Lazy Caturday Reads: Black Cats and Other News

Good Afternoon!!

Today is National Black Cat Appreciation Day!

On Black Cat Appreciation Day, August 17, black cats could use a good spin doctor. They’re so sleek and seductive with their all-knowing yellow eyes, that black cats seldom get positive publicity even though they’re just as adorable as other cats. So, who’s to blame for this negative black cat spin? Superstition! During the Middle Ages, people (mainly the Catholic Church) saw witches as shape-shifting black cats and the damage was done.

Today, pop culture loves black cats.  There’s the sarcastic Thackery Binx in  “Hocus Pocus”,  Salem, in “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and Pyewacket in the classic ”Bell, Book and Candle.” It’s National Black Cat Appreciation Day with big ups to America’s sultry, mysterious and mostly, sweet black cats!

In Other News . . .

By Irina Kalentieva, 1965

Former Trump supporter Anthony Scaramucci is now predicting that Trump won’t be on the ballot in November 2020.

William D. Cohan interviewed Scaramucci for Vanity Fair: “Oh My God, This Jackass”: The Mooch Explains Why He Thinks Trump is “Crazy,” “Narcissistic,” and a “Paper Tiger” Who Will Drop Out By March 2020. Some highlights:

Cohan: But what was the moment the scales actually fell from your eyes?

Scaramucci: The red line was the racism—full-blown racism. He can say that he’s not a racist, and I agree with him, okay? And let me explain to you why he’s not a racist, ’cause this is very important. He’s actually worse than a racist. He is so narcissistic, he doesn’t see people as people. He sees them as objects in his field of vision. And so therefore, that’s why he has no empathy. That’s why he’s got his thumb up in the air when he’s taking a picture with an orphan. That’s why when someone’s leaning over the desk and asks [Nobel Prize–winning human rights activist Nadia Murad], “Well, what happened to your family members?”—they were murdered—he just looks at her and says, “Okay, when are we getting coffee here?”

You know, he doesn’t look at people—and by the way, if you and I were in his field of vision and he had a cold and the two of us had to die for him to get a Kleenex, you’re fucking dead. I mean, there’s no chance. You understand that, right?

Cohan: And then there’s the mental element, right?

The Black Cat, by Christian Schloe

Scaramucci: I think the guy is losing it, mentally. He has declining mental faculties; he’s becoming more petulant; he’s becoming more impetuous. Okay, you see just by the way he’s sweating, his body’s not doing well. It’s obviously not a guy that takes care of himself, right? And he doesn’t listen to anybody. And just think about this, okay? There’s no one—there’s no Jim Mattis; there’s no Gary Cohn; there’s no one to check him anymore. Whatever my differences were with General John Kelly, after he left, this thing has completely unspooled….

He’s gonna drop out of the race because it’s gonna become very clear. Okay, it’ll be March of 2020. He’ll likely drop out by March of 2020. It’s gonna become very clear that it’s impossible for him to win. And is this the kind of guy that’s gonna want to be that humiliated and lose as a sitting president? He’s got the self-worth in terms of his self-esteem of a small pigeon. It’s a very small pigeon. Okay. And so you think this guy’s gonna look at those poll numbers and say—he’s not gonna be able to handle that humiliation. And by the way, he is smart enough to know that that entire Congress hates his guts.

Of course Scaramucci isn’t the first to predict that Trump will have to drop out. Tom Joseph has been documenting Trump’s rapidly advancing dementia symptoms on Twitter for a long time now. Here’s his latest thread on the subject:

Check out his Twitter feed to read more.

Last Tuesday Trump gave a speech to union workers in Pittsburgh. It wasn’t supposed to be a campaign event, but he turned it into one. The Washington Post:

 President Trump criticized the media, mocked his Democratic challengers, critiqued the Academy Awards, lamented losing money while president and boasted of his poll numbers while visiting a construction site here to give remarks about U.S. energy production.

The president spoke for more than an hour, meandering between his prepared remarks and a campaign-style speech listing grievances and currying votes. He touched on his 2016 victory in Pennsylvania, his love of trucks, “fake news,” China, trade, immigration, the Green New Deal, windmills, the Paris climate accord, former president Barack Obama’s $60 million book deal, Iran, veterans and New York energy policies.

Pierrot et le Chat, Theophile Alexandre Steinlen

Standing in a room full of construction workers in the middle of the day, many wearing their fluorescent work vests, Trump urged them to support his reelection and to convince their union leaders to do the same…..

Trump’s visit to Royal Dutch Shell’s Pennsylvania Petrochemical Complex here, about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, was an official White House trip intended to promote the administration’s energy policies.

Yesterday the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the workers were told they would have to attend the speech or lose a day’s pay. They were also ordered not to protest.

The choice for thousands of union workers at Royal Dutch Shell’s petrochemical plant in Beaver County was clear Tuesday: Either stand in a giant hall waiting for President Donald Trump to speak or take the day off with no pay.

“Your attendance is not mandatory,” said the rules that one contractor relayed to employees, summarizing points from a memo that Shell sent to union leaders a day ahead of the visit to the $6 billion construction site. But only those who showed up at 7 a.m., scanned their ID cards, and prepared to stand for hours — through lunch but without lunch — would be paid.

That company and scores of other contractors on site and their labor employees all have their own contracts with Shell. Several said the contracts stipulate that to get paid, workers must be onsite.

Portrait of Mo von Haugk, 1932 – Conrad Felixmüller, (German 1897-1977)

Those who decided not to come to the site for the event would have an excused but non-paid absence, the company said, and would not qualify for overtime pay on Friday.

Shell spokesman Ray Fisher explained that the workers onsite have a 56-hour workweek, with 16 hours of overtime built in. That means those workers who attended Mr. Trump’s speech and showed up for work Friday, meeting the overtime threshold, were being paid at a rate of time and a half, while those who didn’t go to hear the president were being paid the regular rate, despite the fact that both groups did not do work on the site Tuesday.

Show up to cheer for Trump or lose a day’s pay and overtime to boot.

Yesterday, The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush reported that President Obama tried to caution Joe Biden about running for president in 2020 and has been warning Biden that he needs younger advisers.

The two men spoke at least a half dozen times before Mr. Biden decided to run, and Mr. Obama took pains to cast his doubts about the campaign in personal terms.

“You don’t have to do this, Joe, you really don’t,” Mr. Obama told Mr. Biden earlier this year, according to a person familiar with the exchange.

Mr. Biden — who thinks he could have defeated Donald Trump four years ago — responded by telling Mr. Obama he could never forgive himself if he turned down a second shot at Mr. Trump.

In the boudoir, 1869, Lucius Rossi

Mr. Obama has said he will not make an endorsement in the primary, and has offered every candidate his counsel. But he has taken an active interest in the inner workings of his friend’s campaign, to an extent beyond anything offered to other candidates.

In his interactions with Mr. Biden — the pair had a quiet lunch in Washington last month — Mr. Obama has hammered away at the need for his campaign to expand his aging inner circle.

He has communicated his frustration that Mr. Biden’s closest advisers are too old and out of touch with the current political climate — urging him to include more younger aides, according to three Democrats with direct knowledge of the discussion.

Biden also met with Biden’s advisers and issued a warning:

In March, Mr. Obama took the unusual step of summoning Mr. Biden’s top campaign advisers, including the former White House communications director Anita Dunn and Mr. Biden’s longtime spokeswoman, Kate Bedingfield, to his Washington office for a briefing on the campaign’s digital and communications strategy with members of his own staff, including his senior adviser, Eric Schultz.

When they were done, Mr. Obama offered a pointed reminder, according to two people with knowledge of his comments:

Win or lose, they needed to make sure Mr. Biden did not “embarrass himself” or “damage his legacy” during the campaign.

Well Biden has already put his foot in his mouth numerous times, but he’s still leading in the polls. I can only hope voters will wake up before the primaries begin.

Katherina Goncharova – Midday Dream

Yesterday, Benjamin Netanyahu banned Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from traveling to Israel, after he was egged on by Trump. Later in the day, Netanyau told Tlaib she could come to visit her grandmother who lives in the occupied West Bank, with certain restrictions on her freedom of speech. Tlaib declined to accept the conditions. Now Democrats in the House are considering an official response.

The Miami Herald: House Democrats weigh action against U.S. and Israel ambassadors over banned visit.

Senior Democratic members of Congress are considering action against top emissaries of the Israeli government and the Trump administration for their roles in Israel’s decision to bar two House members from entering the country.

About a dozen lawmakers, including senior Jewish members, began discussions on Friday morning over ways to communicate a “deep lack of confidence and trust” in Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, and the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.

The group is weighing issuing a statement of no confidence in Dermer and opening an inspector general investigation into Friedman’s conduct, the sources said.

Israel banned Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from a planned visit to Israel and the West Bank this weekend, provoking outrage among Democrats and several Republicans, including some who have harshly criticized the two lawmakers on policy grounds.

So . . . that’s it for me. what stories are you following today?


Monday Reads: We are still Tribal and Fascinated by Fire

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I seem hard wired to avoid the caves and to wander the plains and mountains.  For this, I believe I have my mother to thank.  I imagine lurking some where in my family are Irish ‘traveller’ genes but who knows. I do not understand people who find one location and surround themselves with sameness. The lily white Midwestern suburbans filled with snotty WASPS were a prison to me.  My mother’s insistence we travel frequently was the only thing that saved me, we used to stay at Marriott hotels all the time. It showed me there was more to people and life than a backyard prison.

Later, as a young mother, I unfortunately discovered way too late–because of promises of other things–that I basically married a potted plant who wanted nothing more than to drag to and from work day in and day out. The sofa was the center of life. I got some pleasure in taking my summers off and taking baby Doctor Daughter on the road.  That worked until my parents moved back to the prison and I was surrounded by boring sameness day in and day out.  It felt like being entombed in a cavern surrounded by slugs, potted plants, and narrowness in a world ruled without color or the discovery of abstract art and erotica.  This came home as an astounding lesson with my inoperable cancer diagnosis at 34 and a six month old baby.  I was not going to let my children suffer the same fate. They needed more back yard to play about and I would give them that for as long as I could live.

The word that best describes the circumstances of my youth is people attached to “homophilly”.  It literally means the “love of the same.” It is the tendency of people with similar characteristics to congregate.  That pretty much describes the WASP enclave that ensconced me.  Same boring stuff day in and day out. My mother drove us to Pow Wows. She stuck us in station wagons and campers to search the far corners of the American West.  We eventually landed in Europe. These were all places where I would dream I would have the courage to run away into so I would never EVER have to go back.  My cousin who moved to NYC to do Broadway was my siren. She led me to believe that one day I would escape. History taught the progress of human kind was to leave caves and tribes to build cities.  American History taught the American spirit is to get out there to discover and explore and build something new.  None of this included the iconography of firmly planted sofas.

But, firmly planted sofas in limited areas show us that our tribal roots are still lurking. These lead to dark times, genocides, war, and oppression.  I was looking at the various news items I’ve collected for today trying to find some theme.  You’re probably wondering at this point too.  I think therefore, I babble. Unfortunately, it all seems to be an expression of our primal fear of other and the desire of so many to huddle into a tribe based on iron age mythologies, the social constructs of race, sexuality and gender roles, and the dark side of homophilly. If we only love the same, do we also have to adapt the hate of the different?

I have two items of interest on the construct of separating humanity by race.  First, is this new classification system for Black people living in the USA.  How do you elect to be “just black”? From NPR: “2020 Census Will Ask Black People About Their Exact Origins”.  Why is this necessary? Furthermore, a lot of us either came or were drug over way back and don’t know, a lot of us are a blend of all kinds of things, and why should  the government be focused on which part of what continent spawned our ancestors?

For the 2020 census, the U.S. Census Bureau is changing how it will ask black people to designate their race. Under the check box for “Black or African American,” the bureau is adding a new space on the census questionnaire for participants to write in their non-Hispanic origins, according to a recent memo from the head of the 2020 census. “African American,” “Jamaican” and “Nigerian” are listed as examples of origins on a questionnaire the bureau is testing for 2020.

The change means many black people in the U.S. may have to take a closer look at their family trees to answer what can be a thorny question: Where are you really from? While many black immigrants can cite ties to a specific country, that question is difficult, if not impossible, for many U.S.-born African-Americans to answer.

The bureau has not responded to NPR’s questions about why it is making this change to both the “Black” category and the “White” category,” which will also include a new write-in area for origins.

But researchers at the bureau have said they have been trying to respond to requests for “more detailed, disaggregated data for our diverse American experiences as German, Mexican, Korean, Jamaican, and myriad other identities.” (The bureau was considering an overhaul to all racial categories that would have added check boxes for the largest ethnic groups and a write-in area for smaller groups. But it would require the Trump administration’s approval of an Obama-era proposal to change the federal standards on race and ethnicity data, which census experts say the White House’s Office of Management and Budget is not likely to move forward.)

My WASPY family has our family tree detailed out to when the first of whatever line came from where ever but only because my mother got obsessed with researching it decades ago as a hobby.  And, this details one important distinction.  Every one of my ancestors arrived here of their own volition. None of them were kidnapped and enslaved.  None of them were here already where they were frequently murdered and driven from their lands.  How does this information do anything positive?

Sebastian Junger wrote a book called “Tribe” that was published in 2016.  He argued that on some level having wars and enemies is something humans enjoy because it gives us a sense of belonging.  I can’t imagine needing that enough to be violent and oppressive to others.  But, I see it in Trump’s White Nationalist cult and realize it has a draw.

During John Ford’s celebrated western film The Searchers, John Wayne’s character spends years hunting for his niece Debbie, kidnapped as a child by Comanche Indians.

When he finally finds her, she initially wants to stay with her Comanche husband rather than return home.

Although shocking in the film, it’s historically accurate. White people captured by American Indians (author Sebastian Junger’s preferred name for Native Americans) commonly chose to stay with their captors – and the book cites a case of a captive woman who hid from her would-be rescuers.

Even more astonishingly, from the earliest days of Europeans in America, settlers of both sexes ran away to join Indian tribes. This wasn’t just a few people, it was hundreds and hundreds. The practice was so rife that in the early 1600s settler leaders made it an offence with harsh punishments, but over the following centuries people still ran off in huge numbers.

And it hardly ever happened the other way. Indians didn’t want to join white society.

The attraction, argues Junger, was the sense of community, the importance of the tribe, evident in other primates and in primitive human societies. The superficial attractions of American Indian life were obvious: sexual mores were more relaxed, clothing was more comfortable, religion less harsh.

But mostly it was the structure of Indian society that appealed. It was less hierarchical, essentially classless and egalitarian. As the people were nomadic, personal property hardly mattered, since it was limited to what you or your horses could carry.

What changed this natural way of living for humans was first agriculture, then industry. Accumulation of personal property led to people doing what they thought best for themselves, rather than for the common good. But, suggests Junger, we’re not happy like this. We’re wired to the lifestyle of the tribe.

So tribal connectedness really doesn’t need the social construct of race, and yet it frequently and murderously oppressively does. From CBS: “Why 60 Minutes aired photos of lynchings in report by Oprah. The reason behind the broadcast’s decision to show graphic photographs of lynchings in this week’s report by contributor Oprah Winfrey”.

This week on 60 Minutes, Oprah Winfrey gets an early look at the memorial, which will open to the public on April 26. The memorial contains 805 steel markers, one for each county where lynchings occurred for more than 70 years following the Civil War. The markers are suspended in air to evoke the horror of being hanged.

To tell that story on 60 Minutes, Winfrey and a team of producers felt it was important to show historical photos of lynchings, images that are likely to disturb many viewers. In an interview with 60 Minutes Overtime, Denise Schrier Cetta, the producer of the story, and Jeff Fager, the executive producer of the broadcast, explain their decision to air such upsetting photographs.

“I don’t think the story exists without those photos,” Fager says. News executives have a tendency to self-censor too much, he says, out of concern that viewers will be turned off. For him, the decision to show the photos was about reporting important facts about a little-known but important chapter of history.

“That’s reality; that’s what happened,” he tells 60 Minutes Overtime’s Ann Silvio in the video above. “Our story is about a part of history, really almost 80 years of American history, that isn’t in the history books. We don’t see these pictures. We don’t talk about it.”

One photograph that surprises Fager the most is an image of a crowd that showed up in Waco, Texas to watch the lynching of a man named Jesse Washington. The hanging tree stands in the center of the photograph, Washington’s tortured body lies beneath it, and hundreds of well-dressed white people look on.

“I really thought most lynchings were in the cover of night and Klan outfits, and not that it was a part of life to that degree—that the town would turn out to watch it happen in broad daylight,” says Fager, who feels that many viewers will learn a lot from the story.

The Guardian previews a book written on the idea of how tribe of masculine warps young boys. The author of The Shepard’s Hut is an Australian Surfer.  “About the boys: Tim Winton on how toxic masculinity is shackling men to misogyny. In an excerpt from a speech about his new book The Shepherd’s Hut, the author says it is men who need to step up and liberate boys from the race, the game, the fight.”

There are a lot more girls in the water these days, and hallellujah for that; I can’t tell you how heartening this is. But I want to focus on the boys for a moment. For what a mystery a boy is. Even to a grown man. Perhaps especially to a grown man. And how easy it is to forget what beautiful creatures they are. There’s so much about them and in them that’s lovely. Graceful. Dreamy. Vulnerable. Qualities we either don’t notice, or simply blind ourselves to. You see, there’s great native tenderness in children. In boys, as much as in girls. But so often I see boys having the tenderness shamed out of them.

Boys and young men are so routinely expected to betray their better natures, to smother their consciences, to renounce the best of themselves and submit to something low and mean. As if there’s only one way of being a bloke, one valid interpretation of the part, the role, if you like. There’s a constant pressure to enlist, to pull on the uniform of misogyny and join the Shithead Army that enforces and polices sexism. And it grieves me to say it’s not just men pressing those kids into service.

These boys in the surf. The things they say to me! The stuff I hear them saying to their mates! Some of it makes you want to hug them. Some of it makes you want to cry. Some of it makes you ashamed to be a male. Especially the stuff they feel entitled or obliged to say about girls and women.

What I’ve come to notice is that all these kids are rehearsing and projecting. Trying it on. Rehearsing their masculinity. Projecting their experimental versions of it. And wordlessly looking for cues the whole time. Not just from each other, but from older people around them, especially the men. Which can be heartbreaking to witness, to tell you the truth. Because the feedback they get is so damn unhelpful. If it’s well-meant it’s often feeble and half-hearted. Because good men don’t always stick their necks out and make an effort.

So what really got me thinking about all of this and finding thread was this late news and the news of IDF snipers targeting children (male) and journalists in an attack on Gaza during protests near the wall.  This is from The BBC about some of the oldest tribes defined by religion still left: “Syria conflict: Israel blamed for attack on airfield”.  People of the Jewish faith have been targets of tribal hostilities for so many thousands of years it’s hard to believe. And yet, they are still capable of these things.  At first, we thought the US was attacking Syria based on the chemical attacks.  Instead, it was a rogue(?) Israel.

Monday’s attack hit the Tiyas airbase, known as T4, near the city of Homs. Observers say 14 people were killed.

Israel, which has previously hit Syrian targets, has not commented. Syria initially blamed the US for the strike.

The incident comes amid international alarm over an alleged chemical attack on a Syrian rebel-held town. The US and France had threatened to respond.

Reportedly, there were Russians and Iranians there. From The Israeli Times a few months back: IDF accuses Iran of setting up air base outside Syrian city of Palmyra.

The Israeli military on Saturday accused Iran of controlling an airbase outside the Syrian city of Palmyra, from which the army said the Iranian drone that was shot down over northern Israel earlier in the day was launched.

“Iran and the [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ special unit] Quds Force for some time have been operating the T-4 Air Base in Syria next to Palmyra, with support from the Syrian military and with permission from the Syrian regime,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement on Saturday night.

So, it likely was an attack based on a response to that. It’s just hard to know these days.

This comes on the back of two items posted to Facebook feeds from two separate Jewish Friends.  It’s quite odd, but within in my WASPY cocoon it was quite acceptable for me to have many Jewish friends as long as I didn’t try to have a Jewish boyfriends. My mother actually got a call from an angry grandmother matriarch telling her that I needed to leave them to Jewish girls once in high school.  In my neck of WASPishness dating Catholics was much more suspect.  Especially, if they came from Eastern European or Southern European roots.  I wasn’t even allowed to pierce my ears because I’d look like some immigrant baby. See, the rules of tribalism can be very fickle as well as stupid.

From WAPO: “He was wearing a vest marked ‘PRESS.’ He was shot dead covering a protest in Gaza.”

Yaser Murtaja had often filmed from the sky, but he never lived to fulfill his dream of flying on an airplane through the clouds.

The young journalist shot drone images and video for Ain Media, a small Gaza-based news agency he started five years ago. Just two weeks ago, he posted an aerial photo of Gaza City’s port on Facebook. “I wish that the day would come to take this shot when I’m in the air and not on the ground,” he wrote. “My name is Yaser Murtaja. I’m 30 years old. I live in Gaza City. I’ve never traveled!”

It was one of his last posts.

Murtaja, who was married and had a 2-year-old son, died Saturday after being shot the day before while covering protests at the edge of the Gaza Strip.

His work had appeared on networks such as Al Jazeera, and in 2016 he worked as a cameraman for Ai Weiwei’s documentary, “Human Flow,” which covered the global refu­gee crisis, including Palestinians in Gaza. The Chinese visual artist posted photos of Murtaja on his Instagram account on Saturday.

And there as this: “Israeli Citizens Watch As Their Military Attacks Unarmed Palestinians”.

As violence continues to rage along the Israel-Gaza border, an Israeli reporter shared a photo that could only be described as inhumane.

“Best show in town. Residents of Nahal Oz in the stands,” read the caption for the image that showed a group of young Israeli spectators sitting on an observation tower near the Israel-Gaza border line, watching and waving as unarmed Palestinians got brutally murdered and wounded at the hands of Israeli troops.

The images were later shared by Reuters as well.

From Haaretz: “The Cold Calculation Behind the Israeli Army’s Sniper Fire on the Gaza Border. The politicians instructed the military to prevent a breach of the fence, but it’s doubtful that they held detailed discussions about the means to achieve this.”

Testimonies of correspondents on the Israeli side about the rate of firing and Palestinian reports of 800 people wounded attest to quite permissive orders given to the snipers. Even when the area is divided into sectors, commanded by senior officers, an area commander has no close control over the sharpshooters’ every shot. This situation leaves a lot to the discretion of relatively young soldiers, even though they were reinforced by more veteran police and Border Police snipers. The number of casualties was in accordance with these circumstances.

The number of fatalities yet again underscores Israel’s long-standing failure – commented on by the State Comptroller in 2003 and 2017 – to develop nonlethal measures which would be effective in dispersing demonstrations and marches from a relatively large distance.

There seems to be a huge human cost to feeling that sense of belonging you get from a Tribe. And don’t even get my started about the many other gangs and such I’ve written about in the past.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads

Couch on the Porch at Cos Cob by Childe Hassam, 1914

Couch on the Porch at Cos Cob by Childe Hassam, 1914

Good Morning!!

 

Secretary of State John Kerry is under fire for making a frank statement in a closed-door meeting that he believed to be private. Politico’s Dylan Byers reports: John Kerry’s private remarks allegedly taped by Daily Beast reporter.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s private remarks to a meeting of influential world leaders last week were allegedly taped by a reporter from The Daily Beast, a fact that led to a personal apology from Trilateral Commission chairman Joseph S. Nye on Monday.

In a letter to Sec. Kerry, obtained by POLITICO, Nye expressed “my deep apology and dismay that a reporter form The Daily Beast, Josh Rogin, somehow sneaked into the meeting room in which you were speaking to the Commission this past Friday.”

“He was not invited,” Nye wrote. “Althought how Mr. Rogin slipped past both Commission staff and Diplomatic Security is unclear to me, we have confirmed that he indeed was present and apparently recorded the session.”

Josh Rogin

Josh Rogin

Rogin, who somehow sneaked into the meeting and taped Kerry’s remarks, soon began posting “exclusives” at The Daily Beast.

Within minutes of Kerry’s remarks on Friday, Rogin posted an exclusive to The Daily Beast in which he reported that Kerry had “warned that [a] new round of American financial assaults on Russia were on the way.”

On Sunday, Rogin posted another exclusive headlined, “Kerry Warns Israel Could Become ‘An Apartheid State’.” The report earned Sec. Kerry fierce criticism from Jewish organizations such as AIPAC, which called the remarks “offensive and inapropriate,” and the Anti-Defamation League, which called them “incendiary.”

In the first article, Rogin attributed his knowledge of Sec. Kerry’s remarks to “an attendee.” In the second article, he attributed them to “a recording… obtained by The Daily Beast.” Rogin did not mention his presence at the event in either article.

Is that okay according to journalistic ethics? I don’t know, but this definitely demonstrates to me the need for some secrecy in government diplomacy. I think the Greenwaldian notion of government as absolute enemy has rubbed off on reporters like Rogin. His first “exclusive” was on a breakdown of communications between the White House and the Kremlin and the second was about Kerry’s comments on Israel. Rogin writes:

If there’s no two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon, Israel risks becoming “an apartheid state,” Secretary of State John Kerry told a room of influential world leaders in a closed-door meeting Friday.

It wasn’t the only controversial comment on the Middle East that Kerry made during his remarks to the Trilateral Commission, a recording of which was obtained by The Daily Beast. Kerry also repeated his warning that a failure of Middle East peace talks could lead to a resumption of Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens. He suggested that a change in either the Israeli or Palestinian leadership could make achieving a peace deal more feasible. He lashed out against Israeli settlement-building. And Kerry said that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders share the blame for the current impasse in the talks. 

Kerry also said that at some point, he might unveil his own peace deal and tell both sides to “take it or leave it.”

“A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens—or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state,” Kerry told the group of senior officials and experts from the U.S., Western Europe, Russia, and Japan. “Once you put that frame in your mind, that reality, which is the bottom line, you understand how imperative it is to get to the two-state solution, which both leaders, even yesterday, said they remain deeply committed to.”

It’s hard for me to find much fault with that. I guess the use of the term “apartheid” is a no-no, Kerry is not the first to use it. As Rogin notes, former President Jimmy Carter wrote a book in 2007 with the title Palestine: Peace or Apartheid. Carter was forced to backtrack somewhat, and Kerry has had do it also. Michael Gordon at The New York Times: Kerry Apologizes for Remark That Israel Risks Apartheid

US-Secretary-Of-State-John-Kerry

In the statement that Mr. Kerry issued Monday, which bore the title “On Support for Israel,” he said that he had been a staunch supporter of Israel during his years as a senator and had spent many hours since working with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials.

“For more than 30 years in the United States Senate, I didn’t just speak words in support of Israel,” Mr. Kerry said in his statement. “I walked the walk when it came time to vote and when it came time to fight.”

Mr. Kerry added that he did not believe that Israel was an “apartheid state” or intended to become one. Mr. Kerry did not dispute he had used the phrase but said it had led to a “misimpression” about his views.

“If I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution,” he said.

“In the long term, a unitary, binational state cannot be the democratic Jewish state that Israel deserves or the prosperous state with full rights that the Palestinian people deserve,” he added.

Kerry has now been attacked for his remarks by Senators Ted Cruz and Barabara Boxer. Quite an achievement!

Rogin’s latest “exclusive,” published this morning, reveals (surprise, surprise!) that the U.S. is spying on calls between Russia and it’s spies on the ground in Eastern Ukraine. You’d think that would be a good thing, but in the age of Greenwaldian “advocacy journalism,” maybe not. Rogin:

“Intel is producing taped conversations of intelligence operatives taking their orders from Moscow and everybody can tell the difference in the accents, in the idioms, in the language. We know exactly who’s giving those orders, we know where they are coming from,” Kerry said at a private meeting of the Trilateral Commission in Washington. A recording of Kerry’s remarks was obtained by The Daily Beast.

Kerry didn’t name specific Russian officials implicated in the recordings. But he claimed that the intercepts provided proof of the Russians deliberately fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine—and lying about it to U.S. officials and the public.

“It’s not an accident that you have some of the same people identified who were in Crimea and in Georgia and who are now in east Ukraine,” said Kerry. “This is insulting to everybody’s intelligence, let alone to our notions about how we ought to be behaving in the 21st century. It’s thuggism, it’s rogue state-ism. It’s the worst order of behavior.”

Rogin goes on to speculate on whether the NSA has now corrected issues that prevented them from receiving accurate intelligence on Russia’s plans to invade Ukraine and annex Crimea and explains the methods NSA uses to collected such information. I guess they will have to go back to the drawing board again now? In the latest piece, Rogin still does not state that he is the source of the tapes of Kerry’s remarks.

Reuters has an article this morning on Israel’s latest plans: Israeli politicians seek to bypass talks, set own boundaries.

With Middle East peace talks frozen and expectations of a negotiated deal at an all-time low, a growing number of Israeli politicians believe it is time for the government to set the nation’s own borders unilaterally.

Some seek the annexation of most of the occupied West Bank, others say only the big Jewish settlement blocs should be brought under Israeli sovereignty, while a third group calls for a partial pullout to create a de facto Palestinian state.

Such actions would break the dynamics of the U.S.-driven peace process, which has been bogged down by years of failure and recrimination. By the same token, it would likely unleash a firestorm of protest at home and abroad.

Isn’t that just ducky? Read lots of details at the link.

This is just breaking (9AM EST) . . . there has been a mass shooting at a FedEx location in Georgia.

FedEx shooting

From NBC News: FedEx Facility Shooting Prompts Massive Police Response

At least six people were injured in a shooting early Tuesday at a FedEx facility in Kennesaw, Ga., officials said.

The male gunman remained at large, and police said they are sweeping the surrounding area, reported NBC affiliate WXIA-TV.

Cobb County police said the call came in at 5:44 a.m., prompting a lockdown of the facility on Airport Road and more than 50 emergency vehicles to arrive at the scene. The injured were taken to the hospital, and at least one person was taken immediately to the operating room, WXIA reported.

That’s all I have for you today–I hope you’ll also post your links in the comment thread.


Obama and the Right Wing Rage Machine

President Obama reiterated the same US stance to Israel that we’ve always had today at a meeting of the powerful pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC, just as he did in his speech last week.  For some reason, the speech at the State Department last week was mislabeled by Mittens Romney and others as  “throwing Israel under the bus.”   Here’s what the President said today.

[S]ince my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means.

By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.

If there’s a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance. What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. I have done so because we cannot afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel would only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.

Why the outcry over the past few days to Obama’s maintaining the status quo? Here’s some quotes from SOS Clinton and Ex-prez Dubya that demonstrate this was nothing but manufactured rage on the part of the right wing noise machine.

Even the NY Times is getting into the act. In one sentence they claim that “using the 1967 boundaries as the baseline for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute” is a first by an American president, and just two paragraphs later quote President George W. Bush using the phrase: “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949,” another way of describing the 1967 boundaries. Those two statements, by Obama and Bush, convey the same concept.

In 2009 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:

We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.

Where was the manufactured outrage then?

In 2008 President George W. Bush, on a middle east trip, said:

I believe that any peace agreement between them will require mutually agreed adjustments to the armistice lines of 1949 to reflect current realities and to ensure that the Palestinian state is viable and contiguous.

In 2005 President George W. Bush, at a White House meeting, said:

Any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the 1949 Armistice lines must be mutually agreed to.

President Obama is following the same policies put forth by George W. Bush. To claim that Obama’s speech represents some departure from previous U.S. policy is absurd.

When not manufacturing right wing rage, Republican Presidential contenders are demonstrating their foreign policy ignorance.  Thank goodness we have some one who knows foreign policy at the State Department!  Here’s pizza king and right wing talk show host Herman Cain demonstrating his foreign policy ignorance.

Despite his shallow understanding of foreign policy issues, Cain is still trying to go on the attack against Obama and create a partisan divide on Israel. He said last week that an “arrogant” Obama “threw Israel under the bus” in his recent speech on the Middle East. Trying to sound a hawkish note, Cain said his “Cain doctrine” is “You mess with Israel, you are messing with the United States of America.”
But this morning on Fox News Sunday, Cain showed just how limited his understanding is of the Middle East peace process. Asked by host Chris Wallace what he would be prepared to offer Palestinians as part of a deal, Cain responded, “Nothing.” Just moments later, Cain was dazed and confused when Wallace referenced the issue of “right of return” of Palestinian refugees:

WALLACE: Where do you stand on the right of return?

CAIN: The right of return? [pause] The right of return?

WALLACE: The Palestinian right of return.

CAIN: That’s something that should be negotiated. That’s something that should be negotiated.

Wallace then helpfully offered Cain a definition of “right of return” — “Palestinian refugees, the people that were kicked out of the land in 1948, should be able to or should have any right to return to Israeli land.”

Other foreign policy nitwits have  joined the faux outrage ranks. Quitterella even points to the old testament as some kind of geopolitical playbook.  Do you suppose she’s read  stories about the Kraken so she can have an opinion on Greece’s Navy?

I can never figure out why the I/P issue causes people’s heads to blow gaskets. I always hesitate to even offer up any news in the area because it’s caused complete meltdowns on blogs in the past.  There are some people on each side of the issue who simply can’t seem find any middle ground from.  Derailing any peace process appears to be their goal.

I consider the entire topic to be a hell realm. However, this particular kerfuffle reeks of the same kind of derangement we saw during the Clinton years. It’s getting so bad that I’m cracking this particular nut or group of nuts as the case may be.  This is like trying to deal with birthers and those who subscribe to the ‘secret Muslim’ meme.

Obama isn’t my favorite President by any stretch of the imagination, but aren’t there enough things to complain about right now–like the sneaky renewal of the Patriot Act–without manufacturing yet another conspiracy theory? SHEESH!

I can’t see the US selling out Israel anywhere in the near future.  They are obviously a US ally.  Trying to get both Palestinians and Israelis to be reasonable and come back to Peace Talks should be in everyone’s interest.  Don’t they still have their copies of the Oslo Accords or has every one forgotten President Clinton’s work already?


Wikileaks and Israel

We may not be able to get the news from our press,but the foreign press and alternative media sources continue to let us know the substantive things released in the Wikileaks State Department Cables.  I can’t read Norwegian, but the Norwegian Aftenposten is the source of the following story outlined by Professor Juan Cole on his website Informed Consent.

The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten has summarized an Israeli military briefing by Israeli Chief of Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi of a US congressional delegation a little over a year ago and concludes that

‘ The memo on the talks between Ashkenazi and [Congressman Ike] Skelton, as well as numerous other documents from the same period of time, to which Aftenposten has gained access, leave a clear message: The Israeli military is forging ahead at full speed with preparations for a new war in the Middle East.

Note: This war preparation is serious and specific, according to the paper, and clearly is not just a matter of vague contingency planning.

The paper says that US cables quote Ashkenazi telling the US congressmen, “I’m preparing the Israeli army for a major war, since it is easier to scale down to a smaller operation than to do the opposite

I have to also tell you that my print copy of  The Economist showed up in the mail box today with this huge headline:  Please, Not Again:  The Threat of War in the Middle East.  Also, there’s this subtitle in the online version: ‘Without boldness from Barack Obama there is a real risk of war in the Middle East’.  I am assuming that the editorial staff there got the low down on some of these items way before we finally are reading about them here.  Predictably, there’s a lot on Hizbullah rocket stockpiles.  No information on such robust Israeli war planning.  Coverage of war drum beating is always predictably filtered and lop-sided.

Democracy Now also has major coverage of Israeli preparations for war via the Wikileaks information.

The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten is claiming it has come into possession of all of the classified U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks. In a report on one newly released cable, the paper reveals that Israeli Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told a U.S. congressional delegation a little over a year ago that the Israeli military is forging ahead at full speed with preparations for a new war in the Middle East. The cables quote Ashkenazi saying, “I’m preparing the Israeli army for a major war, since it is easier to scale down to a smaller operation than to do the opposite.”

Evidently the driving force behind this is Hamas and Hizbullah stockpile of rockets and their capabilities according to Juan Cole as cited above.  Israel–like any other state–has the right to defend itself.  This should go without saying.  However, the more I read, the more I’m convinced this goes way beyond that.  There are stockpiles in the hands of nefarious groups.  So far, that’s been it.

The general’s plans are driven by fear of growing stockpiles of rockets in Hamas-controlled Gaza and in Hizbullah-controlled Southern Lebanon, the likely theaters of the planned major new war. Ashkenazi does not seem capable of considering that, given a number of Israeli invasions and occupations of those regions, the rockets may be primarily defensive.

Ashkenazi told the visiting delegation that Israeli unmanned drones had had great success in identifying rocket emplacements in southern Lebanon, and that it had been aided in this endeavor by the US National Security Agency,which spies on communications.

Israeli unmanned drones? I’d forgotten that development was announced last than a year ago. The Heron TP is evidently the size of a 737 and can fly nonstop for 20 hours giving it more than enough steam to get well into Iran. Now, we’re beginning to see why they were so excited about it.  I figured it might be used to take out Irani nuclear weapon facilities or something possibly noble like that.  Of course, I should know better given how much WMD were used to beat the drum beat against Iraq. We know how well that turned out.

Instead, we read this.  Again, it’s from Juan Cole translating the source.

The new, major war will be a total war on civilians, Ashkenazi boasted: “In the next war Israel cannot accept any restrictions on warfare in urban areas.” (I den neste krigen kan Israel ikke godta noen restriksjoner på krigføring i byområder in Norwegian, or let us just translate it into the original German: “Im nächsten Krieg kann Israel keine Beschränkungen der Kriegsführung in städtischen Gebieten akzeptieren.”.) Mind you, the civilian deaths deriving from this massive and unrestricted bombing campaign on targets in the midst of civilian urban populations will be “unintentional.” Planning to bomb civilian areas with foreknowledge that you will thereby kill large numbers of civilians is a war crime.

I certainly hope the Secretary of State is answering the 3 a.m. phone calls these days.  If the remaining naysaying  idiots on the planet haven’t figured out the value of the Wikileaks yet, they never will.  We could always send them off to be used as human shields in a possible war zone hidden from our view for over a year.  Frankly, I agree with Mr. Rogers.  I like to be told.  Do you think we’d have invaded Iraq if we’d have been told a lot of the lies behind that invasion by a Wikileaks type whistle blower source?