Thursday, August 31, 2006


You know how,when someone commits a crime, investigators will look into that person's background, especially their childhood, to see if there is something that can explain the terrible behavior?  Conservatives are usually against this, associating it with being "soft on crime".  But they would probably accept it - even embrace it - in the case of Israel.

Here is a people that more than any other has been persecuted. Persecuted for two millennia!  That's the equivalent of living in a slum and having a father that beats you all the time and a mother who drinks.

With all that, no people on earth is more attuned to psychology, so how come Israel insists on bullying its neighbors?
I guess it's like when the French say: "chausseur plus mal chaussee", the shoemaker has the worst shoes.  But thinking about this might make it easier for Jews all over the world to accept the fact that the Israelis rather than sympathy, need reeducating, and tell their kinfolk they're in the wrong.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


The U.S. claims the right to do everything from incarcerating people without charges to waging all-out war, in the name of self-defense.  Israel claims the right to bomb a country back fifteen years in the name of self-defense.

In the early days of Israeli hubris, it claimed that it was a tiny country surrounded by enemies.  Then it built a wall. The U.S. is a big country surrounded by water, it was indignant over the Berlin Wall, but now it too builds walls where it can.

Increasingly, there is a sense that Israel and the U.S. are like a rich parent indulging a spoiled kid.  When kids make enemies in the school yard, parents tell them to "be nice".  When kids move into a new neighborhood, parents tell them to try to make friends.

The Jews who came to Palestine in 1946 were the survivors of the original ethnic cleansing operation (followed, alas, by many more).  They needed a refuge, they wanted their own state.  Unfortunately, the world community  didn't separate the need for a refuge and the legitimate desire for a state from a religiously inspired yearning: "Next year in Jerusalem", the toast of every Jewish family at Passover. It gave in to the Jewish demand for a state IN PALESTINE.

In order for that to work, as much attention would have had to be paid to the sensitivities of the Palestinians as to developing the part of Palestine allotted by the U.N. to the Jews.

When the Israeli government dropped leaflets warning Lebanese citizens to evacuate before a bombing, it was continuing a method begun right after partition.  For years, Israel claimed this was not true, that the Palestinians had fled because "the Mufti of Jerusalem told them to".  Recently declassified documents prove that most of the Palestinians who fled and never regained their homes did so because they were warned by the Israelis of impending attacks, and indeed many of those who didn't flee were killed.

Many Israeli refugees were highly qualified people who could have offered their knowledge and skills to their neighbors instead of looking down upon them.

Similarly, the United States could have used the United Nations it helped found to lead efforts to reach a common ground toward development, instead of threatening first the Communists, and now the Islamists, who have different ideas about how people should live.

The result is that now we have Big Daddy U.S. using his Kid Israel to help in the  "fight against terrorism" -  telling them that what they're doing is right, like African warlords using child soldiers.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


In its nine-thirty headlines, CNN announced that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has challenged President George W. Bush to a televised debate.  Watch to see whether the media tries to bury this story.

If it doesn't,what fun!  Our President is a lot younger, and more fit, than Mike Wallace, who made Ahmadinejad look like the Red Baron when he thought he could show him up to be either some kind of devil or ignoramus.  What a way to end a career!

For five years, thinking Americans have been feeling like the parents of a monumental underachiever at the yearly school recital, cringing at the impression their president makes on his foreign peers - and their peoples.

Forget being totally unprepared for Katrina!  The White House phones must all be busy, in the search for  a device that could be installed under the president's (bulletproof) vest and that would deliver him the the magic bullet (sic): the ability to respond to the highly articulate and  intelligent Iranian president.  Just being seen together with him may remind audiences that it's Ahmadinejad the rest of the masculine world has copied by dispensing with their neckties.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Usually, this is the cry of the citizen disgusted with the behavior of his elected representatives.  But what about the media?  How can the pundits continue to discuss the ins and outs of the war in Iraq - or in Lebanon - without ever mentioning oil? This morning, one talk show host - I think it was Chris Matthews - mentioned the fact that there are all those books out there divulging terrible things.  But he didn't say what.  He didn't say any of the things Pulitzer and other prize winners have been writing about, such as the fear of oil having or about to peak, or the one percent doctrine that we have to act like the Gestapo if there is even a one percent chance that someone, somewhere, might get nuclear or biological weapons.

I guess the media is afraid that if they get it all out there where everyone, and not just book readers, can hear it, they won't have anything left to talk about - or that they'll lose the opportunity to hold forth and get paid handsomely for it - by those of us  who buy the products they advertise.


Raed Jarrar (, an Arab-American who was prevented from getting on a U.S. plane in the U.S. because he was searing a T-shirt with an bi-lingual expression that read: "they will not silence us" did make it from "Democracy Now" to CNN.  But the anchor seemed sorry when Jarrar told him that everyone doesn't define a terrorist in the same way, going on to say that for many, a state that bombs women and children is a terrorist.  At least they didn't cut him off.

But this brings me to the real subject of this post: The "World Can't Wait" campaign to bring down the entire Bush administration.  They rightly point out that under Hitler, many Germans thought they didn't have to worry about atrocities because they were not among those targeted, until finally, it was their turn.  The WCW campaign is a valiant grass roots effort to wake up the American people to what is being perpetrated in their name.  Even if you don't agree with their belief that nothing short of revolution can turn this country around, you should ask yourself what difference there is between German Fascism and the goals and methods of our government.  The goal is clearly to bring the entire world into line, and with the pretext that some out there may resort to apocalyptic violence to prevent that from happening, we are getting ready to do just that ourselves.

Regarding  another terrorist attack against the U.S., the question was "not if, but when"; as for the war on Iraq it was "not if but under what pretext"; and with respect to the coming war against Iran it's "my place or yours?" : whether the Israelis will take out the nuclear sites or we shall.  Both countries have the means to do so, if it can be done.

With hindsight, it turns out the draconian Treaty of Versailles had something to do with the rise of Hitler.  The Germans didn't just decide to let a madman lose on the world.  (People's rarely do such things, even if they invariably  get the government they deserve.)

We ("the People") should be asking our journalists to "dig deeper" into the reasons why so many ordinary human beings hate us.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


I knew there was something I was forgetting yesterday.  Here's a quote from the latest New Yorker Shouts and Murmurs: "Tehran, Iran, (July 29) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ordered government and cultural bodies to use modified Persian words to replace foreign words that have crept into the language such as "pizzas", which will now be known as "elastic loaves". - Associated Press"

Here indeed is a precious clue to what the future holds!  When Charles De Gaulle did the same thing in France - going so far as to entrust the prestigious Academie Francaise, guardian of the French language, with finding properly French equivalents for foreign words that had crept into the language of Moliere and Voltaire, it was to try to recapture the past glory such centuries' dead writers embodied.  As heir to the even more ancient Persian culture, Ahmadinejad is clearly signaling his intention to capture future glory for his people. Like us, he's forgetting the Chinese.

Here's today's mystery: will the future be a conflict between the various fundamentalists of the Book, or between Islam and a state capitalism claiming roots in Confucius?

Friday, August 25, 2006


I wondered why Bashar Al-Assad was getting up on his high horse over the UN Peacekeeping mission until I looked at a few maps and at Wikipedia entries for Syrian geography, wondering how much geography they do at State these days.  (In my day, they did plenty.)

Aside from the fact that under several centuries of Ottoman rule Lebanon was part of Syria, Syria has a relatively small Mediterranean coast, and guess what, Homs, its second most important city, is right there up against the border, Damascus is a stone's throw from the port of Beirut, and Lakatia and Tartous, through they may be convenient places to unload Czech arms for Al-Queda, do not link conveniently to Damascus.

UN forces along the Lebanese/Syrian border, on the other hand, will be uncomfortably close to Damascus.

More later...

If it's Friday, it must be super-ironies day.

Shireen Ebadi, the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner, is a human rights lawyer.  She is expecting to be arrested at any time now because of the work she is doing on behalf of Iranian dissidents.......Meanwhile, a New Jersey family of Iraqi origin, with the unfortunate family name of Mohammed, was detained for six hours at Newark airport on returning from a vacation in Jordan.  The mother and four young adult children were among about 250  Middle or Southeastern travellers who were  prevented from retrieving their luggage and questioned.  The mother was threatened with arrest by FBI agents when she requested food and water....An Arab-American is arrested for offering to provide an FBI informant with Al-Manar television broadcasts.  His lawyer is black.....Hugo Chavez was in Beijing signing an oil deal with China, which he hopes will replace the U.S. as his biggest customer  He was recently in Tehran, and likened the Israeli assault on Lebanon to the behavior of Nazi Germany.

In "The One Percent Doctrine" Ron Suskind describes  Cheney's doctrine.  It calls for the U.S. to take all necessary steps to make sure there isnt' even a one percent chance that nuclear arms could fall (sic) into the hands of terrorists.  According to Suskind, that's what the invasion of Iraq was all about, and what the continuing dire references ot Pakistan are about.  The Pakistanis have nuclear experts who are friendly with Al-Qaeda.

Did President Roosevelt really think he could put the genie back in the bottle ?  More likely he thought the U.N. could keep order in the world.  Although he favored decolonization by the French and the British, he probably didn't foresee where that would lead.  And that sixty years after its founding, the world body would still be playing second fiddle to a superpower that is counting on the one percent probability that it's forever.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


I haven't finished: one thing no one picked up on in Amanpour's carefully constructed and fascinating feature is this:  Bin Laden was a quiet, studious, youth who shied away from violence.  Then, during the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan,  it turned out he could face the enemy in battle.  He won a resounding victory. Some time later, he went into another battle against the advice of others, and lost miserably.  That was Jalalabad. Big disappointment.  Sometime after that, Saddam invaded Kuwait, and Bin Laden offered his army to the Saudi monarch - his monarch - to rout them.  He was told, essentially, to stay inside and play.  Then came the bombings at Khobar towers in Saudi Arabia: again Bin Laden offered fighters and was told thanks but no thanks.

Maybe I'm fantasizing, but could it be that 9/11 was in part Bin Laden's way of "showing them"?  Showing his own country,  where only money was taken seriously, that he was as good a leader as an American general?

The Saudi Princes preferred to allow an army of infidels on sacred Muslim soil, and now, all Americans, all Jews, are targets.

It's too easy to say that the terrorists hate us because we're free.  We've got a lot of homework to do.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Today's irony:  If you weren't aware of it before, you know by now that the Israeli army is a people's army: otherwise, they wouldn't be going on camera complaining of the way their superiors ran the recent war.  (Also, in this country of 6 million, everyone knows everyone else..)  But it seems clear that defective leadership is not the only reason why the Israeli army cannot fight as well as the Lebanese people's army (Hezbollah): both are fighting for their land, but Hezbollah recruits don't need to be told contorted rationalizations why it is their land, whereas the Israeli soldiers do.  Those who are defending their land from the gut always win over those who are defending it from the head.

P.S. Defective Israeli leadership also has a lot to do with the fact that Israel's case is a rationalization.  The first generation, for whom the Holocaust and settlement were a reality, is gone.  The second will choose an opportune moment to take former Prime Minister Sharon off life-support, but it cannot instill in today's Israelis the flame that made their elders think, in defiance of every religious morality, that two wrongs could make a right.

P.P.S. CNN replayed yesterday's presidential press conference with the intent of minimizing the terrible impression it made to see George Bush joking as he talked about the need to continue sacrificing lives to the "war on terror".  Shameful.

Monday, August 21, 2006


Now that's a clever frame!  President Bush is giving a press conference this morning in what he called the "fancy new digs" of the White House press corps.  Maybe it's his new approval rating of 42% that has him laughing and joking as he bumbles his way through a  defense of his Middle East and Iraq policy.

Commentators who have a larger audience than otherjones should point up the fact that democracy is not the opposite of terrorism.  Democratic state regimes use state terrorism, while democratically elected minority representatives in failed or weak states use the weapons they can get.   The number of Lebanese represented by Hezbollah, 40%,  is significantly higher than the number of Americans represented by the Bush administration, barely 50% of the 30 or 40% who vote.

More later, as another absurd day wears on....

Sunday, August 20, 2006


No sooner had I written the previous post than I went on-line to listen to the interview Mike Wallace did of President Ahmadinejad of Iran, which apparently has created a stir among journalists, some feel Wallace should not have "stooped" to such an encounter, others correctly as having lost it.

That Mike Wallace, who is apparently 87 years old, should think he can get the better of a man in his prime is already hubris.  But what is troubling, is that the American ikon is shown here to be an empty shell: apparently, he is so used to towing the company line, that he is incapable of consequential thought.  He comes off as feebly trying to bully someone who is in every way his superior.  A real monkey, despair at not being able to break out of his cage clearly showing in his face and gestures.  A general signing an act of rendition wouldn't feel worse.

As for Ahmadinejad, the only thing that troubled me was his claim that research into the Holocaust is denied.  So much research has been conducted that this cannot be taken seriously.  But his point that the Palestinians should not be made to pay for a German crime is unexceptionable, and that has always been by opinion.

But there is more: the Iranian leader speaks the same language as Fidel Castro, as Hugo Chavez, as Lopez Obrador, as well as Nasrallah in Lebanon and the leader of Hamas whose name I have forgotten (they are here today and assassinated tomorrow).  The discourse of these men shows clearly that there are two opposing camps in the political arena: not democracy and tyranny, not modernity and backwardness, and not even the West and the Rest.  The camps are the haves and the have-nots, as always.  America and Israel are the two top dogs in the struggle being waged by people of all colors and religions for respect and pie.  And it is the underdogs, not the creators of the United Nations, who are seeking dialogue.

The ignorance of Mike Wallace and the lack of courtesy on the part of President Bush toward another world leader who writes to him, are two faces of the same coin: a Janus-faced monkey.


Reading a five-week old Economist special section on Pakistan, a picture is formed in my mind's eye: American, Israeli and Pakistani government troops, each in their respective theaters of war, demolishing houses, jailing people, including children, at random, until the alleged culprit is handed over.  In the case of Pakistan, the article is referring to "a powerful civil servant, known as the political agent, whose duty is to keep the tribes quiet.  He has a pot of cash to reward good behavior and little need to account for his actions.  His main power is to exact collective punishment."

Senator McCain, on "Meet the Press", won't rule out military action against Iran; no wonder it is rumored he could run with Jeb Bush as vice-presidential candidate.  Happily (so to speak) a Senator with a Jewish name, Diane Feinstein, isn't afraid to tell Wolf Blitzer that the problems of the Middle East won't be solved until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.  Bravo Senator Feinstein.  I thought something like this would never happen.

Monday, August 14, 2006


The number of refugees - Darfour, Congo, Somalia, Lebanon - should not mask the fact that as a result of failing to address  obscene inequality across the globe, the United States is faced with a dual threat: that emanating from the have-nots themselves and Movements purporting to represent them, and another, from Nations long jealous of our supremacy, who can be seen joining them in a pincer movement against us.

The United States and Israel are like like a big giant and a little giant.  Increasingly, they imitate and learn from each other how best to torture, and to use advanced technology to kill. But both have Achilles heels, so perpetual war is not the answer.  Only by sharing the wealth can we envision a future for our grandchildren.


My useful sense of gratitude at the existence of Democracy Now, and investigative journalists such as Seymour Hersh was tempered by disappointment today as I considered their failure, and that of like-minded thinkers, to systematically tie together the findings of the day or the week with relevant background.

Sy Hersh's expose of the deliberateness of the Israeli offensive, linked to an American project to effect regime change in Tehran would have been much more impressive had Hersh summed up for listeners and readers the picture painted by Kevin Philipps in "American theocracy", published earlier this year.  Philipps' weighty tome is quite indigest - it would have benefited from being much shorter and to the point - but its message is chilling:  with oil peaking in our children's lifetime, and threats to the dollar, plans are afoot not only to secure the Middle East fields, but to ensure that oil continues to be sold for greenbacks rather than Euros.

Without awareness of the larger canvass, Hersh's listeners and readers are likely to be alarmed, but not desperate at the prospect of perpetual war that we will face if plans to secure oil and the dollar are not checked before it is too late.  Those of us who surmised there had to be more to the Israeli offensive than met the eye now know it was in part a dry run for taking out Iran's subterranean armory.

This is turn is not about Islamic Fascism, as the President repeats endlessly like a mantra, but about the convergence of oil and an economy no longer based on production of things, but on financial flows.  Philipps retraces the rise and fall of previous major powers.  Because they shared that pattern, all died and we are here today.  The conjunction of that pattern, perhaps unavoidable, with our unique ability to wage war may preclude our having descendants.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


The Israeli cabinet voted to accept the U.N. resolution to stop the fighting in Lebanon.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Today is the Jewish Sabbath, like every Saturday. And what are the Israelis doing on this Sabbath?  They're killing a few more people before taking up the United Nations proposal for a cease-fire, which was voted yesterday.

The Israelis have never liked the U.N. because the Third World majority in the General Assembly has stood, over the decades, with the Palestinians.  This time they're being dealt with evenhandedly, but like lemmings, eyes riveted on past horrors, they march backwards toward more anti-Semitism.

That is about as naive as the U.S. expectation that they would be greeted as liberators by the Iraqi people.

Underdogs always wonder why top-dogs don't understand them: it is even more difficult to comprehend that a people that has for millennia been treated as an underdog, can treat others as they were treated, now that, with the help of a powerful ally, they have the means.

The Israelis represent those Jews who not only withstood 2000 of ostracism, clinging to the idea of a return to a former land, they realized the dream.  The only thing that can conceivably prevent them from believing the Palestinians will be equally tenacious is a belief in their inferiority. That is why they they drop leaflets telling the Lebanese to blame Hezbollah for their woes.

That is about as naive as the American expectation that they would be greeted as liberators by the Iraqis.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006


In 2003, a father and son team of eminent historians (J.R. and William McNeill) published a fascinating book entitled "The Human Web", that showed how "human history is an evolution from simple sameness to diversity and then toward complex sameness". We do well to bear a variation of that in mind when we try to analyze what is currently going on the the Middle East: history is made up of criss-crossing webs.

Take the U.S. French effort to draft a U.N. resolution that can be acceptable to the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council. Merely enumerating their names makes clear how different their agendas are: U.S., France, Great Britain, Russia and China. But the complexity doesn't stop there: France has never accepted that it's time as a major world player has been over since World War II, and is eager to exploit its historical ties to Lebanon while maintaining a crucial oil line to Tehran; Great Britain is led by a man of vision who, for better or for worse, has chosen a historical alliance across the Atlantic over European unity; Russia also has serious interests in Tehran, and a Muslim population in its southern republics, while aspiring to recognition as a bona fide G8 player; and China is enjoying an economic and hence diplomatic renaissance on the world stage for the first time since the Middle Kingdom came out of obscurity.

Having said that, the crucial player remains the U.S. So here is the question of the day: Is failure to recognize the legitimate Lebanese demands for an immediate Israeli pull-out just one more instance of big power hubris and ignorance, or a deliberate strategy that gives Israel additional time to continue pounding that country before a cease=fire intervenes?

Whichever is the correct playbook, American citizens are also going to pay a price. The question is, how long will it remain merely a price at the pump? Administration officials never tire of telling us that thanks to the assault on Afghanistan and Iraq, we have remained safe at home. We must not be surprised if, in the inevitable way of opposites producing each other, that ceases to be true. You can usually remove one card from a card castle without causing it to collapse, perhaps even two or more, but as both historians and scientists know well, increasing instability in a system eventually leads to a bifurcation point where anything can happen.

Monday, August 7, 2006


I have the feeling that I'm writing the news before it happens, and rather than feeling exhilarated, I'm almost bored: nothing new to report and react to.  I thought my unusual three angle view of the Cold War (knowing the U.S., Western and Eastern Europe) was what gave me the advantage over other political analysts that lallowed me to be the only one to foresee the fall of the Berlin Wall AND the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  Now I'm guessing that a habit of independent thought that began in childhood plays an ever bigger role.  Rereading a collection of essays that impressed me mightily in the seventies, "Patterns of Anarchy", I find much that is still relevant:

"One of the main characteristics of government is their maintenance of what Martin Buber calls the "latent external crisis", the fear of an external enemy, by which they maintain their ascendancy over their own subjects.  This has in our day become the major activity of governments and their biggest field of expenditure and effort."  But when it comes to "summit conferences or the signing of petitions, the petitions go to the wrong address: they should be addressed not to governments but to people."

Today's irony: Hezbullah may be a better organized fighting force than perhaps the Israeli army precisely because it is the people's answer to government compromised by the outcomes of summitry and the like.

The broader picture: in a joint press conference with Condi Rice, President Bush actually says that first the Cuban people ON THE ISLAND have to decide what kind of system they want to live under and then the exiles can "take an interest in that country or not".   He seems to realize that with or without Don Rumsfeld at Defense, he cannot try to reorganize the Middle East AND confront the will of his southern neighbors - as expressed by its people.

Sunday, August 6, 2006


Will hubris never cease?  The intention has long been clear, but to say it so brazenly, in so many words, shows the extent of the disconnect between those who run this country and the rest of the world.  In an interview with Wolf Blitzer, Condoleeza Rice outlined "what we have in mind for Cuba" after Castro dies.

They just don't get it!  For forty-seven years the Cuban people have endured the hardships that come with trying to build a country NOTWITHSTANDING A BLOCKADE precisely because they do not intend for the country that imposed the blockade to decide what is best for them.

Meanwhile, thank goodness that "The Economist " for all its (diminishing) conservative bias, is there to let us know that Obrador's supporters have been camped out in the Zocolo by the thousands, demanding a recount of the presidential election.  It wasn't on the news that I watched.

The apparent togetherness of Bolton and the French UN Ambassador for the task of determining Lebanon's future is not fooling the Lebanese:  they want no part of a plan in which they had no say - in what others "have in mind" for them.

Friday, August 4, 2006


Rumsfeld tried to belittle Hillary Clinton's dressing down by responding with one mocking word: "My!", but I don't think  it broke through the wall of disgust and distrust evident in comments from CNNs listeners about the Bush administration (and Congress too for that matter, where it's too little too late).

A propos Hezbollah, everyone is saying that you can't have a state within a state, but at the same time, it is being mooted that as after the fighting stops, and the Lebanese government is in full control, it would invite Hezbollah to become part of its security forces.  That, together with Israel's decades-long refusal to have the international community come in and set things right between it and the Palestinians, only to have to finally agree on just such a thing to prevent rockets from falling on its citizens at home, must make the Jewish state feel really good.

Question: How many self-identified Jews are there in the world?  What percentage of them chose to emigrate to the Jewish state?  Is it reasonable for so many people to die to ensure the survival of that state, when its inhabitants have done everything possible and imaginable to turn latent anti-Semitism into hatred by its neighbors far and wide?

Second questions: Would our Senators and Representatives be able to afford election campaigns without the help of AIPAC, the Israeli lobby?   IF ever there was a justification for federally financed election campaigns, this war is it.

Last night, PBS showed Adriana Bosch's two-hour film about Fidel Castro.  Aside from a few inconsistencies and hysterical moments, it seems like a decent piece of work.  But the inconsistencies are important: at the beginning, the commentators declares that "thousands" of Cubans were executed when the Revolution took power.  Later, but barely audible, it cites a much more plausible figure of 500.  Fidel is repeatedly shown wildly gesticulating; having witnessed many speeches, I can say these moments are rare.   Also, the commentators are all identified as "professor of international affairs" without affiliation, which is rather suspicious.  It's remarkable how, while confirming what I knew at the time from talking to people there, the film feeds the standard line that the Cuban revolutionaries were "really" communists.  This doesn't prevent the director from making a case, in the latter part of her document, that suddenly, communists were being added to the government.  The truth is carefully avoided: there was a robust Cuban Communist Party which, until late in the battle, followed Moscow's orders to avoid taking power (as was true in Western Europe).  When they did enter talks with the 26th of July Movement, they had different opinions as to how to proceed.  Fidel's group prevailed.  Also, both Fidel and Raul were known to have read Marxist literature in prison, and it was always said that Raul and Che considered themselves to be Marxists before Fidel did.  What is never mentioned in Bosch's documentary, is that this was really a collegial enterprise,, with as many nuances as there were participants.  Some participants, such as Matos, who was featured in the film, were quickly disillusioned, others, like Carlos Franqui, also featured, distanced themselves years later.  Commander Guillermo Garcia, features in my picture gallery, is mentioned in Jon Lee Andersen's recent New Yorker article as being still there.

I can't see any difference between these attitudes and behaviors, and what goes on in a nominally democratic system, where people also resign, and where party discipline is as tight in a two party system as in a one-party system.

More about parties another time.

....No sooner does one sign off than the TV spits out more incredible information:

- Cynthia McKinney, the scaandal-prone black representative from Georgia, is facing a primary in which Republicans can vote.  Too bad she didn't manage to fix that since she's been in Congress.

But here's something she couldn't have done anything about : AIPAC, the powerful Jewish lobby, asks congresspeople to sign a pledge that they will ensure that Israel remains the dominant military power in the Middle East.  McKinney didn't sign, and didn't get any money.  Talk about interfering in the internal affairs of another country!  Shouldn't stuff like that be illegal?

Even the Economist refers to Hezbollah as an "armed militia", while Juan Cole, on "Democracy Now" makes clear that it represents the POOR Shias living in the south of Lebanon.  How uncomfortable for spin doctors that sooner or later all conflicts turn out to be about equity.....

Which brings forth another question: how is it that Hezbollah could find the money to set up much needed social services, while the legitimate Lebanese government could not?  Could the answer possibly be that Hezbollah's backers are more concerned with equity than the government's (meaning the U.S.)?

Finally, while I'm asking questions, might as well put the big one on the table: is it possible that the violence is continuing in Iraq because this suits the U.S.'s long-term plans for that country - and its oil?  It seems to me that if all those troops had  appropriate orders, they could stop this.

No wonder there is increasingly a united front from Afghanistan to Lebanon.  I think the Bush administration believes U.S. power will ultimately prevail thanks to technology: technology destroys material things, but it has never suceeded in destroying people's desires.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006


I like to see things in systems terms: it's less messy than ideology.

What we have right now is a system that's spiraling out of control.  When a system is in a "steady state", it counter-balances nicely between entropy (which leads to death) and excessive energy, which sooner or later causes it to bifurcate to a different level.  Physicists know that it's impossible to predict in advance what the new level will be: greater order and complexity or chaos.  It depends in part on the system's previous history.

Alas, political commentators prefer crystal balls to history.  They relentlessly ask interviewees whether they think that this or that is going to happen and, most absurdly, how long it's going to take, much like the child in the back seat of a car asking "Daddy are we there yet?".  At least daddy knows how many miles he has to travel, has a watch and a map.  Our drivers don't even know which direction they're facing, so why bother to ask them where or when they're going to arrive?

Resistance movements are never annihilated: they always live to fight another day: think about Solidarnosc if you're tired of thinking about Vietnam.  Our society has spawned a lot of rebels without a cause, but unlike what happens with dictators, societies that have a cause always win, sooner or later .  (People don't fight for a dictator's causes, which is why the Cuban Revolution has lasted almost fifty years.)  And when, as in the Middle East, the people's cause, anti-Americanism, jihad or just plain poverty, coincides with the latent or unresolved causes of their rulers, those who provoke them should not be too cock-sure.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006


No, this isn't the latest axis of evil, just an acknowledgement of the Sorcerer's Apprentice type situation the US is in: not enough mops, not enough buckets, for the myriad streams that threaten to engulf an administration that thought it had magic powers.

In my book "When the Revolution was Young" currently available on Amazon, readers will find an interview of Raul Castro as well as the other barbudos who, with Fidel Castro, made the revolution starting in 1953.  They can also read the article in last week's New Yorker entitled "Castro's Last Battle" by Jon Lee Anderson, a preview of today's news.

Back with more later.

......The big news of course is still in the Middle East.  Starting a couple of days ago, US broadcasters have been showing how the Arab media presents the conflict, and yesterday, for the first time, CNN actually showed gore, prefaced with a warning.  This is an indispensable lead-up to any future distancing from Israel, although it is difficult to imagine it actually happening.

Robert Fisk, on Democracy Now, pointed out that notwithstanding multiple attacks on British soil by the IRA, it didn't bomb Northern Ireland, as Israel is doing to Lebanon.

Just think: Fifty years ago, Israel was "the only democratic country in the Middle East", so we were on solid ground.  Now Israel has become - and is largely perceived to be - a bully.  Avi Pazner's defiant attitude, as government spokesman, was overlaid with disdain, his assurance that "they will lose this battle" evidence of palpable panic.  (There is a great deal of "them and us" on both sides, but notice that the Arabs always refer to the Israelis as "the Israelis", while the Israelis tend to refer to their neighbors as "them".)

An attack on a Jewish entity in Seattle underscores the frustration Arab Americans have been feeling since 9/11.  It looks less and less as though our two oceans protect us when we stir up trouble elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Little Havana, Miami, is gearing up for an expected regime change in Cuba.  Yet a knowledgeable Cuba hand on CNN, without prompting, remarked that the regime has considerable support.   I don't think the exiles should be packing their bags just yet.

.....(later) After listening to the second part of the interview of Mozzam Begg, a British Muslim who was arrested while working in a humanitarian capacity in Pakistan, where he had brought his family, about his three-year long internment in Kandahar, Waggram and finally, Guantanamo, it occurs to me that the significance of the events in Cuba is also linked to the fact that the US has just completed a sixth, and permanent, prison facility on the island.....

.....The ironies pile up: the Lebanese are being bombed (and Free Speech TV just announced that President Bush today again refused to press Israel for a cease-fire) because 40% of them support Hezbollah, as indicated by "free and fair elections".  The Cubans will probably not be asked whether they are in favor of regime change.  At most they will be granted "free and fair elections" within the scope of a capitalist economy.  Judging by the continued support for ex-communist or still-communist parties in Eastern Europe fifteen years after the fall of the regimes they were associated with, we shall not be able to say that we brought democracy to Cuba.

P.S. Mozzam Begg's book is entitled: "Enemy Combattant".