph Stiglitz is looking as though he hasn't had quite enough sleep. For two days non-stop he has been talking - at the LSE, at Chatham House, to television crews - and then he is flying to Washington to testify before Congress on the subject of his new book. Whatever their reservations - and there will be a few - representatives will have to listen, because not many authors with the authority of Stiglitz, a Nobel prize-winner in economics, an academic tempered by four years on Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers and another three as chief economist at the World Bank (during which time he developed an influential critique of globalisation), will have written a book that so urgently redefines the terms in which to view an ongoing conflict. The Three Trillion Dollar War reveals the extent to which its effects have been, and will be, felt by everyone, from Wall Street to the British high street, from Iraqi civilians to African small traders, for years to come.
Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolor disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against lonliness in a quiet American suburb.
We Israelis live in a world of ghosts and monsters. We do not conduct a war against living persons and real organizations, but against devils and demons which are out to destroy us. It is a war between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness, between absolute good and absolute evil. That’s how it looks to us, and that’s how it looks to the other side, too.
Let’s try to bring this war down from virtual spheres to the solid ground of reality. There can be no reasonable policy, nor even rational discussion, if we do not escape from the realm of horrors and nightmares.
After the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections, Gush Shalom said that we must speak with them. Here are some of the questions that were showered on me from all sides:
Time is running out for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Although both men are still committed to their risky venture of marginalising Hamas at any cost, the latter’s obduracy and recent events in Gaza point to the inescapable conclusion — the undertaking was doomed from the start.
The death of Hamas preacher Majed al-Barghouti in a prison cell last week — apparently after being tortured — momentarily shattered the surface calm of news reports from Ramallah. But neither the subsequent rioting nor the fact that the dead man came from one of the most prominent Palestinian families disrupted the ‘democracy versus terror’ agenda that has distorted most news reporting out of the West Bank since last June (when Hamas took control of Gaza).
Images from Rafah flicker on my computer screen. Gazans blowing up chunks of the wall that stood between them and Egypt, punching holes in the largest open-air prison in the world and streaming across the border. An incredible refusal to submit.
My candidate of choice (Edwards) is no longer running. I have problems with both Clinton and Obama. Having said that, the key to any progress in the Middle East depends on changing the way we are dealing with Israel. Clinton isn't going to change a thing. Obama might.
A 2007 study commissioned for American Jewish organizations found that less than half of American Jews under 35 would consider Israel’s disappearance a “personal tragedy,” and only 54% were comfortable with the very idea of a Jewish state. These figures reveal that young American Jews don’t want to be fenced off in some nationalist ghetto of the mind; they don’t see their fate and their existence as initimately tied to Israel’s, nor do they see Israel as representing them and their Jewishness. It would be safe to assume, in fact, that a large and growing number of American Jews, just like Barack Obama, would like to see a more even-handed U.S. Middle East policy that raises the prospects for peace. A Jew’s place, as I’ve always argued, is in the world, wherever he or she chooses to make it. And the value of Judaism is derived from the way it feeds into a universal humanity — tribal nationalism has no place in my idea of Judaism, and it’s not something I want any part of. And I get the sense that millions of young American Jews feel the same way. Barack Obama is the perfect candidate in this election for those who believe that our Jewish values compel us to be part of a universal movement for justice that joins us together with all who share that goal, across all tribal boundaries. And he’s the perfect candidate to lead America in an age when it will have to learn to treat the rest of the world as something more than its vassals and courtiers. That’s why long before Texas and Ohio cast their votes, the vast majority of humanity that is paying attention has left no doubt that it wants to see Barack Obama in the White House.
Why did your article "The Israel Lobby," which was published in the London Review of Books in 2006, provoke such heated discussion around the world? James Traub wrote in The New York Times Magazine: " 'The Israel Lobby' slammed into the opinion-making world with a Category 5 force." How would you describe the reaction?
The article received enormous attention because it challenged what had become a taboo issue in mainstream foreign policy circles, namely the impact of the Israel lobby on U.S. Middle East policy. We did not question Israel's legitimacy and explicitly stated that the United States should come to Israel's aid if its survival is at risk, but we did argue that pro-Israel groups in the United States were encouraging policies that were ultimately not in America's national interest. Although the views we expressed are often discussed openly in other democracies -- including Israel itself -- they have rarely been set forth in detail by mainstream figures in the United States. The article was also of great interest to many readers because it has become increasingly obvious that U.S. Middle East policy has gone badly awry. Although a number of groups and individuals either mischaracterized our views or attacked us personally, many other readers agreed that such an examination of the lobby's role was long overdue.
Why did you feel the need to follow up the article with your book "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy"? What more is there to say?
Writing a book provided an opportunity to present a more nuanced and complete statement of our views, and also allowed us to address some of the responses to the original article. Although the article was long by magazine standards, space limitations forced us to omit several key issues and to deal with other topics more briefly than we would have liked. Events like the 2006 Lebanon war had not occurred when the article was published, and additional information about other episodes -- such as the U.S. decision to invade Iraq -- had since come to light. Thus, writing a book allowed us to refine our analysis and bring it up to date.
In particular, the book presents a more detailed definition of the lobby, an extended discussion of its development and rightward drift over time, an examination of the role of the so-called Christian Zionists, and an analysis of the controversial issue of "dual loyalty." We also offer a more detailed description of the various strategies that groups in the lobby use to advance their goals within the U.S. political system. The book also addresses the widespread belief -- as illustrated by Michael Moore's documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" -- that oil companies are the real driving force behind America's Middle East policy, and explains why this view is incorrect.
America is about to enter a presidential election year. Although the outcome is of course impossible to predict at this stage, certain features of the campaign are easy to foresee. The candidates will inevitably differ on various domestic issues-health care, abortion, gay marriage, taxes, education, immigration-and spirited debates are certain to erupt on a host of foreign policy questions as well. What course of action should the United States pursue in Iraq? What is the best response to the crisis in Darfur, Iran's nuclear ambitions, Russia's hostility to NATO, and China's rising power? How should the United States address global warming, combat terrorism, and reverse the erosion of its international image? On these and many other issues, we can confidently expect lively disagreements among the various candidates.
Yet on one subject, we can be equally confident that the candidates will speak with one voice. In 2008, as in previous election years, serious candidates for the highest office in the land will go to considerable lengths to express their deep personal commitment to one foreign country-Israel-as well as their determination to maintain unyielding U.S. support for the Jewish state. Each candidate will emphasize that he or she fully appreciates the multitude of threats facing Israel and make it clear that, if elected, the United States will remain firmly committed to defending Israel's interests under any and all circumstances. None of the candidates is likely to criticize Israel in any significant way or suggest that the United States ought to pursue a more evenhanded policy in the region. Any who do will probably fall by the wayside.
There are books that change people's consciousness and change history. Some tell a story, like Harriet Beech Stowe's 1851 "Uncle Tom's Cabin", which gave a huge impetus to the campaign for the abolition of slavery. Others take the form of a political treatise, like Theodor Herzl's "Der Judenstaat", which gave birth to the Zionist movement. Or they can be scientific in nature, like Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species", which changed the way humanity sees itself. And perhaps political satire, too, can shake the world, like "1984" by George Orwell.
The impact of these books was amplified by their timing. They appeared exactly at the right time, when a large public was ready to absorb their message.
It may well turn out that the book by the two professors, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy", is just such a book.
The maneuvers that the big banks are making nowadays, along with their enablers at the Federal Reserve and elsewhere in Washington, really amount to little more than the old Polish blanket joke -- in which (excuse my concision) the proverbial Polack wants to make his blanket longer, so he scissors twelve inches off the top and sews it onto the bottom. Only in this case, the banks are shearing x-billions of losses off the top of their blankets and re-attaching x-billions of new debt onto the bottom. This new debt, of course, goes to cover the old losses and only represents further losses-to-be-reported-later, since the banks are basically insolvent. Borrowing more money when you're broke doesn't make you less insolvent.
The banks can probably keep this gag running a little longer, but not without consequences. My guess is that it spins out of control in March sometime when some more hedge funds blow up and at least one big bank, perhaps Citi, rolls belly up like a harpooned whale. The game is really over, and all the playerz know it. The consequence of continuing to pretend the meta-fiasco of Ponzi endgame is fixable will be an even more shattering depression than the one we're already in for.
We are a much poorer nation than we thought we were and the reality is just too hard to face. Nobody from the most august banker (Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson) to the lowliest wanker (the WalMart inventory clerk who "bought" a house outside Phoenix with a no-money-down, payment-option, adjustable rate mortgage) can believe that this is happening. The candidates for president are pretty much assuming that vast financial resources will exist to be deployed against a range of problems. Everybody is going to be hugely disappointed.
I was 12 years old when my family moved to Tachikawa, Japan. (My dad was in the US Air Force.) The transistor radio was only two years old. I remember wandering around our Japanese house with a transistor radio one hand and the ear plug in my ear listening to Armed Forces Radio. That was the only English speaking radio station. Now we have gigabytes of music in our MP3 players so listening to a single radio station with an electronic device may seem not to be much but it was the beginning of portable music. Revolutionary.
Let's remember that even when there is a "better" candidate (yes, better Roosevelt than Hoover, better anyone than George Bush), that difference will not mean anything unless the power of the people asserts itself in ways that the occupant of the White House will find it dangerous to ignore.
The unprecedented policies of the New Deal-Social Security, unemployment insurance, job creation, minimum wage, subsidized housing-were not simply the result of FDR's progressivism. The Roosevelt Administration, coming into office, faced a nation in turmoil. The last year of the Hoover Administration had experienced the rebellion of the Bonus Army-thousands of veterans of the First World War descending on Washington to demand help from Congress as their families were going hungry. There were disturbances of the unemployed in Detroit, Chicago, Boston, New York, Seattle.
In 1934, early in the Roosevelt Presidency, strikes broke out all over the country, including a general strike in Minneapolis, a general strike in San Francisco, hundreds of thousands on strike in the textile mills of the South. Unemployed councils formed all over the country. Desperate people were taking action on their own, defying the police to put back the furniture of evicted tenants, and creating self-help organizations with hundreds of thousands of members.
Without a national crisis-economic destitution and rebellion-it is not likely the Roosevelt Administration would have instituted the bold reforms that it did.
Today, we can be sure that the Democratic Party, unless it faces a popular upsurge, will not move off center. The two leading Presidential candidates have made it clear that if elected, they will not bring an immediate end to the Iraq War, or institute a system of free health care for all.
They offer no radical change from the status quo.
They do not propose what the present desperation of people cries out for: a government guarantee of jobs to everyone who needs one, a minimum income for every household, housing relief to everyone who faces eviction or foreclosure.
They do not suggest the deep cuts in the military budget or the radical changes in the tax system that would free billions, even trillions, for social programs to transform the way we live.
None of this should surprise us. The Democratic Party has broken with its historic conservatism, its pandering to the rich, its predilection for war, only when it has encountered rebellion from below, as in the Thirties and the Sixties. We should not expect that a victory at the ballot box in November will even begin to budge the nation from its twin fundamental illnesses: capitalist greed and militarism.
I typically don't embed Youtube clips, but for this one, I'll make an exception. This is by far the best interpretation of the second movement of Shostakovich's 10th symphony I have ever heard (I have about seven or eight on CD). I'm almost surprised at the end, the roof didn't come off. I had read about the Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela before, but I had no idea they were this excellent. It's almost a bit unfair to do this, but simply compare it with this other interpretation, which pales in comparison. Needless to say, one could argue about interpretation here, but given that Shostakovich used to play his own compositions at break-neck speed, and given that the movement is intended to be a portrait of Stalin (who had just died when the symphony was premiered), Dudamel's interpretation appears to be what the composer might have wished to hear. Unbelievable.
The unfolding political contest in the United States is a window into America's soul. The nation is arguing with itself. The candidates embody separate impulses. As voters choose sides, a red state-blue state polarity again takes shape. Within the Democratic Party, the dispute is narrower, but still sharp. Yet in truth, each citizen carries within herself or himself the structure of the conflict: hard versus soft, experience versus change, programmed versus spontaneous, self-interest versus empathy, hope in an open future versus lessons from the past. Politics, by isolating these positions and attributing them to one candidate over against another, parodies the interior struggle of every American.
In this era, humans have been cut loose from ancient moorings of meaning and purpose. The context within which this condition is most manifest in the United States is the debate - or, more precisely, the lack thereof - over what is called "national security." The phrase is potent because it promises something that is impossible, since the human condition is by definition insecure. When candidates vie with one another over who is most qualified to be "commander in chief," and when they unanimously promise to strengthen military readiness, they together reinforce the dominant American myth - that an extravagant social investment of treasure and talent in armed power of the group offers members of the group escape from the existential dread that comes with life on a dangerous planet. That such investment only makes the planet more dangerous matters little, since the feeling of security, rather than actual security, is the goal of the entire project.
Military power, that is, functions in America the way state religion has functioned in other societies. The Pentagon is the temple of this religion. It has dogmas, rituals, high priesthood, saints, cults of sacrifice, sacred language and a justifying narrative - what theologians call "salvation history." Last week, John McCain, in his victory speech after Wisconsin, warned that his Democratic opponent would take "a holiday from history," implying that the past is only a warning of terrible things to come. McCain, alert to "moral monsters," sets the standard for national security discourse lately, but the Democrats must echo it. The political debate, which seems so defined by differences, actually puts on display the unquestioned orthodoxy of the deeper American consensus.
When politicians invoke the rote formulae of martial rhetoric, banging the drum of dire prediction, and promising best protection, they are only fulfilling the requirements of set rubrics, which produce in the electorate not the anxiety one would expect, but enchantment - the enchantment of the pew. Preachers warn of hellfire to offer rescue from it, which is available to those who submit. This feedback loop of damnation-salvation-submission serves the people by offering meaning, and it serves the elite by protecting the structure of power. In religion, all of this is overt. In presidential politics, it is implicit.
Gertrude Bass Warner (1863–1951) was a wealthy American woman who fell in love with Asia. She first traveled there in 1904, married an American engineer in Shanghai, and spent the rest of her life collecting, studying, and promoting Asian art and culture. She was instrumental in building Asian programs at the University of Oregon, in addition to founding the art museum to house the Murray Warner Collection of Asian Art. Mrs. Warner traveled extensively to build her collection, to study, to learn about museum construction and management, and to promote multiculturalism and appreciation for Asian culture.
In November 2007, Design Glut announced that when and if crude hit $100/barrel, they would produce 100 limited-edition Crude Necklaces in black. These necklaces would be a symbol of the end of cheap fossil fuels. The pieces were also intended to create a historical marker, so that one day, when you are charging your electric car with your children, you can say, "I remember when crude hit $100."
My printer has been taken away. (Sob!) I turned the printer back over to Don Friday. He loved the prints I was doing for him and thought the price I charged reasonable but his sister, who bought the printer and was selling the prints on eBay, thought they should only be paying $5 to print a 16x20. Don couldn't make her see otherwise and Don and his sister had a falling out so she wanted the printer back to sell. Now I need to work on getting another one.
In the meantime I'm toying with the idea of doing a book. There is a new industry called print-on-demand (POD). You create the book on the software that the POD company is set up for, submit the file to them, and then, when someone orders the book, they print a copy and mail it out. They cost a bit more than a conventional book but there are no upfront printing costs. There are a number of companies doing this such as Lulu and CreateSpace. Some require using their own page layout software, some just need a full size JPEG of the page. CreateSpace, which is allied with Amazon, takes a PDF file with embedded fonts. Books printed by CreateSpace also can be listed on Amazon.
Two photography blogs I follow have been encouraging readers to put together POD photo books: Paul Butzi and Mark Hobson. I may take the bait.
If I do, there is a project I want to do but I will wait to announce it when it's firmed up. I plan on using CreateSpace which means I will need to provide a finished PDF file. The expensive desktop publishing tools can create PDF files but, yes, they are expensive. There is one open source (free) desktop publishing tool that I have been looking at that seems to be very powerful: Scribus.
Yet another project. In the meantime I've been using my 2 1/4 square Hasselbladski (Salut-S) and my Diana-F arrived (traded for wrist straps.) Pictures soon.