Monthly Archives: April 2010

Occupation Humor

Haaretz reports that settlers in Gush Etzion are protesting the Israeli apartheid wall that is supposed to cut through the land south of Jerusalem. In fact, the land is slated to be built into a new colony and I guess the settlers don’t want a big ugly wall running through the center of their “neighborhood”!

The Givat Yael company has launched a public campaign to persuade the Defense Ministry to reroute the separation fence southeast of Jerusalem to enable construction of a new neighborhood beyond the Green Line.

Environmental organizations, residents of the Arab village of Walaja – which abuts the planned neighborhood – and settlers from Gush Etzion have all joined the campaign, saying the fence’s present route is destructive both to people and the environment.

The fence could also crush Givat Yael’s chances of ever being built, as it cuts the new neighborhood’s planned area in two, reducing the land value.

Danny Tirza, a former top Defense Ministry official who planned the separation fence, today suggests moving it so that all of Walaja is on the Israeli side. The company had asked Tirza to propose an alternative fence route.

The present route is harmful to both Palestinians and the developers, he wrote in a document for the Givat Yael company, which Haaretz has obtained.

As currently proposed, the fence would be ineffective for security and detrimental to nature, Tirza wrote about the route he himself planned. The new route would improve security and eliminate local Palestinians’ “sense of suffocation.” It would also minimize the environmental damage and enable Givat Yael to be built, as well as being shorter and cheaper, he said.

“This route is good for both Jews and Arabs,” he asserted yesterday.

The greens and the settlers are holding a joint demonstration against the fence today. Palestinians have also demonstrated against the fence in recent days, at times clashing violently with security forces.

Businessmen Benny and Danny Cohen, who bought 2,500 dunams in the area 20 years ago, have been trying for years to promote the Givat Yael project, consisting of 13,000 housing units.

But the plan is expected to rouse the American administration’s ire, and is thus not likely to be implemented in the next few years.

“I realize that at the moment, the neighborhood is irrelevant,” Danny Cohen said. “But I believe it will rise even if we wait another 10 years. There will be no choice but to build it,” to accommodate Jerusalem’s need for new housing, he said.

The proposed neighborhood would be built in the city’s southeast, near the Malha mall and the Biblical Zoo. The plans, which were drawn up six years ago, call for a major residential area that would ultimately house some 45,000 people, as well as commercial areas and a sports club.

Defense officials yesterday blasted Tirza’s proposed new route, saying it violates the principle that the fence must be as close to the Green Line as possible to avoid annexing Palestinian lands and people.

“It is not proper for the man who planned the fence, and defended its route in court, to suddenly become a businessman and attack the route,” one defense official said.

The Defense Ministry commented: “The fence was approved by the government and the court. The planned route provides the best security solution and causes the least harm to the Palestinian community and the environment.”

My favorite part of this story is how the settlers feign concern for the Palestinians and their “sense of suffocation”. Personally, I think if they cared about that they probably wouldn’t have a fence or a blockade in place. If they were so concerned about negative feelings, why the occupation? Perhaps the more pressing concern is the “environment”. Make me laugh twice! It’s the pathetic excuse the Jerusalem municipality comes up with when they argue they don’t want to build in parts of West Jerusalem because it could harm some fluffy bunnies hopping along merrily in the hills. It follows that Palestinians are lower than fluffy bunnies, as they end up being tossed to the curb in the rabbit’s stead.  I suppose this means the settlers are incredibly sensitive people, as they’re worried about both the environment and the Palestinians!

Will America Survive Without Imperialism?

I rode the D.C. Metro last week and absorbed all the lovely lines that flow along the bridge over the Potomac and under the Pentagon. There’s something decidedly Roman about Washington D.C. If it’s not all the columns or facades of Minerva then it’s idea of immortality in all of it. There have been Romes before, but we always think this time will be different.

It’s no longer a question of “Can” but “Will”. Somewhere between the Chinese false devaluation of the yuan and our   overstretched military industrial complex, things will stop churning so violently eventually. America is faced with the most sophisticated resistance of our age, something so consuming that there is little to do but give in. Those beautiful lines over the Potomac were bought and built with slave sweat and slave blood. Our food is grown with GMO seeds and then freeze-packed for our microwaves. Our cellphones contain little nuggets of pain and suffering from the Congo. Our magazine pages rip up our sexual instincts. Our children parrot the television and tug on our sleeves for more. One thing is for certain: whatever cold fire we had a hundred years ago to force our way across the globe has sputtered out.

Teddy Roosevelt claimed a White Teutonic racial superiority as what set Americans apart from the rest. My grandparents tell me it’s hard work, saving, and going without excess. We need these rationalizations to fortify our moral grounding in the world. Yet what really gave us the edge was a vast land filled with wealth and fertile soil, wrenched from its original inhabitants and cultivated by 50 million slaves. Building America took great commitment and required vast power. We built up great war machines and set them sailing in the ocean, looking to spread our cold fire elsewhere.

Now Americans don’t even have that cold fire, the ruthlessness in them to fight and take. The entitlement has filtered into every part of society, and now our hard working Teutonic compatriots are too tired from a long day of staring at screens and advertisements that it’s hard to remember what it is we’re supposed to do to keep moving forward.

The Romans had lead in the water and Dionysian orgies, but what do we have? A whole litany of vices poured down our throats the Romans couldn’t have dreamed of. It’s too late for us. The USSR’s population was ready for the crash. Decades of hard living had prepared them to survive a hostile world. Looking at the state of Russia nowadays, it’s done them little good. The life expectancy has dropped and their industry has been shattered. And America, at the pinnacle of the world, faces an obesity epidemic and has no industry left to speak of unless you work at the Pentagon.

So when you look on the grandeur of the Washington monuments and museums, do you wonder what they will look like at the end of your life? When you are old and gray, how will you explain things to your grandchildren? Apocalyptic notions have been picking up steam. Books and movies hail the end times. The case can be made that it’s always been like this, that the end times have always been near. Yet aged intellectuals openly espouse grief and concern over our future. Our money has evaporated. We’re losing the wars abroad and at home as America runs back into the comforting arms of imperial nationalism. Thinking we can punch the slot machine a few more times and be ok, our involvement in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and South America foretells our demise. Our decaying neighborhoods in New Orleans and Detroit indicate a disastrous trajectory. When we are unable to invest domestically while at the same time unable to divest internationally… this is when we wake up and find ourselves and our national monuments too close to Rome for comfort.

Facing the idea that we may not always have an easy supply of microwaved meals and entertaining television, will we be able to learn to cook and reacquaint each other? Will America survive without imperialism? Perhaps more importantly is how hard we will fight at the end to keep ourselves from facing reality.

Links:

India, Brazil Back U.S. Position on Yuan Before G-20

Closing the ‘Collapse Gap’: the USSR was better prepared for collapse than the US

Last call: Old age and the end of nature

Patriot’s Day and The Myth of the Tree of Liberty

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
– Thomas Jefferson

Americans have had a nasty habit of killing each other. Ever since our inception, ours is a nation that demands Blood Sacrifice. Children are taught to read the above quote with a fondness towards their slave-owning Founding Father, but the truth is that at the center of liberty lies a gaping maw waiting for pain and death to be poured. Lynchings and slave trade, Civil War and Native American genocide… the list goes on. Political theorists often say America is more prone to fascism than to socialism when it falls on hard times. What do you think?

Recently, the tone of aggression in our country is growing more and more fascistic. Dr. Chomsky elucidates:

You can make the argument that Dr. Chomsky and other dissidents are free to express themselves in the United States and that this actually exonerates the kind of fascist speech going on in America today.  However, Rosa Luxemburg lived and worked in Germany for 20 years before she was sacrificed on the alter of Nazi inception.  You can never make the case that storm clouds aren’t gathering just because your intellectuals are allowed to speak their minds.

Beck: “I hope to God I’m wrong” about upcoming crises but if you’re “honestly looking at the track record” I’m usually right

Beck: We’re “on the eve of” “trouble,” “it’s coming”

Can you listen to some of the rhetoric in America and deny there is a problem? As Dr. Chomsky warns, the “Tea-Party” activists enjoy wide popular support in America. They are being consistently egged on by major organs of news media. Like the coup orchestrators in Venezuela,  it is possible that major business interests are intentionally rallying the population to water the tree of liberty with some all-nourishing patriot blood.

Unlike a George Bush, who makes his sacrifices in the slaughter of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan, Barack Obama can not rouse the same dedication to mass destruction at this point in his presidency. The gaping maw of liberty groans in anguish and hunger. The standard bearers who bear arms openly at the soft flank of our government, upholding the principles of “our nation”, clamor for blood sacrifice.

Millions of people are listening and fear and rage are growing in their hearts. Beck even cynically eggs on the fascist dribble by citing Martin Luther King Jr.

There is no doubt that America exists as a neo-imperial state, sucking resources dry and exploiting labor all over the world. But the Tree of Liberty doesn’t just demand tyrants (enemy) blood, it also demands bloodshed from patriot (citizen) sources. Americans lunge too quickly for their guns and are too eager to fire on each other as well as the rest of the world. This feeding frenzy puts the country at the center of a draco-spiral, something that inevitably consumes itself and the rest of the host with it. Is that Liberty?

Pills pills pills!

For all the movies I can list that feature stoner culture, the dangers of heroin/crack/meth, disgusting drunks, and even how bad huffing is, the drug movie genre has been sadly deprived of one important family member. What about the pills?

Imagine if every day, 10 people were violently murdered by a serial killer in the state of Florida. The same guy was running around and killing 10 people every day. I can tell you exactly what would happen. There would be a run on the gun stores and someone would be quickly voted out of office. We might even risk voting another monster like Reagan into office. Anyway, the point of this hypothetical exercise is that 10 people are being killed every day by the same psychopath: prescription drug overdose. Now, you know this isn’t antibiotics or heart disease medicine people are overdosing on. The killers are oxycontin, fentanyl, alprazolam, whatever. No matter how many people die from these drugs, nobody in charge seems to be paying attention or at least challenging their denial.

This “Man Who is Supposed to Know” can’t even get his stereotype straight. Every time I walk into a doctor’s office I’m immediately treated with suspicion if I complain of pain. All I have to do is mention the word pain and a doctor immediately treats me like a frothing drug addict. I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I’m a clean, conservatively dressed, well-spoken person. I don’t have tattoos or piercings. I’m polite. The doctor, however, sees red flags all around me. I’m hustled out of the office with a direction to “take some Advil”. Like I didn’t already know that. I don’t wander into doctor’s offices with mysterious back or joint pain, I walk in because I got in a motorcycle accident last night or need a refill for my dry socket. When actually prescribed these medications, the quantity is so low you can barely buy 10 hours without pain. Chances are: by the time I’ve come to see you, I’ve already been chugging Advil for a few days.

What victims of prescription drug addiction look like

Anyway, if someone my age wants to get high on opiates, we do it the smarter, cheaper way. We order poppy pods online or we steal from our parents. After all, I only know a handful of Americans over the age of 40 without a prescription for scheduled medication. Not only that, but they are allowed tons of refills. After a while you notice that Mom or Dad’s probably healed up from that skiing last year, so why are they still taking regular pain medication?

With the lack of discussion about this in the media, we can assume the addicts who glean their supply from doctors are at the age where they make policy decisions. That is to say, 40 and up. So a large enough percentage of our adult population is addicted to pain medication now! Why do I say that? Well, ten of them are dying every day in Florida from it! If little Jimmy doesn’t sneak in there with his pals and gobble them all down himself, it’s your run of the mill “took too many pills, drank too much booze” case.

Yet, even with these staggering numbers, we allow places like pill mills and pain clinics to do business. Why? Because we’re addicted. This makes a bad case for across-the-board drug legislation. Even when it’s regulated and prescribed by doctors, it’s still being abused to the tune of thousands of deaths a year. Perhaps a more important step could be to study the American mentality a little closer and ask ourselves why we allow things like this to happen in the first place, why everyone over 40 seems to need something for a panic attack or neck cramp. Maybe it’s living a hollow existence 16 hours a day in the office, or pushing the mop all night at Walmart. Maybe it’s the glare from your TV, cell phone, or computer screen. Perhaps there is something wrong with the American soul. Either way, we need to seriously ask ourselves why this is happening. Is it too late for someone to drag us to NA? Let’s hope not.

Links:

S. Florida and Oxycodone: Invasion of the Pill Mills.

Narcotics Anonymous

Safe & Legal

As we approach the first anniversary of the brutal and tragic assassination of Dr. George Tiller (May 2009), we are constantly reminded that a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion in this country is in perpetual danger. With only a handful of doctors left in the country who are able to perform the kinds of procedures Dr. Tiller gave his life for, we need a new generation of doctors who are willing to protect women like these good doctors have. Despite death threats, terrorism, physical assaults, and even death, these brave souls have fought back simply by going to work and doing what they do best.

How American conservatives view women & their personal agency

Regardless of your personal feelings about abortion, you should support women being able to seek safe medical care. Abortions happen no matter their legality. The only difference is that women become injured and even die when not given access to safe medical care and proper facilities.

It’s yet another shame on America that our women must seek medical care behind layers of bullet-proof glass and through a crowd of vicious protesters who have no empathy for their personal situation, nor any right to judge. Sometimes these protesters become patients at the very clinics they protest against!

Only 14, she came with her mother. “What brings you here?” Dr Hern asked. “I have to have an abortion.” “Why?” “I’m not old enough to have a baby.” “But you told the counsellor we should all be killed?” “Yes, you should all be killed.” “Why?” “Because you do abortions.” “Me too?” “Yes, you should be killed, too.” “Do you want me killed before or after I do your abortion?” “Before.”

Now that Dr. Tiller has been murdered, there is only one doctor in the United States that performs the same procedures in a professional, reliable manner.

“It is my view that we are dealing with a fascist movement. It’s a terrorist, violent terrorist movement, and they have a fascist ideology…” Dr Hern goes on like that for some time. Long before the first doctor got shot back in 1993, he was warning that it would happen. He was getting hate mail and death threats way back in 1970, just for working in family planning. They started up again in 1973, two weeks after he helped start the first non-profit abortion clinic in Boulder. “I started sleeping with a rifle by my bed. I expected to get shot.” In 1985, someone threw a brick through his window during a protest by the quote unquote Pro-Life Action League. He put up a sign that said THIS WINDOW WAS BROKEN BY THOSE WHO HATE FREEDOM. In 1988, somebody fired five bullets through his window. In 1995, the American Coalition of quote unquote Life Activists put out a hit list with his (and Tiller’s) name on it. The feds gave them protection for about six months, then left them on their own.

“People don’t get it,” he says. “After eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 406 death threats, 179 assaults, and four kidnappings, people are still in denial. They say, ‘Well, this was just some wingnut guy who just decided to go blow up somebody.’ Wrong. This was a cold-blooded, brutal, political assassination that is the logical consequence of 35 years of hate speech and incitement to violence by people from the highest levels of American society, including but in no way limited to George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jesse Helms, Bill O’Reilly, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Reagan may not have been a fascist, but he was a tool of the fascists. Bush was most certainly a tool of the fascists. They use this issue to get power. They seem civilised, but underneath you have this seething mass of rabid anger and hatred of freedom that is really frightening, and they support people like the guy who shot George – they’re all pretending to be upset, issuing statements about how much they deplore violence, but it’s just bullshit. This is exactly what they wanted to happen.”

As if on cue for this tragic anniversary, Nebraska has passed a recent set of draconian laws restricting their state’s residents from obtaining abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, arguing that the fetus responds to pain at this point. However, this is a hypocritical stance because America is a country where we routinely slaughter animals who feel a great deal more pain and possess higher cognitive functions than fetuses under abortion. The woman is merely an afterthought of this legislation, and lawmakers callously push aside her pain and suffering in deference to the cluster of cells in her abdomen. A woman taxpayer is again reduced to the role of “baby-machine” in this society. No matter her own opinion, when viewed as a “baby-machine”, all other personal agency is ripped away despite America being “the freest place on earth”.

Links:

Why the obsession with our enemy’s “weak women”?

Recent recantations in the news have included an American Special Forces report of 3 women victims of an Afghan “honor killing”. As it turns out, the women were killed by US Forces who then proceeded to dig bullets out of their bodies, stab them, and stage a cover-up. Yet it had been an easy story to swallow. Aren’t we all familiar with the weak image we have in our minds when thinking of Afghan women? Honor killings – a unique cultural/religious attribute – must be a widespread phenomenon indeed.

Another story that’s been circulating since the recent tragic Moscow subway bombings has been of female suicide bombers and their possible motivations. Women have been suicide bombers since the documented creation of the tactic. Women from all cultural backgrounds have perished as suicide bombers. Considering the diversity of the subject, wouldn’t it be difficult to pin down enough common motivations to write a short Salon article about it?

Don’t worry, our friends at Salon have written a very embarrassing article all about female suicide bombers, calling them victims, abused, depressive, mentally ill, etc… everything but politically motivated. The truth is that studies show suicide bombers don’t fit the profile described in Salon at all.

Existing research reveals a marked absence of major psychopathology among “would-be” suicide attackers; that the motivation and dynamics for choosing to engage in a suicide attack differ from those in the clinical phenomenon of suicide; and that there is a rational “strategic logic” to the use of suicide attack campaigns in asymmetric conflict.    Silke (2003/91) argues that “as with other terrorists, there is no indication that suicide bombers suffer from psychological disorders or are mentally unbalanced in other ways. In contrast, their personalities are usually quite stable and unremarkable (at least within their own cultural context)” (p. 94). Israeli psychology professor Ariel Merari is one of the few people in the world to have collected systematic, empirical data on a significant sample of suicide bombers. He examined the backgrounds of every modern era (since 1983) suicide bomber in the Middle East. Although he expected to find suicidal dynamics and mental pathology, instead he found that “In the majority, you find none of the risk factors normally associated with suicide, such as mood disorders or schizophrenia, substance abuse or history of attempted suicide (92).”

– From Psychology of Terrorism by Randy Borum, p.33

In contrast, the Salon article articulates:

Berko’s study, which is previewed in today’s Haaretz, paints a disturbing tableau of the inner world of female suicide bombers, the vast majority of whom “were exploited by the terrorist organizations, by close friends or even by their own families, and were pushed into carrying out terrorist attacks.” It appears that women’s motives for such attacks are rooted less in ideology than in histories of physical, mental, and sexual abuse within their own families. Their motives rarely involve free will, but rather blackmail or the hope of redemption for sexual indiscretions through violence and self-sacrifice.

…..

In Berko’s view, female suicide bombings have as much to do with a sort of proactive “honor killing” as they do with classic (and stereotypical) “Islam vs. the West” terrorism.

Back to the honor killings, back to putting women in a box and taking away their agency. Back to portraying them as reactionary members (victims) of society. At the heart of “honor killings” is the heart of all other domestic violence we in the West are often too familiar with. We do not consider domestic violence survivors to be reactionary members of society, do we?

Of course, the truth is that these women possess much more agency than the  imperial apologist can bear to consider. Part of our continued violent presence in that area of the world requires us to “dehumanize the enemy”. Turning female suicide bombers into reactionary actors by “humanizing their suffering” (never at the hands of foreign aggressors!) is dishonest. The Salon articles and others like it never delve into the political motivations of the women. We must assume they have none. Therefore, the most tragic and disastrous act of their political resistance becomes de-politicized.

Links:

What Drives Suicide Bombers?

Psychology of Terrorism by Randy Borum

Afghan women were killed in bungled raid, Nato admits

Inquiry puts spotlight on U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan

Second Bomber in Moscow Attacks is Identified

Tariq Ramadan

In 2004, Tariq Ramadan was denied a US visa because he was accused of funneling money to Hamas, which the United States considers a terrorist organization.

Of course, what actually happened was that Mr. Ramadan gave money to an organization that may have dispersed money to Hamas before Hamas was considered a terrorist organization in 2003. Likewise, Mr. Ramadan was not visiting America to raise money and sneak it to terrorists. He was offered a professorship at the University of Notre Dame (he now teaches at Oxford).

As one of the leading scholars on Islam and its relationship in the West, Mr. Ramadan is not welcome in a whole host of countries, including Saudi Arabia and his ancestral Egypt. His family has a history of rabble-rousing; Hassan al-Banna is his grandfather. Yet Mr. Ramadan was not born into a Muslim Brotherhood sleeper cell, he was raised and educated in Switzerland. Despite his academic and cultural achievements, he was still considered unfit for American consumption until this past week, when he was finally allowed entry.

We can assume that an esteemed Muslim scholar who argues for non-violence and integration with the West would be a valuable asset to our global academic community. So why was he blacklisted?

So if, for example, me, I’m banned from this country, I’ve been banned from this country because I speak my mind, I get the message: in fact, I’m not one of you. You are putting me outside, saying, “No, you’re banned from us.” So this is exactly what is happening with people like this. We push, we push, we push. We kill in Iraq. We kill in Afghanistan. And when we need a critical discussion here, by saying, “No, we don’t agree,” it should be open, and we should not be suspected. It’s not working. So you get everything except this sense of belonging.

And if you don’t get this sense of belonging, which is the psychological integration to your society, meaning if I want to change the policies in Iraq, I should be a citizen in this country to vote and to be critical and to reach out—this is where I belong, this is my country—if I don’t get this sense, I’m going to end up like this, exactly like, in the same way, Mohammad Sidique Khan. After—just before the bombing in London, he was saying, “You are killing our brothers there. We are going to kill you.” You and us, our brother and you. But he was born and raised in Britain. Exactly like him, he was here.

So it’s very—it’s a deep question here. It’s a deep dimension, that we have to understand that critical discussion is important. To feel at home here is important. And then, with this kind of understanding, I will challenge this understanding of Islam, of course, by saying, you know, we cannot be loyal to the United States of America and this very black-and-white attitude, dogmatic mind. I can understand that it is coming out of frustrations, but I disagree.

But I would like the politicians in the States and in the West to understand, if you carry on this atmosphere, this nurturing this perception that Islam is a threat, that the Muslims are a problem, not a potential contribution, you will end up having this kind of, you know, gap between us and them. And you ask yourself sometime, is it not what some populists want?

Links:

Tariq Ramadan Comes to America!

Who’s Afraid of Tariq Ramadan?

Tariq Ramadan on Democracy Now!