Sunday, 26 February 2012

Oscar night for adult children

Even for Hollywood the narcissism on display this year is extreme. The heavily favored French silent, The Artist, may be a cute novelty (I haven’t seen it), but Scorsese’s semi-animated Hugo and The Help, a cozy and comforting rewrite of our recent racial history, are disturbing exercises in adolescent self-absorption. I defy anyone watching Hugo to close their eyes for 30 seconds of its leaden dialogue and not want to leave immediately for an adult beverage. The film is a non-stop paean to the wondrous magic performed by filmmakers, i.e., oneself, demonstrating yet again that the concept of embarrassment is sadly missing from the modern psyche.

Ironically and maddeningly, instead it’s the interesting Terence Malick effort, The Tree of Life that gets slammed for self-indulgence, or the preferred term, ‘pretentiousness’. Not one of the dozen reviews I read nailed its theme: grief. Whether it appealed to you or not, it was an attempt to use cinematic language in a challenging way and lift the form above TV-style storytelling. It wasn’t simple or obvious, so of course the academy of film professionals couldn’t be bothered with it.

For the record I would like to defend the dinosaur vignette in that film, which, having experienced grief more than once, made perfect sense to me. When in the grip of that disorienting emotion, one naturally reflects on the strange aspect of nature in which individual beings die, sometimes frightfully, as part of the mysterious evolution of the world and its creatures. While one can recognize this phenomenon as the law of life, even a necessary one, it does not alleviate the pain of losing individual members of one’s species. I generally dislike Malick’s work, but The Tree of Life will provoke viewers long after The Descendants and The Help are forgotten as relics.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Is this war not going so well?

There have been sharp squeals about President Obama’s war on religion via the dissemination of birth control, and now the Rick Santorum Brigades in Afghanistan have come to the same conclusion. Incredibly, assassins struck inside the Afghan Interior Ministry yesterday and killed two American army officers. Kabul and other cities appear to be on the verge of even further meltdown, hard as that may be to imagine, over the accidental burning of Korans by goofballs in the U.S. military who still haven’t quite realized what country they’re trying to conquer.

Of course, it’s also possible that the ‘mistake’ was nothing of the sort. We’ve heard plenty of stories about deliberate sacrilege against Islamic symbols as a form of psychological torture in both the Bagram and Guantánamo dungeons, so another incident of desecration of Muslim holy books should come as no surprise. This time, however, the surprise falls to the the occupation forces dealing with the virulent reaction by pious, Santorumite Afghans. The NY Times quotes one official as saying that no was ‘panicking’, which should be interpreted to mean that everyone is.

‘We’re in a weaker position than we were maybe two or three or four weeks ago’, said this unnamed official who then proceeded to explain that neither he nor anyone else in charge has a plan: ‘I’m not sure anyone knows the clear way forward. It’s gotten more and more complicated. It’s fraught’.

Yeah, fraught, that’s the word I would use. When your supposed allies can’t stop a soldier from whacking your officers in the Interior Ministry—and get away with it!—you’ve definitely got a problem on your hands.

So after a decade of conquest and occupation, constant drone attacks that blow up wedding parties and kids herding sheep, the Obama ‘surge’ of extra troops that was supposed to fix things, Karzai’s stolen election that the NATO allies promptly endorsed since they needed him to win, drug trafficking by the president’s brother, and steady gains by the Taliban and other warlords, our hardware-happy military chiefs don’t know what the fuck to do next. Not even the wizard Petraeus.

In response to the killings, all NATO and U.S. military advisers were withdrawn from Afghan ministries, leaving one to question what exactly is the state of ongoing coordination between the occupiers and the purported government of the country they are occupying.

Obama tried to apologize for the Koran-burning but was promptly undercut by Newt Gingrich who said the Afghanis could piss off up a rope and take their Korans with them. In some parallel universe, Obama or a surrogate would accuse Gingrich of endangering American troops with his remarks and get him to shut up. But the Democratic establishment prefers to continue as leatherman bottoms.

The slow-motion debacle in Afghanistan is but one of the many reasons people should not be celebrating the electoral successes of any of the current crop of Republican nutcases under the misguided notion that this helps humanistic causes by showing how extreme they are. There is plenty of volatility in our biped world, and the re-election chances of Commander Obama are ‘fraught’ with many obstacles. One of these circus clowns could end up as president, and that would not be a laughing matter.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Clap your hands if gas is too high

It’s just wonderful to watch our current and aspirant bosses claw at each other over the $4-a-gallon gas their weary citizens are now paying. They do so without breathing a hint of criticism over the role of Israeli war-makers in the price run-up, which promises to turn ever more severe. Romney lays the blame on Obama for vetoing the environmentally disastrous Keystone pipeline as if that would put a dent in the world market prices while the White House lamely replies that they’ve opened up everything but Yosemite National Park to new oil drilling. All sides eagerly pander to the nonsense notion that the U.S. could be self-sufficient in petroleum.

The News Hour says part of the Obama push-back will be criticism of the ridiculous subsidies provided to wealthy oil companies. However, given the need for a billion dollars in campaign funds with which to torture us for the next nine months, let’s not hold our collective breath in anticipation of any such Occupy-ish rhetoric.

What no one dares to suggest is that the Israeli saber-rattling and the Iranian mullahs’ predictable answers are raising the threat of a dangerous supply interruption in the lake of Persian Gulf oil, thus producing speculation in oil prices. In fact, the Iranians are deploying the price weapon—one of the few at their disposal—quite adroitly and as predicted. But because Israeli interests are more sacred than our own, the steady insistence that we generate yet more horrific carnage in the region only pops up as a topic so that candidates can twit Obama as a wimp over the-Iranian-nukes-that-were-not.

Meanwhile, absolutely no one connects the dotted line between the sudden enthusiasm for this war and its direct consequences on the domestic household budget. If Obama ever dared suggest such a link, the pro-Israel money would open up on him like a fleet of B-52s.

At the same time, Israeli P.M. Netanyahu acts like he’s the real authority in Washington, and in a way, he is. When Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ie, the highest-ranking military official of the United States, dared to say that an attack on Iran now was ‘not prudent’, Netanyahu said he was ‘serving Iranian interests’. How the patriots would howl if anyone here at home dared to talk about our trusty generals that way! Hey, why not add, ‘Islamofascist appeaser’, ‘Quran-hugger’ and ‘mullah-symp’?

The whole episode is actually a good illustration of how the Republican Party has slipped into seditious disloyalty by surrendering to its increasingly reactionary wing. As with their destructive assault on the federal government over the debt limit, the fringe elements that have taken over the GOP casually inflicted deep wounds on the country in defense of their ideological goals, secretly whispered to them by the Heavenly Father. Now, these include the next round of the Rapture-inducing great battle for Zion. No wonder Confederate flags are making a comeback.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Oh, what a lovely (upcoming) war

The plans for making war on Iran aren’t going so well despite the excellent brainwashing of the American public via a steady drumbeat of official hysteria and the faithful stenography of our media mouthpieces. But as it turns out, reality outside our borders is less easily manipulated than the fuzzy thinking of the domestic citizenry. Nevertheless, certain power-addicts are sure to keep trying, at our peril. [map: U.S. bases ringing Iran]

The first fantasy to explode is that this pre-war exercise in belligerence is about Iran’s nuclear program. As should be evident by now and is even admitted in moments of imprudent transparency, the U.S./Israeli goal is not non-proliferation but regime change in Iran, and the non-existent nukes are a convenient excuse for pursuing it.

Not that an Iranian nuclear capacity along the lines of Japan’s wouldn’t shift the strategic balance a bit. Clearly it would although probably a good deal less than the brilliant neo-con invasion of Iraq that eliminated Iran’s principal enemy. Despite the utter disaster they created, the same geniuses are back telling us we need to double down on death and destruction.

Since Israel launched the nuclear competition decades ago by building its own bombs, weapons proliferation in the Middle East is probably inevitable. Bipeds being bipeds, an eventual nuclear exchange there is as likely there as anywhere in the world. But there was a deal arranged by two neutral parties, Turkey and Brazil, years ago that could have resolved the immediate nuclear worries had anyone in Washington or Tel Aviv really wanted that. Instead, it was promptly shot down; active hostilities are preferred.

The economic sanctions imposed on Iran are apparently biting but hardly definitive. Petroleum prices are rising due to the war fears, and Iran’s losses suffered due to the U.S.-led boycott are made up by higher income per barrel. In my jaundiced and cynical view, the sanctions are not really meant to achieve their purported aims but to prepare the ground for escalation.

Since diplomacy is no longer of interest and the U.S. political class completely in thrall to Netanyahu, we can expect the attack to occur at the moment of maximum discomfort for Obama, accompanied by the active cheering of the disloyal opposition. Republicans will take delight in accusing Obama of failing to back the Israeli action to the hilt and simultaneously denounce him for the inevitable rise in gas prices at the pump that will accompany a war in the Persian/Arabian Gulf.

This scenario is the worst of all possible worlds and, as Stephen Walt writes, the reason why hawks should be eager to see Obama remain in office. If these crazy-ass schemes were being promoted by the Republican ayatollahs, there would be a hint of opposition afoot in the land.

Instead, it’s smooth-talking Barack who is leading us into the maelstrom of yet another useless war against people who do not threaten us. Our leadership duopoly is playing us with good cop/bad cop finesse, and as any defenseless prisoner knows, it’s the good cop who gets you to buckle in the end.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

O’s great “victory” on Social Security

It’s about time somebody punched holes in the idea that the Social Security tax cut agreement is a big triumph. Sure, it’s a cheap, political win for Obama. But as former Iowa senator Tom Harkin pointed out, it’s a disaster for the concept of Social Security in the long run.

FDR installed the radically socialistic government welfare give-away to the elderly that Tea Party-ers love and live on by making it a pay-as-you-go system built on tax revenues separate from the federal budget. Despite the wildly successful media panic campaign by the rich and their lackeys about the fund’s alleged insolvency, Social Security has plenty of money and would be in fine shape if its tax base were left alone or the law tweaked to add higher earners to the paying-in pool.

But now Obama has offered to undermine it by using payroll tax cuts to boost aggregate demand in these tough times, thereby setting the stage for a permanent crippling of the system’s finances. By allowing 160 million working Americans to pay 2 percent less into the fund, Obama has set the stage for fulfilling the false prophecy that there won’t be enough money to sustain the baby-boomer elderly. When times are better, how many Republicans will he or any other president get to agree to put the taxes back up to where they were?

So instead of taking a real stand in defense of the New Deal legacy, Obama and his Democratic go-alongs, convinced of their sneaky cleverness, elevate and defend a GOP concept and turn it into their goal. The wacko brigades immediately oppose it, and when they finally give in—whether from incompetence or Tar Baby-reluctance—Obama is declared the ‘winner’.

We, sadly, are the losers.

A lot more of this twisted thinking will be on display for the next six months, which is why I will be spending much of it with a blanket over my head. For example, stalwart liberals like Truthdig’s Bill Boyarsky are already twitting us for criticizing heroic Barack in these terms: ‘Haven’t they noticed that the Republicans want to dismantle Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the rest of the economic protections for the poor and the middle class?’

Yes, Bill, some of us have indeed noticed that Republicans want to do that. But we also recall that W tried it and failed, that Republicans alone can’t pull it off. Only Democrats can actually bamboozle us into accepting that the remains of the New Deal should be chipped away, that it’s the best we can expect, and that we should be glad we’re being f***** by our friends rather than by our enemies.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Who is planting the bombs?

Far be it from me to engage in an exercise in cynicism, tee hee, but the Iranian mullahs should take a lesson from Vladimir Putin and blame the recent explosion in New Delhi on the Mossad. Why not? Who really benefits from this attack? Putin says every time a hostile journalist is assassinated in Russia. It’s a great opportunity to gang up on my government and accuse me with no evidence.

In fact, the bombing of an Israeli diplomat in India fits Tel Aviv’s interests quite nicely. After all, Indian leaders just announced that they would merrily break the U.S.-led boycott of Iran’s economy and take advantage of the ‘business opportunities’ it offers. A terrorist attack on diplomats within India could screw that up, which is a good reason even crazy-ass mullahs wouldn’t be likely to do it.

U.S. reporters, currently engaged in the usual slavish stenography when it comes to war fevers emanating from the Beltway, won’t look too closely at evidence but instead trumpet Israeli accusations. Nor has there been any interest in hearing what Indian forensic investigators have to say even though, as we C.S.I. viewers know, the obvious culprit is often exonerated by the second commercial break.

It’s depressing to see how the American public is still gullible enough to swallow a concerted propaganda effort in the name of their sacred Security, even after the Iraqi debacle and the steady erosion of the rule of law post-9/11. We simply replace Condi’s ‘mushroom cloud’ with Leon Panetta’s, alter a single letter in the name of the offending country (Iraq/Iran) and voila, a war is born.

And will someone please explain why Obama is going to be able to reverse the tide after feeding into the Israeli-sponsored paranoia about Iran’s designs on our well-being? As per his usual habit, Obama has acted feebly toward the Israeli bullies, backed off immediately when confronted, and reaped their inevitable scorn for being both unreliable and weak. As we head into a hard-fought election campaign, Israel’s leadership will be in our driver’s seat even should the opposing nominee be a total wackjob. They obviously want to go to war with Iran—do you?

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Politics (boo!) v/s armies (yay!)

A little noticed excerpt from Obama’s State of the Union message signaled another creepy and disturbing trend: fulsome praise of the military for its alleged ‘apolitical’ patriotism in contrast with self-interested ‘politicians’.

This is a favorite trope of the right and consistently deployed by military dictatorships, which habitually describe their defense of the Nation as disinterested loyalty floating far above loathsome partisanship.

Obama spoke dreamily of the Navy SEALs who were at that moment rescuing hostages from Somali pirates. He contrasted their action to the gridlock he faces with the recalcitrant, GOP-dominated Congress:

‘They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together’. Later he suggested that Congress should follow the troops’ example: ‘Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve can learn from the service of our troops’.

But troops in a hierarchical institution obey orders. Navy SEALs do not deliberate over policy and aren’t supposed to. They don’t negotiate their budgets, and they don’t pass laws. Elected representatives, for better or for worse, are supposed to do that, messy as it often is. It’s usually described as ‘democracy’.

Does anyone else experience disquiet when the president appeals to military discipline as a metaphorical way to unite in the name of the national interest? I suspect people in Argentina, Greece, or South Korea—who have watched their armed forces seize power with precisely that excuse—might be a tad uneasy upon hearing it.

Obama had more to say about special forces’ heroism as he bragged about his ownership of the flag that the SEAL team carried on its mission to assassinate bin Laden in Pakistan. ‘No one thought about politics’, said Obama.

It’s certainly true that no one in that operational team was supposed to exercise political judgments, but it’s quite a stretch to think they—and their superiors—have no political thoughts. In fact, Obama had to fire one of them quite recently for mouthing off to a Rolling Stone reporter about what an idiot he thinks his boss is.

As we enjoy the spectacle of our two political parties sinking into dysfunction and the federal government flailing about in the grip of institutionalized venality, no doubt we will hear more and more about the purity of spirit housed in the Pentagon and its uniformed branches, perhaps including the ‘apolitical’ intelligence services, too. Reactionary and anti-democratic forces can be expected to beat this drum; it’s a shame that a former professor of constitutional law has chosen to echo it.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Impunity for the mighty

The mortgage settlement is an excellent example of Obama’s role in our lives. We elected him to reverse the rightward shift in our polity toward greater concentration of wealth and the destruction of the rule of law. Instead, he accommodates it. With the Republican opposition now in hock to the howling wolves of outright reaction, he manages to appear modestly sane and can thereby paint his dangerous lack of principles as reasonable compromise.

The state attorney generals’ mortgage deal with the banks stinks, and a lot of smart people have dismantled it. So there’s no need to belabor its shortcomings except to say that it’s another back-door bailout that rewards gross illegality and further undermines the workings of American capitalism and aggravates our country’s long-term decline. It was reached without any serious attempt at investigation, meaning that no significant leverage could be deployed in the negotiations, and no bankers feared prosecution (by contrast with the savings & loan scandal, which saw hundreds of perp-walks). It wrist-slaps the mortgage servicing companies for systematic, massive fraud on courts of law through robo-signing and falsification of documents, which would have been easy to prove had anyone in power wanted to do so. It allows the banks to play with other people’s money, cheat investors (ie, your pension fund and mine), resuscitate their second liens (home equity extractions), which should be worthless and written off, and generally enjoy a mile-high stack of Get Out of Jail Free cards.

But what is surprising is that Obama’s natural base is not nearly as fooled by this sell-out as was generally expected, including by me. I wouldn’t presume to make numerical estimates, but, to take one example, a lot of those who originally thought the State of the Union announcement of the New York A-G Eric Schneiderman-led task force was a triumph have now realized that it’s window-dressing. Take a look at Schneiderman’s Facebook page—there’s not a single comment cheering him on, which must have come as quite a shock to him after he enabled Obama’s PR stunt.

And after getting a raft of emails from a bunch of leftish online organizer sites, like Working Families and Color of Change, that initially gushed over the great ‘triumph’ of the people, the tone already has begun to shift. Typical is Matt Taibbi’s retraction of his early enthusiasm in Rolling Stone.

Taibbi cites the incomparable Yves Smith (Naked Capitalism) who was all over this story months ago when she laments that the fix essentially puts the mortgage biz on permanent federal life-support as part of the TBTF complex that now owns our state, and us. More disturbing in my view is the sweeping under the judicial rug of a vast conspiracy of white-collar looting perpetrated on defenseless working people from coast to coast. It is the exact and precise parallel of the dismantling of our civil protections against the arbitrary policing power of the state, endorsed by the Bush-Obama axis and ratified by a populace far more concerned with safety than justice. In both cases the price to be paid will be terrible.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

NYPD officers invade a Bronx bathroom

While two-thirds of liberal New York City takes to the streets to celebrate its team’s prowess in playing with balls, the residents of the White Plains Road area of the Bronx will be burying 18-year-old Ramarley Graham, shot to death in his bathroom for the crime of running away from the cops. [Photo: CBS2]

Graham apparently was suspected of selling pot and told to stop by narcotics officers. He didn’t, and now he’s dead. We’ll hear a lot of hair-splitting from police officials and their ‘investigation’ into yet another episode of instant justice. But for anyone who’s had dealings with them—which is virtually any young male of black or Hispanic descent—the incident is laughably everyday. They stop you, they insult you, they frisk you, if they feel like it, they smack you around. Do not resist, or else.

They don’t usually pull out a gun and kill you, but there’s always that threat. And that’s the real meaning of the death of a teenager for a bag of weed—the underlying social message, delivered by the cops but sent from much further up. You kids are expendable. We can kill you and get away with it. Obey us.

At the Graham household where I visited last night to leave a donation for the funeral, signs on the fence alluded to the NYPD as a modern KKK. The Klan in its heyday didn’t have to lynch black males every weekend to make its point—once in a while was enough.

If Latin American-style fascism ever really does come to the United States complete with secret police impunity, these black and Hispanic kids will be the first to say, What else is new? Their lives are dominated by encounters with the men in blue already. They never know if today’s the day they’ll rub a big Irishman with a badge the wrong way and end up catching a slug or with a bag of cocaine planted in their backpacks. (NYPD narc cops are being ‘investigated’ for the practice currently, which surprises only naive liberals in Starbucks.)

At the corner of White Plains Road and the Grahams’ modest bungalow on East 229th Street, a dozen cops gathered around patrol cars and watched the scene where several hundred residents had gathered in support of the bereaved family. No doubt if I’d dared to ask them, they would have talked about ‘keeping order’ or protecting the local precinct.

A pity there’s no Occupy camp left—would the remnants of that movement, no stranger to police tactics in defense of the mighty—have thought to link arms with the Grahams and their neighbors?

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Selective tears

I love the Obama team’s rending of garments over the Syrian massacres, which are horrifying. But the Washington foreign policy/security establishment has a lot of hypocritcal balls to denounce them. These are the same guys (and gals) who stood idly by—no, actively cheerleaded—while the Salvadoran nazis massacred peasants in the 1980s and looked the other way when Saddam Hussein (yes, that Saddam Hussein) used poison gas against Iranian soldiers, and when the Argentine generals rounded up union leaders and students and tossed them out of airplanes by the thousands. Not to mention the vast crimes committed in Iraq in more recent memory.

One could come up with a dozen more examples of murderous indifference when the outcomes suited our national interests, and I’m too old to think that nation-states are liable to act humanely when wealth or power are at stake. But it is downright laughable to see UN ambassador Susan Rice and the Hillary wax all indignant with moral outrage over the Russian and Chinese vetoes. If it were Netanyahu committing the atrocities instead of Assad, how distinct would be the tune heard from their righteous lutes.

The situation also demonstrates what NATO lost by turning the UN resolutions against Khaddafy into a de facto authorization for war and regime change. Had NATO acted with more restraint to prevent massacres and less like an active participant in the civil war, the Russians might have less reason for recalcitrance with their Syrian ally today. But the logic of war-making trumped all else. As usual.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Danger in 2012

While our leaders seem to be locked in furious combat, there’s one area in which, appearances not withstanding, they’re not foes at all but firm allies. Despite all the jockeying over the year-long blue-red slugfest, the two-headed Janus of U.S. foreign policy is united in its determination to stare down a supposed enemy state in the Persian Gulf. The only doubt among the Republicrat duopoly is whether to start a new war with Iran or blink helplessly from the sidelines while Israel starts one for us. The idea of calling a halt to the whole thing because it’s crazy seems not to be taken very seriously.

The signals so far remain quite mixed (although that should reassure no one): there is much saber-rattling reminiscent of the build-up to the Iraq aggression along with much quieter and subtler hints that not everyone in the ruling circles is enamored of the idea of our third expensive Asian war in 11 years. Skeptics should recall that no one could quite believe Bush II would be so demented as to send the troops on a massive invasion of a country halfway around the world without a worry. But he did.

People who watch this stuff systematically suggest that Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are maneuvering over the fervid Israeli desire to get us entangled in their rivalry with the mullahs. We should not forget that it was the Israel-boosters in our foreign policy establishment who marched to the front of the line thumping the war drums for Bush’s little adventure. Setting aside the criminal nature of the enterprise, was it in our country’s interests to engage in it? Or was it really Israel’s? But oh no, one can’t raise that question because to do so means you are an escaped Ukrainian concentration camp guard seething with anti-Semitic bloodlust.

Periodically, pretty senior people in the U.S. political and military establishments emit noises about the imprudence of going to war with a country of 80 million people halfway around the world while running trillion-dollar annual budget deficits. But when Netanyahu gets more respect from Congress than the country’s own president (who can imagine a South Carolina congressman shouting ‘You lie!’ in the middle of his speech?), it makes sense that Israeli security concerns should trump our own.

There are plenty of rumblings within even the Israeli establishment that the eagerness to launch an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities could be a ‘dangerous adventure’ that could even ‘endanger the Israeli state’s existence’, as suggested by a former Mossad chief last June.

But unfortunately, aggressive tendencies have more staying power and demagogic appeal than pacific ones, and it can be hard to reverse their inertia once people get their blood up. Look at the scandalous warmongering emitted by clownish Republican presidential candidates trying to appeal to their evil-minded base. Professor Juan Cole at Michigan State, who unlike Newt Gingrich actually knows what he’s talking about, estimates that if an attack on Iran turned into a ground war, it would cost $3 trillion ($9 trillion if we include veteran care), cause U.S. 115,000 casualties, and lead to between 1 and 3 million Iranian dead. What perverted form of Christianity pululates in their cracker souls to make them think that this would be a good idea?

Of course, an initial attack will be sold to us as a limited engagement from the air that need not spin out of control. But why do we think that the Israelis, eager for the first sortie over Teheran, will want it to stop there? Once drawn into the logic of war, why would the Israeli-Republican lobby settle for a job half-done? As long as the Islamic regime remains in place, no escalation will be deemed sufficient.

Nor has Obama distinguished himself for his capacity to resist right-wing pressures. In fact, he has even trotted out the pathetic excuse that he has ‘no say’ over Israel because it is a sovereign country. Obama foolishly seems to believe that he can let Netanyahu do what he wants and simultaneously distance the U.S. from the attack and its consequences. If you believe that, I have some investments in Madoff Enterprises that I want you to look at.

Meanwhile, the increasingly punitive sanctions regime against Iran ratchet up the tensions while providing the Iranian regime no reasonable exit. Seeing what happened to Saddam and Khaddafy (in contrast to say, nuclear-armed North Korea), the mullahs might quite reasonably think that having a nuclear option is a good insurance policy. While some look at these economic measures as alternatives to war, we should once again remember the UN resolutions during the pre-Iraq war run-up. In the end they were part of the campaign to paint the attack as an inevitable last resort as the steady rain of New York Times-enabled propaganda continued.

By chance, today is the anniversary of Colin Powell’s infamous lies to the UN Security Council while the Gucci-shoed thug Condaleeza Rice spoke movingly of ‘mushroom clouds’ on national television. But as Obama chose to ‘turn the page’ on these past crimes, now he has to deal with a new version of them.

We can see where this war campaign may be leading—right into the presidential election campaign of next summer. Netanyahu, the real Republican candidate, can easily undermine Obama by launching the strike and daring him to refuse support. Romney or whoever would then accuse Obama of being soft on the Iranian nuclear threat; and since no one has dared to counter Israeli propaganda on the issue, most Americans would be either befuddled or alarmed.

Furthermore, now that the U.S. no longer controls Iraqi airspace after the full withdrawal there, Israel can use the most convenient, shortest route to stage its attack.

In short, we should disabuse ourselves of the notion that the American or Israeli leadership would never do anything crazy. Better to listen to their rhetoric and assume they mean what they say.

And as for the distracting electoral campaign, the Superbowl provides an apt metaphor. It is Kabuki theatre in which two teams pummel each other and awaken vicarious bloodlust in the grandstands (couches, in our case). But in the end nothing is really at stake between them. We suspend our critical faculties and enjoy the fantasy that these teams represent something about our respective cities, that the victory of one side or the other somehow reflects the martial virtues of its inhabitants. In the end, though, we’ve only proved that we believe in the battle itself. We should prepare, then, for the death and suffering that the worship of Mars brings to one and all.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Race, religion & cops

New York City police officials showed hundreds of new recruits a virulently anti-Semitic training film, which suggests that most American Jews are disloyal and engaged in criminal conspiracies. The film included a black Israeli flag flying over the White House, suggesting that Jewish influence was so massive that they had essentially taken over the country.

The NYPD also is conducting a widespread spying operation on everything to do with local Jewish life. The city built and maintains a database on where Jews worship, live, work and gather socially with assistance from the CIA, despite legal restrictions on domestic activity by the vast snooping agency.

When asked about the use of the film, police officials lied repeatedly, first saying that Commissioner Ray Kelly, who appears in the film, had not cooperated with its producers, then pretending that only ‘a few’ officers had screened it. In fact, the blatantly racist production was seen by 1500 incoming recruits as it played on a continuous loop during training breaks.

The film was made by a private agency run by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood whose previous works include, Obsession: Radical Judaism’s War Against the West and Radical Judaism’s Vision for America. The film accuses Jewish extremists of posing as moderates and charges several Jewish organizations with being soft on terrorism. One speaker in the film says that ‘Judaism is like cancer’.

After the initial denials, NYPD officials said the decision to team up with this group to explain Jewish life and thinking to a generation of new officers was taken independently by a sergeant.

Mayor Bloomberg criticized the use of the film for police training but rejected calls for Commissioner Kelly to resign, saying the NYPD used ‘terrible judgment’ but that the film has now been shelved. ‘I think it's fair to say that there is a little bit of embarrassment that this film was made’, said Bloomberg.


Okay, I made up one piece of that—it’s not really about Jews at all, but Muslims, of course. But every other detail is taken from very recent news accounts. How long do we think Kelly and his entire team would have lasted had one one-thousandth of those actions really had been directed against the city’s Jews? It’s good to keep this taste of reality in mind when the inevitable breast-beating victimology starts to surface about poor Sheldon Adelson and his role in the GOP primaries.