The ACLU is on the job in Arizona:

On this day

In 1794, Blue Jacket, a Sahwnee War Chief, attacked Fort Recovery, a place located in present-day Ohio and then in the Northwest Territory.

In 1860, scientists debated Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species in what became known as the Oxford Evolution Debate.

In 1905, Albert Einstein published his article "Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper" ("On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies") in which he introduced ideas which came to be known as the special theory of relativity.

In 1934, Adolph Hitler successfully consolidated his power by purging some of the radical elements in his movement. The purge came to be known as the Night of the Long Knives or the Röhm-Putsch.

In 1971, the state of Ohio ratified the Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The Amendment lowered the voting age to eighteen.

In 1986, the Supreme Court of the United States delivered its opinion in Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186. The court ruled that the states have the authority to outlaw homosexual acts between consenting adults. The Supreme Court subsequently reversed this decision in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).

In 1990, East and West Germany merged their economies.


On this day

In 1940, the Swiss-German painter Paul Klee died on this day in Muralto, Switzerland.

In 1941, the political activist Stokely Carmichael was born on this day in Trinidad.

In 1964, jazz saxophonist and flautist Eric Dolphy died in Berlin, West Germany.

In 1972, the Supreme Court of the United States delivered its decision in Furman v. Georgia
408 U.S. 238 which identified capital punishment as "cruel and unusual." The decision generated a moratorium on executions in the United States.

In 2006, the Supreme Court of the United States delivered its decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld
548 U.S. 557 (.pdf).

Do you feel depressed?

If you do, it's not you…

A worried Paul Krugman issues a warning to his readers and the public at large:

We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression [the two past depressions were the "Great Depression" of the 1930s and the "Long Depression" of the late 1800s]. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense.

And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. Around the world — most recently at last weekend's deeply discouraging G-20 meeting — governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending.

Krugman thus believes the actual cause of this potential depression is the political supremacy of fiscal conservative dogma over all efforts to support demand during a time of massive and unemployment, unemployment that may be chronic. In other words, Krugman believes the deficit hawks have defeated the proponents of stimuli in their political battle over economic policy. This, he believes, is a disaster that stands as a precondition for the next global depression.


Chris Hayes and Dean Baker discuss Krugman's take on the current situation:

Last updated on June 29, 2010 at 12:02 pm


Senate Republicans attempt to smear Elena Kagan

Her sin, it seems, was the time she spent as Justice Thurgood Marshall's clerk and claims him as a hero! Talking Points Memo reports:

Looks like Senate Judiciary Republicans have at least one unified talking point today: Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to ever serve on the Supreme Court, was an "activist judge." As Elena Kagan kept on her listening face, multiple senators slammed both Marshall's judicial philosophy and her service as his clerk in the late 1980s.

Ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) criticized Kagan for having "associated herself with well-known activist judges who have used their power to redefine the meaning of our constitution and have the result of advancing that judge's preferred social policies," citing Marshall as his son, Thurgood Marshall Jr., sat in the audience of the Judiciary Committee hearings.

In an example of how much the GOP focused on Marshall, his name came up 35 times. President Obama's name was mentioned just 14 times today.

Sessions said Kagan's reverence for Marshall "tells us much about the nominee," and he meant that more as an indictment than a compliment.

On this day

In 1577, Paul Rubens, a Flemish painter in the Baroque style, was born.

In 1703, John Wesley was born. Wesley founded the evangelical Methodist movement.

1712, Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born in Geneva.

In 1751, James Madison, the "father" of the American Constitution, was born at Belle Grove Plantation, Virginia.

In 1894, the United States made Labor Day (the first Monday in September) an official holiday.

In 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb and a Yugoslav nationalist, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife while the two were travelling over the Latin Bridge in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Franz Ferdinand was the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. His assassination by the Bosnian Serb triggered a set of cascading events which eventually produced the First World War, and thus also the history which could not have happened as it did but for that war.

In 1919, Germany and the Allied powers signed the ill-fated peace Treaty of Versailles.

In 1922, the Irish Civil War began.

In 1964, Malcolm X formed the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

In 1967, the State of Israel annexed East Jerusalem.

In 1969, spontaneous demonstrations erupted when the New York Police Department raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, New York City. The Stonewall Riots, as we remember the demonstrations today, became a definitive event in the Gay Rights Movement in the United States.

In 1978, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.

In 2004, the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, led by L. Paul Bremer, transferred power to the Iraqi Interim Government, led by Iyad Allawi, thus nominally ending America's post-invasion governance of Iraq.


Theda Skocpol criticizes the Obama administration

Skocpol wrote:

The same old story happens again and again. Dems in the House pass reasonable legislation, and Senate Dems dicker with centrists and Republicans over "compromises," weakening the legislation step by step over many weeks, only to find zero Republican support in the end.

The public has no idea what is going on, and just blames Democrats, who appear to be in charge in DC. Now it is happening gain with vital public spending for national economy recovery — state aid, unemployment relief, and adjustments in taxes and Medicare payments. This legislation is not just important to this or that group. It matters for keeping any semblance of national economic growth going, for creating and saving hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The President, Congressional leaders, and Democrats of all stripes should be yelling day in, day out, that REPUBLICANS ARE SABOTAGING NATIONAL ECONOMIC RECOVERY. AND PREVENTING JOB GROWTH, JUST FOR POLITICAL ADVANTAGE. That should be the message all the time, led by the President. Stop the murky compromises and the whining about "helping the unemployed." Stop pretending this is about the deficit — nothing will hurt the deficit more than delayed economic growth. Say what it happening in terms of the national interest.

Skocpol's argument is sound enough when taken at face value. Its deeper mistake lies in her apparent belief that the politicians of the Democratic Party care about unemployment and the unemployed more than they care about the deficits and financial capital and her belief that Democratic Party politicians prefer reelection to crossing their moneyed personal and institutional supporters. With a catastrophic real (as opposed to the official) unemployment rate of approximately 20 percent, one would expect a party and a president who considered mass unemployment a problem to act decisively to resolve the problem. This has not happened, though. On the other hand, America's country debt is considered a significant problem, one that might become a pretext for the destruction of the Social Security System. I believe Obama has already made his priorities clear enough.

Another day, another promise broken

Charlie Savage, reporting for the New York Times, states that:

Stymied by political opposition and focused on competing priorities, the Obama administration has sidelined efforts to close the Guantánamo prison, making it unlikely that President Obama will fulfill his promise to close it before his term ends in 2013.

The significance of this tactic was not lost on Glenn Greenwald, who stated:

So that appears to be a consensus: Guantanamo — the closing of which was one of Obama's central campaign promises — will still be open as of 2013, by which point many of the detainees will have been imprisoned for more than a decade without charges of any kind and without any real prospect for either due process or release, at least four of those years under a President who was elected on a commitment to close that camp and restore the rule of law. [emphasis in the original]

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On this day

In 1869, the anarchist writer and activist Emma Goldman was born in Kovno in the Russian Empire, a city now called Kaunas and located in Lithuania.

In 1880, the blind and deaf Helen Keller was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Keller, with the assistance of Ann Sullivan, overcame her blindness and deafness. She subsequently acquired a college degree and became a prolific author, lecturer and political activist. Keller was an early feminist, a socialist and a Wobblie.

In 1905, during the Revolution of 1905, the crew of the battleship Potemkin arrested or killed the officers commanding the ship in a mutiny which prefigured the Russian Revolution of 1917.

In 1950, the United Nations passed UNSC Resolution 83 which condemned North Korea for breaching the peace and which authorized the use of force in the defense of the Korean Republic.

In 1974, President Richard Nixon visited the Soviet Union.

In 1989, the International Labor Organization, an agency of the United Nations, adopted the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention or ILO-convention 169. The text of the document can be found here.


On this day

In 1409, the critical conflict within the Roman Catholic Church generated a second schism when the Ecumenical Council of Pisa elected Pope Alexander V. The new Pope joined Pope Benedict XIII and Pope Gregory XII as the putative leaders of the Church. The Ecumenical Council of Constance eventually resolved the schisms and elected Pope Martin V.

In 1848, the June Days Uprising against France's Second Republic came to an end when last barricade at Faubourg Saint-Antoine fell.

In 1908, Salvador Allende was born in Chile. A lifelong socialist, Allende became Chile's President in 1970. He was deposed by a coup d'état conducted by the Chilean military on September 11, 1973. The United States, led by President Richard Nixon, supported the coup.

In 1945, delegates from every one of the original member countries (sans Poland) signed the United Nations Charter in San Francisco. Poland signed later.

In 1953, members of the Politburo of the Soviet Union had Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin's "Himmler" and, perhaps, his murderer, arrested. Beria led the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) at the time of his arrest.

In 1975, India's Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had a state of emergency declared under which she could rule by decree.

In 1975, a member of the American Indian Movement and two FBI agents died during the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation shootout. Leonard Peltier, a member of AIM, was convicted of murder in the deaths of the FBI agents. Today, however, evidence exists which suggests that Peltier did not kill the FBI agents and that he was unfairly tried and convicted.

In 2003, Strom Thurmond, a segregationist politician from South Carolina, died.


On this day

In 1876, Lieutenant colonel George Custer died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

In 1903, George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) was born.

In 1948, the Berlin Airlift began.

In 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, thus initiating the Korean War.

In 1984, Michel Foucault died in Paris of an AIDs-related illness.

In 1997, Jacques-Yves Cousteau died in Paris.

In 2006, Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip captured Gilad Shalit in a raid. Shalit remains a prisoner to this day.


It’s duck and cover time

Starring Robert Gibbs

The consumer’s republic*

* The title of a book by Lizabeth Cohen.

On this day

In 1901, Pablo Picasso's first exhibition opens.

In 1948, the Soviet Union initiated the Berlin Blockade.


Obama affirms civilian authority

Earlier today Barack Obama fired — accepted the resignation of — General Stanley McChrystal, thereby sending a signal to the public at large and to the fractious members of America's military elite that insubordination remains intolerable.

For what it is worth, and it is worth a lot given the undeniable importance of civilian control over the military, it is clear that America's accommodating President acted within the limits of his competence and with the foresight needed to secure the boundary which separates the political branches of the government from the technical powers allotted to the Pentagon. McChrystal's insubordination was neither his first (see this and this) nor trivial given his command. Forgiveness for McChrystal was a legally and political dubious choice which the President soundly refused.

On this day

In 1972, President Richard Nixon and his Chief of Staff, H.R. Halderman, were taped while they discussed using the CIA to obstruct the FBI's investigation into the Watergate break-ins.

In 1988, James E. Hansen gave testimony to Congress — specifically, he testified to United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources — stating that global warming had begun.


The McChrystal interview is now online

Rolling Stone serves the public here.

On this day

In 1897, the German sociologist Norbert Elias was born in Breslau, Selesia.

In 1899, the Polish economist Michał Kalecki was born in Łódź, Poland

In 1922, the Herrin Massacre occurred in Herrin, Illinois. The massacre commenced when a truce between striking coal miners and the Southern Illinois Coal Company failed to take hold. The majority of the dead were strikebreakers brought in by the Coal Company.

In 1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 (the G.I. Bill).

In 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, OH caught fire.

In 1990, Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin, was dismantled.

In 2008, George Carlin died.

Alan Simpson talks about the “lesser people”

Former Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY), who is now a co-chairman of Barack Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, recently and frankly discussed Social Security reform:

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Alan Simpson talks about the people lesser


Is he jumping or has he been pushed?

A Rahm Emanuel rumor:

Washington insiders say he will quit within six to eight months in frustration at their unwillingness to "bang heads together" to get policy pushed through.

Mr Emanuel, 50, enjoys a good working relationship with Mr Obama but they are understood to have reached an understanding that differences over style mean he will serve only half the full four-year term.

As Uncle Sam heads towards chaos

Tom Englehardt believes that "…we've finally entered the Soviet era in America." What might Englehardt mean by this? He wishes to suggest that the elite in the United States has committed many of the same blunders committed by the Soviet gerontocracy as it destroyed the empire Stalin had built. One lesson the prudent would draw from the Soviet experience: Monumentalism run amok can entail a monumental disaster sometime down the road.

On this day

June Solstice, 2010

In 1527, Niccolò Machiavelli died.

In 1798, British forces decisively defeated the United Irish Republicans at the Battle of Vinegar Hill.

In 1887, the Pennsylvania towns of Pottsville and Mauch Chunk (Jim Thorpe) executed ten members of the Molly Maguires, an Irish secret society located in Pennsylvania's anthracite coal fields. The "Mollies" were accused and convicted of political murder by a compromised police and court.

In 1892, the German-American theologian and Cold War intellectual Reinhold Niebuhr was born in Wright City, Missouri.

In 1905, Jean Paul Sartre was born in Paris.

In 1912, the novelist and essayist Mary McCarthy was born in Seattle, Washington.

In 1964, the Klu Klux Klan murdered three CORE civil rights workers — Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner — in Neshoba County, Mississippi. The victims were murdered as participants in the Freedom Summer campaign. The movie Mississippi Burning was a free-handed depiction of the incident.


On this day

Jazz saxophonist, clarinetist and flautist Eric Dolphy was born on this day in 1928.


On this day

The Philosopher and émigré Herbert Marcuse was born on this day in 1898 in Berlin.

The Rosenbergs were executed on this day in 1953.


A new silent majority?

Joblessness, homelessness, hopelessness


Touchdown Jesus dies violently

Proof: God exists and has good taste!


Whitewashing theft, murder and crimes against humanity

The Guardian reports that:

Israel last night flouted pressure for an independent international inquiry into the lethal assault two weeks ago on a flotilla of ships attempting to break the blockade on Gaza, announcing an internal investigation with two foreign observers.

The White House gave its approval for the Israeli formula, which will be confirmed by the Israeli cabinet today.

The White House said last night that the Israeli inquiry meets the standard of "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation".



The unemployed can get a job if they don’t like it

What might the unemployed dislike? For one thing, it is the inability of Congress to pass H.R.4213 — American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010. The impediment: The Senate cannot pass this bill until it finishes its battle over the pork contained therein, as Open Congress explains:

The problem is that the unemployment benefits are attached to a "tax extenders" package containing dozens of unrelated tax breaks for industries, some designed to spur job creation and some that look outright porky. It contains stuff like a $6 billion research and development tax credit, an $868 million tax credit for biodiesel manufacturers, a $46 million credit for Hollywood filmmakers, a $131 million credit for Puerto Rican rum distillers and much more along these lines. You can download a full summary from the House Ways and Means Committee.

As Ryan Grim and Shahien Nasiripour at Huffington Post reported recently, these kinds of tax extender grab-bag bills generally pass through Congress easily. "Extending the tax-breaks each year keeps them off the long-term books," they write. "And because most of the credits expire each year, lobbyists can argue to their business clients that their services need to be kept on retainer at all times. And members of Congress win because the lobbyists continuously shower them with corporate money."

But this time around, with anxiety about the federal deficit running high and a very contentious mid-term season quickly approaching, the extenders bill is running into problems. In order to lessen the bills impact on the deficit, the Democrats have included a number of corporate tax increases and tax-loophole closers in the bill, and the battle now is between different industries and the lawmakers who represent them.

The upshot: The unemployed, who lack a strong voice in Congress, must suffer until the members of Congress and the lobbyists who they serve reach deals that they can live with.

A God has cursed it

Afghanistan will never again know freedom

The New York Times provides us with the grim news:

The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium," a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and Blackberries.

The Afghanis have long known bitter war even though their place was believed to be little more than an impoverished wasteland. The wasteland, it appears, can yield a better fruit than opium. It is thus not hard to imagine the fate that awaits Afghanistan now that the Superpower can plunder it without organized opposition. If one believed riches to be a good without qualification, Afghanistan's future will likely debunk that belief.

Higher and higher

The leakage estimate goes…

According to an Associated Press report:

Researchers studying the flow of oil from the blown-out well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico said Thursday that as much as twice the amount of oil than previously thought may have been spewing into the sea since an oil rig exploded nearly two months ago.

It is the third — and perhaps not last — time the federal government has had to increase its estimate of how much oil is gushing.

The spill — before June 3 when a riser was cut and then a cap put on it — was flowing at daily rate that could possibly have been as high as 2.1 million gallons, twice the highest number the federal government had been saying, according to U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt, who is coordinating estimates.

I wonder what conclusions BP's risk analysts drew when they estimated the money BP would need to pay if a worst case event occurred? How likely was this kind of catastrophe given BP's common practices and the risks they entail? Did BP and its executives bet the company on what appear to be questionable practices? I ask because it is reasonable to conclude that damages caused by this disaster will, when monetized, exceed BP's capacity to pay.


CNN reports that protesters and spontaneous boycotts now threaten BP branded gas stations in the United States.

Last updated on June 13, 2010 at 5:32PM

The bad news

The Pentagon has Wikileaks in its crosshairs

Writing about the "Most Dangerous Man in Iceland," Julian Assange, the individual who founded the indispensible Wikileaks, Dylan Welch of The Sydney Morning Herald
reports that Assange's latest predicament:

…reads like a James Bond novel: an enigmatic white-haired computer hacker; a soldier turned whistleblower; secret government correspondence; and the world's most powerful country desperate to contain the situation.

Julian Assange, the Australian-born face of the web iconoclast WikiLeaks, is in hiding overseas after the US military arrested one of its own soldiers, Bradley Manning, and accused him of leaking a a [sic] secret video of a US Army helicopter gunning down civilians in Iraq in 2007.

Daniel Ellsberg, the source for the Pentagon Papers, which was, of course, one catalyst for the Watergate Crisis, addresses the physical dangers Assange now faces:

We've now been told by Dennis Blair, the late head of intelligence here, that President Obama has authorized the killing of American citizens overseas, who are suspected of involvement in terrorism. Assange is not American, so he doesn't even have that constraint. I would think that he is in some danger. Granted, I would think that his notoriety now would provide him some degree of protection. You would think that would protect him, but you could have said the same thing about me. I was the number one defendant. I was on trail but they brought up people to beat me up.


A Help Bradley Manning website recently appeared and intends to be "a coordination point for support and aid to Bradley Manning," according to the Help Bradley Manning website.

Manning allegedly was the source for the Collateral Murder video and the named source for the cache of State Department communiqués that have the Pentagon looking for Julian Assange.

Update II

David Lindorff asks:

What does it say about the the [sic] American government, its president, and its military today, that the the [sic] largest military/intelligence organization in the history of mankind has launched a global manhunt for Julian Assange, head of the Wikileaks organization? And what does it say about corporate American journalists that they attack the only real journalist in the White House press corps, when she alone has shown the guts to speak truth?

These seem to be rhetorical questions although Lindorff answers in the rest of his article.

Last updated on June 14, 2010 at 6:05PM

The good news

Writing for Dissident Voice, Lauren Booth tells us that:

One of the most striking trends following the flotilla attack has been how quickly Israeli hasbara is being exposed by internet journalists. The doctored IOF audio clips, where amateurs with mock Arab accents hiss 'Go back to Auschwitz' to Israeli naval officers. Well they didn't take long to pull apart did they? Then there are the (so-pathetic-they're-almost-funny claims the flotilla was linked to Al Qaeda. I laughed out loud to read in an Israeli paper that humanitarian activist (and former US marine) Ken O'Keefe was going to Gaza to; 'train a commando unit in Hamas.' I know Ken fairly well. Quite frankly I'm not sure who should be more insulted by this stupidity him or Hamas? Either way flinging the words 'Hamas' 'Jihadists' and 'Israel's security' around is no longer having the same shock and awe effect on journalists or the public at large.

The internet now shapes the world's story, not the Israeli Foreign Ministry.


Cutting big government down to size

Socializing costs, privatizing profits

It appears that Congressional Republicans are showing their true face yet again. As Talking Points Memo reports:

Congressional Democrats and the White House are toying with different ways to force BP to cover the costs of damages from the Gulf oil spill. But they face stiff opposition from industry...and it seems leading Republicans. In response to a question from TPMDC, House Minority Leader John Boehner said he believes taxpayers should help pick up the tab for the clean up.

"I think the people responsible in the oil spill — BP and the federal government — should take full responsibility for what's happening there," Boehner said at his weekly press conference this morning.

Does it matter when the federal government chooses to add another massive bailout to the deficit when said deficit can be used by fiscal conservatives in both parties as a compelling reason to demolish the remainder of America's anemic welfare state? I bet it does not matter at all. This situation, as ripe as it is with hypocrisy and greed, is common enough these days; it expresses the essence of James Galbraith's predator state — the use of governmental institutions and power to extract value from the weak and underrepresented, much as a "protection racket" would (p. 147).

John Boehner has, as one would expect, choice company in this most recently noticeable effort to loot the commons. His is not a lonely fight:

Boehner's statement followed comments last Friday by US Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue who said he opposes efforts to stick BP, a member of the Chamber, with the bill. "It is generally not the practice of this country to change the laws after the game," he said. "Everybody is going to contribute to this clean up. We are all going to have to do it. We are going to have to get the money from the government and from the companies and we will figure out a way to do that."

Shamelessness is too mild a word to describe work of this sort. The remorseless looting by America's elite indicates one thing above all else, namely, that the country's 'leaders' are, to put it charitably, hardened sociopaths.


Boehner and the Chamber of Commerce clarified their already stated positions on the role of the federal government in the cleaning up the Gulf disaster (see here and here). Their clarification: They do not support the use of government money (tax revenue both present and future) to pay to clean up the Gulf. But, what about the damages which Gulf residents would have the courts impose on BP?

Last updated on June 12, 2010 at 3:14PM


Jews for Helen Thomas

The stalemate

When two dynamite trucks meet on a one-lane road

Ilan Pappé, writing for the Independent, describes without pathos and with great clarity the current predicament in Palestine:

Hamas, although the only government in the Arab world elected democratically by the people, has to be eliminated as a political as well as a military force. This is not only because it continues the struggle against the 40-year Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by launching primitive missiles into Israel — more often than not in retaliation to an Israel killing of its activists in the West Bank. But it is mainly due to its political opposition for the kind of "peace" Israel wants to impose on the Palestinians.

The forced peace is not negotiable as far as the Israeli political elite is concerned, and it offers the Palestinians a limited control and sovereignty in the Gaza Strip and in parts of the West Bank. The Palestinians are asked to give up their struggle for self-determination and liberation in return for the establishment of three small Bantustans under tight Israeli control and supervision.

The official thinking in Israel, therefore, is that Hamas is a formidable obstacle for the imposition of such a peace. And thus the declared strategy is straightforward: starving and strangulating into submission the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the densest space in the world.

Briefly put, Israel not only wishes to affirm its imposition of an apartheid regime on the Palestinians, it also wants the Palestinians to consent to the existence of this regime, thus legitimizing it. How might they give their consent? Their affirmation of their subjection would issue from their repudiation of Hamas, which currently enjoys democratic legitimacy in Gaza and symbolic legitimacy among the Palestinians as a whole. Israel, of course, has neither. The problem here, of course, is this: Any regime imposed on a subject population cannot be legitimate save for that thinnest form of legitimacy possible, the acceptance by the ill-fated of a fait accompli. Lacking the power to defeat their fate, Israel wishes the Palestinians would embrace it. It is fortunate that any apartheid regime that requires violence to achieve and sustain itself will be morally and legally illegitimate. It cannot be otherwise when these forms of legitimacy require the consent of fully qualified citizens, just the kind of beings the imposed apartheid regime wishes to create in Gaza. The Israelis will never cleanse themselves of this stain, which can be thought of as the political equivalent of "original sin"

But illegitimacy and international reputation, sin and sinning do not seem to matter much to the Israeli elite. God seems to permit the state of Israel to murder whoever it wishes dead. We may confidently draw this conclusion from Israel's gratuitously violent Freedom Flotilla attacks and its post-attack rationalizations, as Pappé elaborates:

One would have thought that Israel's drastic decline in international reputation would prompt new thinking by its leaders. But the responses to the attack on the flotilla in the past few days indicate clearly that there is no hope for any significant shift in the official position. A firm commitment to continue the blockade, and a heroes' welcome to the soldiers who pirated the ship in the Mediterranean, show that the same politics would continue for a long time.

This is not surprising. The Barak-Netanyahu-Avigdor Lieberman government does not know any other way of responding to the reality in Palestine and Israel. The use of brutal force to impose your will and a hectic propaganda machine that describes it as self-defence, while demonising the half-starved people in Gaza and those who come to their aid as terrorists, is the only possible course for these politicians. The terrible consequences in human death and suffering of this determination do not concern them, nor does international condemnation.

Active and tacit international support for Israel are not elements of the problem, according to Pappé: "It would be wrong, however, to assume that American support and a feeble European response to Israeli criminal policies such as one pursued in Gaza are the main reasons for the protracted blockade and strangulation of Gaza." Pappé believes Israel's political culture to be the elemental cause:

What is probably most difficult to explain to readers around the world is how deeply these perceptions and attitudes are grounded in the Israeli psyche and mentality. And it is indeed difficult to comprehend how diametrically opposed are the common reactions in the UK, for instance, to such events to the emotions that it triggers inside the Israeli Jewish society.

Israel's cultural rigidity produces personal and collective (political) rigidity. The latter becomes evident in the fact that Israel negotiates by making non-negotiable demands which are morally repugnant to anyone who considers them without prejudice of any sort. And it is these non-negotiable demands which reveal the effort to impose a morally and legally dubious regime on the Palestinians:

The international response is based on the assumption that more forthcoming Palestinian concessions and a continued dialogue with the Israeli political elite will produce a new reality on the ground. The official discourse in the West is that a very reasonable and attainable solution is just around the corner if all sides would make one final effort: the two-state solution.

Nothing is further from the truth than this optimistic scenario. The only version of this solution that is acceptable to Israel is the one that both the tamed Palestine Authority in Ramallah and the more assertive Hamas in Gaza could never ever accept. It is an offer to imprison the Palestinians in stateless enclaves in return for ending their struggle.

Thus even before one discusses either an alternative solution — a single democratic state for all, which I support — or explores a more plausible, two-state settlement, one has to transform fundamentally the Israeli official and public mindset. This mentality is the principal barrier to a peaceful reconciliation in the torn land of Israel and Palestine.

Israel appears to have gained the apotheosis of an identity politics — a state that embodies the paranoid imagination.


Helen Thomas retires

Long-time White House correspondent Helen Thomas retired today after prompting strong criticism with these comments:


Israel’s ‘peaceful’ pirates

The Associated Press reports thusly about the seizure of the MV Rachel Corrie:

Israeli forces seized a Gaza-bound aid vessel swiftly and without meeting resistance on Saturday, preventing it from breaking a naval blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory days after a similar effort turned bloody.

A resistance- and -violence free seizure benefited Israel because:

Israel has faced mounting international pressure to lift the blockade since Monday's deadly confrontation aboard a Turkish aid vessel headed for Gaza. But it stood by the embargo — which it says is needed to prevent the Islamic militant group from getting weapons — even as the Obama administration called the current restrictions "unsustainable."

The 1,200-ton Rachel Corrie, which was carrying 11 pro-Palestinian activists, nine crew and hundreds of tons of aid, was intercepted in international waters, about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Gaza's shore and was being escorted to the nearby Israeli port of Ashdod, the military said.

So, the AP believes it peaceful for armed vessels to board with the intent to seize an unarmed and physically unthreatening ship as it sails in international waters, thus preventing the unarmed and physically unthreatening vessel from breaking a naval blockade and delivering the humanitarian aid cargo it carried.

As a matter of fact, the seizure of a ship by an armed and hostile force is an aggressive (not-peaceful) act by definition. It is also an instance of theft and an attack on the sovereignty of the country that provided a flag for the seized ship (Ireland in this instance). What the AP should have said is that Israeli commandos seized the MV Rachel Corrie without also murdering anyone on board that ship as it had murdered activists on the Freedom Flotilla earlier in the week.

It is noteworthy that the Israelis refused to call the MV Rachel Corrie by its name during the episode, using instead the name the ship sailed under before it was renamed the Rachel Corrie. The reason for this insult is obvious: Rachel Corrie was an activist murdered by the IDF while she attempted to defend a Palestinian home from demolition by an IDF bulldozer.

The AP also reports that: "The outcry over the aid ships has been a public relations nightmare for Israel, while giving Hamas a welcome boost and vastly improving prospects of at least easing the closure of the territory." Actually, condemnation of the initial seizure of aid ships sailing for Gaza occurred not because of the ships per se, but because of the criminal nature of Israel's occupation of Gaza, its blockade of Gaza, its attacks on Gaza, its piracy and murder in international waters. Israel effectively committed an act of war (or, more accurately, a casus foederis) on three NATO countries. The whole Freedom Flotilla event has not just provided Israel with a PR fiasco; it generated an external political crisis for the Israeli regime, a crisis attributable to crimes Israeli commits merely by violently imposing an Apartheid regime on the Palestinians, a regime that anticipates genocidal ethnic cleansing as one possible outcome.


It’s controversial

Robert Fisk's latest:

I wasn't personally at all surprised at the killings on the Turkish ship [by the IDF]. In Lebanon, I've seen this indisciplined rabble of an army — as "elite" as the average rabble of Arab armies — shooting at civilians. I saw them watching the Sabra and Shatila massacre of Palestinians on the morning of 18 September (the last day of the slaughter) by their vicious Lebanese militia allies. I was present at the Qana massacre by Israeli gunners in 1996 — "Arabushim" (the equivalent of the abusive term "Ayrab" in English), one of the gunners called the 106 dead civilians, more than half of them children, in the Israeli press. Then the Israeli government of Nobel laureate Shimon Peres said there were terrorists among the dead civilians — totally untrue, but who cares? — and then came the second Qana massacre in 2006 and then the 2008-09 Gaza slaughter of 1,300 Palestinians, most of them children, and then...

Well, then came the Goldstone report, which found that Israeli troops (as well as Hamas) committed war crimes in Gaza, but this was condemned as anti-Semitic — poor old honourable Goldstone, himself a prominent Jewish jurist from South Africa, slandered as "an evil man" by the raving Al Dershowitz of Harvard — and was called "controversial" by the brave Obama administration. "Controversial", by the way, basically means "fuck you".

So, like regrettable, controversial means "fuck you." I hadn't realized….

Once again Israel flouts international law

The Guardian reports:

According to Israeli military accounts, commandos boarded the Rachel Corrie from naval vessels alongside rather than from helicopters, as happened in Monday's operation. They gained control of the boat within minutes.

The passengers and crew had already declared their intention not to resist.

In the aftermath, according to an Associated Press report, "Benjamin Netanyahu said…that he would 'not allow the establishment of an Iranian port in Gaza.'"

Really! When did Iran make known its plans to put a port in Gaza? Oh, right, this never happened. Netanyahu made it up.

Anyway, Israel's siege of the Palestinian territories is blatantly illegal. As Richard Falk states with respect to the Gaza War, "In my view the UN charter, and international law, does not give Israel the legal foundation for claiming self-defense." More specifically, because Israel effectively controls Gaza, Israel cannot claim to be at war with Gaza, the siege can be identified as a form of collective punishment and abuse of a subject population. Thus not only does Israel lack a legal right to determine what will and will not exist in Gaza, it is also criminally culpable for the situation found in that area.

Naturally, the attacks on the Freedom Flotilla were also illegal. As George Bisharat explained after the first but before the second attack: "The flotilla, carefully searched for arms before disembarkation, enjoyed the right of free navigation in international waters, and Israel had no legal justification to interrupt its peaceful mission." The attack was thus gratuitous. He went on to point out that:

Flotilla passengers were entitled to defend themselves against Israel's forcible boarding of the Mavi Marmara, whether or not Israeli commandos fired immediately on landing on the ship's deck, as the passengers maintain. Dropping 100 armed soldiers on a ship from the sky is not a peaceful maneuver. Nor can Israeli armed commandos claim self-defense, any more than a purse snatcher facing a victim who elects to fight back. Hence, Israel is culpable for the killings that followed.

The rule of law does not apply to Israel, it seems.


Juan Cole calls out the Tea Party

He wrote:

Hey, Tea Party. A foreign navy boarded an unarmed ship flying the flag of a NATO member in international waters and shot dead an American citizen with four bullets to the head and one in the chest on Memorial Day. It did this while the head of the belligerent state was on his way to a state visit to Washington, DC, to be awarded a further $200 million in aid on top of the $3 billion of American taxpayer money the US gives away to him every year.

If you are not upset by this, your tea is weak, man. Weak.

More on the legitimacy of the Freedom Flotilla assault

Koch vs. Scahill

It’s sad but predictable…

Have the wounded and dead stopped bleeding?

While reporting on the Freedom Flotilla assault for FireDogLake, Tony Collings points out that:

Only three days since the deadly Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla, already there are signs that American news media are beginning to lose interest in the story. While the BP oil spill understandably dominates much of the news, the Gaza story should also be getting continued media attention but instead is beginning to fade away, replaced by new stories such as the Gores' divorce, Sarah Palin's nosy neighbor, and a new murder by the suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway. These may meet the water cooler test (what are people likely to talk about?) but not the public service standard (what do people need to know in a democracy to make enlightened policy decisions?).

As a former Middle East reporter for Newsweek and CNN, I know how quickly editors and producers lose interest in foreign news, but this is astounding. The few Gaza stories that are still being done are focusing on angles such as continuing protests abroad and policy discussions within the State Department on how to handle this crisis.

The IDF killed an American during the Freedom Flotilla assault

According to ABC News:

A U.S. citizen who lived in Turkey is among the nine people killed when Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish aid ship heading for the Gaza Strip, officials said today. The victim was identified as Furkan Dogan, 19, a Turkish-American. A forensic report said he was shot at close range, with four bullets in his head and one in his chest, according to the Anatolian news agency.

Quote of the day

This one comes from Jonathan Cook and can be found in his recent CounterPunch article:

These trends [in Israel and with respect to the Palestine question] are likely only to deepen in the coming months and years, making Israel an ever greater pariah in the eyes of much of the world. The mad dog is baring his teeth, and it is high time the international community decided how to deal with him.


Only the exceptional states need apply

Apply for what position? As it turns out, the truly exceptional states could provide the only rightful applicants for the one position that would suit them: Sovereigns who possess prerogatives and powers which, in some cases, span the globe.

More specifically, what is the nature of this kind of state?

They are — or, better, believe themselves to be — accountable to no one. It is not simply that they have unlimited rights which other states must recognize and respect. Rather, they believe themselves to exist in a condition that is beyond justice and responsibility. Thus they see their powers as intrinsically limited only by the natural environment when it refuses to bow to their will. As unlimited in this way, their imaginations are free to concoct projects that brook no opposition worth recognizing. They are autonomous, and self-creative. They do confront humanly constructed impediments, but these are considered facts that could be otherwise. The world's resources are theirs to use when and where they please and dare. They recognize a law or the law only when they believe such legality reflects and serves their ends.

Theirs is an absolute politics.

The exceptional states are those which strongly embrace Hobbes' "state of nature." It is a condition defined by war and fear. They not only embrace the state of nature but they also willingly live within it while also believing everyone else must remain subject to a system of law if not to the law as such. Only the exceptional states enact laws to which they are not subject. Others obey these laws and lawmakers. The exceptional act. They make history. Others just provide some of the stuff from which history is made. As stuff, they lesser sort have a place in the history made by the exceptional — inconsequential fodder.

There is no irony in the belief of the exceptional that they are not hypocrites because of their conflicting assignments of legal accountability. They are, they believe, merely recognizing the true order of the world. A few states are subjects; the rest are subjected to the rule of the few. It is a matter of who has the power and will to act as they please. The hypocrites, as they might say, are those who believe in the necessity of legality but who break with this belief and the commitment which follows from it whenever doing so suits them. Legality is merely one of their tools.

There are few truly exceptional states. I can identify at least three states which approach the abstract characterization of such a state that I have drawn above. They are: The United States, Israel and North Korea.

North Korea might be the special or degenerate case among the three. It, like Pol Pots' Cambodia, appears to be a grotesque example of that tragedy which marks revolutionary socialism in the 20th century. Its history is nearly unique and serves as a model for no one. And the country is now out of step with the times. Its predicaments make the regime untenable over the long term, for North Korea cannot credibly use the weapons it has or wants others to believe it has in order to blackmail the world indefinitely nor can it survive on its own, given the meager output of its economy. For North Korea to sustain itself, it required membership in the socialist world system, which no longer exists. In any case, North Korea's greatest threat was and remains to those over whom the North Korean state rules. Because of the limited nature of the threat posed by this state, the world now seemingly waits for the North Korean regime to collapse while hoping that it does not take anyone else with it when it does crash.

The same cannot be said for the United States — "Superpower," as Sheldon Wolin labels it — and Israel. They are not, like North Korea, a special (degenerate) case within the class of special cases. Both the United States and Israel are exemplary instances of the exceptional state category identified above. Why is this so?

Both are military and diplomatic powers, are considered legitimate by their citizens, are economically viable and are international powers. Consider the fact that neither cares a jot for its reputation, nor listens to the counsel provided by others. Nor, for that matter, can we expect either of the two to make a credible commitment to engage in civil discourse when confronting other states, to make a real effort to secure world peace, to participate in the rule of law as practiced by international institutions. They practice instead an imperial statecraft which uses as a resource without observing the spirit of an international civil society, of a project of world peace and of a practice of lawful governance. Their interests remain untempered by justice and mercy, by common sense and intellectual curiosity. They are, oddly enough, long-time allies who are perpetually at war with the world around them and at large, and who accept the reality of war as the human reality. They even seem to need and admire each other.

This, in any case, is the significance I drew from this report:

With much of the world expressing fury over the raid, the contrast with Washington's muted response could not have been more striking. 

"The situation is that they're so isolated right now that it's not only that we're the only ones who will stick up for them," said an American official. "We're the only ones who believe them — and what they're saying is true."

The official was referring to Israeli protestations — backed by Israel Defense Forces video — that their solders were attacked by passengers on a ship headed for Gaza with humanitarian aid, when they boarded the ship in what the Israelis concede were international waters.

And this pronouncement:

Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited the Shayetet 13 base in Atlit on Wednesday and praised the commandos who participated in the deadly raid on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla on Monday for carrying out their mission, Army Radio reported.

"You carried out the mission and prevented the flotilla from reaching Gaza," Barak said. "We need to always remember that we aren't North America or Western Europe, we live in the Middle East, in a place where there is no mercy for the weak and there aren't second chances for those who don't defend themselves. You were fighting for your lives – I saw it, and I heard it from your commanders."

And, for that matter, this political manifesto — the National Security Strategy of 2002 — from the George W. Bush White House:

Defending our Nation against its enemies is the first and fundamental commitment of the Federal Government. Today, that task has changed dramatically. Enemies in the past needed great armies and great industrial capabilities to endanger America. Now, shadowy networks of individuals can bring great chaos and suffering to our shores for less than it costs to purchase a single tank. Terrorists are organized to penetrate open societies and to turn the power of modern technologies against us.

To defeat this threat we must make use of every tool in our arsenal — military power, better homeland defenses, law enforcement, intelligence, and vigorous efforts to cut off terrorist financing. The war against terrorists of global reach is a global enterprise of uncertain duration.

America will help nations that need our assistance in combating terror. And America will hold to account nations that are compromised by terror, including those who harbor terrorists — because the allies of terror are the enemies of civilization. The United States and countries cooperating with us must not allow the terrorists to develop new home bases. Together, we will seek to deny them sanctuary at every turn.

I could continue quoting such material indefinitely.

Today the world waits for the opportunity to assess Israel and America's response to the MV Rachel Corrie when it approaches Gaza. Will Israel dare to attack it? Will the United States support Israel no matter what it does? Will they collude in the commission of yet another war crime? Or, will they refuse play their parts in the confrontation that awaits them?

Whatever the path taken by the leaders of the two countries, we can be sure that they will have considered their interests in the matter.