Thursday, January 29, 2009

Attention Earthlings: Please Proceed To The Emergency Exits In A Disorderly Fashion

I'm not sure if you've noticed but the world is going to hell in a handbasket. We've already had Iceland go tits up, followed by its government after a few weeks of rioting and protests. And it looks like they won't be the last. Next on the list is jolly old Britain - affectionately called "Reykjavik-on-Thames":
"The question in Britain is no longer when the economy will enter a recession, but when it will enter a depression, with many bracing for a slump that could rival the 1930s in severity. GDP fell 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, and the European Union estimates it will contract another 2.8 percent in 2009. Unemployment is projected to balloon to more than 8 percent by year's end, and an estimated 23 percent of adult Britons currently consider their debt level 'unmanageable.'"
Also up for nomination as "Country Most Likely To Go Up In Flames" are Latvia and Greece - both scenes of recent rioting - the Ukraine (which is having gas pains, thanks to the Russians), and Nicaragua - have they ever really recovered from the US' illegal war against the Sandanistas. No wonder current president - and former Sandanista leader - Daniel Ortega has said that the financial meltdown is a sign that "God is punishing the United States". Not an unreasonable suggestion but I think it more accurate to say that greedy, asshole capitalists are the real source of America's (and our) problems.
The US Army would like to add to that list Mexico, which has been engaged in an increasingly violent and destabilizing war against "narco-gangsters." The Mexicans ought to hope that they don't get the same medicine as the Pakistanis, who are also on the "nearing collapse" list of the US Army. Their prescription involves repeated military incursions by the US military and CIA, firing missiles at local leaders who the US doesn't like.
Even Israel, which the Christian Fundamentalists would have you believe is watched over by God himself as his plan for the Second Coming unfolds, has just taken a kicking at the World Economic Forum in Davos. In case you don't know, the WEF is a big capitalist jaw wag where they politely discuss how they will carve up the planet. Well, this year the Prime Minister of Turkey, Israel's closest ally, told Israeli president Shimon Peres "When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill” before storming out of a panel discussion of the Gaza crisis.
But the greatest pleasure must be the massive general strike that swept over France today. It was something of a love letter to that country's president, Nikolas Sarkozy. As I understand it the first sentence went as follows: "Dear Sarko: Get your fucking act together and do something about the collapse of capitalism. Asshole." Of course, it sounds much more romantic in French. Anyway, 70% of the population supported the general strike and something like 300,000 demonstrated in Paris so that they could blow Sarkozy a kiss live and in person.
Meanwhile, here in exciting Canada, our government managed the biggest horseshit recession budget ever - look for the neo-liberal measures to have zero impact on the recession. Not to worry about any more crises or opposition coalitions - head Opposition Knob, Michael "I love torture as long as it doesn't hurt too much" Ignatieff, has told Harper he can do what he wants as long as he sends him a memo every so often telling him what he is doing. For a guy who thinks torture's OK as a policy tool, he sure is a wimp. Well, I guess that's what you get when the most defining feature of Canadian culture, besides hockey and constitutional crises, is just how darn polite we are. Seriously people, are we really gonna let France show us up while Harper can't work up a fart to save us from our imminent doom?

The Globe & Mail's Phoney Gaza "Exposé"

You couldn't be in any doubt that the Globe and Mail were supporters of Israel, certainly not after their plaudits for Canada's lonely vote in the UN Human Rights Council against condemning Israel's "grave violations" in Gaza. Of course they even managed to justify Israel's bombing of civilians and civilian buildings with the thoroughly discredited claim that Hamas uses fellow Palestinians as human shields (not noting the irony that the Israel Defense Forces regularly use human shields,including children - despite a ruling by their own supreme court. See photos.)
The Globe's coverage also managed to miss the story that the studiously neutral International
Committee of the Red Cross condemned Israel for letting children starve next to the bodies of their dead mothers after refusing to allow ambulances to reach the wounded. Nor could I find on their website any account of the internationally covered story of Israeli soldiers shooting children carrying a white flag as a family fled - under orders from the IDF.
The Globe did manage to uncover a much more significant and important "scandal" from the war in Gaza, however. Remember how the IDF bombed that school and killed 43 civilians, many of them children? Well, it didn't happen. That's right, as the Globe says the report "doesn't stand up to scrutiny". Sure, 43 civilians were killed, many of them children. But the bombs landed outside the property line of the school. It just so happened that the civilians, fleeing under orders of the IDF, were standing outside of the school's walls, probably because they were crammed into a small school in their hundreds. So, while Israel lied about there being a sniper's nest, a mortar launching site, no casualties, and that the building was booby-trapped, the real story here is that the shells actually landed right outside the school. Besides demonstrating how utterly, utterly craven are the journalists and editors of the Globe and Mail they also raise questions about their own journalistic abilities. Every article about the school bombing that I could find, names the school al Fakhura - somehow the Globe came up with the name "Ibn Rushd Preparatory School for Boys". One wonders if the reporter was in the wrong place entirely.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Afghanistan: Anti-War President Ramps Up War

If the multiple missile strikes inside Pakistani territory didn't make the point, this article in the New York Times puts an exclamation point on it. Obama means war.
"Mr. Obama is preparing to increase the number of American troops in Afghanistan over the next two years, perhaps to more than 60,000 from about 34,000 now."
Of course, anybody who's been listening knew that Obama's strategy was always about increasing the troop commitment in Afghanistan, but the sheer hawkishness of his strategy hasn't really been so apparent. The article in the Times makes it so - no longer is there going to be the fig leaf of "development" that used to happen through the Provincial Reconstruction Teams, albeit in a half-assed, uncoordinated way that prioritized military objectives. Now, the US has "a new American approach to Afghanistan that will put more emphasis on waging war than on development." Anybody thinking of getting married in Afghanistan must be worried, since US war-making seems to include bombing a lot of wedding parties.
However, endless pain and misery for the locals aside, someone ought to tell Obama what happened to every other empire that has tried to subdue Afghanistan. It isn't for nought that Afghanistan is called the graveyard of empires. And now it looks as though, in a move eerily similar to escalation in Vietnam, the Americans are taking things out of the hands of their local puppet, who is having his video-call privileges with the President of the United States taken away. The Americans will focus on regional strongmen and brute military force to defeat the resurgent Taliban.
Where have we heard this song before?
Without a full scale invasion of Pakistan, the US and sycophantic allies like Canada, will never defeat the Afghan insurgents. But such an invasion would turn Pakistan into one more failed state as the already extensive internal rot of the Pakistani state apparatus collapses under the external and internal pressures. From battling a low tech, mostly localized insurgency within a tiny undeveloped country, the US risks opening up a front against a country with a population of 172 million and an ample supply of nuclear weapons. Yet, as dumb as this sounds, it is the Obama plan for fighting terrorism. He has just made Afghanistan his war and he risks being destroyed by it, just like Bush was destroyed by Iraq.

Monday, January 26, 2009

60 Minutes Goes Pro-Palestinian!

This is a remarkable piece of journalism in the United States of America - to show the racism and colonialism of the Israeli Occupation is almost unheard of in the mainstream media. It is definitely worth watching - I know I learned something from it. Could this be a sign that something is shifting in America viz. Israel?

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Undigested Thoughts On The Present Economic Collapse

I haven't had a chance to sort through all the elements of what I've been reading regarding present economic conditions but I wanted to get down some preliminary thoughts. It's clear that things are bad. Very bad. The UK may well be driving down the fast lane on the road to Iceland. That is, it may be approaching a situation where its insolvent banking sector is too big to allow it to fail and yet it is too big to save - ie. the government can't afford it because no one will lend them the money. Or, if they go to the IMF, the IMF may well not have sufficient money. If that were to happen, look for disaster to unfold - a collapsing currency, a government forced (according to the rules of the game) to impose austerity measures against its population, and other such notable treats, as outlined by Nouriel Roubini:
"At best, the UK faces an economic and financial crisis that will be as bad as the US one: a severe and protracted recession that could last two years with very weak growth recovery once it is over; a near insolvent financial system, most of which will be formally or informally nationalized; a large fiscal costs of budget deficits surging because of the recession and the bailout of financial institutions; a weakening currency that may risk a hard landing if the crisis is not properly managed. "
It used to be that Roubini would outline the details of what the worst case scenario was but he doesn't any more. Could it be that even "Dr. Doom" is afraid of what might happen?
But lest you think it's only Britain, we shouldn't forget America's spiralling economy. The latest figures out regarding housing starts indicate the biggest collapse since records were kept, back in 1959. Just look at the graph, it's got a drop so sharp even one of those pot-smoking rock climber hippies would shit their pants. And it doesn't look much like its bottoming out.
It could be worse, of course, you could own an import/export business in Japan. The same report(pdf) that highlighted the collapse in US housing starts also points to the collapse in Japan's imports and exports - particularly exports. 
"December imports contracted by 21.5% on the year and were up by 7.9% for 2008 as a whole, but exports fared much worse, posting respective changes of -35.0% and -3.4%. This dragged the annual trade balance down to $20.4 billion, a level not seen since 1983 and a far cry from the 2007 tally of $92.1 billion."
In the face of this kind of global collapse in demand, alongside the spreading implosion of the international financial system, it is unclear what fiscal stimulus packages, such as the one planned by our very own Tories and the stratospheric one being mooted by Obama, will actually do to save the economy.
Obama and the Tories are both trying the same halfway house measures between Keynesianism and neo-liberalism, a combination of infrastructure spending and tax cuts, as a means to try and maintain consensus within different wings of the ruling class. And while the Keynesian side of the equation is still timid, with the Tories, for instance, insisting on forms of spending that aren't permanent programs, such as healthcare or daycare. The neo-liberals, like failed presidential candidate Senator John McCain want "to make tax cuts permanent, and we need to make a commitment that there’ll be no new taxes.”
Of course this is ideology written by idiots, not true bourgeois class consciousness. After all, if they want to save their consumer driven economy, they need to get the vast majority of the population to consume. The trouble is, it is those people who are most fearful right now, facing job losses, the loss of their pensions - often tied up in investment plans that have nose-dived in value, and suffering from a debt hangover the could drop a moose. If you handout tax breaks, like Bush did in spring 2008, it has no effect on growth because the cash is applied directly towards paying down debt. Money invested in infrastructure at least buys goods - even though the companies and individuals who will be paid for those goods and their construction will also probably sink a hefty sum of their wages and profits into lowering their debt load.
And there is the rub of the problem, taking us back to Mr. Roubini. Does the US or any combination of governments acting individually have the political will or, frankly, the credit rating, to "deleverage" their nation sufficient that the debt blockage to further growth can be removed? It's not at all clear that the US can even achieve this domestically. Just look at the insatiable appetite of the banking sector scrambling for more cash, on top of the $700 billion it sucked back quicker than a light beer in a heat wave. And the banks are merely one expression of a problem worth trillions upon trillions.
And the problem is international - so if the US fixes their problem, it won't solve China's, or Iceland's or Britain's, etc. 
That's why there is no agreement on Obama's plan. Even Liberals are suggesting that it won't work, that it's not enough. And certainly, if the system continues to unwind the way that it has over the past year and a half, with housing starts in freefall, employment dropping quicker than the 1980-82 recession and the banking sector doing a fine imitation of musical chairs on the Titanic, then a program of new investment that will be smaller than the present banking bailout package, will have negligible effect. As an article in The New Republic noted, it was the massive and unprecedented spending of World War Two that ended the Great Depression.
"Most economists agree that what finally pulled the U.S. out of the Great Depression was military spending for World War II... in 1936, unemployment was still at 16.9 percent; by 1942, after two years of war spending, it was 4.7 percent, strongly indicating that it was war spending that did it. I am not suggesting that the United States start a world war in order to solve the world's economic problem. But I am suggesting a strategy that could be called the fiscal equivalent of war."
However, I would suggest, it was more than just the spending. It was also the destruction that was key. Then, like now, there was the capacity to create too many goods. It has been sustained up till now with the massive accumulation of debt. But that strategy has come to an end. Capital must be destroyed on a vast scale to re-open the vistas for further accumulation. America must reconquer her markets - and thus there are noises from the new Treasury Secretary about China's currency manipulation to sell its products to US consumers. The next step will be trade barriers. China's factories will close, creating the space for factories to open in America.
And this creative destruction will also have the effect of lowering the price of capital (and other inputs) relative to labour. Labour is the source of all profit - which isn't a natural phenomenon but merely a social creation requiring some common source of comparison, in this case labour. When the amount of investment in capital rises in relation to labour, profits tend to fall (though there are a whole number of means to countervail this, including rises in technological efficiency leading to a fall in the price of capital goods, etc). When the investment in labour rises viz the investment in capital goods, profits can also rise.
I'll stop myself here before I get too deep into a subject I can only half defend. Suffice it to say, even on the basis of the need to destroy other capital to conquer new markets or reconquer old ones - the ultimate expression of which is war - the present system is utterly mad and getting crazier every day. Surely we can come up with a better way to run the world than this.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Obama to Pakistan: "Meet The New Boss"

In the first days of Obama's presidency he has done some laudable things - his movement towards closing Guantanamo, his restoration of family planning funding to international aid groups that provide abortions, abortion referrals and abortion counseling. These are strong signals that this administration will break from the hard social conservatism of the Bush years.
But it is a very worrying sign that the other signal that has been sent out arrived on the tips of five hellfire missiles in the Pakistan Frontier Provinces. The result was more than 20 people dead, including numerous civilians. There is even dispute that the tribal leader targeted by the US - and probably killed along with several family members - was even connected with the Pakistan-based Taliban. Likely, the US attack will further destabilize the Pakistani government, certainly undermining it in the tribal areas near the Afghan border. The Pakistani parliament passed a resolution that such attacks were assaults on the sovereignty of the country.
What's especially worrying about this is that Obama stated on more than one occasion during the election campaign and the primaries that he supports unilateral action by the US military in Pakistan. Besides being illegal, it threatens the whole region, including the continued existence of Pakistan, a nuclear-armed power, as a coherent country. Of course what is really needed is for the US, Canada and NATO to get out of the region entirely. The money presently being spent to keep tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan, to bomb Afghan and Pakistani villages, and to prop up the corrupt Karzai regime and his coterie of drug pushing warlords and human rights abusers should instead be spent on real, locally controlled development aid. That would be the way to "win hearts and minds". It would open the space for greater democracy and send a message to the world that the US and its allies are really about justice and democracy - rather than imperialism, gas pipelines and bombing weddings.

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A "Fiscally Socialist Ideological Change Of Heart"

Ok, ok, wait a minute. WAIT A MINUTE! Now, let me get this straight. Stephen Harper, Canada's Conservative Prime Minister, the dude who used to head the crazy, neo-liberal, neo-conservative National Citizen's Coalition, is about to bring in the biggest federal budget deficit since, well, since Brian Mulroney.
Whoa. Isn't this the same guy who was saying during the election campaign that "we're not going into recession"? And didn't he also say his government would "not be running a deficit"
Of course, none of this indicates that Harper is dumb as a post or a liar. Nothing of the sort. It simply is a reflection of the fact that, according to Stephen, nobody knew Canada would be in a recession way back there in October. Nobody predicted it. Nobody. 
Oops, well, maybe a few people, according to this article from October 7: "Some of Canada's top economists predicted we're heading for a recession deeper and longer than anticipated, suggesting the economy may be hobbled till almost 2010."
Far be it from me to suggest that Steve was engaging in a little electioneering back in October and now, with the Liberals threatening to bring down the government, he's decided that he better look like he's doing something. However, that is the view of the right wing National Post, which wrote that "the budget and subsequent stimulus plans are a means of survival for the Conservative party, and not a fiscally socialist ideological change of heart from Stephen Harper." Whew, I was worried for a minute that the Conservatives had principles. Glad to hear that it's just about saving their fat paycheque.
Now, I leave you with a little medley of Stephen Harper's changing tune...

Bailout Cash Used To Pay Banker Bonuses

Found this little item on Clutterstock. Apparently the fat cat bankers at Bank of America, who were bleating that they needed an extra $20 billion - that's $20,000,000,000 - to help cover the costs of their takeover of Merrill Lynch, gave it to themselves as bonuses.
I've decided that the bankers really do show the way, so I've decided to put in a bid on a bank - something small, maybe a credit union. I don't want to be greedy. Then once I own that I'll ask the government to give me the money to cover the cost of my purchase - sure I'll even offer the government some dividend paying shares (in case my bank ever makes a profit that I can't hide). Luckily, the government of Canada, like that in the US, is a strong believer in the free market, so they won't want any voting shares to determine how I actually spend the money. Then I'll take the money meant to cover my purchases and I'll pay myself a big fat bonus for being so clever. Say, $50 million. 
And the great thing about this plan is that you can keep going back for more - this is the second installment that Bank of America received. It's like it says on the back of your shampoo bottle: lather, rinse, repeat. Anybody else in?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama: Change We Can Almost Believe In

Every newspaper, every TV station, every blogger, hell almost every person on the planet, was eyeballing the inaugural proceedings in "Rome" today. Obama is in and Bush is out. To have replaced that reactionary, cretinous hypocritical bastard Bush with a black man who grew up without the privileges of wealth that Dubya enjoyed - well, that was a pretty sweet sight.
And, as a black man in a nation built upon black slavery and vicious racism, Obama has an unassailable authority (at present) to be the bearer of his slogan calling for "Change we can believe in". He is intelligent and articulate and has an uncanny ability to engage with the concerns that Americans face.
Okay, all that said: let's face it, he's not that radical. In fact, he's a centre right Democrat. He wants to increase troops to Afghanistan by tens of thousands, an act that would surely destabilize Pakistan further, possibly facilitating its collapse.
Obama wants to bail out the rapidly sinking economy - but let's be clear: he's talking about throwing cash at the market in order to refloat it. Sure, there'll be some new regulations to try and keep it on the rails - but for all the tax dollars that have already been thrown at the banks and the corporations and the hundreds of billions more to come, don't expect to see the government taking any serious control in order to ensure any kind of democratic accountability. 
The state intervention that Obama is supporting - that almost all of the economic elites are supporting, many much more radically so than Obama's team - is still really just neo-liberalism by another name. Look for bailouts to include significant wage concessions from important groups of workers, like those in the auto industry. For the heads of the banks, there will be reduced bonuses this year - for auto workers, there will be cuts to health benefits, pensions, working conditions and living expenses.
And back to foreign policy, no one should forget his silence as Israel pounded the hell out of Gaza. It may be a step up from the usual "go get 'em, Israel" chorus but not by much. And his ultra-zionist chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, (whose father was a terrorist with the far right Irgun) will, I'm sure, make certain that silence will be as good as it gets in this department.
Obama has stacked his cabinet with dinosaurs and right wingers, including Republicans. He even chose a kooky, powerful, homophobic evangelist, Rick Warren, to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.
There is no doubt that Obama rode to the White House on a wave of unbridled enthusiasm and hope. You could see it in the eyes of some of the million plus that turned out for his inauguration today in Washington. People literally wept with joy, unable to believe that a black man was in the White House,  just over 45 years after the Voting Rights Act. That excitement, newfound confidence and enthusiasm could be the basis for a mighty social movement that pushes Obama beyond where his ossified cabinet would have him go. It could translate into local victories for union, anti-racist, gay rights and pro-choice struggles. It could turn the tide against the Right, who have been ascendent for too long. But to do so, that energy must not be tied to the agenda of Obama's White House. 
It wasn't Obama who created the mood in America against the war in Iraq - he responded to it. It wasn't Obama who was behind the growing sentiment that corporations and banks were screwing ordinary people. He spoke to a feeling that already existed. Obama has taken those sentiments up an incredible step to the highest post in the land. The movement that put him there must seize the opportunity that he has created to push for even more, to demand that the whole dream be fulfilled.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gaza: Was There A Winner?

It may seem crass to talk about winning and losing in the face of the Gaza slaughter, as though it were a football game. But there is good reason when one considers that the final tally of a battle or a war shapes key future events, determining the likelihood of future victories or even whether other battles will be entered into by those involved.
And it is not only those directly involved who must be considered, for a victory or defeat by the army of choice will determine future actions. It is a truism about the Middle East, for instance, that Israel's 6-day, smashing victory over three Arab armies in 1967 secured them the sponsorship of the United States, which has sustained their superior position viz. their regional competitors.
Based upon a numbers count it would seem that Israel is the definite winner. There are, after all, something like 1300 dead Palestinians, plus another 5400 wounded, with well over half of the total being accounted for by civilians, even with only women and children being counted as such. This compares to 3 dead Israeli civilians and another 10 dead soldiers, most of them killed by friendly fire, apparently.
But we can't look at the present invasion in terms of crude - and deadly - numbers.
Israel has a massive military superiority over Hamas and its allied militias, like Islamic Jihad, the PFLP and DFLP. They have F-16s, guided bombs and missiles, Merkava tanks, phosphorous shells, unmanned surveillance drones, a navy, all the latest techno gizmos, access to US satellite intelligence - not to mention, apparently, the intelligence support of Mahmoud Abbas, Israel's favourite Palestinian collaborator, and leader of Fatah. All of this ensured that a Hamas military victory over Israel was utterly impossible and Hamas seems to have been smart enough to avoid direct confrontations in the open.
Israeli political leaders had set themselves a series of goals prior to and during the operation. Since Israel initiated the present conflict, planning it far in advance, prior even to the 6 months ceasefire negotiated with Hamas, and set the terms for its victory, it must be measured against those goals. In addition, other, unintended consequences must be looked at.
Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, along with Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, have argued that the primary goal of the Gaza invasion was to stop Hamas lobbing rockets and mortars into southern Israel. If this were really the purpose of the attack, then certainly Israel has failed miserably, as demonstrated by the ceaseless firing of rockets throughout the invasion and even immediately following Israel's unilateral ceasefire. What's more, if the Israeli government wanted to end Gazan rocket fire the answer was very simple - meet the conditions of the original ceasefire negotiated with Hamas and agree to continue it. Hamas had, after all, met its terms - not only discontinuing Hamas' firing of rockets but putting a lid on rocket fire by rival militias such as Fatah and Islamic Jihad. Between June 19, when the ceasefire was agreed and November 4, when Israel launched a military raid, breaking the ceasefire, rocket and mortar fire was effectively nil (see attached pdf, p.6). It was Israel that failed to meet the terms of the ceasefire and which repeatedly provoked Hamas with attacks, arrests and killings.
The second stated goal was to prevent Hamas from re-arming. However, again, actions speak louder than words. If this were Israel's sole goal, they could have negotiated a deal with their pliant Egyptian ally or focused bombing strictly in the border region, where the smuggling tunnels exist. Nonetheless, even the head of Israel's intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, reports that the tunnel network hasn't been destroyed and that it will be up and running again in short order if Egypt doesn't clamp down.
In other words, stopping smuggling was never dependent upon bombing the hell out of Gaza - it couldn't even be effective. What was required was Egyptian cooperation. But Egypt is now less likely, not more, to agree to a politically unpopular clampdown against the Palestinians, after hundreds of thousands demonstrated in solidarity with Gaza and against the Egyptian dictatorship. That was made clear after Israel and the US signed an agreement - without telling the Egyptians - to tackle the tunnels on Egyptian soil. The Egyptian Foreign Minister responded saying that Israel and the US can "do what they wish with regard to the sea or any other country in Africa, but when it comes to Egyptian land, we are not bound by anything except the safety and national security of the Egyptian people and Egypt's ability to protect its borders." President-for-life Mubarak went on television to specifically state that foreign monitors would not be allowed in Egypt. But even if Egypt agrees to more American Army Engineers to help it police the border, or an increase in police numbers IDF officials don't believe that this will stop the smuggling. So, Israel's second policy goal is clearly a failure.
The real key for Israel was the need to restore its deterrent capability" - basically to instill fear in any and all Arabs who might think to challenge the occupation or any other Israeli strategic goals. New York Times billionaire columnist Thomas Friedman supportively referred to this as "educating" Hamas by "inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population." This was, in other words, according to Israeli supporters and critics, a terrorist operation by the state of Israel. As Norman Finklestein pointed out in a recent interview: ""The goal of the operation was to terrorize the civilian population so that Palestinians would be afraid of Israel. This is the dictionary definition of terrorism."
Has Israel restored its deterrent capability, so badly damaged by its failed war in Lebanon in 2006, and its withdrawal under duress from Gaza in 2005 and southern Lebanon in 2000? Certainly every Israeli politician, journalist and military leader is claiming this. However, if the goal was simply to impress upon Hamas that they couldn't defeat Israel militarily, this was already known. Hamas has been trying since at least 2002 to agree a long term truce with Israel, only to face Israeli bombs and targeted assassinations. Certainly by now, any Palestinian knows that it doesn't matter what you do, Israel will try to kill you.
"it is overwhelmingly Israel that kills first after a pause in the conflict: 79% of all conflict pauses were interrupted when Israel killed a Palestinian, while only 8% were interrupted by Palestinian attacks (the remaining 13% were interrupted by both sides on the same day). In addition, we found that this pattern -- in which Israel is more likely than Palestine to kill first after a conflict pause -- becomes more pronounced for longer conflict pauses. Indeed, of the 25 periods of nonviolence lasting longer than a week, Israel unilaterally interrupted 24, or 96%, and it unilaterally interrupted 100% of the 14 periods of nonviolence lasting longer than 9 days."

The irony is that this pattern almost ensures the continuation of violent resistance since even non-violence is met by Israeli attacks. At a certain point, Israel's deterrent capability is undermined by the fact that only utter defeat and an acceptance of genocide would prevent Palestinians from resisting Israel's aggression. Certainly Hamas was suitably unbowed to fire off nearly two dozen rockets after Israel's unilateral ceasefire and to demand a withdrawal within one week or they would restart hostilities. What's more, everyone can see, as they did in Lebanon in 2006, that while Israel could defeat three Arab armies in six days in 1967, after three weeks fighting a starved, blockaded, disarmed population in Gaza, the IDF didn't take more than a corner of Gaza City.
Ultimately, of course, it will be in the coming days that the interpretation of events will unfold, depending upon the actual state of Hamas and other resistance organizations. It is likely that while Arabs throughout the region will of course remember that Israel can, in fact, destroy unarmed populations, that it is possible to resist and survive. What's more, Hamas will likely be strengthened politically, while Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah organization will be fatally weakened. Israel, the US, EU and their Arab client regimes may try to hold him up but everyone knows that they are now dead as a resistance movement and thus in the eyes of the Palestinian people.
This makes it more likely that Israel will, as a result of this onslaught, be forced to recognize Hamas as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians, as will the international community. The 18 month campaign to destroy the results of the democratic election of Hamas, first by arming Fatah and fomenting a civil war and now with a direct intervention, have utterly failed.
And outside of the Middle East, Israel has managed to discredit itself even further, spurring into being a massive movement in solidarity with the Palestinians and against Israel. They have shattered the myth that Israel is the victim and the Palestinians the aggressors. This movement, the heroic resistance of the Palestinians and the images of Israel's utter brutality, which they were unable to hide, though they barred all journalists from entering Gaza, has pushed even Israel's staunchest allies to criticize them. Turkey, Israel's only Muslim ally, strongly rebuked Israel, demanding their exclusion from the UN until they implemented the Security Council resolution. Egypt, the biggest Arab nation and paid billions by the US to play with Israel, has been made even more unstable by the slaughter, creating concern for the US' major Arab bulwark in the region. Jordan recalled their ambassador in protest. And there is even suggestion in a fascinating article by Justin Raimondo that the US ruling class is growing tired of Israel's mad dog routine, which threatens US hegemony in the region by alienating Arab allies and threatening others with domestic political upheaval because of Israel's penchant for killing Arab civilians.
It's unclear how all this will pan out over the medium term. But it is clear that the Gaza operation, which Israel was forced to end before Obama's inauguration, has not all gone the way Israel hoped. It may not even go the way that Livni and Barak hoped it would in terms of their electoral prospects, with the ultra-war mongers in Likud making most of the gains from the invasion. 
Hamas and the Palestinian people will live to fight another day, with a much larger international movement, one in which the call for boycott and divestment may get a major hearing. And the whole region has been destabilized thanks to Israel's compulsive need to avoid peace at any costs. The blowback is looking to be much worse than what they started out fighting, as they have internationalized the conflict.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Toronto's Blackout: Neo-Liberal System Failure?

In case you haven't heard or lived it, Toronto's west end had a black-out beginning Thursday night and lasting for about 24 hours, on the coldest night and day of the year. Our house was in the thick of it and we were forced to endure something quite miserable. Thursday night I had to stay up from 3am till 9am tending our gas stove to keep the house warm so that my partner could get some sleep and our newborn wouldn't freeze to death. I know, I know, (well, now I know) you're not supposed to use a gas stove to heat the house because of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. Luckily our old house leaks like a sieve, so not much danger of running out of fresh air. But if running a gas stove in a house is so dangerous, why the hell is it allowed at all? I have on many occasions been cooking a big meal and had all four burners and the oven going all afternoon, including in our old duplex, which meant it was all happening on one floor. Do you mean to tell me that I could have killed us all, or made us very sick - and this is permitted? Something seems out of whack with this.
But a bigger question in all this is why the hell doesn't the Toronto electricity grid have any built in redundancies? Apparently a sprinkler went off at a transformer station near our house and they had to shut down electricity because of the flooding, turning out the power on 100,000+ people. So, let me get this straight: I could go into a transformer station with a $2 disposable lighter, hold it up to the sprinkler system and shut down all the electricity for an area and population the size of a small city? I'm glad I didn't know this when I was a mischievous and troubled teenager, the temptation might have been too great. 
Seriously, though, how can a first world city not have any back-up or extra capacity throughout the system that would allow power from other transformer stations to take up the slack? Perhaps I'm just demonstrating my ignorance by asking the question but it seems like an obvious one - especially after the disaster of the 2003 blackout. 
The answer I fear is that it is a side-effect of neo-liberalism. That is, it is more profitable to have less fail-safe systems, less redundancies built in to cover unusual - though not rare - eventualities like power lines and transformer stations knocked out by storms, fires or faulty plumbing. I suspect that the primary measure of service management is the quantity of profit that is generated for the corporation, not the service provided for the population. I haven't heard of any deaths as a result of tens of thousands of people losing heat on the coldest night of the year but it was certainly a possibility. Just down the street from us, for instance, is a seniors' home. They are particularly vulnerable to hypothermia. 
I hope that I'm wrong in my assumptions. But, if the failure of the system is the result of having created an "efficient" grid, then we should be exposing the fact that implicit in this definition of efficiency is the assumption that the risk of an "acceptable" loss of life is worth higher profits. And any human system that places profit above human life is indeed a system that has failed.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Not A Single Palestinian Has Raised His Voice Against Hamas"

This is a fascinating article in Wednesday's Jerusalem Post about the state of the of the fight against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Essentially, the article argues that Hamas, while under significant pressure from the Israeli onslaught, has yet to buckle and continues to effectively resist.
What is particularly interesting is that one of the key goals of the offensive - to break Palestinians' support for Hamas, has utterly failed.
"Although Hamas has been hit hard, not a single Palestinian in the Gaza Strip has raised his voice against the movement and its leaders. Hopes that the massive IDF operation would encourage Palestinians to revolt against a weakened Hamas have not materialized.
If anything, many Palestinians agree, the Israeli offensive has actually boosted Hamas's popularity and undermined the so-called moderates in the Arab world."
It also admits that the IDF has been about much more than destroying the "infrastructure of terror", which one would assume means military stores, training facilities, bunkers, etc. Rather, they have destroyed "scores of Hamas-linked charities and organizations that were providing the Palestinians with a vast network of social, economic, health and education services."
This is an open admission of what is clearly a war crime.
No wonder the UN - minus the utter scumbags of Canada's Tory government - are accusing Israel of doing just that and calls are growing to take Israel to the International Criminal Court for genocide.
Meanwhile, over in Latin America, both Venezuela and Bolivia have announced that they are cutting ties with Israel over their invasion in Gaza. This is a brilliant response that will hopefully build momentum towards isolating the Israeli regime.

“The U.S. Just Isn't Going Anywhere Good”

With all the death and destruction in Palestine, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the North American economy is going down the toilet.
The pre-xmas bull market has now come to an end as retail sales numbers have come in (they stank twice as bad as everyone expected) and more major financials stand on the edge of a cliff and windmill their arms.
Citigroup, a massive financial services company operating in 107 countries and with 350,000+ employees, is in a seemingly endless tailspin, cannibalizing its business divisions in a desperate effort to raise cash. It has now sold a controlling stake in “crown-jewel” investment arm, Smith Barney to Morgan Stanley. Not that this stopped its stock dropping by 23 percent in one day.
“The bank is trying hard to bolster capital after suffering $20.3 billion in losses in the year ended September 30, 2008. Since the third quarter of 2007, Citigroup has booked $45 billion in writedowns. It has received $45 billion from the government's $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, and another $20 billion in a government bailout announced in November. The US government also agreed to guarantee most of a $306 billion pool of troubled assets if losses exceed $29 billion in return of control over executive pay and limits on dividends.”
There’s an old saying that if you owe the bank $1,000, that’s your problem. But if you owe $1 million, that’s the bank’s problem. Well, apparently, if you invest in $300 billion worth of toxic debt, that’s the United States government’s problem.
And that should give Citigroup some comfort. Prior to Xmas General Electric tried to sell off its financing division for $30 billion but gave up because no one was interested. The chances of any private firms buying the toxically leveraged business components that Citi is trying to sell are next to nil. Look for the government to step in very soon to avoid a mega-Lehman's Brothers scenario unfolding.
The same day as Citigroup’s shares were digging their way to China, Nortel was declaring bankruptcy. Once Canada’s largest corporation and North America’s largest telecom equipment maker, with 95,000 employees and a value of $366 billion, it now has just 26,000 staff and a market value of $192 million.
At the peak of the tech boom, Nortel’s shares were worth $1,231. Before they were pulled off the market, they were worth 38¢. Bankruptcy protection could send the 110-year old company into a death spiral, according to analysts.
All this is happening before the US federal government announces phase two of its TARP bank bailout program – the release of another $350 billion, some of which might, finally, be used to help out drowning homeowners. With the collapse in retail spending in December, it is becoming clear that giving money to banks to stuff under the mattresses, isn’t really doing much to slow the decline of the economy. And it’s because banks are hoarding cash, rather than lending it, that any stimulus by Obama is unlikely to offset this deflationary effect. After all, the economy is dependent upon debt to keep the wheels in motion.
However, banks and consumers all face the same problem, which is that they are over-leveraged, ie. drowning in debt, and are now desperately trying to pay off credit cards, lines of credit, etc. That’s why Bush’s initial $150 billion stimulus plan, which amounted to sending cheques to taxpayers across the land had zero effect. People just plunked most of the cash against their debts, which did nothing to stimulate new growth.
And so the economy has continued to fall, losing 2.6 million jobs in 2008, the biggest annual drop since World War Two, pushing the unemployment rate to 7.2%. Here in Canada the Conference Board is predicting our unemployment rate will hit 8% by the end of this year and that house prices will fall by 10 percent.
But, since every prediction by the big wigs of the economy world has so far been way off the mark, I wouldn’t start planning your purchase of a sea-faring yacht for 2010 just yet.
Nouriel Roubini, who has so far been the most prescient of mainstream economists regarding the depths of the recession, predicting it in advance of everyone else, suggests that there is a decent chance of an “L-shaped” recession. That is, it bottoms out and stays there like the heart monitor on a dead man.
”The credit crunch will persist and spread beyond mortgages. Deleveraging will continue, as thousands of hedge funds -- many of which will go bust -- and other leveraged players are forced to sell assets into illiquid and distressed markets, thus causing price declines and driving more insolvent financial institutions out of business. Credit losses will mount as the recession deepens. And a few emerging-market economies will certainly enter a full-blown financial crisis.”
With US house prices predicted to collapse up to 40% and housing starts in utter freefall, it’s hard to see what it will take to end the present spiral. Certainly, Obama’s stimulus plan will help offset a total collapse in the economy but it creates its own problems by increasing the US debt to unimaginable levels. No one knows how that will effect confidence in the dollar, for instance, or whether major sovereign funds, like China, will start to get nervous about the solvency of the US government and sell its massive holdings in US debt.
If everything goes according to plan, which is what the economic thinktanks, economists and government bureaucrats base their estimates on, there will be another year of painful recession. But if things go awry – more major financials like Citibank fail, a series of big corporate bankruptcies add to the quantity of toxic debt and loss of consumer spending power – we could be facing something much worse.
This is a definite possibility. As one financial consultant put it: “I think there's going to be a tsunami of restructurings."
"I think the next three months will determine the fates of a lot of the major retailers," said Robert McMahon, managing director for restructuring at General Electric Co's (GE.N) GE Corporate Lending. "Casino and gaming will continue to feel stress, as will casual dining and newspapers," he added.
Whatever the final outcome of the present disaster, it hasn’t been so clear in a long time that capitalism is about the dumbest way to run an economy. The whole model of driving down wages over the past generation has meant that the only way to sustain economic growth has been on the basis of debt – whether government, corporate or consumer. That chicken is now coming home to roost.
A system that allocated resources and products on the basis of what is needed and where, something only possible with a fully democratized economy, would eliminate the absurdity of the global casino, which encourages dangerous speculative bubbles in housing, tech gizmos or even tulip bulbs.

Greece Cancels US Arms Shipment To Israel

It was recently revealed that a suspiciously large shipment of weapons was conveniently headed for Israel, perhaps to be used to replenish that country's stocks, depleted from blowing up Palestinian schools. 
Outrage spread throughout Greece. No doubt memories of Greece being a colony of Turkey, along with a strong left tradition and militant unions, makes that country deeply unfriendly to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The conservative New Democracy government in Greece is already up a creek over the recent shooting of a Greek youth that led to mass protests, school occupations and rioting. The Prime Minister was forced to fire cabinet members and the government is looking shakier by the day. The last thing they want is to give their people one more reason to throw the unpopular government out on their asses. They duly canceled the right of the US to use the Greek port of Astakos and denied any knowledge.
Way to go Greeks - though I still hope they toss out the government. Protesters still plan to hold a demonstration outside the port, with the support of the dock workers union.

Peace, Propaganda & The Promised Land: Media & The Israel-Palestine Conflict

This video was sent to me and is worth the watch. An interesting look at the issues involved and coverage of them in US media vs other countries and the means by which events are spun to meet Israel's military and occupation needs.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Israel: A Nation In Decline? Discuss

Generally attention is rightly focused on Israel's many crimes in the Gaza Strip. But this editorial by Alexander Cockburn on the widely read argues that the Gaza offensive is also a sign of Israel's decline. Cockburn quotes approvingly Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, from an interview prior to the invasion, who makes the same point. It's worth quoting at length:
"But since ’82, 26 years ago, Israel has not won any war. They did not defeat the Palestinian resistance, and they did not defeat the Lebanese resistance. Since that time, Israel has not expanded but has contracted. They have withdrawn from southern Lebanon and from Gaza. These are indicators that the future is not favorable to Israel. Then today Israel, with all its military capabilities – conventional and unconventional – are not enough to guarantee Israel’s security. Today, with all these capabilities, they can’t stop a simple rocket from being launched from Gaza."

Oddly enough, from the opposite end of the spectrum, that crazed zionist wingnut Daniel Pipes suggested back in 2004 that Israel was in decline:
"In its early decades, Israel's strategic prowess was legendary, transforming a weak country into a regional powerhouse. The past decade has seen the opposite process, whereby that powerhouse reduces itself to a tempting target. "

You gotta hand it to Pipes, he was pointing out Israel's decline a couple of years before the 2006 Lebanon fiasco. And Israel's present attempt to eliminate that embarrassment hasn't changed Pipes' mind. In a January 11 editorial in the Jerusalem Post he attacks the present Gaza offensive and comes to the devastating conclusion that "no one at the upper echelons of Israel's political life articulates the imperative for victory. For this reason, I see Israel as a lost polity, one full of talent, energy, and resolve but lacking direction."
Pretty strong words.
Pipes also points to an interesting paper by Anthony Cordesman for the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, entitled "Tactical Gains, Strategic Defeat?" Cordesman, Senator John McCain's former national security assistant and the former director of intelligence assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, is a thoroughly mainstream, relatively high level analyst in the US state machine with a long resume. His arguments are equally stark and worth quoting at length:
"This raises a question that every Israeli and its supporters now needs to ask. What is the strategic purpose behind the present fighting? After two weeks of combat Olmert, Livni, and Barak have still not said a word that indicates that Israel will gain strategic or grand strategic benefits, or tactical benefits much larger than the gains it made from selectively striking key Hamas facilities early in the war. In fact, their silence raises haunting questions about whether they will repeat the same massive failures made by Israel’s top political leadership during the Israeli-Hezbollah War in 2006. Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal or at least one it can credibly achieve? Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel’s actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process?
"To blunt, the answer so far seems to be yes. To paraphrase a comment about the British government’s management of the British Army in World War I, lions seem to be led by donkeys. If Israel has a credible ceasefire plan that could really secure Gaza, it is not apparent. If Israel has a plan that could credibly destroy and replace Hamas, it is not apparent. If Israel has any plan to help the Gazans and move them back towards peace, it is not apparent. If Israel has any plan to use US or other friendly influence productively, it not apparent."

The fact that there is a growing sense of unease and dismay amongst Israel's strongest supporters, even as Zionism's opponents detect important weaknesses should hearten those of us who want to see a just peace in the Middle East. It will only be through a series of defeats for Israel, on multiple levels and not just the military, that such a peace is possible.

Israeli Soldiers Refuse Gaza Service

Apparently a group of 10 Israeli soldiers would rather do time in jail than join in the killing frenzy taking place in Gaza.
No'em Levna, a first lieutenant in Israel's army, refused to serve in Gaza, saying, "We killed 900 Palestinians in 17 days, including hundreds of children.
"If violence must be used, it should be used minimally, and that isn't what’s happening," he added. "Killing innocent civilians cannot be justified. Nothing justifies this kind of killing. It’s devilish.
"It is Israeli arrogance based on logic. It’s saying, 'if we hit more, everything will be okay,'" he said. "But the hatred and anger we are planting in Gaza will rebound on us."

Monday, January 12, 2009

Israel Bans Arab Parties, Supports Ethnic Cleansing

Perhaps it shouldn’t be any surprise given the present wholesale slaughter but then Israel likes to tell the world, particularly Europe and North America that they’re the only democratic country in a region ruled by despots and hereditary monarchs.
It makes it all the more interesting then that Israel’s Central Electoral Committee has just banned Arab parties. Mixed parties, like the Communist Party, are OK. Jewish parties are OK. But those Arabs – well, they’re traitors, aren’t they?
“Parliament spokesman Giora Pordes said the election committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of the motion, accusing the country's Arab parties of incitement, supporting terrorist groups and refusing to recognize Israel's right to exist.”
The motion was put forward by a far-right party. That it won support amongst Israel’s mainstream parties shows just how far Israel’s colonialism has caused the nation’s political consciousness to degenerate towards ethnic authoritarianism.
But then, the plan from the beginning has always been to “spirit the penniless Arab population” across the border and out of Israel, as Zionism’s founder Theodor Herzl put it. And that’s still the attitude today.
A poll in March of 2008 found that 76% of Israeli Jews support the idea of transferring the Israeli Arab population out of the country should a Palestinian state be founded.
“…29% said all Israeli Arabs should relocate. An additional 19% said only Arabs living in close proximity to the Palestinian state should relocate, and 28% said transfer should be decided based on loyalty or disloyalty to the State of Israel.”
The Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, echoed this sentiment in December, just two weeks before the Operation Cast Lead began in Gaza. In an interview with Army Radio, reported in Haaretz, Livni stated:
“Once a Palestinian state is established, I can come to the Palestinian citizens, whom we call Israeli Arabs, and say to them ‘you are citizens with equal rights, but the national solution for you is elsewhere.’”
This is of no great controversy in Israel. It was founded on the basis of expulsion. As Benny Morris, the “left wing” Zionist historian argued in a 2004 Haaretz interview:
“Ben-Gurion was a transferist. He understood that there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst. There would be no such state. It would not be able to exist…Ben-Gurion was right. If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here."
Based upon that logic, it is no small stretch for him to say the following in the same interview:
“The Israeli Arabs are a time bomb. Their slide into complete Palestinization has made them an emissary of the enemy that is among us. They are a potential fifth column…”
After all, the goal is to maintain a “democratic, Jewish” state. Unfortunately, there is the small matter of all those pesky Arabs living inside Israel – 20% of the population and growing.
And more than that, there’s another 3.7 million Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories, meaning that the number of people living under Israeli rule at the present is only slightly more than 50% Jewish. Fortunately for the “democratic, Jewish” state the majority of Palestinians under their rule have no vote, no civil rights and don’t even have independent control of their tax collection.
Not very democratic.
However, in Gaza there is a thriving democracy. In 2006, under the watch of international monitors and the basis of one-person, one-vote, the population of the Gaza Strip elected Hamas as the majority party in their Legislative Assembly.
Perhaps that example of democracy at work is part of what Israel wants to eliminate.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Photos From Toronto Demo

It was hard to say but there were certainly several thousand people outside the Israeli consulate this very chilly morning, demanding an end to Israel's slaughter in Gaza. Our whole house made it out to the rally - including my daughter Beatrice. It was the first protest for our little rebel grrl.

Jorge, Ian, Kathryn & Bea, Silja

Kathryn, my partner, & Baby Bea
Beautiful placard design
The Toronto Coalition to Stop the War placards - putting the heat on our Prime Minister

Now this, this was my favourite placard. Someone should do one with Stephen Harper.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Newest Spectator Sport

Sometimes it's tough living in the suburbs, trying to find something to do. Everything's so homogenized and alienating and you can only wander around the shopping malls so many times, right?
When I was a kid my grandparents used to take us to the airport to do some planespotting. I shit you not. We'd sit on the road at the end of the runway and watch planes take-off, taking turns with the binoculars, while they smoked cigarettes. It was a nice way to spend time with my grandparents and the memory has obviously stayed with me - even if it's kind of a weird past-time now when I think about it.
Well, if you're in Israel you don't have to watch anything so boring as some dumb old jumbo jets taking off, flying people to Disney World in Florida. No, you can set up your lawn chair and watch the Israeli Army and Air Force slaughter unarmed Palestinian civilians. "Forget snuff films, honey. We're taking the kids to Gaza to see it live!"

IDF Leaves Wounded Children To Starve

The Israeli Defense Forces likes to big-up its commitment to "purity of arms". Well, allow me to suggest that this is just more of the usual horseshit. As proof for my claim I could point to any of a number of massacres of civilians by the IDF, the bombing of schools, aid convoys, what-have-you.
However, this particularly despicable incident says it all. There is coverage also in The Guardian newspaper in the UK, which adds to previous coverage of the incident, in which Israeli troops ordered up to 100 members of the same family to take shelter in a house in Zeitoun and then repeatedly shelled it killing dozens. But it doesn't end there:
The Red Cross workers found the small children, who were so weak they could not stand, sheltering next to the bodies of their mothers in a house in Zeitoun, southeast of Gaza City. Another man was found alive, but again too weak to stand. At least 12 bodies were lying on mattresses.
In another house nearby they found 15 survivors, several of whom were wounded. There were three more bodies in a third house. On Wednesday, a Palestinian volunteer with the Red Crescent who was in the same convoy described seeing dozens of dead bodies. Among those killed when the houses were shelled on Monday were three small boys, all from the Samouni family.
The Red Cross said Israeli soldiers were posted just 80 metres away and had several positions nearby, including two tanks.
It was a "shocking incident," said Pierre Wettach, head of the Red Cross delegation for Israel and the Palestinian territories. "The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestine Red Crescent to assist the wounded," he said.
I'm not sure where the purity of arms comes into play, or "fighting terrorist infrastructure". It seems that the Israelis have decided that Palestinian children are part of this infrastructure.

Norwegian Train Drivers Strike For Gaza

From the Stop the War Coaition in the UK:

The Norwegian Locomotive Drivers Union has shown what trade
unions in Britain should be doing now: taking action in
support of the Palestinians in Gaza.
On Thursday 8 January all trains in the whole of Norway, and
all trams and subways in Oslo, stood still for two minutes in
protest against the Israeli invasion. The union issued the
following information for passengers:
Because of the situation in the Gaza Strip, the Locomotive
Drivers Union in Norway has decided to demonstrate our
solidarity with the Palestinian people. This will be organised
by adding two more minutes of stoppage at the station. The
same action applies to all passenger trains in Norway
simultaneously. We demand the immediate withdrawal of all
Israeli troops from the Palestinian territory. Thank you for
your understanding.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Newsflash: I'm Smarter Than Dick Cheney

I never really thought of myself as world leader material but I've decided that perhaps I should rethink my present career path. I've resolved tomorrow to speak with a jobs counsellor and see how I might get on the fast track to US president - who wants to be Prime Minister after Stephen Harper? Just thinking about sleeping in the same bed as he did at 24 Sussex gives me the heebies. The US is a much bigger country, I feel confident that they get a new mattress AND new sheets with every new president. And just think of all those weapons I'd have access to? I'd like to see Visa collect my overdue payment when I'm president of the United States of America.
What gave me the idea was an interview with the outgoing vice president of the United States, a certain Dick Cheney. Perhaps you've heard of him? He was rumoured to be the brains behind Bush for these past 8 years. Bush is an underachieving, talentless dolt with family connections up the wazoo. Not dissimilar to Paris Hilton in that sense. Well, it turns out the brains behind this operation is dumb as a post.

Exhibit A: See the little black spots on that man's badly bruised face. Cheney was quail hunting and shot his buddy in the kisser. That's some kinda dumb - so dumb it even has a 
Wikipedia page. Seriously Darwin awards material. I mean, the dude probably deserved it. Who else but a rich, right-wing asshole would go quail hunting with Dick Cheney?Getting off with a little bird shot in the face is a pretty good roll of the karma dice, in my opinion.

Exhibit B: When asked about whether Bush responded well to the current nuclear meltdown of the capitalist system, the second in command had this to say: "I don't think anybody saw it coming." What a knob. I was forecasting it in August, 2007 and followed it up with another post in January, 2008. If I'd had a blog before then I'd have said something even sooner. Did anybody listen? No. Silly fools.
The lesson is clear: if I were president of the United States, you'd all be a helluva a lot better off. Shit, I'd cancel all your mortgages, nationalize the banks and give everyone under a hundred grand a big, fat raise. 
Now that's change you can believe in.

Israeli Dog Worth More Than A Palestinian Child

Pity the people of Sderot. Sure, the Hamas rockets - which were silent during the period of the ceasefire that Israel broke - almost never hit anyone. But sometimes they do hit people's pets - or even stray animals. Israel, being a humane society (no pun intended) can't bear the thought of a poor injured animal, so the Agriculture Ministry has agreed to pay for the treatment of pets who are injured by rocket fire. Even stray animals will be treated and, one presumes, released back out to eat from neighbourhood garbage cans, carry disease, etc.
Perhaps the Israelis are sending a message to the Palestinians that they'd be better off if they just accepted a role as pets for Israelis. Why else would Israel refuse to cover the costs of injuries that Palestinians received from Israeli bombs? And, of course, Hamas doesn't even have access to Palestinian tax revenues to pay to treat Israeli-caused injuries since Israel has refused to hand over Palestinian taxes and other revenues since Hamas was democratically elected in 2006.
In any case, it's clear that an Israeli dog is worth more than a Palestinian child.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Jewish Women Arrested And Released

The 8 women who occupied the Israeli consulate in Toronto were handcuffed and taken to a waiting police van outside but were then released. The symbolic action achieved its goal of getting media coverage for the fact that many Jews oppose Israel's actions in Gaza.
Kudos to them for their actions. And let's keep up the pressure:


*WHEN: 11am Saturday January 10, 2009
*WHERE: Israeli Consulate, 180 Bloor St West, Toronto.

As the Israeli ground, air and sea assault continues on the civilian population of Gaza – we need to continue mobilizing against these war crimes.

At least 540 Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured in the single largest massacre in Gaza since Israel illegally occupied the area in 1967.

These latest war crimes occur in the context of official Canadian complicity with Israel's illegal siege, bombardment and starvation of the civilian population in Gaza. We must denounce this on-going support - including the intensification of bilateral military, political and economic links between
Canada and Israel. Palestinian civil society continues to urge solidarity in the form of a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign until Israel complies with international law. This is the time for people of conscience to take up this call from Palestine.

Last Saturday, over 10,000 people rallied in Toronto in the largest Palestine solidarity demonstration in decades. This coming Saturday, millions of people across the globe will return to the streets in internationally coordinated demonstrations against the Israeli onslaught.

Join us this Saturday to demand that the Canadian government call for an immediate halt to Israel's attacks and an end to the siege of Gaza!

Palestine House

Demonstration Organized By:

Palestine House
Canadian Arab Federation
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid
Canadian Union of Public Employee (Ontario)
Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Canadian Peace Alliance
Toronto Coalition to Stop the War
Not in Our Name – Jewish Voices Opposing Zionism
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network Toronto
Indpendent Jewish Voices
Yosher – Jewish Social Justice Network
Women In Solidarity with Palestine
Muslim Unity
Educators for Peace and Justice
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
Near East Cultural and Educational Foundation
Canadian Forum for Justice and Peace in Sri Lanka
Muslim Association of Hamilton
Canadian Druze Society
Canadian Syrian Cultural Club
Al Huda
Canadian Shia Muslims Organization
Worker to Worker Canada Cuba Solidarity Network
Somali Canadian Diaspora Alliance
Science for Peace
Bayan – Canada
Bengali Student Association
McMaster Muslims for Peace and Justice
Arab Students Association at Ryerson University

Please send further organizational endorsements to:

Jewish Women Occupy Israeli Consulate in Toronto

Toronto: Wednesday January 8, 2009 Time: 10:25 am

A diverse group of Jewish Canadian women are currently occupying the Israeli consulate at 180 Bloor Street West in Toronto. This action is in protest against the on-going Israeli assault on the people of Gaza.

The group is carrying out this occupation in solidarity with the 1.5 million people of Gaza and to ensure that Jewish voices against the massacre in Gaza are being heard. They are demanding that Israel end its military assault and lift the 18-month siege on the Gaza Strip to allow humanitarian aid into the territory.

Israel has been carrying out a full-scale military assault on the Gaza Strip since December 27, 2008. At least 660 people have been killed and 3000 injured in the air strikes and in the ground invasion that began on January 3, 2009. Israel has ignored international calls for a ceasefire and is refusing to allow food, adequate medical supplies and other necessities of life into the Gaza Strip.

Protesters are outraged at Israel′s latest assault on the Palestinian people and by the Canadian government′s refusal to condemn these massacres. They are deeply concerned that Canadians are hearing the views of pro-Israel groups who are being represented as the only voice of Jewish Canadians. The protesters have occupied the consulate to send a clear statement that many Jewish-Canadians do not support Israel′s violence and apartheid policies. They are joining with people of conscience all across the world who are demanding an end to Israeli aggression and justice for the Palestinian people.

The group includes: Judy Rebick, professor; Judith Deutsch, psychoanalyst and president of Science for Peace; B.H. Yael, filmmaker; Smadar Carmon, an Canadian Israeli peace activist and others.

Spokespersons for the group will be outside the Israeli consulate.

For more information contact:
Dr. Miriam Garfinkle
Phone: 416-731-6605

Cathy Gulkin
Phone: 416-697-0768

Judy Rebick
Phone: 647-388-1053

York University v. CUPE 3903

Major Union Leader Renews Israel Boycott Call

Sid Ryan, leader of the Ontario section of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the province's largest union, has renewed calls for a boycott against Israeli academics. He says that those academics who don't denounce Israel's assault on the Islamic University in Gaza ought to be prevented from speaking at Ontario universities.
Already there is the usual, expected hullaballoo from the various Israel-supporting Jewish organizations, including the pathetic old slander that attacking Israel is anti-Semitic. Bernie Farber, head of the CJC, has been throwing this about so long you'd think he'd get tired of it himself by now - but of course, the identification of Jewishness with Israel is a key prop of the Zionist regime.
Sadly, it is one that is supported by the scumbags and fundamentalist nutjobs in the Tory Party who run the Canadian government at the moment. MP Peter Kent, the junior foreign minister in the Conservative government has come out with statements even more crazily pro-Israel than the neo-con crazies who run the outgoing Whitehouse. Not an easy feat as you can imagine.
Kent's response to Israel's bombardment of a UN school, killing 30+ civilians, including children, is simply more of the usual vile anti-Arab racism typical of Israel and its supporters:
“We really don't have complete details yet, other than the fact that we know that Hamas has made a habit of using civilians and civilian infrastructure as shields for their terrorist activities, and that would seem to be the case again today,” he said in an interview.
He added: “In many ways, Hamas behaves as if they are trying to have more of their people killed to make a terrible terrorist point.”

As Robert Fisk points out, this is all of the usual fare for Israel and its pathetic hangers-on:
"I write the following without the slightest doubt: we'll hear all these scandalous fabrications again. We'll have the Hamas-to-blame lie – heaven knows, there is enough to blame them for without adding this crime – and we may well have the bodies-from-the-cemetery lie and we'll almost certainly have the Hamas-was-in-the-UN-school lie and we will very definitely have the anti-Semitism lie. And our leaders will huff and puff and remind the world that Hamas originally broke the ceasefire. It didn't. Israel broke it, first on 4 November when its bombardment killed six Palestinians in Gaza and again on 17 November when another bombardment killed four more Palestinians."

Luckily, the tide is turning against this lot - as masses of people take to the streets internationally, including 10,000 in Toronto last weekend, with another demonstration this Saturday. Even the leader of Britain's third party, the Liberal Democrats, has called for a suspension of arms sales to Israel and has condemned the assault. In Venezuela, good old Chavez has sent the Israeli ambassador packing in protest against the assault on Gaza. And never one to miss an opportunity to have a poke at the imperialists, Chavez offered his opinion of Israel's military: "They are cowards - bombing innocent people. What great soldiers they are, how brave the soldiers of Israel are."
Back here in Canada, the cant of Jewish "leaders" like Mr. Farber is thankfully being undermined by some of the youth of the Jewish community. Over at YayaCanada, there is "An Open Letter From Anti-Zionist Youth in Canada", signed by dozens. It deserves to be promoted widely and reads, in part:
"We are calling for a solidarity that stretches beyond borders and nationalities. Israel's violent actions will only serve to further isolate the state and its citizens from the rest of the world. By calling itself a Jewish state and committing war crimes in the name of Jews everywhere, Israel makes the world even less safe for Jews, leading to an increase in animus towards Jewish people around the world."

Such courage on the part of Ryan, the anti-Zionist youth and even from the leader of Britain's Lib Dems, gives me hope that the tide truly is turning against Israel with this latest round of atrocities. No longer can it expect to get away so easily with murder. With any luck, this latest stupidity will help to drive a stake through the heart of our wretched Conservative government.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

US Runs Block For Israel At UN

As the Israeli genocide machine levels schools with children and civilians inside, the Americans run block for them at the UN:

"Indeed, Israeli paper Haaretz is quoting sources at the UN who say Khalilzad had been ordered by the State Department to “torpedo any initiative proposed by the Arab bloc which is designed to grant the Security Council the status of an official arbiter that will have direct involvement with disentangling the Gaza crisis.”

Khalilzad is a long-time neo-conservative, ultra-right wing scumbag, an original signatory to the Project for a New American Century, ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, advisor to Unocal oil, analyst for the Rand Corporation. He's definitely a good follow-up UN ambassador, after John "Wally Walrus" Bolton - the ultra-right, anti-UN nutjob and John Negroponte, organizer of Central American death squads.

Don't Join The Military

Here's a little stop-motion short film that my partner and I put together, starring myself and Manuel Rodriguez. It's done OK on youtube but, damn, it's a magnet for a lot of vitriolic pro-war comments on the youtube site. If nothing else, reading what the pro-war crowd writes can give you a disturbing insight into right wing Americans.

Norman Finklestein On Crisis In Gaza

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