hysteria, pakistan, hysteria, national security, and hysteria
Secretary Doomsday and the Empathy Gap
"A front-page New York Times headline last week put the matter politely indeed: "In Pakistan, U.S. Courts Leader of Opposition." And nobody thought it was strange at all.
"In fact, it's the sort of thing you can read just about any time when it comes to American policy in Pakistan or, for that matter, Afghanistan. It's just the norm on a planet on which it's assumed that American civilian and military leaders can issue pronunciamentos about what other countries must do; publicly demand various actions of ruling groups; opt for specific leaders, and then, when they disappoint, attempt to replace them; and use what was once called "foreign aid," now taxpayer dollars largely funneled through the Pentagon, to bribe those who are hard to convince.
"Last week as well, in a prime-time news conference, President Obama said of Pakistan: "We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don't end up having a nuclear-armed militant state."
"To the extent that this statement was commented on, it was praised here for its restraint and good sense. Yet, thought about a moment, what the president actually said went something like this: When it comes to U.S. respect for Pakistan's sovereignty, this country has more important fish to fry. A look at the historical record indicates that Washington has, in fact, been frying those "fish" for at least the last four decades without particular regard for Pakistani sensibilities.
"In a week in which the presidents of both Pakistan and Afghanistan have, like two satraps, dutifully trekked to the U.S. capital to be called on the carpet by Obama and his national security team, Washington officials have been issuing one shrill statement after another about what U.S. media reports regularly term the "dire situation" in Pakistan.
"Of course, to put this in perspective, we now live in a thoroughly ramped-up atmosphere in which "American national security" -- defined to include just about anything unsettling that occurs anywhere on Earth -- is the eternal preoccupation of a vast national security bureaucracy. Its bread and butter increasingly seems to be worst-case scenarios (perfect for our 24/7 media to pounce on) in which something truly catastrophic is always about to happen to us, and every "situation" is a "crisis." In the hothouse atmosphere of Washington, the result can be a feeding frenzy in which doomsday scenarios pour out. Though we don't recognize it as such, this is a kind of everyday extremism."
The paradox of Israel's pursuit of might
"Ironically, it was the experience of spending much more time with the Israeli army in the mid-1970s, in the course of researching a book, which caused me to begin to perceive the importance of what Cameron said. I glimpsed a darker side of Israel. I learned a lot about the ruthlessness of Israeli anti-terrorist operations. I spent many hours talking to thoughtful Israelis, who voiced their fears about the perils, the threatened corruption of their own society, which they perceived in the 1967 conquests. I also became dismayed by the naked imperialism displayed by Israel's rightwing zealots. One night at a dinner party in Jerusalem in 1977, I heard a young Israeli talking about the Arabs in terms which chilled my blood. "In the next war," he said, "we've got to get the Palestinians out of the West Bank for good."
"To me, in my naivete, Israel's struggle had hitherto seemed that of a brilliant little people, who had suffered the most ghastly experience of the 20th century, struggling for survival amid a hostile Middle East still bent upon their destruction. Now, suddenly, I found myself meeting Israelis committed to the creation of a greater Israel embracing the West Bank, who were utterly heedless of the fate of its inhabitants. The Palestinians were perceived as losers, a mere incidental impediment to the fulfilment of Israel's historic territorial destiny. By a curious quirk, that young Israeli whom I heard enthuse about emptying the West Bank of Arabs was Binyamin Netanyahu, today his country's prime minister.
"Listening to Israelis such as himself speaking of the Palestinians 30 years ago, I began to understand what a more thoughtful young man than myself might have seen from the outset: the huge danger implicit in rooting a society's polity in its military prowess and powers of conquest.
"An Israeli listening to all this might interrupt angrily: "But why do you say so little about Hamas and Hizbollah, rocketing and suicide-bombing innocent Israeli civilians?" Yes, indeed – such acts must always be condemned. But what of proportionality? In recent years, for every Israeli killed by terrorism, the Israeli security forces have killed 30, 40, 50 Palestinians – most of them civilians. Israel exacts a blood price from the innocent of a severity which only tyrannies have historically thought appropriate.
"The entire thrust of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians in recent times has been to convey a crude message of overwhelming power, of Israel's ability to command, kill or destroy at will, without fear of sanctions. The Israeli army, which once exemplified much that was best about Israel, has today been corrupted by the long experience of suppressing insurgency. Morally, if not militarily, it is a shadow of the force which fought in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973.
"Israel has tested to destruction the utility of force in achieving its security. It is not enough to assert proudly that the Jewish state remains a democracy and haven of free speech in a region in which neither of these precious things is much in evidence, if that same democracy behaves in a fashion which denies mercy to the weak. For someone like me, who enjoyed a love affair with Israel 40 years ago, it is heart-breaking to see the story come to such a pass. It is because so many of us so much want to see Israel prosper in security and peace that we share a sense of tragedy that 61 years after the state was born amid such lofty ideals, it should be led by such a man as Bibi Netanyahu, committed to policies which can yield nothing honourable or lasting. Amoz Oz's 1979 prophesy to me has alas been fulfilled. It will be as great a misfortune for Israel as for the Palestinians, if its governments persist in their past delusions through the years ahead."
america the beautiful
Escape from the Zombie Food Court
"I just returned from several months in Central America. And the day I returned I had iguana eggs for breakfast, airline pretzels for lunch and a $7 shot of Jack Daniels for dinner at the Houston Airport, where I spent two hours listening to a Christian religious fanatic tell about Obama running a worldwide child porn ring out of the White House. Entering the country shoeless through airport homeland security, holding up my pants because they don't let old men wear suspenders through security, well, I knew I was back home in the land of the free.
"Anyway, here I am with you good people asking myself the first logical question: What the hell is a redneck writer supposed to say to a prestigious school of psychology? Why of all places am I here? It is intimidating as hell. But as Janna Henning and Sharrod Taylor here have reassured me that all I need to do is talk about is what I write about. And what I write about is Americans, and why we think and behave the way we so. To do that here today I am forced to talk about three things -- corporations, television and human spirituality.
"No matter how smart we may think we are, the larger world cannot and does not exist for most of us in this room, except through media and maybe through the shallow experience of tourism, or in the minority instance, we may know of it through higher education. The world however, is not a cultural history course, a National Geographic special or recreational destination. It is a real place with many fast developing disasters, economic and ecological collapse being just two. The more aware among us grasp that there is much at stake. Yet, even the most informed and educated Americans have cultural conditioning working against them round the clock.
"As psych students, most of you understand that there is no way you can escape being conditioned by your society, one way or another. You are as conditioned as any trained chicken in a carnival. So am I. When we go to the ATM machine and punch the buttons to make cash fall out, we are doing the same thing as the chickens that peck the colored buttons make corn drop from the feeder. You will not do a single thing today, tomorrow or the next day that you have not been generally indoctrinated and deeply conditioned to do -- mostly along class lines.
"For instance, as university students, you are among the 20% or so of Americans indoctrinated and conditioned to be the administrating and operating class of the American Empire in some form or another. In the business of managing the other 75% in innumerable ways. Psychologists, teachers, lawyers, social workers, doctors, accountants, sociologists, mental health workers, clergy -- all are in the business of coordinating and managing the greater mass of working class citizenry by the Empire's approved methods, and toward the same end: Maximum profitability for a corporate based state.
"Yet it all seems so normal. Certainly the psychologists who have prescribed so much Prozac that it now shows up in the piss of penguins, saw what they did as necessary. And the doctors who enable the profitable blackmail practiced by the medical industries see it all as part of the most technologically advanced medical system in the world. And the teacher, who sees no problem with 20% of her fourth graders being on Ritalin, in the name of "appropriate behavior," is happy to have control of her classroom. None of these feel like dupes or pawns of a corporate state. It seems like just the way things are. Just modern American reality. Which is a corporate generated reality."
Last month I mentioned getting some radio triggers for my strobes. I used them doing some product photography for a luthier here on the the Island. This is one of the projects that sucked up my time last month.
Mondoweiss has become the place for me to keep up on the shift happening in the Jewish world as more Jews become anti-Zionist or post-Zionist. Phil Weiss and Adam Horowitz make up Mondoweiss and they are currently posting from the annual AIPAC conference. Check out all their posts.
"This past Monday morning as I walked briskly with a mass of well-dressed, mostly Jewish people headed into a huge auditorium room, I felt as if I could have been one of a horde of Jews rushing to get into our synagogue to pray on Rosh Hashanah. On any other day, I may in fact have seen the same people at synagogue, but on Monday, we were headed somewhere very different: The 2009 AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee) Policy Conference at the Washington Convention Center. Once inside the big room the synagogue-going feeling disintegrated. Here, humble prayer was replaced with hubristic preaching, the kind of gospel you might see on a televangelical TV show deterring worshipers from choosing the "unholy" paths of homosexuality, interracial marriage, or abortion. Only here at AIPAC, the sinful acts we were to abstain from included diplomacy, trust, and turning a critical eye towards a particular government's use of military force. Instead, we were instructed to advocate for weapons, sanctions, and unwavering nationalism. "
I've been away from these pages for too long. This past month has been overly full. (Understatement alert.)
The big thing has been relocating Zoe's mom from Western State Hospital. It was a stressful past few months trying to figure out the right thing for Gerry. In the end the psychiatric doctor said Gerry needed a quiter environment. She is in advanced stages of Alzheimer's and couldn't cognitively process the noise and confusion going on around her. That sparked her outbursts of anger. The new environment, a family care facility, is so much better for her. There are 5 other patients and it's very quiet. This keeps Gerry calmed down. The couple running it are great. As an added bonus they have a 3 year old girl. Gerry loves it when she is around. Everything is not perfect but as a friend of Zoe's said, who has been through this, the important thing is the people taking care of her. It's also only 10 minutes from the ferry on the mainland. No more 3 hour drives.
The other stressor has been finding out one of our cats, Olivia, has renal failure and has 6 months to a year to live. She is only 8 years old. It's been tough watching her waste away. It takes time to make sure she eats and gets hydrated. That means regular trips to the vet to get subcutaneous injections of water under her skin. 200 ml at a time. We will probably start doing it ourselves at some point to keep her stress down. Going to the vet is not Olivia's favorite thing.
Then both my computers died. My desktop went first. Fortunately the repair people were able to image the dead drive and port it all over to the new hard drive so I didn't have to reinstall any software. Whew! Two days after it came back from the shop my laptop died. It had to be sent back to Dell. I lost everything on the hard drive. The OS had to be reinstalled. It came back two days ago and now I'm reloading software. I had been lax on daily backups. Not now! Do you back up your data? Would you miss it if it suddenly left? Back it up!
As soon as I would be ready to post something, all hell would break loose. It doesn't seem to be letting up so I'm going to have to make thinks a little simpler on the blog. The text formatting took extra time. Screw the text formatting. Putting quotes in boxes took extra time. Screw the boxes. Posting information sources took extra time. Screw the information sources. Maybe that will result in more posts. Not that there has been any shortage of shit going on. Some good things too. Stay tuned.