Thursday, January 29, 2009


The Incoming has arrived, and he has had a number of soirées to attempt to appeal to the Better Angels of the Republicans, with the upshot that not one of them voted for the Economic Recovery package in the House of Representatives the other day. Not one.

Clearly all the fine verbiage and social contact isn't working with this rump assembly of... fine American patriots... ha! Their unanimous refusal to put the People and the Country before their Party in this instance, despite being given several concessions on tax breaks for the rich and the well-connected and on matters they consider "frivolous" like the National Mall and contraception funding, shows that the split between them and the rest of the country may not be bridgeable.

President Lincoln faced something worse, far worse, in that some of the states had already seceeded when he took the oath of office. But the unanimity of today's rejectionists, the refusniks, is a sign of where we are headed.

It seems to me that Obama has been bending over backwards and jumping through all kinds of hoops to bring these miscreants in out of the cold, provide them with succor, with hope, and with courage to do the right thing. They reject all of it, with a snot-nosed brat's contempt and a gleeful nyah, nyah to boot.

After all, their Leader, Rush Limbaugh, has declared that he hopes Obama will fail, and he will do what he has to to ensure that happens.

Bless his cystic ass.

To the extent he thinks he can, the Incoming is ruling by decree, Imperial Ukase as it were, what we call EO's, while Congress sorts itself out. Some serious sortage has to go on, for in addition to the fact that not one House Republican voted for the economic package, eleven House Democrats voted against it. Sigh.

Here we go again, with Democrats in Congress lining up to be butt-boys for the Rs. It just reeks. And it has been going on for years, with ineffective Democratic "leaders" in the House and Senate unable -- unwilling? -- to whip their caucuses into shape.

So where is this all leading? What are we waiting for?

I've been very impressed with Obama's political acumen. He knows how to move people sufficiently to move them to action, and he knows very well how to give them enough rope to hang themselves. He did it over and over again during his two year campaign for the Presidency, to rather startling effect, and it looks like he is doing it as President as well. It's a risky business, but from appearances, he is doing everything to allow and require Republicans in the Congress to do themselves in, by being as pleasant and gentle and social and accommodating as he can, and letting them rail and rant and fuss and refuse all they want. The People see this and turn their backs on them. Support for Obama grows. It's now in the 70's and moving up.

Republicans end up self-pwning -- again.

That's the politics of this current phase, but we're waiting for the moment when they have nothing left. When not even as a rump assembly can they function, and no one pays them any attention at all. Not even with their Democratic followers and toadies.

And then?

Who can say.

Friday, January 23, 2009


The interregnum is over. George W Bush was dismissed the other day to a chorus of lusty boos -- boos that were covered over by the sounds of clomping in the hallways of the Capitol on most of the tee vee coverage of the Inauguration, but not, apparently, on MSNBC. The video at the end of this post is from the crowd's perspective and it is even more of a rebuke to Bush.

The People despise him. They despise what he has done, what he has said, what he has believed.

Yet throughout his Regime of error, disaster, death, destruction, and multiple dashed hopes and dreams, he was preserved from experiencing the depth of the People's disgust with him and his policies.

Until Tuesday.

When finally the pent up loathing of the People for this man and all he has wrought was let loose for a few minutes of spirited popular contempt. "Bad form. Bad form," say the gasbags.

Yes. To them, to the Courtiers who have infested the Palace the last eight years, it's all about form. There is nothing but form in their minds, and all they ever really wanted was to keep things on an even footing, following the rules of etiquette, keeping things civil. Even when, as was so often the case, the level of outrageousness -- and complete contempt for the basic rules of civilization itself -- by the White House and its denizens was almost beyond comprehension.

"Nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, Good Bye!"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Carnage Stops for the Moment

Image of white phosphorous falling inside the UN school in northern Gaza where a woman and a child were killed on January 17.

So they've stopped for the moment. Snipers have no doubt fanned out to liquidate/exterminate the usual "pockets of resistance," but for the moment "quiet" has descended on the smoking, blood-drenched ruins of Gaza.

Hamas, so far as we can tell from afar, didn't fight. There was no resistance to Israeli tanks and bombs and bullets. The entirety of Gaza was an Israeli free-fire zone, and there was no where at all for Gazans to find safe refuge within Gaza, no way at all for non-combatants to flee. They are trapped, encaged, without succor, without hope, to be slaughtered at will by the dartk forces of death and destruction arrayed against them.

All the European heads of state are assembled at Sharm el-Sheikh to assure Israel that they support its right to defend itself against the perfidy of the Palestinians, that they are determined to get humanitarian aid to the Gazans as quickly as possible, and (according to Gordon Brown) to provide counseling services to children who have been traumatized by the struggle.

Mouin Rabbani comments on the proceedings that it is breathtakingly inconceivable that not one of these glittering heads of state has mentioned the word "occupation". How can they discuss what's happened without mentioning the occupation? Rabanni's counclusion? The Two State Settlement is dead. The very notion of "negotiations" has been discredited.

Rabbani opines that the next step is not a One State Solution, as that ideal is unlikely in our lifetimes. The next step is more likely an extistential struggle. He doesn't describe it, not yet. But given past history, the "extistential" solution is the elimination of the Palestinians by force.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Throughout the current Israeli Aktion against the Gaza Strip, observers who wish to incite Zionist Israel defenders have compared the Israeli operations to the Nazi liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942-43.

The comparison is not exact, of course. For one thing, the Germans and their allies didn't use air power against the Ghetto inmates, at least not to any great extent. They didn't have helicopters, and their fighter planes and bombers stayed on the ground. There were only about a 1000 Jewish fighters in the Ghetto, and their numbers were reduced smartly and consistently by the Germans and their allies.

The Germans had been emptying the Ghetto for months before the Uprising in 1943, and there were only about 55-60,000 people left in the Ghetto by that time. Deportations continued during the Uprising, the point being, of course, to remove all the inmates and obliterate the Ghetto.

By contrast, Gaza is sealed off completely, and there has been no effort whatsoever to get people out of there. The cordon is complete. At best, no more than a few hundred wounded and civilians with foreign passports have been allowed to leave. 1.5 million Palestinians are trapped in Gaza with no means of escape. There is no safe place, no refuge at all anywhere in the Gaza Ghetto. The Israelis bomb and shell at will, and they are using horrific weapons like White Phosphorous shells, "bunker busters", and possibly DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive) weapons as well.

For its part, Hamas has been a pathetic defender of Gaza and its people. While there are supposed to be some 15-20,000 Hamas fighters in the enclave -- a small number in proportion to the population -- they have been utterly unable to defend against he Israeli onslaught. Their rocket squads have never been an effective assault mechanism, and the number of Hamas rockets fired from Gaza has been reduced to no more than a few per day. From the sketchy reports out of Gaza, mostly on Al Jazeera, it appears that there is sporadic guerilla action from Hamas, but very limited, and hardly even noticed by the Israeli Death Machine.

Israel claims that every military aged male in Gaza is a "terrorist," and so all the dead male adolescents and adults are by definition "Hamas Terrorists" in their eyes. But the casualty figures, right now being reported on Al Jazeera as 905 dead and over 4,000 injured, indicate that at least 40% of the casualties are women and children, and of the dead and injured men, only a few are actually "Hamas." There is no sign that the Israelis actually intend to wipe out or even seriously reduce the numbers of Hamas in Gaza. Many Israelis have appeared on Al Jazeera who have said that "Hamas can stay," as long as the rocket fire stops and they do not rearm. Of course the Israelis lie, but still.

Almost all the Hamas spokespeople who have appeared on Al Jazeera have been in Syria; I cannot recall seeing even one interviewed in Gaza itself, though I could be wrong. Al Jazeera does have reporters on the ground in Gaza, and they are reporting live from their Gaza studios and on location (mostly at the hospitals) in the warzone throughout the day, but their reports seem oddly sterile. It seems they are being very careful in what they show and how they report on what is happening, as if they are under some sort of censorship rule, but by whom is the question. Their reports from Israel are obviously under some Israeli control -- although it seems to be relatively light -- but their reports from inside Gaza seem to be almost sanitized, only showing the bombing and shelling from a "safe" distance (although often live), rarely going out on the streets for face to face interviews with Gaza residents, never (so far as I can recall) interviewing Hamas officials in Gaza, but very prominently featuring the panicked delivery of the dead and wounded to the hospitals -- with a special emphasis on the children. There have also been a number of reports showing the appearance of "normal life" during the alleged daily "3 hour humanitarian cease fires" -- that are nothing of the sort. Gazans are shown shopping for food and sundries in the outdoor markets, some are interviewed, the usual denunciations of Israel and complicit Arab governments are expressed, and life goes on.

How much of this somewhat tip-toe reporting is due to the nature of the conflict and the real dangers the reporters face -- and they certainly face plenty of dangers, even in London, where one reporter was stoned live on camera when he was reporting on a pro-Israeli demonstration -- and how much is due to management instructions from Doha I can't say, but it is... odd.

They are reporting on Arab government complicity and failure to act to end the carnage, and there are many reports of the massive demonstrations around the world -- and in Israel and Arab capitals as well -- against the Israeli slaughter in Gaza. Al Jazeera had extensive reporting on and from the United Nations about their actions (and inactions) toward some sort of eventual "durable" ceasefire. The extent of the reporting was surprising given the general level of cynicism in the Middle East regarding anything the United Nations Security Council does or doesn't do or say.

They have featured Barack Obama's non-statement statements about the Gaza situation, and they have had panels speculating on how the Incoming will approach the Middle East conundrum. Most panelists seem to be of the opinion that there will be little substantive change in the American government position favoring Israel, but that there may be more "engagement" in the region toward some sort of settlement of the hostilities and conflicts.

[To Be Continued...]

UPDATE: January 15, 2009

I had a wan hope that this bloody Gaza reduction campaign would be over by the time I got back to this post, but no. The efforts at a ceasefire have come to naught thanks to the intransigence of the Israelis backed by the USA, both Outgoing and Incoming Administrations, the appalling corruption of the Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi Arabian governments, along with the languid indifference of other Arab and world governments to the plight of the Palestinians.

It's tough to compare what is going on in Gaza with the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and liquidation. As I've said before, it's a comparison we really don't want to make. And yet what's been going on in Gaza, the methodical and deliberate campaign of death and destruction undertaken by the Israelis, the terror the Gazans are experiencing every minute the Israeli Aktion continues, and the near futility of resistance -- no matter how heroic it may be in individual circumstances -- all evoke echoes of what happened in Warsaw in 1943.

What is significantly different is that there is no effort at all, by anyone, to get the Gazans out of there. They are being slaughtered in place and their cities are being destroyed around them. Except for a handful of injured and those with third country passports, no one is being let out -- or taken out -- of the Gaza enclave. The people are sealed in. In Warsaw, the deportations continued while the Uprising was going on. And in every other conflict I can recall, civilians have been able to (or have been required to) flee in advance of the Death Machine. In Gaza, they must stay. There is nowhere to run or to hide, no way out, and the Gazans can only await their doom.

Even the indifference of so many world governments -- not so much the indifference of the Peoples of the world -- is an echo of the disinterest of the world in the plight of the Jews of Europe during the Nazi hey-day.

The reports right now on Al Jazeera describe increasing horror in Gaza, as the Israelis are shelling and bombing UN headquarters and relief supplies warehouses, fuel depots, hospitals with hundreds of patients, apartment houses with hundreds of families still in them (reports are that some have collapsed and that perhaps hundreds of people have been killed in the latest bombings), the Red Crescent hospital is on fire, and a building housing journalists from Reuters and a number of Arab news services has been hit.

Yet the word being passed around the Al Jazeera crew is that this is a last spasm of violence before a ceasefire which, for some reason, they expect to see implemented within the next 24-48 hours. From what they have been saying, the AJ crew seems to believe that Egypt has brokered ceasefire terms with Hamas that are acceptable to Israel, and that there will be an interim agreement today when the Israeli representative arrives in Cairo, and that the fighting will stop sometime in the next couple of days.

If that's true, it will be an echo of how the Israeli campaign against Lebanon and Hezbullah sputtered to an end in 2006. In that conflict, the violence against infrastructure, civilians, and relief efforts increased the closer to the ceasefire things got. Then there was a last spasm of cluster bombing of southern Lebanon villages and then it was over, Israelis pulled out, and Hezbullah declared victory.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Neither So Big Nor So Bold -- and Not Very Fast, Either

There's been a whole lot of hooey about nothing at all (eg: Caroline, Burris, Blago, Richardson, et al) this festive New Year Season, a lot of Israeli propaganda about deadly events in the Middle East, and a curious and disappointing level of hype and "well, maybes" about the vaunted economic "stimulus" Mr. Obama is going to start off his administration with, bold and big, right out of the gate. Signing bills the minute he takes office, putting people back to work, back in their homes, back on their feet.

No wait. Well, maybe not. Miss McConnell over in the Senate House is throwing one of her patented hissy-fits yet again, demanding to know just why such and such is being done, and wanting account of every dime, every precious penny that is disbursed from the Treasury on Mr. Obama's Harebrained Schemes. Of course Miss McConnell was not at all concerned about the hundreds of billions and trillions that were extorted by the bankers of Wall Street without the least bit of accountability just a couple of months ago. But of course that was then, this is now.

But wait. That's not all. Rather than a stimulus that helps individuals, families, and communities, we're talking about a dribble, a few dollars a week to those who are employed, nothing to those who lose their jobs, in the form of reduced withholding, but only slightly reduced, and likely only temporary. Nothing at all to keep people in their homes and forestall foreclosure, just as there has been nothing at all to put a stopper in that part of the economic meltdown since it first reared its ugly head years ago.

There may be some infrastructure repair and construction funding, but that won't get under way in the middle of winter, and even when it does start up, it won't put more than a fraction of the unemployed back to work, and it was never intended to.

My bet is that a shift to a "Green Economy" won't happen, at least not so you would notice, in part because of Miss McConnell and her flounces.

Broad hints are being offered that the Bank Bailout will continue and even accelerate, hundreds more billions and trillions unaccountably down that rathole, with nothing at all to show for it, except that we ordinary folk are "allowed to live" one more day.

There may -- or may not -- be some loans to some states and localities to help cover some of their operating deficits for a limited time. But one can almost be certain that California's catastrophic budgetary implosion (and we recalled Gray Davis over something much smaller by comparison) will not be one of the candidates for Federal assistance.

I don't know how it is in your town, but the fallout from the economic earthquake that's going on is really showing up around me, and it ain't pretty. Businesses are closing right and left, some that have been around for a long time and are institutions around here. Car dealerships have almost completely vacated a long strip of suburban road where they once dominated. I was driving in a long-established neighborhood not long ago, and it seemed like every other house was in foreclosure, offered for auction or for sale by one of the foreclosure specialist companies. House prices in many neighborhoods -- not all -- have declined 40%-50%-even 60% from their peaks; but in some "exclusive" enclaves, prices have held steady or even increased slightly. What that says right there is that some folks still have plenty of money to live their ritzy lives, while as for the rest? Oh well!

The number of people living on the streets has increased noticeably, and this in the middle of winter. Not good. Homeless camps are springing up all over. Wherever there is some flat empty space and at least a hint of shelter. Police are being a little more tolerant of the homeless than in the past. But property crimes are increasing fast, burglary and robbery statistics showing worrying trends upward. I hear the sirens of police cars a lot more than I used to.

Helping agencies are running out of money and goods to help with and individuals are running out of resources to bulk up what's missing. It's a vicious cycle, and really there are few if any signs that this problem -- which continues to get worse -- will be addressed at all.

Nearly 2 million people lost their jobs in 2008 alone; that many or perhaps even more are expected to lose their jobs in 2009; the job creation programs Mr. Obama has talked about may never happen on a major scale at all, but even if they do, they won't get under way for months if not years.

In other words, things will continue to get worse while they get worse, and what the government intends to do about it -- at the level of individuals, families, and communities -- is the very least possible, with the bulk of what "help" there is continuing to go to the banks and Wall Street as extortion payments.

What's been revealed so far of Mr. Obama's Stimulus Package looks an awful lot like what Herbert Hoover was content with in 1931 and 1932.

Ain't we got fun.