Saturday, 31 July 2010

If I can make it there. . . .

After a blissful spell of quietude, New York State politics is back on the front burner, and as usual it is so depressing as to make us wonder precisely how we are superior to Arizona or Louisiana.

First, there’s Charlie ‘Four-Rent-Stabilized-Apartments in Harlem’ Rangel who doesn’t realize that he’s a laughingstock and clings to office instead of repairing to his Caribbean resort to sit irrelevantly on a beach. Not that many people in his safe district (in which I reside) are up in arms about how he blew four decades of seniority on vanity projects and corruption just when he could have brought whole hog farms of federal pork to the recession-blasted city.

On top of that, we have been forcefully reminded of our goofball Governor, David Paterson a.k.a. Alfred E. Newman—who successfully stonewalled the investigation into his own and others’ appalling conduct when his driver/bodyguard beat [below] up a girlfriend last October.

Paterson was already scraping the bottom of the approval-polls barrel, but when we learned that he had called up the victim in a blatant attempt to intimidate her out of her domestic violence complaint, he was forced to abandon his joke of a re-election campaign. But four months later he’s unapologetic and now says he regrets having dropped out.

The sorry details of the incident are here and here, but suffice it to say that Paterson is a Harlem/Democratic Party machine pol who grew up privileged and thinks he’s special. You’d think in a city where the black population faces such grave problems that there would emerge a class of black political leaders occasionally interested in solving them rather than cashing in on all the goodies that come with office. But you would be wrong.

Ground Zero Racism

I can’t improve on this hilarious take-down at Firedog Lake of the racism-enablers at the [LOL] Anti-Defamation League who pretend to criticize the anti-Muslim sentiment pouring forth over the building of a mosque at Ground Zero and then join Sarah Palin by calling for us to give in to it. First, Firedog quotes the ADL statement:

The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain unnecessarily, and that is not right.

Then they take the piss out of them:

Amazing. It’s like the ADL is pro- and anti-defamation at the same time. It denounces the right-wing bigots while using birtheresque we’re-just-saying-there-are-questions-that-need-to-be-answered weasel-words to echo their talking points.

For an encore maybe the ADL can announce that it ‘categorically rejects’ homophobia but is mindful of the ‘legitimate questions’ about whether gays make suitable parents or undermine military unit cohesion and therefore recommends that they stop trying to get married or enlist in the armed forces because it upsets too many people.

Or maybe it can denounce anti-immigrant xenophobia while pointing out the ‘legitimate questions’ about whether Hispanics are dangerous disease-carrying criminals who will steal our jobs and social services and oh-so-gently suggest that maybe they should find another country to emigrate to.

Look, it’s very simple really: You don’t oppose bigotry by tut-tutting it and then siding with the bigots. You oppose bigotry by opposing bigotry.

This would be so contradictory as to be inexplicable if the ADL were really about opposing race- or religion-based bigotry. But it’s not. It’s an arm of the Israeli lobby, and it’s task is to accuse people of anti-Semitism if they get in the way of that foreign government’s interests and designs. So naturally it would be sympathetic to people furious about the mosque at Ground Zero.

Oink oink

The difference in treatment of the auto industry and the banks was put into stark relief this week as Obama sallied forth to defend the bailout of Detroit by saying the money was well-spent, saved jobs and all but $25 billion or so will be recovered.

Obama didn’t mention that the price of the bailout was the Grand Guignol-style rolling of heads down the corporate aisle. He hadn’t been president for two months when the White House pushed out the chairman of GM and forced Chrysler into a partnership with Fiat as the conditions for the federal life-line.

Meanwhile, yesterday the federal agency charged with vigilance over the equity markets barely rapped the knuckles of Citibank, beneficiary of either $20 billion or $300 billion in federal largesse (depending on how you calculate it) around the same time as GM and Chrysler were getting $85 billion. Two executives will have to pay back some tiny portion of their Ali Baba loot while the company was saddled with a laughable fine of $75 million for systematically cooking its books.

How many ways is this unfair? First of all, Citibank’s sins were of quite a different nature than GM’s—the latter was a lousy automobile company that lost oodles of money while at least trying to produce something. But Citibank was a casino run by a mob. It put out phony balance sheets to bamboozle bond and shareholders, and when the whole thing blew up, the government came to its rescue while regular folks got laid off and thrown onto the street.

So did the guys responsible for this debacle go the way of Rich Waggoner and the other GM schmos? Um, not exactly. Gary Crittenden, former chief financial officer of the bank, will have to folk over $100,000 for his lies. That would be a lot for a normal person, but Crittenden ‘earned’ $19.3 million in 2007 and another $12.2 million in 2008 from Citibank alone, not to mention the eight interlocking corporate boards he also sits on. The fine is barely an embarrassment.

Citibank did not bother to conceal its contempt for the federal overseers in its statement, noting that the other of the two ‘punished’ executives is a ‘highly valued employee’, rather than a crook who should be taken out and shot.

The grotesque surrender to finance capital performed by the Obama Administration (with the Republican ‘enemies’ expressing faux outrage and secretly cheering them on) gives us the worst of all possible worlds—the alleged party of the downtrodden carrying hod for the rich and powerful. At least when it was Bush and his sleazy crowd doing it, one could read their obvious indifference to anyone not as rich as they are. But the Democrats pretend to be concerned while doing nothing to stop the steady concentration of power in the hands of a financial oligopoly that has demonstrated to all and sundry that nothing can stand in its way.

Monday, 26 July 2010

The Afghan war is lost

Aside from the juicy tidbit here and there, not much in the latest Pentagon Papers constitutes much of a surprise.

We might not have known that the insurgents have heat-seeking missiles, the kind that the CIA once provided them to shoot at Soviet helicopters.

We might not have had precise information on how many of the drone strikes launched from a Virginia suburb were blowing up civilian bystanders or relatives of the targeted fighters.

We might not have exactly realized how many gazillions of dollars in health, education and security aid—the kinds of things Republicans wouldn’t vote to spend money on here at home even if guns were pointed at their heads—was being flushed down the toilet of corruption and mismanagement.

In short, we might not have had data on the trees, but we certainly could see the forest. It was clear that our decade of war in Afghanistan was a debacle long before Wikileaks gave us the gory details.

Now, President Obama will issue the expected harrumphs about the leaks’ damage to ‘national security’, and given his record to date he probably will persecute the leaker(s) as enthusiastically as the Bushites if not moreso.

We will hear much indignant bloviating about the violation of this or that ‘law’ on the disposition of confidential documents, under the assumption that we will be shocked, shocked, at the idea of illegality in our war-making apparatus. It would perhaps be prudent not to talk about this much by cellphone or in e-mails since we know the National Security Agency is gathering 1.2 billion of them daily—and now legally, thanks in part to Obama himself.

After Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, it took another four years for the Vietnam war to end. Applying that metric to Afghanistan would put us roughly in 2014 to close this sorry chapter--in the midst of the next presidential term. Does it really matter whose?

One of the saddest items in the Pentagon Papers was the revelation that Lyndon Johnson’s reasons for persisting in the Vietnam tragedy were:

70% - To avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat.
20% - To keep South Vietnam and the adjacent territory from Chinese hands.
10% - To permit the people of South Vietnam to enjoy a better, freer way of life.
ALSO - To emerge from the crisis without unacceptable taint from methods used.

Note the principal reason for continuing the lost cause and the attendant mayhem: to not lose.

Who can doubt that similar cynical reasoning dominates in the halls of decision-making today?

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Maybe they can go to the 'Laura Bush' hospital

Here is a story not likely to see the light of day on our non-stop cable chatter channels: the huge spike in radiation-related cancers among the children of Fallujah, six years after the massive assault on the city by its American conquerors.

Fallujah was targeted in 2004 in Operation ‘Vigilant Resolve’ after insurgents there killed four civilian contractors working for the Blackwater security firm and publicly burned their bodies. The incident made a lot of people on the U.S. side very angry, and most of the population was evacuated in preparation for a major battle, which duly ensued and reduced the Sunni stronghold to rubble.

The British Independent reported on an epidemiological survey that was conducted there in response to anecdotal evidence that something pretty terrible was happening to the city’s newborns. The study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that cancers of all sorts had mushroomed after the city was turned into a free-fire zone.

Among the main findings of the study, entitled ‘Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009’:

-infant mortality rose to 80 per 1,000 births compared to 19 in Egypt, 17 in Jordan and 10 in Kuwait.

-female breast cancer increased 1,000%

-the sex ratio between boy and girl babies dropped from 1,050/1,000, which is normal, to 850/1000, suggesting genetic damage affecting male fetuses more than females. A similar change was discovered in Hiroshima in the 1940s.

-rates of leukemia rose 3,800% (the increase at Hiroshima after the atom bomb was dropped on it was 1,700%)

The survey included nearly 5,000 people, and the statistical evidence that this is not a coincidental result is overwhelming. While epidemiologists usually celebrate significance if their numbers show no more than a 1 in 20 chance of randomness, the Fallujah cancer figures were in the range of 1 in 100 million.

The report does not shy away from the obvious conclusion: the pattern is ‘similar to that in the Hiroshima survivors who were exposed to ionizing radiation from the bomb and uranium in the fallout’.

The logical explanation is that American troops included depleted uranium (DP) weaponry in their assault on the town. Aside from the brief controversy over their use in tank battles involving troops, one can only imagine the cynicism that went into the decision to deploy them against civilians.

Stay tuned to hear a thorough airing of this pertinent outcome of Operation Iraqi Freedom on CNN, Good Morning America, Nightline and the PBS News Hour. Also, anticipate a chapter on this topic in Christopher Hitchins’ next book, sandwiched between praise for the courageous and talented neocons who engineered the invasion.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Shame [Updated]

What a revealing moment we have before us in the Shirley Sherrod incident, after the rapid climb-down by the yellow-bellies in the Obama Administration who buckled in the face of the Fox News onslaught without even checking their facts.

Sherrod is the former Agriculture Department employee who was subjected to a McCarthyite assault by the creeps at Fox based on a tendentiously edited video purporting to make her look like a racist. In fact, she was speaking frankly about race in ways that one Barack Obama once did to save his election campaign--and was considered an oratorical genius afterward.

But Sherrod is merely a minor cog with no powerful friends, so she could be sent a text and told to resign while driving herself home—based on nothing more than an attack by her boss’s sworn enemies. Her dignified but obviously pained comments reveal how hurtful it must have been for a lifelong civil servant to be dumped for political reasons without even being given a chance to state her case.

It’s no wonder Obama’s poll numbers are slipping if this is how he’s coaching his minions. Their behavior is more reminiscent of the Czechoslovak Communist Party after the post-Dubcek ‘normalization’ than a democratic government.

And no wonder those of us still in charge of our faculties are feeling so gloomy about the future if these gigantic opportunities to show some cojones and stand up to the bullies are turned again and again into displays of rank cowardice by the guys we put in charge.

However, I believe it is a mistake to read this pathetic cringing by the ruling Democrats as stupidity or cluelessness. I have a much more pessimistic interpretation: complicity.

The Democratic White House acts like the hapless child of an alcoholic, desperate for any sign of right-wing approval that is always withheld. They seem psychologically colonized by the permanent abuse; instead of turning their attention to their natural allies, they chase after those who spurn them with more eager compromises, which merely reinforces their tormentors’ contempt.

If Martin Luther King, Jr., were alive today, he’d undoubtedly be one of the ‘fucking retards’ denounced by Rahm Emanuel & friends for messing up their deal-making with the reactionaries and racists that we voted out. Obama’s White House, like the Democratic Party he heads, fears the Shirley Sherrods of the land much more than the Fox News demagogues and the Limbaugh-worshiping knuckleheads who openly seek their destruction.

Sherrod’s story is one worth revisiting. She and her husband tried to save black-owned farms in Georgia despite the relentless hostility of the openly racist governor Lester Maddox and lack of support from an unresponsive federal government. What a moment to remind Americans of how race really has worked in the last 50 years instead of scrambling to deliver the head of a hard-working lady to a cabal of howling, race-baiting, white guys who run a TV network.

[Update] CNN was scrambling this morning to track down the aide at USDA who frantically texted Sherrod to get her to quit when the Fox video trickery first broke. But Sherrod defended the aide in interviews and repeated her assertion that the pressure to fire her came from the White House. Please, God, let it be Rahm Emanuel who did it! And let the networks stay interested long enough to track down the truth.

Also: More reporting, please, on the fact that Sherrod’s own father was gunned down by a white farmer in a highly dubious incident, who then was not indicted by an all-white grand jury in the time-honored southern way of doing things. But Fox doesn’t confuse the race issue with tales of mere homicide when it can play gotcha with edited videotapes.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Quoth the Raven, "Forevermore".

Torture is forever.

Those, like our current president, who think it best to ‘look forward’ rather than scour out the filth from our recent past eventually will be frustrated when others discover the truth and assign the blame for the official practice of torturing defenseless detainees conducted by the United States of America.

As has often occurred, the British are far ahead of us, and it is surely an irony of our decade that it is the Conservative Party there taking the lead. Prime Minister Cameron launched an executive review to be led by a judge with the aim of ‘restoring British moral leadership in the world’.

That seems to be a low priority here in our country where the possession of massive stocks of weaponry acts as a substitute for silly old ‘moral leadership’. But Obama and the foreign policy establishment should not underestimate the slow, corrosive effect of having the truth of their brutalities come dribbling out.

Already the British papers are assembling evidence that British intelligence agents stood by while detainees were tortured in Pakistan, Egypt, the Emirates, Bangladesh and of course Afghanistan and Iraq. Even slippery Tony Blair is unlikely to escape given the paper trail already leading towards his unctuous and smarmy person.

Blair has fallen back on the lawyerly constructions about whether he condoned or authorized ‘torture’, allowing himself wiggle room to continue to dodge the precise, smoking-gun evidence of his collusion with crimes against humanity. Eventually, however, the Iraq and Afghan wars will wind down, and the public’s fascination with torturing news of the ‘ticking time-bomb’ out of hapless suspects will fade into embarrassment.

Curiously, it is the heart of the British establishment itself that is pushing for a housecleaning to remove the taint of the torture years. The steady revelations generated support for a special investigation not only from Cameron and his deputy P.M. Clegg but also a foreign secretary from the Thatcher years (Lord Howe) and a top army staff officer (Lord Guthrie). This suggests that the Brits see real damage done to their interests by the unleashing of Star Chamber tactics of yesteryear and want to put an end to the chapter promptly.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S. there are other signs of disquiet about the introduction of medieval practices prohibited under Anglo-American jurisprudence for 500 years. The American Psychological Association told a Texas licensing board earlier this month that Dr James Mitchell should be stripped of his license for aiding the CIA’s torture of a detainee.

Just the beginning! As the months and years grind on, those who sold their souls to the national security apparatus and forgot their professional ethics will face the harsh glare of publicity—while the higher-ups who utilized them like Blair and Rumsfeld enjoy their golf games. It will be so unfair!

Friday, 16 July 2010

Why not admit it?

What is it about prosecutors that makes that so reluctant to admit error? The Times had the sad story this week of Everton Wagstaffe, a guy locked up for decades for a crime he probably didn’t commit but who could walk out of jail if he would simply express ‘remorse’, i.e. confess for killing a teenage girl in Brooklyn in 1992.

He refuses for the simple reason that he says he did not kill her. So he sits in jail.

Whatever the merits of the Wagstaffe case, we see over and over evidence that the system can handle losing a case but cannot stand being forced to climb down. Even after a convicted individual is unmistakably proven to be innocent, prosecutors stubbornly refuse to concede. They go to any lengths—aided by a perverse system that treats itself as infallible—to extract a ‘partial’ admission of guilt and thereby justify the original railroading.

The usual explanation for this is that no one among the professional criminal class ever admits to guilt either, that all convicts deny they ever hurt a flea. This is the Johnny-hit-me-first defense, that since bad guys operate this way, the criminal justice system is forced for some reason to imitate them. Thus offenders and prosecutors are comfortably wedded to each other as flip sides of the same coin at permanent war. Winning, not truth, is the goal.

One cannot contemplate the long-lost Afghan war without wondering if some parallel psychic process is not at work among our foreign policy establishment. As the inimitable Tom Tomorrow pointed out in his latest cartoon, General Petraeus himself essentially has announced that the war is hopeless. And yet the simple words, We goofed! cannot issue from his or any other lips.

Why not? Do the powerful then lose face? Do they fear having to assign blame? Do they look like pansies to other countries? These are not rhetorical questions but quite genuine ones. I do not understand and invite explanations.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

And babies come from the stork. . .

The UN agency coalition known as UNAIDS long has insisted that countries everywhere formulate a national plan to address HIV/AIDS. In fact, the half-dozen cooperating bodies in UNAIDS, such as UNESCO, UNICEF and WHO, slowly made their very ample AIDS funding contingent upon it. But one yawning irony in this correct if rather coercive ‘suggestion’ is that the largest donor to these multilateral bodies—the United States—has not had a similar plan for itself despite the 1.1 million people estimated to be living with HIV within our borders.

The Obama White House corrected that anomaly Tuesday with the launch of its National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States, a product of extensive consultations including 14 community forums around the country in recent months. It’s not a bad document, and the presenters, including HHS Secretary Sibelius and her top deputy along with the White House AIDS policy guy, Jeff Crowley, hit many of the right notes.

I was following a live blog of some of the old-time advocates and nonprofit folks, and they were guardedly positive about the document and the officials’ comments. There is recognition of the need to target prevention work among the hardest-hit groups, no shyness about explicitly mentioning IV drug users and gay/bisexual men, attention to the ongoing impact of HIV-related stigma, proposals for handling certain funding needs while waiting for the 2014 health reforms to kick in. And so on.

What I found sorely missing, however, was one three-letter word that appeared neither in the hour-long unveiling of the plan or in the document itself: sex.

Sure, there were plenty of references to heterosexuals, bisexuals, sex partners, sex disparities and the god-awful neologism, ‘men who have sex with men (MSM)’. There was even a brief nod to the need for an approach to sexual health of which HIV prevention would comprise a part.

But any idea that we should reverse the decades of intimidation by yahoo Christian sexophobes and resuscitate the discussion about sex and sexuality that our society requires was entirely absent. For example, there’s no mention in the Strategy of sex education as if we could generate knowledgeable and prepared young people—many of them born after HIV became a chronic illness—without providing them with competent and comprehensive training in the workings of sex, gender, desire and romance as the Europeans have shown can be done.

On this front the Obama team, like the cowed Democratic Party it leads, has ceded the center stage to the abstinence-only Bible-thumpers. Unwilling to assume any political costs by recognizing the obvious—that marriage and sex have been effectively delinked for vast swaths of our population—they pretend to lead a national campaign to reduce new HIV infections by 25 percent without a national conversation about the main way it is transmitted—via the genitals.

Without that conversation, I fail to see how any of the ‘targeted’ interventions that are supposed to get gay men or straight guys with multiple partners to consider their behavior are going to work. I’ve hung around some of the gay bars of New York for six years now since coming back from South America, and I can confidently attest that there is NOTHING happening in that ambiance related to HIV or sexual behavior except what people are working out on their own, one by one, partner by partner.

But community noise about HIV or sexual practices to avoid it? Totally last year. Last decade. Decade before that. Nada, zip, zero. I have not seen in these six years one poster, one flier, one announcement, one ad on the ubiquitous video screens about managing sexual practices. Oh, there is plenty of buzz to support the main agencies, join the AIDS walk, support the new treatments or volunteer for the vaccine research. But the ‘safe-sex’ discussion of yesteryear is history.

I attribute the silence to the religious fanatics’ hysterical screaming about immorality and abstinence and their clever leveraging of the ‘social issues’ into seats in Congress and several presidencies. Obama’s plan suggests there is little stomach for standing up to them.

Play with balls!

The less said about sporting ‘news’, the better. But the death yesterday of the completely horrible George Steinbrenner, owner of the equally repugnant New York Yankees baseball team, combined with the two dementia-inducing mass spectacles of the last few days—the World Cup and LeBron James’ contract announcement—has dragged our attention out of more serious things to the world of those who play games with balls for money.

Surely I am not the first person to marvel at the way people—men, usually, but far from exclusively—speak of these remote teams in the first person. ‘We’ will beat Minnesota or Ghana or South Bumfuck, they nod to each other in all seriousness as if ‘we’ were on the playing field or had anything to do with the dozen guys who were, with their athletic skills, their business investments, the corporation they work for or anything else about them except that their uniforms say ‘City X’. In most cases the athletes have nothing to do with the cities they play for and wouldn’t be caught dead socializing with their schlub fans except to have their feet kissed by them.

In fact, sport franchises should be forced to use inverted commas around the city names they pretend to represent in recognition of the entirely faux nature of the construct. We could celebrate the ‘New York’ Knicks or the ‘San Francisco’ Giants without pretending that the corporations running these outfits are in any way related to our own street addresses except that the same guy probably owns both the team and our mayor.

The one exception that comes to mind, of course, is Mr James who grew up in a housing project in Akron and therefore could be faintly credited with being ‘local’ talent on the Cleveland basketball team he played for. Don’t confuse me with someone who cares whether he plays for ‘Cleveland’ or ‘Miami’, but given the bizarrely fanatical devotion of many Ohioans to his oversized person, you’d think the guy could have rustled up enough class to make his departure a little less of a Hollywood ego-fest so cringeworthy that it would have embarrassed the audience at the Oscar awards.

And leave it to Jesse Jackson to worsen the punishment by turning the whole March of the Great Ones into a race issue by saying James’ ex-coach was treating him like a ‘runaway slave’. Thanks to Jackson, poor LeBron is not just the insensitive chump of the year, he’s now the black insensitive chump of the year. Just what we needed as half the country goes psychotic over the color of our current president.

Meanwhile, the World Cup was a remarkably sane event given the permanent, global psychosis generated by soccer throughout the known universe. The South Africans did a good job, celebrated all the teams in good spirits and introduced a noisemaker whose name sounds like a female body part into the global lexicon. Referees put in their usual excellent performance in fumbling key calls, but hardly any games were decided by the ridiculous custom of penalty kicks. And no one got murdered for losing.

The games held certain interest among the bar-goers here in New York as long as the U.S. was in the running. Once ‘we’ were eliminated by Ghana, the local tabloids thumbed their noses at the event, called soccer a ‘stupid’ sport anyway and went back to baseball.

Then Steinbrenner’s heart attack gave them plenty of distraction. Included in the news of this guy’s departure will NOT be included the following: how much cash in tax breaks the Yankees have scooped out of New York City to oil the building of the new Yankee Stadium; how the team fulfilled (or did not fulfill) the terms of its agreement by replacing (or not replacing) destroyed park land in the Bronx; why Yankee game attendees have to stand up in the 7th inning and sing a paean to ‘our troops fighting for freedom in Iraq’ or else face hostile action from burly guys sitting in the next row.

Derek Jeter is quoted in today’s Times with a story about how Steinbrenner chewed him out for being caught off third base and tagged. ‘Whether it was the players, the front office, the people working at the Stadium, it didn’t make a difference. He expected perfection’.

Oh, puke. If that’s how the big guys in professional spectator sports think, no wonder I find them such insufferable, screaming jerk-offs. That’s why I like baseball better than soccer: there are no ties, and one of the teams of guys playing with their balls always has to lose.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Stop before my head explodes

The idea that 400,000 active-duty service men and women were sent an opinion survey by their superiors probing their feelings about gays and lesbians is not only screamingly misguided and lame but also illustrates everything wrong with the Obama style.

Did the Pentagon really pay some polling firm $4 million to ask people things like, ‘Have you been assigned to share bath facilities with an open bay shower that is also used by a service member you believed to be homosexual?’ ‘Have you shared a room, berth or field tent with a service member you believed to be homosexual?’

This surreal bullshit belongs on The Colbert Report or better yet, reassigned to the Ministry of Funny Walks. I have a question for the scientific pollsters to add: ‘In the last six months, what sexual acts have you engaged in with your legal spouse? Do you think your platoon buddies would (a) approve (b) disapprove (c) strongly disapprove or (d) cheer wildly and high-five each other?’

Other amazed commentators have noted that Harry Truman did NOT poll the grunts to see whether they would like to share facilities with ‘Negroes’ when he desegregated the armed forces by dictatorial fiat in 1948. Given the large percentage of Jesus-blowing backwoods southern white cracker motherfuckers serving at that time, you can bet that the responses would not have been encouraging.

No, Truman did not gently ask the troops if they would get upset to see a curly black pubic hair on the soap. He told them what was going to happen whether they liked it or not.

Nor did Truman waste his time trying to get racist blowhards in Congress like Richard Russell of Georgia to split the difference. The segregationist Russell, for whom one of the big marbly office buildings on Capitol Hill is named, introduced a measure immediately after Truman’s diktat to allow draftees to choose whether or not they wanted to serve in segregated military units—just the kind of ‘compromise’ our current leaders love.

Truman told Russell to put it up his ass, and Congress voted it down. But just wait until the new ‘compromise’ on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell finally staggers out of the White House and see if it doesn’t include something similarly grotesque.

‘We’re not playing games here, we’re trying to figure out what the attitudes of our force are, what the potential problems are with repeal’, a defensive-sounding Pentagon spokesman is quoted as saying in the WaPo article linked above. Exactly, and exactly why this approach stinks.

When dealing with principles like equality before the law and non-discrimination, you don’t ask people to change their intimate thoughts or personal feelings about individuals or behaviors that are alien to them. You don’t ask them to go through some wrenching act of conscience BEFORE establishing fairness—you establish fairness, and then let them get with the program in their own sweet time.

It’s the difference between asking for tolerance and demanding respect: you legislate respect and forget about tolerance because it’s basically bullshit. If somebody doesn’t fancy cocksucking or snatch-gobbling, that’s his private business. Treat people the same, and if you hate your co-workers, go home and stick pins in kewpie dolls. Nobody cares.

‘We need this survey and we need people to participate in this survey to get a sense of the attitudes of the force’, said the Pentagonoid. No, we don’t need this pathetic pandering to prejudice; we need a commander-in-chief who can act like one and who will tell the troops and their hard-on officers what he expects them to do and how far across the room he’ll kick their ass if they don’t.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Obama enables, Turkey detaches [updated]

It has been fascinating to watch the slow-motion train wreck that is the current Israeli regime, responding as it does to the deeper pathology of the settler society that has grown up around the conquests of 1967. This weekend the Turkish government, after some poorly-concealed ‘secret’ meetings between lower level Turkish and Israeli officials, surprised those watching by announcing that without a formal apology over the assault on the aid flotilla, Turkey would sever diplomatic relations.

Quite a reversal for an alliance of decades between the zionist state and its most loyal Muslim neighbor. Coincidentally—or perhaps not—today’s New York Times has a lengthy review of the unusually healthy Turkish economy and its deepening ties with Arab and Muslim neighbors like Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran, its healthy state finances, lack of anxiety over an eventual invitation to join the European Union and drop in the relative weight of its commercial links with the U.S.

Much has been made of the ‘Islamic-lite’ government in Turkey of Prime Minister Recip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party as if religion had clouded the Turks’ judgment. But if it’s religious fanaticism we’re talking about, the question is better addressed to the Israelis, who have managed to alienate, perhaps permanently, their largest and best-armed neighbor by pandering to the constant messianic zealotry of its Torah-thumping settlers.

Turkey is now being described as the next China as an up-and-coming Asian economic powerhouse. The contrast with feeble, tottering Europe is hilarious given the EU’s decades of racially tinged snubbing of Turkish membership. The Turks apparently are feeling confident and independent enough to resist pressures from the U.S. to kiss and make up, despite the substantial trade benefits they risk from a prolonged spat.

A smarter Israel with a more prudent, forward-looking strategy would look for a way to pull back from the brink and smooth things over with Turkey, which after all lost nine of its citizens when the Israeli commandos went nuts in international waters. One sees how decades of pumping up settler fury, self-righteous martyrdom and religion-inspired irrendentism over the seized lands has led the Israeli government into a cul-de-sac where any hint of common sense or moderation will generate a spittle-flecked, screaming backlash from the same Israeli ultras who called Ariel Sharon (of all people) a Nazi for pulling up settler stakes from Gaza.

Meanwhile, Obama and Biden (and the toadying Democratic liberals in thrall to the Israeli lobby) echo Netan-yahoo’s talking points and stand by helplessly while the Israelis thumb their noses at the U.S. after carefully pocketing the $2 billion a year our tax dollars provide them. Obama wants Turkey to take our side in the dust-up over Iranian nuclear ambitions but does nothing to rein in the loonies in charge in Tel Aviv. He may find that a country that registered 11 percent growth in the first quarter of this year doesn’t have to read from the script provided by the White House.

[Update] Obama’s smiley meeting with the Yahoo yesterday was a grand pageant of meaninglessness designed to provide useful photo ops for both parties at no cost. Bushels of platitudes were issued to mutual satisfaction especially given that no one expects the b.s. to lead to anything.

There is no need to update the conventional wisdom, as expressed by that reliable fount of same, Thomas L. Friedman in the NY Times, who wrote of his worries about Turkey on June 16 in his unmistakable high-school-essay-like prose: ‘Turkey’s balancing role has been one of the most important, quiet, stabilizers in world politics. You only notice it when it is gone. Being in Istanbul convinces me that we could be on our way to losing it if all these vacuums get filled in the wrong ways’.

Juan Cole opines that the likelihood of a real break between Israel and Turkey is remote given their commercial relationship, at least for now. But he notes wryly: ‘From the point of view of the Likud Party and Yisrael Beitenu, being Israeli means never having to say you are sorry’.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Cooling it in the Great Plains

Time for a break, seeing the heartlands until next week.