I was struck during my recent weekend in the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Area on how all the plant life doesn't belong there. Not just some of it. All of it. LA is in the middle of a desert. A desert with water stolen from elsewhere. The plants are planted in strips between parking lots, roads, and structures. Without all that water the plants would die. So different from the Puget Sound area around Seattle, where I live, where great efforts are made to keep the vegetation at bay. The sun is a lot brighter in LA, too.
It has been a while since I've posted photos. I have lots to post. And a printer update: The 13" wide Epson 2200 that Don was going to bring over is off and we are back to the 17" wide Epson 3800. He will be picking it up on the 20th. His sister (who paid for the printer) was going to have her fiancée do the printing but he turned out to be too busy (as Don knew he would). Good news.
Even Tocqueville noted that Americans seemed driven to buy and sell everything they touched, apparently for the sheer hell of it. Two centuries later we find all collective human energies being directed toward purchasing and working to purchase cell phones, beanie weenies, spec houses, Dale Earnhardt crock pots and Korean-made electric ass scratchers, plus storage lockers to cram all this needless stuff into. Even Christianity gets into the act with hundreds of "Christian mortgage companies" and, honest to god, a "faith-based quick lube" auto service in my hometown of Winchester, Va., which doubters may Google in the Winchester Star newspaper. All of which is not exactly a recipe for producing a nation of high-minded intellectuals and altruists. What it has produced is this: 3 billion pounds of money-blinded human meat -- 400 million pounds of which is lard -- straining under the common corpo-military-financial yoke in order to pay for and consume 30 times what it takes to meet its basic needs. We've so far exceeded basic need that obese 18-year-old kids are dying of heart attacks. And all this at ever-escalating high cost too. Even leisure, relaxing and doing nothing, is among the most expensive damned things in the country. When it comes to leisure, our benevolent system provides two whole weeks a year (count 'em, folks!) but only to those with job security and the "discretionary income," left on the plastic to cough up for synthetic experiences (hallucinations, really) at "leisure destinations," such as the expensive gringo resort just outside this village. Last night an old expat owner of a modest beachside inn here told me of a tourist guest who had changed clothes in the car on the way down, then stepped out of it in a leopard bikini, spike heels and dark glasses. It's no mystery why she equated rustic little Hopkins Village with Cannes. In the travel industry's hallucination generating department, anyplace with sand and sun is Cannes, or at least Maui.
I wish people would stop breaking into tears when they talk to me these days.
I am traveling across the country at the moment — Colorado to California — speaking to groups of Americans from all walks of life about the assault on liberty and the ten steps now underway in America to a violently closed society.
The good news is that Americans are already awake: I thought there would be resistance to or disbelief at this message of gathering darkness — but I am finding crowds of people who don’t need me to tell them to worry; they are already scared, already alert to the danger and entirely prepared to hear what the big picture might look like. To my great relief, Americans are smart and brave and they are unflinching in their readiness to hear the worst and take action. And they love their country.
But I can’t stand the stories I am hearing. I can’t stand to open my email these days. And wherever I go, it seems, at least once a day, someone very strong starts to cry while they are speaking.
In Boulder, two days ago, a rosy-cheeked thirtysomething mother of two small children, in soft yoga velours, started to tear up when she said to me: `I want to take action but I am so scared. I look at my kids and I am scared. How do you deal with fear? Is it safer for them if I act or stay quiet? I don’t want to get on a list.’ In DC, before that, a beefy, handsome civil servant, a government department head — probably a Republican — confides in a lowered voice that he is scared to sign the new ID requirement for all government employees, that exposes all his most personal information to the State — but he is scared not to sign it: `If I don’t, I lose my job, my house. It’s like the German National ID card,’ he said quietly. This morning in Denver I talked for almost an hour to a brave, much-decorated high-level military leader who is not only on the watch list for his criticism of the administration — his family is now on the list. He has undertaken many dangerous combat missions in his service to his country over the course of his career, but his voice cracks when he talks about the possibility that he is exposing his children to harassment.
In connection with the imminent collapse of our investments in suburbia is the fate of all the laws and codes that have governed the creation of it. I think it is a waste of effort at this point to attempt to reform what we generally refer to as "the zoning laws." They will simply become irrelevant. As we get in trouble with oil, and driving becomes more of a problem, it will be self-evident that regulations geared to keeping cars happy can no longer be followed. My guess is that for a period of time we will see a condition of stunned paralysis in the council chambers and planning boards. Eventually, if we are lucky enough to retain effective local governance, a new consensus will emerge that will be more reality-based by necessity.
In saying this, I imply that societies go through cycles of collective thinking that range from being fairly consistent with reality to being dangerously out of whack with it. We're at the latter end of the cycle these days. One of the symptoms of this is the fact that so many Americans believe the only thing wrong with America is George W. Bush, and that if only we could wiggle out of "his" war, every day would be Christmas, with Nascar around-the-clock, time-outs for shopping sprees down the aisles of the Target store, 5000-square-foot houses for all (for $750 a month), and three BMWs parked in the driveway. . . with fries, and supersize it!
In reality, there's a lot more wrong with how we live and how we think about how we live than the mere presence of George W. Bush at the head of the federal government. Our expectations are deeply out of phase with what the earth can provide for us and what the future has in store for us, and this failure of our collective imagination goes down to the grass roots.
The gravest problem this nation faces, therefore, is the inability of the American public and its leaders to confront the fact that we can't continue to live the way we do -- and, by the way, when I say "leaders," I don't restrict myself to political leaders. Our failures of leadership are comprehensive, including leadership in my nominal sector, journalism. For two weeks in a row, the price of oil on the futures markets has closed above $80-a-barrel, and for these two weeks The New York Times Sunday Business Section has failed to run one story on the consequences of oil rising into this uncharted territory of high price. Are the Times editors on crack? Surely $80-plus oil will thunder through the American economy. [...]
The people I know complain endlessly about how stupid President George W. Bush is, and how badly he has lied to the public about this or that. But a casual observer from Mars would have to conclude that President Bush perfectly represents a nation that shows such a thoroughgoing incapacity for thought, and such an aversion to the truth about its own behavior. A people so hopelessly unwilling to get its act together deserves to suffer.
I have intentionally paraphrased this wonderful Christmas song because it has much to say about the future after peak oil which I am now ready to say has already happened. As energy declines, we will indeed go to our grandmother's house--one without electricity and running water, sewer or septic and deep, mechanically pumped water wells. At least that was MY grandmother's house. She lived on the Kansas prairies of the 1890s. In the 1960s I asked my grandmother what the greatest invention of her life had been. She said electricity because before they had lights, everyone went to bed shortly after sun down because it was simply too dark to do to much. There was no air conditioning, so the summers were very hot. In the winter, trips to the outhouse were cold (and brutally awakening if during the middle of the night). While she had wood where she lived, about 100 miles west of her home, people had to burn dung as is done in Tibet today. See the picture below of the dung plastered against the house. When one wants to cook, one retrieves a patty.
Without cheap energy, we go back to my grandmother's house or one quite like it...
Yes, folks, peak oil is here, that thing that politicians don't speak of; that event which cornucopians (those who believe that we will not run out of energy) believe is a fraud or misunderstanding is here. The cornucopians believe we are wrong because many have predicted that we would run out of energy before and have been wrong. What they lacked was the 20-20 that hindsight gives one. Today, we can see the peak behind us.
Interesting story here from what I can piece together. This is a family, Elton (the son), Mother Lorraine and Dad Basil, also called Rudy. Dad owned a shop in Huntington Beach, California called HB Electric. Each year they took a train tour of NY, Indiana, Rockies, etc. I bought over 1500 slides that chronicled all years between 1953 and 1968. I tried valiantly to find out more about this family, having seen so many slides, but to no avail. Elton evidently took over the shop in the late 60s. Dad Basil probably passed on around that time since his images stop around 1966. They were in a bowling league in Southern Cal and Lorraine was a member of the group of women prior to the Red Cross of today (they were very popular during WWI). The name escapes me at the moment. They also had a dog, Tiny. I really wonder if anyone would know of this family today... Elton apparently never married (at least he hadn't married by 1968 when he would have been in his 40s)... It's so weird how a collection of old slides will generate many unanswered questions.
Elton and Basil Next To the Las Vegas Train apr 26-28 1957
Slum Fights The Pentagon Plans for a New Hundred Years' War
Duane Schattle doesn't mince words. "The cities are the problem," he says. A retired Marine infantry lieutenant colonel who worked on urban warfare issues at the Pentagon in the late 1990s, he now serves as director of the Joint Urban Operations Office at U.S. Joint Forces Command. He sees the war in the streets of Iraq's cities as the prototype for tomorrow's battlespace. "This is the next fight," he warns. "The future of warfare is what we see now."
He isn't alone. "We think urban is the future," says James Lasswell, a retired colonel who now heads the Office of Science and Technology at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. "Everything worth fighting for is in the urban environment." And Wayne Michael Hall, a retired Army brigadier general and the senior intelligence advisor in Schattle's operation, has a similar assessment, "We will be fighting in urban terrain for the next hundred years."
Last month, in a hotel nestled behind a medical complex in Washington, D.C., Schattle, Lasswell, and Hall, along with Pentagon power-brokers, active duty and retired U.S. military personnel, foreign coalition partners, representatives of big and small defense contractors, and academics who support their work gathered for a "Joint Urban Operations, 2007" conference. Some had served in Iraq or Afghanistan; others were involved in designing strategy, tactics, and concepts, or in creating new weaponry and equipment, for the urban wars in those countries. And here, in this hotel conference center, they're talking about military technologies of a sort you've only seen in James Cameron's 2000-2002 television series Dark Angel.
I'm the oddity in this room of largely besuited defense contractors, military retirees, and camouflage-fatigue-clad military men at a conference focused on strategies for battling it out in the labyrinthine warrens of what urbanologist Mike Davis calls "the planet of slums." The hulking guy who plops down next to me as the meeting begins is a caricature of just the attendee you might imagine would be at such a meeting. "I sell guns," he says right off. Over the course of the conference, this representative of one of the world's best known weapons manufacturers will suggest that members of the media be shot to avoid bad press and he'll call a local tour guide he met in Vietnam a "bastard" for explaining just how his people thwarted U.S. efforts to kill them. But he's an exception. Almost everyone else seems to be a master of serene anodyne-speak. Even the camo-clad guys seem somehow more academic than warlike.
In his tour de force book Planet of Slums, Davis observes, "The Pentagon's best minds have dared to venture where most United Nations, World Bank or Department of State types fear to go… [T]hey now assert that the ‘feral, failed cities' of the Third World -- especially their slum outskirts -- will be the distinctive battlespace of the twenty-first century." Pentagon war-fighting doctrine, he notes, "is being reshaped accordingly to support a low-intensity world war of unlimited duration against criminalized segments of the urban poor."
These people are fucking insane. Our ability to wage any kind of war is on it's last legs. The Iraqi's are beating us and these people think they can take on the cities of the world. The only consolation is that we will soon be bankrupt and out of money to pay for this stupidity. Some consolation.
Dating back to the early 1960ʼs, the all-plastic Diana camera is a cult legend - famous for its its dreamy, radiant, and lo-fi images. Our brand new Diana+ is a faithful reproduction and a loving homage to the classic Diana - with a few new features tossed in. Its plastic lens, 2 shutter settings (daylight & "B"), 3 aperture settings, and manual focus are all hallmarks of the original Diana. But on top of that, the Diana+ offers a removable lens and super-small aperture for pinhole images, two image formats (12 or 16 square shots on a standard 120 roll), an endless panorama feature that allows for unlimited and nearly seamless panoramic shots, and both a standard tripod thread & shutter lock for easy shake-free long exposures.
The Diana is the original plastic fantastic art camera. It hasn't been available for years and has been replaced by the Holga. The Diana returns improved. The Diana microsite has more information on this resurrection. I want one of these but my camera budget has been blown well into next year. If anyone wants to buy me one, email me and I will let you know where to send it. It's only $50. :-) I'll send a print from a photo taken with the Diana+ to the generous reader that should send me one. Just a thought.
In a sweeping indictment of the four-year effort in Iraq, the former top commander of American forces there called the Bush administration’s handling of the war “incompetent” and said the result was “a nightmare with no end in sight.”
Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who retired in 2006 after being replaced in Iraq after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, blamed the Bush administration for a “catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan” and denounced the current addition of American forces as a “desperate” move that would not achieve long-term stability.
“After more than four years of fighting, America continues its desperate struggle in Iraq without any concerted effort to devise a strategy that will achieve victory in that war-torn country or in the greater conflict against extremism,” General Sanchez said at a gathering of military reporters and editors in Arlington, Va.
He is the most senior war commander of a string of retired officers who have harshly criticized the administration’s conduct of the war. While much of the previous condemnation has been focused on the role of former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, General Sanchez’s was an unusually broad attack on the overall course of the war.
But his own role as commander in Iraq during the Abu Ghraib scandal leaves him vulnerable to criticism that he is shifting the blame from himself to the administration that ultimately replaced him and declined to nominate him for a fourth star, forcing his retirement.
Though he was cleared of wrongdoing in the abuses after an inquiry by the Army’s inspector general, General Sanchez became a symbol — with civilian officials like L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority — of ineffective American leadership early in the occupation.
General Sanchez said he was convinced that the American effort in Iraq was failing the day after he took command, in June 2003. Asked why he waited until nearly a year after his retirement to voice his concerns publicly, he responded that it was not the place of active-duty officers to challenge lawful orders from the civilian authorities.
A brave new attempt is under way to project that all is well now with Fallujah. Residents know better - or worse.
Former Iraqi minister of state for foreign affairs Rafi al-Issawi visited Fallujah, 60 kilometers west of Baghdad, on August 22. Issawi, who resigned on August 1 when the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front withdrew from the government, visited the city with other members of the Sunni Accordance Bloc, al-Tawafuq.
The group toured the city and met with senior officials and community leaders in a production designed to show that the city has moved from being the most violent to the most peaceful in Iraq.
The Iraqi Islamic Party's TV channel, al-Baghdad, accompanied Issawi on his tour and broadcast some of the scenes from inside Fallujah. The footage exposed the painful truth of the situation here. The streets were deserted, shops were closed and people appeared with sullen faces.
"Of course we are happy to have our city peaceful, but not this way," lawyer Ahmed Hammad told Inter Press Service (IPS). "The local police guided and supported by the US Army have prevented car movements for nearly three months now. They should not be proud of having the city quiet in a way that kills everybody with hunger and disease."
How comfy we are all in the United States, as we engage in living-room debates about the US occupation of Iraq, whether "we" are bringing them freedom and whether their freedom is really worth the sacrifice of so many of our men and women. We talk about whether war aims have really been achieved, how to exit gracefully, or whether we need a hyper-surge to finish this whole business once and for all.
But there's one thing Americans don't talk about: the lives of Iraqis, or, rather, the deaths of Iraqis. It's interesting because we live in an age of extreme multiculturalism and global concern. We adore international aid workers, go on mission trips abroad, weep for the plight of those suffering from hunger and disease, volunteer in efforts to bring plumbing to Ecuador, mosquito nets to Rwanda, clean water to Malawi, human rights to Togo, and medicine to Bangladesh.
But when "we" cause the calamity, suddenly there is silence. There is something odd, suspicious, even disloyal about a person who would harp on the deaths of Iraqis since the US invasion in 2003. Maybe a person who would weep for Iraq is really a terrorist sympathizer. After all, most of the deaths resulted from "sectarian violence," and who can stop crazed Islamic sects from killing each other. Better each other than us, right?
Well, it's about time that we think about the numbers, even though the US military has decided that body counts are not worth their time. Opinion Research Business, a highly reputable polling firm in the UK, has just completed a detailed and rigorous survey of Iraqis. In the past, the company's results have been touted by the Bush administration whenever the data looks favorable to the US cause. But their latest report received virtually no attention in the US.
Here is the grisly bottom line: more than one million people have been murdered in Iraq since the US invasion, according to the ORB. Yes, other estimates are lower, but you have to be impressed by what they have found. It seems very credible.
In Baghdad, where the US presence is most pronounced, nearly half of households report having lost a family member to a killing of some sort. Half the deaths are from gunshot wounds, one-fifth from car bombs, and one-tenth from aerial bombs. The total number of dead exceeds the hugely well-publicized Rwandan genocide in 1994.
The latest estimates of the cost of the Iraq war by Steven Kosiak, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington think tank, puts the cost of the Iraq war so far (measured by congressional appropriations) at $450 billion, and that of the Afghanistan operation at $127 billion. By the end of fiscal year 2008, about a year away, the combined bill will be $808 billion.
"The war in Iraq, alone," notes Mr. Kosiak, "has already cost the US more in real [inflation-adjusted dollars] than the 1991 Gulf War and the Korean War, and it will almost certainly surpass the cost of the Vietnam War by the end of next year."
If the two military operations drag on for a decade, the cost could amount to between $1.09 trillion and $1.62 trillion, he speculates, depending partly on what level of military forces are left in the two nations.
Benjamin Netanyahu would like Americans and Israelis to believe that it’s 1938 all over again: Iran, he tells us, is Nazi Germany; President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is Hitler. And, of course, that means that anyone who advocates diplomacy and engagement with Tehran is simply reprising the tragic appeasement politics of Neville Chamberlain, even as the clock ticks towards catastrophe.
The 1938 analogy is entirely fallacious, but no less powerful because of it – by at once terrifying people and negating the alternatives to confrontation, it paints war as a necessary evil forced on the West by a foe as deranged and implacable as Hitler was.
If Iran is, as Netanyahu and his allies in the U.S. suggest, irrationally aggressive, prone to a suicidal desire for apocalyptic confrontation, then both diplomacy and deterrence and containment are ruled out as policy options for Washington. The “Mad Mullahs,” as the neocons call them, are not capable of traditional balance of power realism. In the arguments of Netanyahu and such fellow travelers as Norman Podhortez and Newt Gingrich, to imagine that war against the regime in Tehran is avoidable is to be as naïve as Chamberlain was in 1938.
However, as I discovered in the course of researching my book Treacherous Alliance – the Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States, not only does Netanyahu’s characterization of Iran have little relationship to reality; Netanyahu himself knows this better than most. Outside of the realm of cynical posturing by politicians, most Israeli strategists recognize that Iran represents a strategic challenge to the favorable balance of power enjoyed by Israel and the U.S. in the Middle East over the past 15 years, but it is no existential threat to the Israel, the U.S. or the Arab regimes.
And that was the view embraced by the Likud leader himself during his last term as prime minister of Israel. In the course of dozens of interviews with key players in the Israeli strategic establishment, a fascinating picture emerged of Netanyahu strongly pushing back against the orthodoxy of his Labor Party predecessors, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, which treated Iran as one of Israel’s primary enemies. Not only that, he initiated an extensive discreet program of reaching out to the Islamic Republic.
In his continuing effort to bolster support for the Iraq war, President Bush traveled to Reno, Nevada, on August 28 to speak to the annual convention of the American Legion. He emphatically warned of the Iranian threat should the United States withdraw from Iraq. Said the President, "For all those who ask whether the fight in Iraq is worth it, imagine an Iraq where militia groups backed by Iran control large parts of the country."
On the same day, in the southern Iraqi city of Karbala, the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, battled government security forces around the shrine of Imam Hussein, one of Shiite Islam's holiest places. A million pilgrims were in the city and fifty-one died.
The U.S. did not directly intervene, but American jets flew overhead in support of the government security forces. As elsewhere in the south, those Iraqi forces are dominated by the Badr Organization, a militia founded, trained, armed, and financed by Iran. When U.S. forces ousted Saddam's regime from the south in early April 2003, the Badr Organization infiltrated from Iran to fill the void left by the Bush administration's failure to plan for security and governance in post-invasion Iraq.
In the months that followed, the U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) appointed Badr Organization leaders to key positions in Iraq's American-created army and police. At the same time, L. Paul Bremer's CPA appointed party officials from the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) to be governors and serve on governorate councils throughout southern Iraq. SCIRI, recently renamed the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), was founded at the Ayatollah Khomeini's direction in Tehran in 1982. The Badr Organization is the militia associated with SCIRI.
In the January 2005 elections, SCIRI became the most important component of Iraq's ruling Shiite coalition. In exchange for not taking the prime minister's slot, SCIRI won the right to name key ministers, including the minister of the interior. From that ministry, SCIRI placed Badr militiamen throughout Iraq's national police.
In short, George W. Bush had from the first facilitated the very event he warned would be a disastrous consequence of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq: the takeover of a large part of the country by an Iranian-backed militia. And while the President contrasts the promise of democracy in Iraq with the tyranny in Iran, there is now substantially more personal freedom in Iran than in southern Iraq.
There is, in fact, remarkably little substance to the debates now raging in the United States about Ahmadinejad. His quirky personality, penchant for outrageous one-liners, and combative populism are hardly serious concerns for foreign policy. Taking potshots at a bantam cock of a populist like Ahmadinejad is actually a way of expressing another, deeper anxiety: fear of Iran's rising position as a regional power and its challenge to the American and Israeli status quo. The real reason his visit is controversial is that the American right has decided the United States needs to go to war against Iran. Ahmadinejad is therefore being configured as an enemy head of state.
- When challenged on Iranian government support of international terrorist groups, he said that Iran herself is the victim of extensive terrorist attack sponsored by foreign governments. He clearly had in mind the MEK. He said that all parties should stop this kind of activity. There may have been an implied offer in that. The Persians are subtle people. Perhaps they are too subtle for his audience
If the Bush administration launches an attack on Iran, the reason won't be that Iran was about to obtain a nuclear weapon. The real reason will be that United States, as the world's only superpower, wants to establish clearly that it -- not Iran -- is the dominant power in the Middle East. That would make us all less secure, but the insistence on asserting dominance in the Middle East is the essence of the Bush administration's policy.
In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s masterpiece Chronicle of Death Foretold, a murder is committed in defense of family honor because nobody does anything to stop two brothers carrying it out, even though they actually want to be stopped. And the careless and infantile scripts being penned by politicians in the U.S., Iran and Israel may yet have a similar outcome. Indeed, what is most remarkable about the actions of many of the key players is the extent to which they’re driven by local, self-serving agendas.
Iran has never manifested itself as a serious threat to the national security of the United States, or by extension as a security threat to global security. At the height of Iran’s “exportation of the Islamic Revolution” phase, in the mid-1980’s, the Islamic Republic demonstrated a less-than-impressive ability to project its power beyond the immediate borders of Iran, and even then this projection was limited to war-torn Lebanon.
Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquim Rodrigo is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I know. I first heard it done by Miles Davis and Gil Evans on Sketches of Spain. Here is the story behind this haunting piece of music.
Estimates of the cost of the Iraq war continue to escalate to levels well beyond what its optimistic architects once promised. Most notable, perhaps, has been the estimate of Columbia University’s Joseph Stiglitz, who, in a January 2006 paper with Harvard’s Linda Bilmes, put the full cost at around $2 trillion. By the end of the year, the two had grown even more pessimistic:
The $2 trillion number – the sum of the current and future budgetary costs along with the economic impact of lives lost, jobs interrupted and oil prices driven higher by political uncertainty in the Middle East – now seems low.
Assessing the full costs of war, direct and indirect, as opposed to the immediate and obvious ones, is a crucial task for those who favor nonintervention. But at least as important is assessing the costs of the warfare state itself, whether or not it is currently engaged in actual fighting. The public is inclined to think of the costs of the military establishment in terms of the annual defense budget. The true costs, however, are much greater, although usually hidden.
Robert Higgs has made the important point that the true cost of defense extends well beyond the official Pentagon budget.
Expenditures for “homeland security” surely belong in any reckoning of defense spending. Additional programs involved in defense are spread throughout the budgets of various other Cabinet departments. Then there is the supplemental spending earmarked for present military adventures (not part of the defense budget, contrary to popular impression), in this case Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the portion of the federal government’s net interest payments that is attributable to deficit-financed defense spending in the past. Higgs concludes that the real defense budget is probably about twice as large as the sum officially allocated to the Department of Defense.
There are a great many other costs to the warfare state as well, albeit ones less easily quantified. For one thing, between one-third and two-thirds of all U.S. research talent has been siphoned off into the military sector over the past several decades. Human limitations being what they are, there exists a fixed amount of such talent; and government diversion of that talent – through high, tax-funded salaries with which the private sector has repeatedly expressed its inability to compete – necessarily leaves fewer people available for research and development work in the private sector. Military research thereby crowds out commercial research aimed at improving people’s standard of living. It is hard to quantify this effect, of course, and being unseen it is typically overlooked, since we can never know exactly what innovations never appeared as a result of the diversion of resources and brainpower into the service of the military. This is one of many opportunity costs associated with the military establishment.
I’ve never imagined a simple equation between the non-racial democracy for which we fought (and which we won) in South Africa and achieving a unitary state democratic solution for Israel and the Palestinians. Indeed, I’ll admit to being anything but dogmatic on just how that conflict is to be solved. While in principle, I’d certainly prefer a unitary democratic state with full democratic equality for all its citizens, I can see the considerable differences between our situation and the one in Israel/Palestine that render a single state solution exceedingly difficult. At the same time, I can also see that Israel’s systematic territorial expansion may already have rendered a Palestinian state unviable. (For more on this issue, listen to Ali Abunimah and Akiva Eldar debate the unitary vs. two-state solution on Canadian radio.)
But what’s clear enough is that for the past 40 years, there has been only one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and that state has been Israel. And Israel has been an apartheid state: Like South Africa, it’s a democracy ruled by law for one group of people, and a military-colonial regime for another. Those who complain about it the use of “apartheid” to describe Israeli policies are either in deep denial, or else argue, as many liberals do, that the term is not helpful because it is provocative or “demonizes” the Israelis. This, too, though, is an evasion: The purpose of using the term is precisely to draw attention to the fact that Israel is routinely engaged in practices long deemed abhorrent by the international community, but because of Israel’s claim to represent the Jewish people and because of our history of suffering, this reality is simply overlooked, excused, or ignored. So, yes, using the word “apartheid” to describe what Israel is doing in the West Bank is meant to make people feel uncomfortable over what Israel is doing, and to recognize that condoning it is the moral equivalent of condoning apartheid. Clearly, that’s why Israeli human rights advocates routinely use the term.
The utterly charming thing about the Zionist Thought Police is their apparent inability to restrain themselves, even from the very excesses that will prove to be their own undoing. Having asked sane and rational people to believe that Jimmy Carter is a Holocaust denier simply for pointing out the obvious about the apartheid regime Israel maintains in the occupied territories, the same crew now want us to believe that Archbishop Desmond Tutu is an anti-Semite. No jokes! That was the reason cited for Tutu being banned from speaking at St. Thomas University in Minneapolis. “We had heard some things he said that some people judged to be anti-Semitic and against Israeli policy,” explained university official Doug Hennes.
The “anti-Semitic” views Tutu had expressed were in his April 2002 speech “Occupation is Oppression” in which he likened the occupation regime in the West Bank, based on his personal experience of it, to what he had experienced as a black person in South Africa. He recalled the role of Jews in South Africa in the struggle to end apartheid, and expressed his solidarity with us through our centuries of suffering. But then turning to the suffering inflicted on the Palestinians, he issued an important challenge, one that might just as well have been uttered by a Jewish biblical prophet:
“My heart aches. I say, why are our memories so short? Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?"
First, a confession: It may tell me that I hate myself, but I can’t help loving Masada2000, the website maintained by militant right-wing Zionist followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane. The reason I love it is its D.I.R.T. list — that’s “Dense anti-Israel Repugnant Traitors” (also published as the S.H.I.T. list of “Self-Hating and Israel-Threatening” Jews). And that’s not because I get a bigger entry than — staying in the Ks — Henry Kissinger, Michael Kinsley, Naomi Klein, or Ted Koppel. The Kahanists are a pretty flaky lot, counting everyone from Woody Allen to present Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on their list of Jewish traitors. But the habit of branding Jewish dissidents — those of us who reject the nationalist notion that as Jews, our fate is tied to that of Israel, or the idea that our people’s historic suffering somehow exempts Israel from moral reproach for its abuses against others — as “self-haters”is not unfamiliar to me.
In 1981, my father went, as a delegate of the B’nai B’rith Jewish service organization, to a meeting of the Cape Town chapter of the Jewish Board of Deputies, the governing body of South Africa’s Jewish communal institutions. The topic of the meeting was “Anti-Semitism on Campus.” My father was pretty shocked and deeply embarrassed when Exhibit A of this phenomenon turned out to be something I’d published in a student newspaper condemning an Israeli raid on Lebanon.--
The stage for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians has been set in the Occupied Territories, and ethnic cleansing is in progress. At present, this is the major project of the state of Israel. For an impartial person of medium intelligence, a tour of the Occupied Territories may be sufficient to understand this fact.
The prime ethnic cleansing tool is, forever, land grab of Palestinian property in conjunction with expansion of settlements. Various stages of annexation process are in evidence in the originally rural part of the West Bank, constituting 60 per cent of its area. By now, nine per cent of the West Bank land has been transferred to the direct control of the settlements. A recent Peace Now investigation (July 2007) revealed that only twelve per cent of this land is being used at all. "The state earmarks huge tracts for the settlements, out of all proportion to their size, in order to prevent Palestinian construction in those areas. Yet once an area is closed to Palestinians, the settlers begin seizing adjacent Palestinian lands, often privately owned, that lie outside their jurisdiction".
According to B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, already in 2002, 41.9 per cent of the West Bank was assigned to the Israeli regional councils. And for years, the entire rural Area C has been under administrative control of the so called "Civil Administration", which, in close cooperation with other branches of the Israeli army and with the settlers, toils to make the life of its Palestinian residents as miserable as possible; the obvious objective being to make them leave. (Comprehensive information can be found, e.g., in the Occupation Magazine, the website of the Israeli anti-occupation activists.)
In the remaining West Bank, Palestinians became virtual prisoners in their own towns and villages. Every aspect of normal Palestinian life - economy, health, education, is being crushed by a well organized and deliberate military-bureaucratic machine, masquerading as a security establishment. Every now and then, the strangulation noose around Palestinian existence is being tightened. Ethnic cleansing, by means of home and field demolitions, is also pursued diligently by the state of Israel towards its Bedouin citizens residing in the Negev desert (see the excellent tutorial movie at the website Adalah - the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights).
This is the third time I'm writing this. Last night I had it started and somehow lost it. This morning I had it almost done and the browser crashed. I had a detailed description of the trip with long philosophical asides. Screw it. Here are the pictures with minimal notes.
The view from the hotel window. We went down Friday on 2 1/2 hours of sleep. No pictures from Friday.
From in front of our hotel room. Saturday was shopping for things Zoe forgot to pack and for checking out where things were.
Typical LA vegetation. Planted between parking lots and structures. It would all die if prodigous amounts of energy and water weren't applied. I have more to say about this and more pictures.
My Grandfather's house. He lived there from 1946 to the mid 1950s. The people who live there now are restoring it. I have more to say about this, too. It was a high point of the trip.
Sunday morning I took pictures. Another high point. Warm ocean water. Zoe's first in many years. Balboa beach. 86 degrees and about 6 other people on the entire beach. More about this later.
Zoe's first car was a convertable and she had convertables for years but it's been years since she had a convertable. Since she had to get a rental car she got got a convertable. I made it home a day late. I need to get some work done, some links posted, and many pictures processed. Later.