Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hail Caesar, Hail Netanyahu!

By Lloyd Agte

It has to go down as one of the most shameful events in Congressional History:  Congressmen and women leaping to their feet in standing ovation at the warmed-over hate-speech spewing from the mouth of Benjamin Netanyahu before the assembled Congress of the United States.  As he stood at the podium basking in the standing ovation even before he began, smiling smugly with that "I've-got -you-now, Obama, right-by-the-Balls " look, I shut off the TV.  Why ruin a perfectly good morning with a depressing show I had already seen before, too many times.

Ten minutes later I turned the television back on to catch the last five minutes.  I was right--same old lying tune: Hamas  (the democratically elected party chosen by the Palestinians to represent them) is an evil terrorist organization, a Palestinian al Qaeda, the phony "we don't have a partner for peace" (an old worn-out tune from the 'seventies that like bad disco, keeps on getting recycled), poor little victim Israel has to protect its borders, they refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist, and now a new Israeli roadblock to peace is thrown out: Palestine must recognize Israel as "the Jewish State." This, of course, would boot the million and a half Arabs living as third class citizens in Israel now into some Bantustan or concentration camp, end hopes of right of return of 5 million refugees and doom peace prospects forever. But of course the Israelis do not want peace or Netanyahu would not have thrown that last roadblock on the table.

As Fred Boyle, law professor at Illinois University has pointed out, if Israel really wants to be called "The Jewish State," all it has to do to receive international recognition as such, is to change its name to something like "Jewistan--The State of the Jews."  Then any state doing business with it would have to recognize its status through its name.
For analyzing Israel's constant narrative line, which sells so well in the U.S., of there being a constant "existential threat," an imminent danger of being attacked (with Israel having 200 nukes? Get real!), read Ira Chernus' "The Great Israeli Security Scam," wherein he exposes the myths about Israel being under threat from outside military attack, from personal attack in Israel, and from a world-wide effort to deligitimize the Jewish state.

See also Gilad Atzmon's "Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder--A Glimpse into Israeli Collective Psychosis," wherein he writes:  "Within the Pre-TSD, an illusion pre-empts reality and the condition in which the fantasy of terror is focussed [sic] is itself becoming grave reality. If it is taken to extremes, even an agenda of total war against the rest of the world is not an unthinkable reaction."  One could argue that the U.S. suffers from the same disorder, though in a milder form.

Still another take on what is behind Israel's belligerence is voiced in Carlo Strenger's April 3 piece in Haaeretz, "Decline and Fall of Israel's Messianic Politics." "What happens to Millenarian movements? Their prophecies are at some point falsified by history: the second coming of Christ does not occur when predicted; no Mahdi re-establishes the Caliphate. The national-religious movement will have to face the failure of its prophecy that the founding of the State of Israel and the conquest of the West Bank is the onset of the Messianic period. It will have to realize that Israel is part of an international system that has standards of legitimacy that can and must not be disregarded."

But back in the U.S. of A., the shameless Congress kept leaping to its collective feet, clapping and bellowing at every insult to the Palestinians, cheering every lying, worn-out Zionist cliché.  It was like Julius Caesar coming to the provinces and all the provincial rulers shouting "Hail Caesar" and bellowing their enthusiasm--all to keep those golden coins of the Roman Empire coming their way.  Was AIPAC filming it all? Did they then reward the first ten to leap to their feet with a thousand dollars each?  And did they time each congressman's length of applause, ten dollars for each second of clapping?  Something like that was surely happening.

The over-enthusiastic reaction of the Republicans was, of course, public exhibition of support for a foreign leader over their own elected President, who was in England at the time.  After all, it was Republican leadership who set up Netanyahu's Congressional address in order to embarrass the President. This foreign leader received four more rounds of applause than Obama received in his State of the Union address.  (Reported as 59 by Dana Milbank in the Spokane Spokesman Review)   Why?  Because Obama, in a recent speech, had dared to state publicly what the previous two presidents had suggested in peace negotiations--that peace negotiations begin with the 1967 borders, an item that has been a part of all the so-called peace negotiations since the 1980s. But things have changed. Israel and the U.S. Congress have moved significantly to the right. 

Obama had the temerity to publicly announce that borders matter. Immediately, Netanyahu and all the other Zionists started bellowing like a bull with his balls caught in a barb-wire fence, and the Republicans saw this as a chance to side with the Zionists and brand Obama as an anti-Semite, thus drying up his AIPAC funds (and getting them for themselves of course) and relegating both Obama and Obama's peace efforts to the ash-bin of history.  It remains to be seen whether this anti-patriotic action on the part of the Republicans will come back to haunt them.

The changed political scene we have today is pointed out by Justin Raimondo in his article "US Politicians Kowtow to a Foreign Leader: The Lobby Takes the Offensive." In America, the power of the Israel lobby is much greater than at any time in the past, and certainly since the 1967 war. We are faced, here in this country, with the extraordinary spectacle of a US President confronting a foreign leader with a list of reasonable requests – negotiation in good faith, the abandonment of encroaching ‘settlements,’ an end to the arbitrary humiliations endured by a people under occupation – and the leaders of the opposition are taking the side of the foreign leader. This from a party that revels in its alleged super-'patriotism'! Romney, Huckabee, and the whole Fox network team went into overdrive, following the President’s Mideast speech, flaying him for 'betraying' Israel. Fox News even ran a story warning that 'Jewish donors' would not back the President's reelection campaign on account of his supposedly 'new' stance."  And the Democrats?  Shameful cowardice, a sycophantic clapping contest, and lust for the AIPAC financial and media support.  Both sides greedily feed from the same AIPAC trough, Obama especially being no exception.
So here we have on the one hand the Arab Spring and the emergence of democracy and individual rights breaking out across the Middle East, and on the other hand these same millions of Arabs get to watch our Congress backing the racist policies of vicious, illegal occupiers and cheering at every insult to the Palestinians.  This blind support for the racist, exclusionist, apartheid Zionist policies of the Israeli government will cost us dearly in the future.

Mike Gravel, former Democratic U.S. Senator from Alaska (1969 to 1981) writes on the May 21 Counterpunch blog with sadness at the deteriorating state of Israeli political affairs: "When I left office in 1981, Israeli leaders were increasingly succumbing to a bunker mentality, sustained by fear and a history of oppression that has long since changed. The Israel I admired is difficult to recognize, save in the actions of young Jewish demonstrators helping Palestinians to protest Israel's expansionist West Bank barrier. Israel has been captured by the religious right with its sense of entitlement to Palestinian land.

"The dangerous political leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his oppressive domination of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank must be opposed. He does not want peace. Instead, Israel continues to build on the ethnic cleansing it perpetrated in 1948. The colonization effort in occupied Palestinian territory is thriving under Netanyahu."   

David Remnick (and he's Jewish, but hey, some of my best friends are Jewish), the editor of The New Yorker magazine, writes in the March 21 edition ("A Man, A Plan") it is time to give up on Netanyahu: he is under the spell of his 101 year old father and he lacks the capacity for change.  Of a meeting with Benjamin's father, Benzion, in the late 1990's, when Remnick was invited to his house for lunch, Remnick writes: "I am not sure that I have ever heard more outrageously reactionary table talk.  The disdain for Arabs, for Israeli liberals, for any Americans to the left of the neoconservatives was chilling. . . . Benjamin Netanyahu has proved himself his father's son." Remnick appeals to Obama to do the right thing and in the United State's interest and get the peace process moving. "The old, wishful habit of waiting for Netanyahu is an abdication of American influence and interests."

Yet here was the U.S. Congress, waiting for Netanyahu to speak, like believers at end-of-days rapture, waiting for Jesus to whisk them away to eternal life in heaven.  (Is it just me, or did it really look like a halo had been electronically dubbed in behind the head of Benjamin Netanyahu? If so, that might explain some of the unreasoning enthusiasm Congress expressed for Israel's current construction boss on the roadblocks to peace.)

Which brings up another Netanyahu idiotic claim:  that Israel is not occupying Palestinian territory.  Rather they are reclaiming their historic lands.  Well and good, except there are about a dozen and a half other countries/races/religions that can claim the same, from Egypt who occupied the Mid East from 3000 BCE to the rise of the Hittite Empire in 1340 to Israel in 1050 BCE, to the Assyrian 720 BCE, Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian all BCE, and finally to the Roman Empire, the latter from just before the birth of Christ to 570 CE. 

After the fall of Rome, the Byzantine Empire was established followed by the Sassanid, the Caliphate (that era that the fundamentalist Bin Laden was trying to recreate) that ruled until the Seljuk Empire in 1100. The Crusader Kingdoms were rather short-lived--from 1140 to 1187, a mere 47 years--after which they were swept away by Saladin's Empire. Should not this give the West pause over its current adventures into the Mid East? 

Then the Mongols ruled for over 400 years, followed by the Ottomans who ruled from 1700 up to when a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, assassinated the Archduke of Austria because he was going to make concessions in the Balkans which Phillip and his ilk feared would defuse the drive for nationalism, and thus was WWI started. 

After the war, the Mid East was chopped up primarily by England into today's countries, utilizing a divide-and- conquer plan, splitting powerful tribes into two different countries (Pashtuns spanning Afghan and Pakistan border areas, for example) such divisions being a source of much of the Mid East instability and border paranoia on the part of the West today.  Throw in Israel's founding in 1948 and Israel's continuing land grab and illegal occupation of Palestine and you have today's stirred hornet's nest from which we hear buzzings and from which we feel the stings daily. (Maps of War here)

MJ Rosenberg, writing on Al Jazeera's web site two months ago (Mar 15 2011), "AIPAC's Newest Strategy," predicted well what actually happened at the annual AIPAC Conference (May 22-24).  He foresaw that they would be warming up the old "no partner for peace" roadblock.  AIPAC, he noted, publishes a policy book each year, and rest assured members of Congress, will each be receiving a free copy.  They will study it well to know what line to take on various policies affecting Israel to insure their election donations start or keep flowing in.  That should be available now, so pick up a copy if you want to know what your Congressman's official line will be regarding Mid Eastern foreign policy until this time next year next year when the  2012 Annual AIPAC Conference convenes.

As to the long-range consequences of Netanyahu's address, only the future will tell.  But as Ira Chernus reports on his news-flash blog, "'It was a war speech, not a peace speech,' an Israeli diplomat said of Netanyahu’s warmly received appearance before a joint session of Congress."


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Yet Another Ethical Question.

By Dan Perin

Even though Meredith Attwell Baker, former board member of the Federal Communications Commission, says she followed all rules as she resigned to become Comcast’s senior vice-president for government affairs, the appearance of the move is foggy at the very least.  http://blogs.marketwatch.com/election/2011/05/16/outgoing-fcc-regulator-defends-move-to-comcast/

The move of government employees to private businesses engaged in lobbying for government attention is generally regulated, but it seems there are always loopholes for those who decide they want the more lucrative private industry jobs after they have built a number of connections and alliances during their government employment.

I, for one, am disappointed and discouraged that this practice continues as it is.  It would appear that having a government job at almost any level is simply an apprenticeship for moving into a private sector job where your government “training” can be of benefit to your new employer.  Lobbying has become one of the most prolific industries, particularly in Washington, DC, but also in all of the various state capitols.  Millions of dollars are spent every year attempting to influence legislation, often at a disadvantage to the average taxpayer.  Of course, increasingly, it is the very rich and big businesses that have the money to buy the votes that produce our laws and regulatory rules.  (Or in our current situation, to deregulate industry so it is even more able to milk the economy dry at the expense of the middle class.)

To be honest, I realize that there are many citizen groups with legitimate concerns that urge their representatives in Congress to enact preferred legislation.  That is part of the democratic process.  However, I think we all know the difference between such grass roots groups and the huge lobby groups with their virtually unlimited funds when it comes to whose voice is most apt to be heard.

Just sayin . . .

I Was Just Minding My Own Business When . . .

By Dan Perin

I was experiencing a “funky” state of mind when one of my good friends, whom I can always count on to try and keep me honest and on track, wondered what insights led me to develop my Insight & Outsight blog, co-authored with Lloyd Agte.  Below is my response, edited slightly for publication sake.

In response to your question as to what inspired my "project," here is my story.  I'm still in funkitus, but want to respond now.  I assume you are referring to the Insight & Outsight Blog.

I have been increasingly disturbed by the direction in which our so-called "society" is moving.  Partly this is due to being retired with too much time on my hands and a slow, sometimes more quickly, decline in good judgment in terms of keeping my mouth shut (or in the case of the blog, my opinions to myself).  I know I will have difficulty explaining this to you because I think I know what your reaction would be if you were counseling me.  Never the less, I'll take stab at it and hope I don't come off entirely self-righteous.

It is almost inconceivable to me that people can be so angry that they become totally deaf, dumb and blind to ANY degree of common sense.  Even accepting my inclination to believe my opinions are more clear-headed than many, I am left with a conclusion that people do not choose to investigate the roots of their discontent with government.  Instead, they glom onto the faux policy portents of people like Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and the Republican Party in general, believing those policies to be the solution to all their problems.  In fact, Republican policies historically have led to the primary reasons for economic decline of the middle class.

Those policies consist of more than a difference between basic philosophies (Republicans for big business, Democrats for the laborer), but that is a big part of the problem.  That this continuing shift in policy goes almost entirely unabated is incredulous.  I kept hoping that society would wake up, but those who are on the fringes of the debate, like many of the Tea Partiers, are actually carrying the water for those who end up making the decisions that affect all of us.

The other day I heard of a current poll that suggests the Republicans will gain enough Senate seats in 2012 to gain full control of Congress.  What?  Isn't anybody listening to what these jokers are suggesting?  I am damn mad at what I consider to be misdirected anger at the economy that fails to see where the problems started--two wars that are unpaid for, tax breaks for the rich that are unpaid for, (primarily Republican policies), deference to big business because that is the money that buys politicians, etc., etc.  The answer--take away programs that are working like Social Security, Medicare (except for the stupid drug program, also unpaid for), educational support programs, science research, and on and on!

I may be totally deranged by my anger.  I may be wrong in my conclusions.  My opinion may not count for squat, but expressing them is what I can do and will for now.  I am, however, at a point where if the citizens of this country do indeed elect enough Republicans to control Congress at this most critical economic period since the Great Depression (at the end of which I was born and have first hand family experience), I will be severely tempted to give up the effort to make any difference at all by discontinuing my participation in the blog that I started in order to call attention to the defects in government and the democratic processes that I see.

So you can call me a quitter, a complainer who does nothing, or whatever.  The fact is that I do care about this country and I can write about my feelings and opinions.  That was the reason for the blog.  Time will tell what the priorities of my fellow citizens turn out to be.  Stay tuned.

Oh, by the way, if you are interested enough in the basis of the right-wing policies, you will find this page puts all in a convenient nutshell.  (You don’t even have to read the whole article.  As the author says, it will only take three minutes.)