Monday Reads

Good Morning!

It’s really hard for me to focus on much other than the bombing that’s going on between Gaza and Israel at the moment.  The carnage is getting to me.

An Israeli bomb pummeled a home deep into the ground here Sunday afternoon, killing 11 people, including nine in three generations of a single family, in the deadliest single strike since the cross-border conflict between Israel and the militant faction Hamas escalated on Wednesday.

The airstrike, along with several others that killed civilians across this coastal territory and hit two media offices here — one of them used by Western TV networks — further indicated that Israel was striking a wider range of targets.

Gaza health officials reported that the number of people injured here had nearly doubled to 600 by day’s end; the Palestinian death toll climbed to 70, including 20 children. Three Israelis have been killed and at least 79 wounded by continued rocket fire into southern Israel and as far north as Tel Aviv, as Israeli cities were paralyzed by an onslaught of relentless rocket fire out of Gaza for the fifth straight day.

In the Israeli strike on Sunday morning, it took emergency workers and a Caterpillar digger more than an hour to reveal the extent of the devastation under the two-story home of Jamal Dalu, a shop owner. Mr. Dalu was at a neighbor’s when the blast wiped out nearly his entire family: His sister, wife, two daughters, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren ages 2 to 6 all perished under the rubble, along with two neighbors, an 18-year-old and his grandmother.

Reporters without Borders have condemned Israeli air strikes on members of the press located in a building in Gaza.  The building houses members of the international press.

At around 2 a.m. today, Israeli warplanes fired several missiles at the Al-Shawa Wa Hassri Tower, a building in the Gaza City neighborhood of Rimal that houses local and international media organizations. Around 15 reporters and photographers wearing vests with the word “TV Press” were on the building’s roof at the time, covering the Israeli air strikes.

Five missiles destroyed the 11th-floor offices used by Al-Quds TV. The station said six journalists were injured, four of them Al-Quds employees – Darwish Bulbul, Khadar Al-Zahar, Muhammad al-Akhras and Hazem al-Da’our. The other two were identified as Hussein Al-Madhoun, a freelance photographer working for the Ma’an news agency, and Ibrahim Labed, a reporter for the Palestinian news agency SAFA. Zahar’s condition was described as critical after one of his legs had to be amputated.

At around 7 a.m., three Al-Aqsa TV employees were seriously injured when two missiles were fired at the Al-Shourouk building, also known as the “journalists’ building.” A spokesperson for the Israel Defence Forces said on the @IDFSpokesperson Twitter account that the air strike had targeted a Hamas communication centre.

Among the local and international media whose offices were damaged by Israeli missiles were Sky News Arabia, the German TV station ARD, the Arab TV stations MBC and Abu Dhabi TV, Al-Arabiya, Reuters, Russia Today and the Ma’an news agency.

Information was also one of the victims of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009 (read the RWB report). At the time, Reporters Without Borders condemned Israel’s decision to declare the Gaza Strip a “closed military zone” and deny access to journalists working for international media. The IDF also targeted pro-Hamas media during Operation Cast Lead.

Meanwhile, Benjamin Netanyahu Says Israel Is ‘Prepared for a Significant Expansion’ of Conflict in Gaza.

On Sunday, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, indicated that he intended to take on additional targets. “We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the terrorist organizations and the Israel Defense Forces are prepared for a significant expansion of the operation,” he said, referring to the 75,000 reservists who have been put on call for what many believe is a planned ground invasion. Meanwhile, Israel’s Iron Dome defense system successfully deflected another Hamas rocket aimed at Tel Aviv.

The UN Secretary General is calling for a cease-fire.  Ban Ki Moon is headed for Cairo.  Glenn Greenwald–writing for the UK Guardian–has written that the US cannot pretend it’s being neutral.

Obama continues to defend Israel’s free hand in Gaza, causing commentators like Jeffrey Goldberg  to gloat , not inaccurately: ” Barack Obama  hasn’t turned against Israel. This is a big surprise to everyone who has not paid attention for the last four years” (indeed, there are few more compelling signs of how dumb and misleading US elections are than the fact that the only criticism of Obama on Israel heard over the last year in the two-party debate was the grievance that Obama evinces insufficient fealty – rather than excessive fealty – to the Israeli government). That the Netanyahu government knows that any attempt to condemn Israel at the UN would be instantly blocked by the US is a major factor enabling them to continue however they wish. And, of course, the bombs, planes and tanks they are using are subsidized, in substantial part, by the US taxpayer.

If one wants to defend US support for Israel on the merits – on the ground that this escalating Israeli aggression against  a helpless population  is just and warranted – then one should do so. As I  wrote on Thursday , it’s very difficult to see how those who have cheered for Obama’s foreign policy could do anything but cheer for Israeli militarism, as they are grounded in the same premises.

I agree with Robert Reich who says we should stop obsessing over the Federal Budget Deficit.

The best way to generate jobs and growth is for the government to spend more, not less. And for taxes to stay low – or become even lower – on the middle class.

(Higher taxes on the rich won’t slow the economy because the rich will keep spending anyway. After all, being rich means spending whatever you want to spend. By the same token, higher taxes won’t reduce their incentive to save and invest because they’re already doing as much saving and investing as they want. Remember: they’re taking home a near record share of the nation’s total income and have a record share of total wealth.)

Why don’t our politicians and media get this? Because an entire deficit-cutting political industry has grown up in recent years – starting with Ross Perot’s third party in the 1992 election, extending through Peter Petersen’s Institute and other think-tanks funded by Wall Street and big business, embracing the eat-your-spinach deficit hawk crowd in the Democratic Party, and culminating in the Simpson-Bowles Commission that President Obama created in order to appease the hawks but which only legitimized them further.

Myanmar (Burma) has had some terrible human rights violations in its recent past.  President Obama is visiting the tiny Southeastern Asian nation and will be urging the country’s power brokers to change their ways.

“You gave us hope,” Obama will say in a speech in Myanmar, according to excerpts of his remarks released by the White House during his visit to Bangkok, Thailand, the first stop on a three-day trip to the region. “And we bore witness to your courage.”

In a daytime stop expected to last only six hours, Obama is set to meet with President Thein Sein in the former capital of Yangon. He’ll also visit opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s most popular political figure, at her lakeside home where she spent more than 15 years confined under house arrest.

Obama eased sanctions on Myanmar this year after Thein Sein engaged with his political opponents and eased media restrictions since his party won a 2010 election that ended five decades of direct military rule in the country, formerly known as Burma. The visit also reflects a legacy-building goal for a president about to enter a second term, whose early efforts at engagement and democratization have yielded mixed results.

Obama will visit Nobel Peace Prize Winner Daw Aung Suu Kyi during his visit.

He made a point of not only scheduling a meeting at the government headquarters with President Thein Sein but also a personal pilgrimage to the home of the opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, where she was confined under house arrest for most of two decades before her release two years ago. Amid the manicured lawn and well-tended garden outside the elegant two-story lakeside house, the president and the Nobel-winning dissident planned to stand side by side celebrating change that once seemed unimaginable.

While local leaders attribute the changes so far to internal factors and decisions, Mr. Obama was eager to claim a measure of credit. He has played nursemaid to the opening of Myanmar, formerly and still known by many as Burma, by sending the first American ambassador in 22 years, easing sanctions and meeting with Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi in Washington.

Later Monday he was to announce the return of the United States Agency for International Development along with $170 million for projects over the next two years, noting that in his inaugural address he had vowed to reach out to those “willing to unclench your fist.”

“So today, I have come to keep my promise and extend the hand of friendship,” read the text of prepared remarks to be delivered at the University of Yangon. He promised to “help rebuild an economy” and develop new institutions that can be sustained. “The flickers of progress that we have seen must not be extinguished — they must become a shining north star for all this nation’s people.”

So, this was a bit of a headline dump this morning, but I have to admit that my eyes have been fixed on what’s going on in the world right now.  Hopefully, we can all stay up to date on these important headlines.  I’m going to go light some candles and burn some incense and think peace.  Hopefully, if enough of us do that, some of those world leaders will get the message.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

Some of us have been watching Al Jazeera live on-line a lot lately. Suddenly Comcast wants to get into the act, so they are holding talks with the Arab network about putting them on U.S. cable TV.

Al Jazeera confirmed in a press release earlier this week it was meeting with Comcast on Tuesday about adding the 24/7 Al Jazeera English news network to Comcast’s cable lineup.

In 2006, the English-language version of Al Jazeera pushed hard get on Comcast’s lineup up but lost that battle.

Al Jazeera says it can also be seen in local markets in Vermont, Ohio and Washington, D.C. A deal with Comcast would give it a huge national imprint, and force Comcast’s competitors to follow suit.

Al-Jazeera’s Washington bureau chief Abderrahim Foukara made his own plea on Tuesday in Time magazine.

“The hope is that after what people have been able to see on Al Jazeera in its coverage of Egypt, that cable companies may not just see the material benefits of having Al Jazeera available, but also the wisdom,” he told Time in an interview.

Wouldn’t it be great if the channel *replaced* Fox News? Anyway, that’s my good news story for today.

Yesterday, Dakinikat posted audio of a prank phone call made to Wisconsin’s wacky governor, Scott Walker by a gonzo blogger from upstate NY who pretended to be David Koch of the notorious Koch brothers.

Now Horrible John Hinderaker at Powerline is fighting back (warning: right wing blog). The left is waging “war” against the Koch Brothers and Hineraker has set himself up as their defender.

The most extraordinary story in the news these days is the all-out assault that the Left is mounting against Charles and David Koch and their company, Koch Enterprises. A day doesn’t go buy–hardly an hour goes by–without some new attack being launched against these two lonely libertarians.

Why? Simply because they are rich–their company is one of the best-run and most successful in the world–and conservative. The Left is trying to drive them out of politics and, more important, to deter any other people of means from daring to support conservative politicians or causes.

Awwwww….those poor, poor babies.

According to the Washington Post, Walker himself is “urging others to take stands against unions.” I guess he doesn’t want to be out on that limb by himself, and he doesn’t realize that the more governors are out there with him, the sooner the limb will break off and send them all crashing to the ground. Oh, by the way, he did the urging during the aforsaid prank phone call in which he believed he was speaking to David Koch. ROFLOL! From the WaPo:

He said he communicates regularly with Ohio Gov. John Kasich and has spoken with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. And Walker has suggested that his counterparts in Michigan and Florida seek to address their budget problems in part by demanding major concessions from public workers.

“There’s a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big,” Walker said this week. “This is our moment.”

His comments about his GOP brethren came in an unusual forum: a recorded telephone conversation with a liberal blogger purporting to be conservative financier David Koch.

Oh man, Scott Walker will forever be a joke. And speaking of jokes, did you hear that Rick Santorum spoke out on the Wisconsin protests?

All-but-declared presidential candidate Rick Santorum is stirring the pot when it comes to government entitlements, comparing the pro-union protesters in Wisconsin to drug addicts in withdrawal.

“They are acting like their drug is being taken away from them,” Santorum told a small gathering of South Carolina Republicans Monday night, according to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.

The comments came the same day thousands of protesters rallied outside the Wisconsin state capitol for the second week, upset with Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to limit collective bargaining rights for public-sector employees. Walker says the plan is necessary to stem the state’s budget crisis while pro-union groups say the governor is trying to curb long-held labor rights under a guise of fiscal responsibility.

Meanwhile, Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who is widely expected to seek his party’s presidential nomination, added he thinks those who support government entitlements – including the recent health care law – are “no better than a drug dealer.”

“They give you a subtle narcotic to make you feel better as you do worse,” said Santorum.

Gee, why do I think Santorum’s White House bid is going nowhere fast?

Speaking of wingnuts (and we have been), Georgia legislator Bobby Franklin is waging an all-out war on women.

There’s a new bill on the block that may have reached the apex (I hope) of woman-hating craziness. Georgia State Rep. Bobby Franklin—who last year proposed making rape and domestic violence “victims” into “accusers”—has introduced a 10-page bill that would criminalize miscarriages and make abortion in Georgia completely illegal. Both miscarriages and abortions would be potentially punishable by death: any “prenatal murder” in the words of the bill, including “human involvement” in a miscarriage, would be a felony and carry a penalty of life in prison or death. Basically, it’s everything an “pro-life” activist could want aside from making all women who’ve had abortions wear big red “A”s on their chests.

Could that really pass–even in Georgia?

In more serious news, the carnage in Libya continues.

“It’s a massacre, you can never imagine what’s going on here,” says the man, who is in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

Protests in Libya have been met with violent and brutal opposition by supporters of leader Moamar Gaddafi….

‘Amairr’ says that Libya is not a state and that Gadafi’s regime is ‘not a government’.

“It’s a militia, it’s a gang,” he says.

He says Gaddafi has brought in militias from Africa who are ‘shooting anyone who stands’.

He says the Libyan nation says it feels betrayed by other countries who are concentrating on getting their citizens out rather than helping Libyans.

Some are even calling it a potential genocide.

ISLAMABAD: “We are in the midst of a massacre here” a witness told Reuters. According to Franco Frattini, Italy’s Foreign Minister, “as many as 1,000 people have likely been killed in Libya as leader Muammar Qaddafi cracks down on protests against his rule.”

The Libyan army, air force and navy have completely fractured and there has been a de facto secession of the eastern half of the country. Al-Jazeera is reporting that some air force fighters loyal to Gaddafi have “opened fire on crowds of protestors.”

The Libyan Navy is reportedly firing on residential targets onshore and senior army officers still loyal to Qaddafi have been ordered to execute soldiers refusing to fire on unarmed protestors.

Qaddafi, the longest serving dictator on the face of the planet, continues to hold fort in Tripoli scheming to kill a million if need be to save his crumbling dictatorship. Anti-Qaddafi elements have already taken over Benghazi, Sirte, Tobruk, Misurata, Khoms, Tarhunah, Zentan, al-Zawiya and Zouara but most of these elements are unarmed and thus at risk of being slaughtered by heavily armed pro-Qaddafi forces.

The response from the West has been anemic at best. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “condemned” Libyan dictator

Muammar Gaddafi for ignoring his call to stop violence against protestors, which the UN chief stressed to the Libyan leader during a 40 minute conversation this week. “What he (Gaddafi) has d one is totally unacceptable,” Ban told journalists on Wednesday.

“After such long and extensive discussions and my strong urging, and even appeal to him, he has not heeded,” he added. “This is not acceptable.”

Ban warned that the volatile situation in the North African nation could take several directions—many of them dangerous.

“The situation is developing rapidly towards a very dangerous situation,” he said. “Therefore we need to very carefully monitor the situation.”

Um…how about actually doing something? Like maybe enforcing a no-fly zone or sending in UN peacekeeping troops as the Libyan’s have been pleading for you to do?

Reuters informs us that “the world grapples for a response.”

Yet, there seemed little cohesion and urgency in a global response, even as Washington and Brussels spoke of possible sanctions against a man whose 41 years in power have been marked by idiosyncratic defiance of the West.

“It is imperative that the nations and peoples of the world speak with one voice,” Obama said. “The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous.”

The oil exports which Gaddafi used to help end his isolation in the past decade have given him means to resist the fate of his immediate neighbors, the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt, who were brought down by popular unrest in the past few weeks.

It’s always about oil, isn’t it? Talk about people acting like drug addicts….

Anyway, I’ll keep my eye out for updates on the rapidly changing situation in Libya.

What are you reading and blogging about today?