so, everyone got all huffy a year or two ago when i was recommending a cruise missile through bashar al-assad's window. now, 60,000 dead and millions displaced later, i wonder whether you'd still reject that on the grounds that assad is, after all, an opponent of the united states, or on the grounds that his dad mouthed his enthusiasm for world proletarian revolution soviet-style while pursuing the liberation of thousands of souls onto the ethereal plain, or on whatever other grounds you might have been advancing at the time.
nothing is more disingenuous and fallacious than the statement of susan rice at the un, concerning this rudimentary proto-recognition of the palestinian territories, that the us opposes it because the two-state solution 'can only emerge from direct negotiations with the israeli government.' um, ok, so why is this incompatible with that? it's completely irrelevant. if we support palestinian statehood, we should be happy to endorse this little symbol of its possibility. this only constitutes a 'barrier to negotions' (the israeli formulation) in the sense that it could conceivably give the palestinians some little bit of leverage. of course, the israelis will only negotiate on a completely asssymmetrical basis. even then there's no chance they will agree to statehood.
the truth is that we oppose palestinian statehood until the israelis endorse it, which is, i predict, never. the israeli negotiating position is ridiculous; they certainly do not have any interest in palestinian statehood, but they're constantly pretending to endorse the two-state solution. you can't talk to people when they're just yapyaping like this. they'll say anything. their actual strategy is to represent their policy as being the opposite of what their policy is in fact. let's say they have mixed succes in concealing their actual policies, but there's no sense talking to them because what they say is always the opposite of what they do. how it could possibly be in our interest to echo this line of jive is a question i leave to the professionals. i said the same last year when the thing came up before.
the best use of cnn is something like this gaza situation; they're reporting from gaza city, jerusalem, cairo, etc; you watch bombs exploding live behind the anchors. they have crazy-brave war correspondents who have done every conflict and who speak fluent arabic: ben wedeman and arwa damon, for example; these are people who did day-by-day through iraq, watched libya explode, have infiltrated into syria. really people like that are still my heroes. wedeman did an amazing piece about a funeral for a family killed in gaza yesterday. i have to say wolf blitzer is the best anchor in a case like this, despite whatever ethnic/professional background he may have: scrupulously fair, very sharp and pointed interviewing people from either side. anderson cooper likewise. sneer at their ratings slump if you want; they are indispensable.
so the syrian opposition generates a new leadership. headline here? no women. as your village is shelled and your mom explodes, i'd be appointing a commission on pay equity. as far as i'm concerned, they can sit there and die until they get to 17% lesbians. how many latinos in the leadership of the syrian revolution? surely these people can be made to understand the importance of tokenism to the war effort.
by the way, i would definitely support legislation to remove your children from your custody if you permit them to watch ss. here i make a serious assertion: sesame street is the worst children's show ever, and quite a plausible candidate for the very worst television show of any sort. sesame street completely misconstrues the nature of childhood, not to speak of the nature of television. not every minute has to be another minute of fake play to teach; and we can do more for our kids than try to manufacture them as democrats. childhood is intrinsically, not just instrumentally, valuable, and if the point is that you'll never know how i or the corporation for public broadcasting actually formed your consciousness because you'll be under the delusion that you're having fun and acting autonomously; oh, think again and feel more fully your love of small persons. it's like you're forcing these poor little saps to listen to sting. or it's like the new punch and judy show, brought to you by erich honecker. i'm not sure you really want to entirely break down the distincton between entertainment and manipulation, but at least it doesn't work very well: the thing is as entertaining as a migraine. it's helping you model extreme insincerity, though, which will be extremely important to your children's future success. fortunately the ideas and values and characters are so blank that even though your three-your-old might be chanting along to the numbers again, it's going to be nothing compared to his discovery of something actual, like sponge bob say. really key to parenting: ask yourself, how can i manipulate my children to do and believe and say what someone told me they're supposed to, while all the time cleverly pretending to play with them? this is key to preparing your great love/little sucker for the college admissions process. supposedly sesame street was a substitute for pre-school for ghetto kids, growing up in housing projects built on the same aesthetic model. if you think ghetto kids got anything out of that or that it had a big inner-city audience, you are mistaken. it had a multi-cultural cast but the most painful whitebread aesthetic. its actual function was pre-kaplan sat prep course for suburbanites.
that's a rant, in case you're wondering, ma! meanwhile, where is bashar al-assad with his helicopter gunships when you need him? for episode 18 billion or whatever they're up to this week i want the whole cast down there in his state-of-the-art torture/education facility, forced to count from 11 to 20 and not recycle. the opposition to assad on sesame street will be evanescent. but it will be diverse.
here is an interesting piece from today's all things considered, about a bookseller in tunis who dealt with state censorship for years. now she's trying to decide whether to stock the memoir of leila ben ali, the hated and deeply corrupt wife of the former dictator. the bookstore person says she wants to read it herself, and i would imagine many tunisians would be curious. look there are many reasons to read a book, right? including to find out more about what and how and why to hate. she has decided not to stock it, which i can understand. but here's what i would suggest. what would convince me not to sell it would be that leila is presumably getting royalties. get ahold of a copy and then go for maximum piracy. xerox it and give it away. xerox it and deface it and give it away. post it on multiple websites in multiple formats. try to make it irrational for anyone to buy the thing. post it with your own introduction. post it with commentary. throw a party where you smoke it, etc.
the conventional formulation now is that syria is on the brink of a civil war. i think that if i were syrian, i would demand civil war. it beats sitting there watching the government's militias set your children on fire. you just have got to shoot back, basically no matter what the cost.
and speaking of my hawkish streak: i'm surprised by the naivete of the left on iran. don't be blinded by the iraq debacle; it's not the same thing. i thought the evidence the bush admin produced on wmd in iraq was pitiful, and i said so over and over again. on the other hand, don't sit there and tell me that iran isn't working on nuclear weapons. it's obvious. they're saying that even as they're denying it. and have you actually listened to ahmadinejad? it's both wacky and chilling. what to do about it is a different question, but pretending it isn't happening and isn't a big old problem is something else. i know y'all dearly love a theocracy as long as santorum isn't running it, but please.
sorry for no blogging. life has been overfull lately: moving, among other things, while, um, totaling my car etc. however, my life is less overfull than that of the citizens of homs, and i'd take the approach not of 'arming the rebels,' but of bombing the regime's emplacements outside the city, exploding their incoming tanks, etc. yes it's true then you're in a libya situation and there's no real reason you shouldn't be trying to locate the regime's leaders with the purpose of resolving them into their constituent particles.
the un in its great courage may be nearing a resolution calling on assad to resign. if i were drafting, the 'international community' would be resolving to sandusky assad with a stick of dynamite, detonate him, then meticulously reassemble him and blow him up again.
simon brings my attention to cockburn on hitchens. i say this piece is based on three basic insights: (1) people who disagree with me are evil. (2) people who are more successful than me are evil. (3) people who are better than me at what i do are evil.
let me say something about the neo-con hitch (and also his friend martin amis), with their embrace of the concept of 'islamo-fascism,' and their suggestions that islam itself needed to be suppressed because of the terrorists who appeal to it. the anti-communist right-wingers of the fifties and sixties had cracked moments, and a really psychotic overreaction suggesting things such as that dwight eisenhower was an agent of the international communist conspiracy. they engaged in an active process of putting everyone under surveillance for intellectual purity, a kind of parody of what they were supposedly fighting against. but however, communism was a frigging nightmare, and if you weren't an anti-communist in 1961, and if you are not an anti-communist now, you were/are extremely wrong, an advocate of totalitarianism and evil. that joseph mccarthy was terribly wrong and extremely dangerous to liberty does not entail that josef stalin was ok. and in this case, if you have anything nice to say about al qaeda-type terrorism (like one of my colleagues at mica, who was in the habit calling osama a 'freedom fighter'), if you do anything to try to take the sting out of the sheer irrational evil, you are really really wrong. and if you think it can be detached entirely from islam, i think you're misguided, as i think the attempt to completely detach stalinism or the khmer rouge from marxist communism is a pitiful rationalization. and obviously hitchens' anti-religious fervor both fed and was fed by his 'islamophobia.' so: i think this led him into numerous extremely wrong conclusions. it led him to endorse something like a world war for the suppression of islam as a whole. but, there was a truth at the heart.
also, opinion journalism is not itself violence or repression. there's no point in vaguely holding hitchens responsible for invading iraq. what he did was write; that doesn't force anyone to do anything. this is one reason why we should defend freedom of expression at its widest scope. the right response to hitchens is to refute the arguments; if he kicked your ass you had no one to blame but yourself, and you should have tried again. i'll give cockburn this: he did try to do that. he is no match for hitchens in argument or polemic or wit, but that just means he needs more craft.
also if he was wrong on this, it of course does not follow that he was wrong in his literary judgments, or his picture of the history of ideas, or whatever it may be. he was often right about such things, and spoke from a depth of knowledge and reflection that made the arguments compelling even if not right.
if i was running israel or if i was in the republican jewish coalition i would actually worry about the extreme enthusiasm for your nation and people of the likes of bachmann and perry, and of all the republican candidates (except paul) insofar as they abase themselves before israel as a way to court evangelical votes. these people intend to convert you, in order to hasten the rapture. for that matter, is that the kind of idea we want as the basis of our middle east policy? obviously it has no rational aspect; it doesn't pursue american interests; it doesn't try to understand anything that's happening on the ground at all; it slaps an a priori and completely rationally arbitrary interpretation on the realities; it is a delusional or psychotic approach to an actually dangerous zone of conflict and to actual real persons. also it is a formula for religious war.
meanwhile newt's notion that the palestinian people are an invention is extraordinarily offensive, and ought to to give everyone doubts about a newt presidency. in some sense every people is invented. 'the american people' is an invention, though it's newt's favorite trope. that doesn't mean it isn't real. you need to listen to how people identify themselves and take that perfectly seriously. but this is a little prelude to 'cultural genocide'; whatever you may call yourselves, you don't count, and the destruction of your culture would not be the destruction of anything.
trading a thousand of your prisoners for one of ours, i think, does kind of hint that each among our people is worth a thousand of yours. and the media coverage is likewise a thousand to one: shalit utterly individuated, palestinians treated en masse.
obama, susan rice etc all say that a un recognition of a palestinian state won't actually achieve a palestinian state. of course, but that's definitely not the only possible effect they'd be hoping for. as i say, it already gives more leverage. even a vote would make the situation clearer. and the whole thing is placing immense international pressure on israel, already. i say: keep right on.
however much hillary or susan rice might whine, and however much perry and bachmann - with their intensely bizarre fundamentalist support for israel (fundamentalist among other things in being unquestioning) - might snipe, the palestinian approach of applying for recognition as a state in the un has been quite the little stroke of genius. it gives a huge dose of publicity to their situation. it gives them actual negotiating leverage, and you'd have to think that obama is up there today making offers. and it shows the basic non-existence of us support of palestinian statehood: we're good with it as long as it remains a vague hope for the distant future. all in all, a tactical coup.
it takes a bold presidential candidate to come out foursquare against the arab spring. we've got to back up our very own autocrats, for god's sake. i'm looking for a president who only asks, with regard to hundreds of millions of people in a gigantic region: how does this affect israel? because she's going to convert the jews and rapture them up.
let me try to clarify my feelings about the us gov, obama etc, since folks seem to think i love it/him above all things. first, like all governments, it is in my view not morally legitimate. i take myself not only to assert that, but actually to have proven it, insofar as political claims can be proven. the us government shares that with the assad regime. i also think that it is entwined with a global capitalism that i find repugnant, and that is one of the major oppressive forces in the world, and also that our military - the spending, adventures, weaponry - is fearsomely dangerous: it threatens everybody's life every day.
however, all things being equal, i'd rather have even a distorted democratic system (distorted by corporate money, e.g.) than a straight-up entirely unaccountable totalitarian system. i would rather live in this system than the chinese system, or the soviet system, or the idi amin system, or the pinochet system, etc, and i say there are real differences. admittedly, the responsiveness or responsibility to the people of the american government is a matter of tradition and cultural values rather than any actual safety we have if obama or someone decided to go totalitarian and the military acquiesced. we've had our scrapes: you might consult cheney's memoir. we need constant vigilance.
in the last decade, the us government has done many many bad things. the iraq invasion/occupation killed many people for no immediate reason (certainly not for the reasons the bush admin gave), though it also deposed a classic despot. we have tortured people, and i'd say we don't know the full extent of what has happened and what is happening. that is why free speech and press rights are so incredibly important. that's why, for example, i regard bradley manning as a hero and a political prisoner, and decry his mistreatment. i do not regard it as equivalent to khamis gaddafi stacking political prisoners in a warehouse, then throwing in grenades and firebombs, then setting up a crossfire on those who emerge, and then heaping their bodies in maggot-infested holes.
but we do have an incredibly wide-ranging free press, though it is also distorted by corporate domination. but it is less corporate-dominated than it was thirty years ago: many more outlets, and anyone can blog anything or tweat etc. even the wikileaks stuff got published, is available, even if the cia is also hacking it.
obviously, there are worse and better applications of coercive force. that the police have sometimes raped people is no argument that it is wrong given the actual immediate circumstances for that particular policeman to prevent that particular rape. indeed, anyone who is in a position to prevent a rape is morally required to do so. i don't think there is any way to make our engagement with the arab spring into a simple act of oppression, and indeed we acted sluggishly because of the many connections of our military and our corporations to middle eastern despots, kleptocrats, and torturers. that was disgusting. but if we condemn that, we ought to congratulate the us state when it finally turns on them. i actually do think that nato ordered airstrikes to save the people of benghazi, and that nato helped the people of libya remove a monster of oppression.
for that matter, i'm very not down with religious fanatics flying jetliners into buildings or suicide bombers on the bus, and few people have ever deserved death more clearly than osama and his cohorts.
anyone who opposes torturing people, robbing people, raping people, shutting them up and shutting them in, ought to want the same for assad. or if you're not feeling bloodthirsty, then an immediate comfortable retirement in a place he can do no more harm.
i think obama is better than bush, and that he's actually trying to wind down our wars. now that's not to say i love him and day to day my politics might be closer to the tea party than the obama admin, at least on sizeofgov or deficit-spending-type issues. so anyway, let me be me, and try not to operate on a worldview with no room for any nuance, or that basically responds to an a priori position that anything the us gov does is bad. rather, try as best you can to gather up the most reliable info you can on any given situation (which is difficult, i know, and all media outlets need to be approached critically) and analyze it on its own.
when obama refuses to relinquish power (a refusal backed up by the total resources of american armed forces), puts malia and sasha in charge of death squads and the oil industry (respectively), nationalizes all television stations and imposes a regime of total censorship, and then deposits half u.s. gdp into his offshore accounts and the bodies of tea partiers, graffiti artists, and random fifth-graders into his mass graves.
here is the courageous attorney general of hama, resigning, and enumerating the crimes of the regime in that city.
the syrian regime's explanation: he's being forced to do this at gunpoint by terrorists and germs (their favored description of protestors). meanwhile whenever gaddafi wants to issue another mind-numbing hallucinatory rant, he puts it on syrian state television.
look. you may be unhappy with the u.s. record of international intervention. you ought to be. maybe things will now descend into more disasters in libya: a new civil war, even. but right or left, black or white, straight or gay, capitalist or communist, you've strayed too far from your basic human responses and your basic opposition to oppression - if any - if you do not feel exhilarated as you watch the people of tripoli celebrate the end of their dictatorship. there were nato airstrikes. fundamentally, though, this was something that the people did themselves, as they did in tunis and cairo, as they will do in damascus and sanaa. that's one reason this isn't vietnam or iraq. the u.s. government has a rich record of pretending that people want us there, that we are liberators, etc., while engaging in massive (though usually completely incompetent) disinformation in the service of such claims. now, does anyone believe that the situation in libya is like that? then i want some evidence, and some explanation of what we're actually seeing.