Monday, July 31, 2006

U.S. finally disavows Israel?

Aid worker removes body from Qana rubble

"Not only do we feel sorrow for what happened in Qana, but also a determination that it is really important to remove the conditions that led to that."

Tony Snow, President Bush's spokesman
Washington Post

Somebody finally figured out that enabling an aggressive, bullying regime only amplifies misery and hatred?

Naw, that was more than our despicable rulers could fathom. The Qana massacre is just another public relations problem to be managed on the way complete domination of uppity natives.

Besides its announcement of a partial 48-hour suspension of bombing, Israel said it was giving a 24-hour window to allow aid workers to reach the worst hit areas and residents to flee.

But Israeli jets bombed targets in southern Lebanon, and the United Nations said access had not improved....

Israeli artillery shells hit two villages. An air strike on a Lebanese army vehicle killed one soldier and wounded three. Reuters, via Yahoo News


Sometimes there is not much left to say. One can only retreat into snark. Since 9/11, many well-meaning people have been at sea, confronted with a world in which there were no good guys to root for. Americans like to root for good guys, especially underdogs.

Our own U.S. government seems to have gone fully rogue, crashing around meaninglessly, stomping whoever gets in the way of a set of fantastical ambitions, perhaps in service of control of oil or perhaps about implanting nominal democracies led by compliant puppets. (Since none of it works, they just have to spin most news.)

Meanwhile, the forces that have created some friction in the imperial dreamscape, the Iraqi insurgency, various Islamists groups, don't inspire Westerners with progressive, feminist values. We must respect their right to define the destinies of their countries. We must recognize that Hamas and Hezbollah present a new challenge to our regime because they have won legitimacy from their own peoples in a region where most rulers have no credibility. Terrific Egyptian discussion of this point here.

But the rest of their package is not anything we can root for.

So what is to be done? Our project has to be in our "homeland" -- that quasi-fascist locution promoted by our current rulers. In the United States, our government enables and abets Israeli atrocities. We need to stop that. In the United States, our government threatens any state that won't play by our rules and invades when it dares, as in Iraq. We need to stop that. If we aren't working on it, we are part of the problem.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The farmers' market of West Tisbury, Mass.

This post has been delayed while I agonized over the carnage in Lebanon. Meanwhile, here I sit in one of the most idyllic spots in the United States, making myself available to a sick friend. Here are some views of where we shop every Wednesday and Saturday.

The market is held outside the Old Grange Hall.

Yes, there is a new agricultural hall; it is down a road apiece.

The town of West Tisbury requires that everything sold be local products. Items that might be questioned come with assurances.

Of course the big attractions are the local vegetables.

Once the local tomatoes come in, they are the stars of the market.

Trawling for freshness is a great pastime on a lazy summer morning.

Families confer.

Friends meet.

It gets hot and boring when the adults keep talking.

"Maybe when they stop we can go there?"

For a really interesting discussion of how consumer demand for local food intersects with supermarket economics, see this San Francisco Chronicle article.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Byblos before all hell was loosed

The story of the day, aside from the ditherings of diplomats, seems to be the oil slick fouling Lebanon's coast. The oil is pouring out of fuel tanks at the power plant bombed by Israel at Jiyeh, just south of Beirut: Take your pick of the New York Times, Haaretz, or the Beirut Daily Star.

I was struck by this line from the last article:

A resident of Byblos, known worldwide for its seafood restaurants and historic harbour, said "for the last four days, fish, crustaceans and crabs have been coming in black, and they are dying as victims of this oil slick."

The photo below is of the sea off Byblos, as it appeared six weeks ago.

The foreground of that picture includes a bit of the excavation of one of the oldest human villages in the world; it is believed that people have lived at Byblos (Jbail) for 7000 years.

Some obelisks on the site.

A Crusader castle looms over the town.

At evening, local folks caught the breezes on the jetty.

From the beach, I snapped this surreal image of the sun sinking over the Mediterranean. No, that is not the planet Jupiter. The colors are not doctored.

It is hard to believe now how peaceful that day was.

UPDATE: A blogger from Beirut took a drive up the coast and wrote this description:

Byblos (Jbeil) bay is completely smothered. this once picturesque and touristic town, also the oldest port city on Earth, is in ruins. we could smell the oil before we were anywhere close to the bay. this summer, the town was planning to celebrate its 7,000th birthday! there were huge festivities planned... so much went into it... now... nothing but this black plague.

She doesn't mean, I think, that the place has been bombed, but that the life of the sea is the life of the town and that is completely fouled. Just collateral damage. Read the whole account.

Friday, July 28, 2006

First woman in the Baseball Hall of Fame came from Negro Leagues

I was just cleaning up a pile of papers and noticed this story from last Sunday's New York Times.

Effa Manley 1900-1981
The first woman elected to the Hall of Fame, she was the business manager and co-owner, with her husband, Abe, of the Newark Eagles, who won the black World Series in 1946.

Her mother was white and was married to a black man, but she was conceived from an affair her mother had with a white man. Nonetheless, she lived her life as a black woman.

Founded as a Brooklyn team in 1935, the Eagles moved to Newark the following year, and the franchise helped promote civil-rights causes. On one occasion, an anti-lynching day was held at Newark’s Ruppert Stadium.

Manley called for strong leadership in the Negro leagues to prevent teams from stealing players under contract to other clubs. And when the major leagues began signing players from black baseball, and the Eagles lost Larry Doby, Monte Irvin and Don Newcombe, she fought to gain compensation for the Negro leagues club owners from the big leagues. She ran the Eagles until their demise after the 1948 season.

She must have been a heck of a lady. I needed to post something to cheer about today.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Israel lobby at work in the Episcopal Church

Fr. Naim Ateek. Photo from the Witness

A few days ago, Fr. John Kirkley lamented on his blog that the recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church was "too busy ensuring that the two or three diocesan elections in which gay or lesbian nominees might stand a chance of being elected bishop were prevented from doing so" to take up several resolutions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While these proposals were nothing terribly new or earth shattering, they would at least have afforded us an opportunity to speak a word of judgment and hope to the wider world.

Not everyone is as distressed as John is about our failure. In fact, there are those who crow about derailing of any statement from the Episcopal Church on Israeli-Palestinian issues. According to the New York Sun, members of a pro-Israel pressure group named Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East

spent two weeks in June at the Episcopalian convention in Columbus, Ohio. The news out of the convention was all around the debate over gay clerics. What didn't get reported was the work of [Sister Ruth] Lautt's group in helping to shelve, for the time being, at least, contentious resolutions on the Middle East. ...

"They were considering bad resolutions," says Dennis Hale, a Medford, Mass.-based Episcopalian who traveled to Columbus with Sister Lautt's group. ...

"We were at first treated like pariahs," says Hale, who began to reconsider his Episcopalian affiliation given the negative reception he received.... Sister Lautt, [a Roman Catholic Dominican nun,] says her group has plans to attend national gatherings of the U.C.C., Disciples of Christ, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Now truth be told, I suspect these folks are claiming more influence than they had; Episcopalians at the convention were quite busy tying themselves in knots without an assist from a pressure group with outside leadership. I smell a spurious claim of victory offered for funders. Still, it is unpleasant to realize that the usual constellation of right wing outfits is carrying Israel's water to mainline Protestants in an organized way.

The so-called "Fair Witness" is clearly out of the Institute for Religion and Democracy constellation of efforts to derail any movement toward for justice in the mainline churches. Check out the reports by Jim McNaughton at the Episcopal Diocese of Washington here for more on how right wing funders gave impetus to an internal, often disloyal, opposition within Protestant denominations.

The group's own press release makes clear that it aims to be a counterweight to the influence of Sabeel, the Jerusalem-based ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians. As I see it, that means the so-called "Fair Witness" aims to stifle the voices of the oppressed in order to amplify the voices of their oppressors. Since Constantine made Christianity a pillar of order in his faltering Roman Empire, churches have too often let themselves play that repressive role.

Fr. Naim Ateek of Sabeel replied to the pressure generated by the Israel lobby within the church at an event at the Convention.

Those who demonize us think they are serving the security of Israel when they protect the unjust policies and actions of the government of Israel towards the Palestinians. They cannot serve Israel’s security when they protect lies and hide the truth. ... We must work for the sake of all of our peoples -- Israelis and Palestinians. ...

[He added]...please remember that even peace is not the ultimate goal. We must go beyond the establishment of justice and peace. We must go beyond the establishment of the two states of Israel and Palestine that live side by side. We must go on to work for healing and for reconciliation between our two peoples.

I believe that many Palestinians, though experiencing the oppressive measures of Israeli occupation, want to live in peace and to be reconciled and even offer forgiveness. Obviously, so long as the injustice persists the door to reconciliation and forgiveness is slammed shut. Justice is the key that opens the door.

When the door is opened, we might be surprised to find that people who have suffered torture, humiliation, oppression, and the loss of loved ones on both sides are open to reconciliation. Indeed, many times it is those who have suffered the most who are the first to forgive. They are willing to give and receive forgiveness.

To the oppressor, justice looks like vengeance. But in the presence of justice, the category of oppressor dissolves and peace and reconciliation can grow. The Episcopal Church doesn't need lobbies. It needs zeal for justice, zeal for creating a context in which love can flourish.

UPDATE: On July 26, Bishop Riah of the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem sent out his own appeal for the Palestinian people of the West Bank and Gaza and expressed his intention to travel to Lebanon to be with the victims of the war.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

How does this end?

The scene of a collapsed apartment building which was destroyed by renewed Israeli air strikes in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon on Wednesday. (AP / Ben Curtis)

A high-ranking IAF officer caused a storm on Monday in an off-record briefing during which he told reporters that IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz had ordered the military to destroy 10 buildings in Beirut in retaliation to every Katyusha rocket strike on Haifa.

The officer said that the equation was created by Halutz and that every rocket strike on Haifa would be answered by IAF missile strikes on 10 12-story buildings in the Beirut neighborhood of Dahiya, a Hizbullah stronghold. Since the beginning of Operation Change of Direction, launched on July 12 following the abduction of two soldiers during a Hizbullah cross-border attack, over 80 buildings in the neighborhood have been destroyed.

Jerusalem Post, July 24, 2006

UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon contacted Israeli troops 10 times before an Israeli bomb killed four of them, an initial UN report says.

The post was hit by a precision-guided missile after six hours of shelling, diplomats familiar with the probe say.

BBC News, July 26, 2006

I pray to Almighty God that He may spare nations the terrible sufferings that have just been inflicted on my people.... The very refinement of barbarism consisted in carrying ravage and terror into the most densely populated parts of the territory, the points farthest removed from the scene of hostilities....

In a word, it is international morality that is at stake.... Apart from the Kingdom of the Lord there is not on this earth any nation that is superior to any other. ... God and history will remember your judgment....

Haile Selassie to the League of Nations, June 1936

What future other than one of fear, frustration, financial ruin and fanaticism can stem from the rubble? Is the value of human life less in Lebanon than that of citizens elsewhere?

Are we children of a lesser God? Is an Israeli teardrop worth more than a drop of Lebanese blood?

Can the international community continue to stand by while such callous retribution by the state of Israel is inflicted upon us?

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, July 26, 2004

UPDATE: meanwhile...

The Israel Defense Forces killed 23 Palestinians in fighting across the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, including at least nine militants, three children and a disabled man, medics and witnesses said. ...

Saeb Erekat, a top aide to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, called on the world to remember the plight of the Palestinians despite the conflict in Lebanon.

"This is the forgotten war," he told Reuters. "We urge the international community to intervene."

Haaretz, July 26, 2006


Where do they get these people? Or perhaps Iraq is such a complete disaster that it induces this condition of incoherence.

From the New York Times on the subject of the newest U.S. initiative to raise troop numbers in Baghdad:

Mr. Hadley, the national security adviser, said the failure of the initial plan forced the administration to move to what he called “Phase II.”

But other officials said there was no Phase II in the previous plan.

“This is more like Plan B,” said one of Mr. Hadley’s associates...

Photo: An unidentified woman holds a sign to demonstrate next to the U.S. embassy in Berlin July 13, 2006. The sign reads: 'Mister President, Iraq's Oil Harms Your Reputation In The World'. REUTERS/TOBIAS SCHWARZ

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

How the no fly list works?

Air Marshal training. This is supposed to be serious business.

Several years ago, when told we were on the "FBI no fly list," my partner and I sued to try to find out how the TSA puts people on the list and how people could get their names removed. After a lot of litigation, the judge ruled that "national security" prevented disclosure of these rather important facts. Perhaps now we are finding out.

In comments here, Nell has pointed to a report that federal air marshals add names to the list in order to meet a quota.

The air marshals, whose identities are being concealed, told 7NEWS that they're required to submit at least one report a month. If they don't, there's no raise, no bonus, no awards and no special assignments.

"Innocent passengers are being entered into an international intelligence database as suspicious persons, acting in a suspicious manner on an aircraft ... and they did nothing wrong," said one federal air marshal.

As the story goes on to explain, being put on a federal list could have serious consequences. These lists seem to circulate widely without ever being cleaned up; currently Canadian reports say the lists have mushroomed to some 70,000 names.

The Denver 7NEWS story gives a chilling glimpse into the bureaucratic jungle where these things are compiled.

... several air marshals object to a July 2004 memo from top management in the Las Vegas office, a memo that reminded air marshals of the Surveillance Detection Report requirement.

The body of the memo said, "Each federal air marshal is now expected to generate at least one SDR per month."...

Las Vegas-based air marshals say the quota system remains in force, now more than two years after managers sent the original memos, and that it's a mandate from management that impacts annual raises, bonuses, awards and special assignments.

Great. The Feds are watching travelers because some poor smuck had to make sure he got the vacation dates he wanted? And probably the other bureaucrats, if any, whose job is to check the reports to see whether they are justified are also subjected to a quota system. You'd think the U.S. government wanted to find "terrorists" around every corner.... Oh, it does?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Arab American anger runs up against fear

Lebanese protesters hold anti-American and Israeli banners, during a protest against the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday July 24, 2006. Some places in the United States, this demonstration might seem a dangerous action. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Remi Kanazi wrote in yesterday's Middle East North Africa Financial Network News:

In the US, the sense of outrage from the Lebanese and Arab community has been unlike anything I've ever seen. People are angry, disgusted, and enraged by these recent events. Over time, many Arab-Americans became desensitized to the violence engulfing Iraq and the Occupied Territories. The events in Lebanon, however, have politically energized many Arab-Americans generally disinterested in the "politics" of the Middle East.

[What are the reasons for this?] First, the US is home to a large Lebanese population. ... Second, in the minds of many Arab-Americans, Beirut -- once considered the "Paris of the Middle East" -- was nearing that status again.

Third, many Lebanese and Arab-Americans I've spoken with were stunned by what's seen as an attack on the Lebanese government, the indiscriminate bombing of Beirut, the striking of both Christian and Muslim neighborhoods and interests, and the expansive attack on the civilian population and infrastructure. Many Lebanese believed that after a 15 year civil war, the calming of inter-religious tensions, and an end to the Israeli occupation, that they were on a better footing.

If Kanazi is right, the newly galvanized Lebanese American, Arab American, and Muslim opposition to U.S. slavish support for Israel runs smack into the other reality of post-9/11 America: suppression of the civil liberties of the same communities.

In liberal strongholds like Northern California, repression has not yet worked. I just got a notice from the American Arab Anti Discrimination Committee about a protest against Senator Diane Feinstein's blanket support for Israel. And Arab Americans in Michigan turned out in huge numbers last week to register their dissent.

But many places in the United States don't feel so safe. A really disturbing article from South Florida tells a story of fear:

While Israel's offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has killed over 350 Lebanese and 34 Israelis, has sparked protests in parts of the United States and Europe, Arab-American reaction in South Florida has been muted....

"People feel that they're being watched, that they're being placed on terrorist lists," said Roraima Aisha Kanar, 52, a customer service representative who lives in Miami. "So instead of getting involved they retract into their shell and walk in the other direction." ...

The relative absence of large, organized rallies in much of the United States reflects a sense of resignation among Arabs living in a country that is Israel's staunchest ally, said Salam Al-Marayati, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

"The political tradition here has always been one-sided. Many Muslims feel that their perspectives are not respected, or that nobody is listening to them. You have Congress passing resolutions that are pro-Israel with no consideration for the loss of Lebanese life," Al-Marayati said from Los Angeles.

The awareness of being watched extends even to relief efforts for the victims of the Israeli assault on Lebanon. The Council on American-Islamic Relations sent out a special plea today for donations to help displaced, homeless Lebanese. In all international relief work, it is established wisdom that the best donation any of us can make is cash. Our money can then be used in ways that fit the needs on the ground and often can benefit the economy of the suffering area. But, because since 2001 Islamic charities are routinely charged with passing money to "terrorists" and sometimes have assets frozen, CAIR doesn't urge money donations.

CAIR is asking that actual relief supplies be collected because of the severe restrictions currently placed on financial aid by the U.S. government.

They carefully list the supplies needed and how to pack them, urging that they be sent through the USAID-approved charity LIFE. Politically motivated "security theater," meaningless restrictions that don't make us safer but do get in the way of ordinary humanity, here is forcing well-meaning people to build their relief efforts with one hand tied behind their backs.

As Katrina showed, this government doesn't give a damn about arrangements to help suffering people. Not too surprising, since our rulers don't do ceasefires either...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A letter from Beirut

Tina writes:

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area: imagine an earthquake happening everyday.

Imagine yourself with Oakland Airport destroyed. and next day with the Bay Bridge down again. and then the San Mateo Bridge and then the Golden Gate. and then the San Francisco airport. And then the phone lines falling silent, one neighborhood at a time. Imagine a power plant having its fuel tanks bombed, burning and going up smoke.

Around you, every day, more houses are flattened.

You can't go north. You can't go east. You can't go south. You are trapped.

Imagine yourself trapped.

There are people paying for the bombs and the airplanes. Those people are Americans. This is an American war where no American soldiers get killed. Americans send bombs to Israel. Americans let themselves be led by the Israeli lobby. Read what Tom Hayden wrote this week about how he was used by the Israel lobby in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and how that lobby works to undermine all good work you do, even your peace movement.

Be the good people I know you are; demonstrate, sit in, stop this American war.

from Beirut, Lebanon

Tina will be speaking on Robbie Osman's show on KPFA radio at 11am PDT, Sunday, July 23. If you you miss the show, Robbie puts his tapes up as podcasts at KPFA. In the left hand column of the web page, scroll the "choose show" button to "Across the Great Divide" and follow the links.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

U.S. no fly list screens Canadians evacuated from Lebanon

When you live next door to a paranoid colossus, it is hard not to get drawn into its fantasy life. Canada has for some months been pondering how to go about generating its own "no fly" list to keep dangerous people off airplanes. Canadian papers now report that the country is making progress -- though its anxious neighbor isn't likely to cheer their results.

OTTAWA (CP) - Being a member of a terrorist organization won't necessarily land someone on Canada's no-fly list, The Canadian Press has learned. Proposed criteria would limit inclusion on the roster to those who pose "an immediate threat to aviation security," say internal briefing notes prepared by Transport Canada.

Draft regulations, disclosed by a source familiar with details of the plan, confirm the no-fly list will be tightly focused and reviewed every 30 days to keep it up to date. ... The source said officials will be surprised if the resulting Canadian list includes more than 1,000 names.

The approach reflects the government's desire to avoid pitfalls experienced in the United States, where the no-fly roster features some 70,000 names.

Somehow I don't think my U.S. government is going to be happy with such a display of sanity. After all, as the Boston Globe pointed out in a recent editorial on the Bushies' "security" theater:

...the list has nabbed more members of Congress than it has terrorists.

Meanwhile, somehow the U.S. no fly list keeps extending its tentacles into Canadian life, despite the government's careful deliberations.

Now they are screening evacuees from the Israeli assault on Lebanon (which has killed 8 Canadians.) According to the Ottawa Citizen:

Canadians stranded in Lebanon are expected to face close security screening to ensure an evacuation effort does not inadvertently bring home Hezbollah militants or other terrorism suspects. ...

Although the Department of Foreign Affairs won't discuss security specifics, a source familiar with the department's emergency evacuation procedures says the names of the evacuees would typically be compared to government watch lists to ensure no one poses a threat. The names would be cross-referenced against lists maintained by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, CSIS and the RCMP, as well as names culled from the U.S. no-fly list.

Hell of a time to learn you have one of the thousands of names mistakenly included on the list as the rescue ship pulls away...

Friday, July 21, 2006

More on Lebanon under Israeli attack

Journalists visit bombed out Harat Hreik, a Shi'ite suburb of Beirut. Chris Allbritton photo

Chris Allbritton has reported from Iraq for three years as a stringer for various U.S. media outlets, most recently TIME. Beirut was where he retreated for R&R -- and when Baghdad became too dangerous last spring, where he waited for a visa to the probable next target of U.S. invasion, Iran. Instead of Chris going to war, war has come to Chris. The guy knows how to look for a story in a war and he knows a little about Lebanon. Check out his vivid reports at the now slightly mislabeled Back to Iraq.
Martin Accad is the academic dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon. He was teaching at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, last week and is now unable to return home. Finding the media coverage of what was happening in his country dominated by partisans of Israel, especially fundamentalist Christians, he wrote what follows for Christianity Today.

"Nuclear-armed Iran"? How about the Israeli jet planes that are bombing, as I write, my country and its population, my sisters, my brothers, my fathers and mothers and grandfathers, my children and nieces and nephews? According to the Lebanese health minister, Israel is even using phosphoric bombs, which are forbidden under international conventions! Are my people to consider Iran more dangerous than this? Are we safely in good hands with such actions? Come with me to Beirut and see how inoffensive Israel is....

"Sometimes disproportionate"?! Talk about an understatement to describe a one-week—and still going—machine of annihilation that has destroyed in days what had taken 15 years of reconstruction. Civilians "killed accidentally"?! Explain that to the young mother squatting right now at my parents' home in Lebanon, having just heard her husband was torn into pieces by an Israeli bomb as he was carrying out civil relief in villages of South Lebanon! But of course these civilians were at fault, since they had been warned by Israeli flyers to evacuate their villages the previous night. But to go where? To my father's living room?! They are welcome, but it's getting really full....

I think that some pseudo-biblically motivated Christians with decision power, who believe "that apocalyptic destruction is a precursor to global salvation," are presently working toward provoking a Middle Eastern conflict of regional significance in order finally to settle accounts with Hezbollah- and Hamas-supporting Syria, Iran, Lebanon, and Palestine, who have committed the crime, as [an evangelical commentator] put it, of making their hatred for Israel "crystal clear." And how dare they, since the said state has only been acting as an aggressor and racist colonial state with neighbor-exterminating tendencies from the moment of its inception?

The whole article is well worth reading even if your perspective is secular.

The core of a progressive resurgence

You'll almost never find positive comments on foundations, the main U.S. dispensers of non-profit cash, on this site. Because I am lucky enough to work in politics as a consultant, often with organizations that are not dependent on this form of philanthropy, I can take potshots that someone working in a 501(c)(3) couldn't risk.

But lately I've been shown a little pamphlet, "Building the New Majority," from the New World Foundation that lays out some simple truths that most blogosphere activists in Democratic Party politics too often ignore. New World doesn't put this document online or make it available for download, so I am going to quote extensively.

How many of our political sites and pundits propose as a first principle this simple advice? Don't ignore the core. New World enumerates our core constituencies on the basis of how groups voted in 2004:
  • Union members: 25 percent of the electorate; voted 65 percent Democratic
  • African Americans: 12 percent of voters; voted 88 percent Democratic
  • Latinos: 11 percent of voters; 56-65 percent Democratic (data is disputed)
  • Young voters (18-25): 18 percent of voters; 54 percent Democratic
  • Single women: 22 percent of voters; 62 percent Democratic
  • Jews: 3 percent of voters; 74 percent Democratic
  • Muslims: disputed percentage of voters; 93 percent Democratic.
  • Furthermore, "there are other groups in the core as well: liberal people of faith, environmentalists, civil libertarians, the gay rights movement, the anti-war movement, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Islanders, consumer advocates."
They conclude:

All together, the core groups consistently represent 35-45 percent of the electorate...Our core base is predominantly people of color, the working class and poor, and women heads of households. Yet our national leaders remain predominantly white, male, and highly privileged. Whether in public office or other institutions, they appear unable to articulate or implement a vision of racial equality and social justice....

The pamphlet goes to spell out how New World thinks we can go about correcting this situation and building support outward from the core; it is not hard to quibble about the specifics of their prescription. However, it seems madness to me to argue that our future doesn't depend on the core they've so clearly enumerated. We in the blogs ignore this central insight at peril of futility.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Rallying for Lebanon

As readers of this blog know, the Israeli attack on Lebanon is touching me personally because I have just come back from visiting a friend in that fascinating country. Photo essays from that experience are linked on the right sidebar.

This morning I had a nice surprise. While listening to latest news of bombing, shelling and destruction, I heard my friend speaking on the BBC from a peace rally in Beirut.

The Lebanon Daily Star described the demonstration:

BEIRUT: The capital saw its first anti-war rally Thursday morning. Lil Hayat (For Life), a gathering of 40 voluntary organizations and NGOs, made the call. The 300-odd demonstrators marched from UN House (headquarters of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia) to the Saifi headquarters of the European Commission. There, organizers read a letter to EU envoy Patrick Renauld calling on the EU to press Israel for an immediate cease-fire.

Israel "is using a policy of collective punishment by bombing civilians," the letter read, "systematically destroying Lebanon's infrastructure as well as public and private property and by [en]forcing a siege through land, air [and] water on Lebanon ... The situation has led to complex humanitarian and health problems."

... Lil Hayat organizer Wael Hmaidan [explained]: "We have no idea how a cease-fire comes about, but this attack must stop immediately."

Though it is easy for people in the United States who are horrified by the developing humanitarian catastrophe to feel isolated when even such "liberals" as Hilary Clinton cheer Israel's murderous invasion on. But in the world at large, we are not alone. Click this link for an international list of peace demonstrations collected on a Lebanese blog. Reading through the comments, I see there is even one in Tel Aviv.

For great pictures of a Boston demonstration yesterday, look here.

This image is from the rally by at least 10,000 people, many of them Arab Americans, in Dearborn, Michigan on July 18.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Foreign nationals under the Israeli gun

Today the story of Israel's attack on Lebanon in the western media consists of dramatic pictures of foreign nationals being evacuated. (There can't really be any argument about whether Israel is making war on the state of Lebanon, not just Hezbollah, after yesterday's bombing of privately owned milk, plastics and paper factories throughout the country.) I can understand the attraction of the evacuation pictures -- and at least so far, reporters can cover evacuation a lot more safely than they can visit bombed sites. And the resulting stories are more palatable than discussing yet more Lebanese civilian casualties.

The BBC website is running this box on its main page showing the nationalities of foreigners who might be among the evacuees. Hey, wait a minute -- that leaves out the most obvious foreigners we saw in Lebanon last month: South Asians, mostly Sri Lankans, mostly working as maids.

Because we were staying with a Lebanese activist for the maids' rights, we were extremely conscious of the condition of these women. They come to Lebanon in order to send remittances to their families. Once in the country, they often find themselves at the mercy of corrupt labor contractors, embassy officials who want a cut of somebody's cash, and employers who think they have bought 18 hours a day of labor and few bodily favors from their imported help. Not surprisingly, some escape their conditions of semi-servitude, overstay visas, and generally live in an undocumented twilight. When caught, these immigration violators have been held in a underground prison in downtown Beirut -- it occurred to me that sounded like a death trap given current Israeli targeting of Lebanese infrastructure.

Well -- it turns out the BBC is not unaware of the Sri Lankans. If you poke around in their site and get into the section aimed at South Asia, (after all, that region was once part of the raj) you can find a quite thorough article aimed at the BBC's Sri Lankan audience. Given what we heard about the corruption and inefficiency of the Sri Lankan embassy, I don't feel all that reassured when a Second Secretary says they are doing their best to get Sri Lankans out -- but it can't hurt the 80,000 foreign workers from that country to have questions about their well-being asked by a western media outlet.

And despite the BBC's graphic on their lead page, Sri Lankans do number more than any of the foreign contingents named in their graphic!

Monday, July 17, 2006

More refugees in a region already awash in displaced people

In one of the few comprehensive surveys of how many Iraqis have fled their country since the US invasion, the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants said last month that there were 644,500 refugees in Syria and Jordan in 2005 — about 2.5 per cent of Iraq’s population. In total, 889,000 Iraqis had moved abroad, creating “the biggest new flow of refugees in the world”, according to Lavinia Limon, the committee’s president. Times (London), July 13, 2006

Last month when my partner and I were part of peace group of U.S. citizens meeting Iraqis in Jordan and Syria, the most important new insight we gained about the U.S. war on Iraq was that one hell of a lot of people were flooding into neighboring countries. The dry statistics cited above tell the story one way; read the whole article for a truly terrifying account of the sectarian infighting that war has unleashed. The headline encapsulates the story: "Baghdad starts to collapse as its people flee a life of death."

I've written before here about the pressures that a flood of Iraqi refugees are creating in Jordan.

The same US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants report cited by the London Times above concluded that Syria had absorbed about 350,000 Iraqi refugees.

That was before Israel started bombing Lebanon, sending thousands fleeing for their lives. Today this tidbit lurked deep in the news:

More than 90,000 people have fled from Lebanon into Syria since the beginning of the Israeli bombardment, Syrian government officials said Sunday. NY Times, July 17, 2006

Think what it would be like to have to run for your life with only what you could carry, not knowing if you'd ever be able to return to your home -- or whether your home would still be there if by chance you could come back. Then get off your duff and harass your Congresscritter to stop the U.S. from paying for both these wars.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Of progressive U.S. activists and our futility

Smoke from an Israeli air raid on the Ouzai neighborhood of Beirut. (AFP/Hosam Chebaro)

SFMike wrote this in answer to Tina from Beirut in the comments on my previous post:

None of the Americans commenting here have a clear conscience at this moment, and frankly some of us are deeply ashamed. However, there's only so much we can do without being thrown in jail or murdered ourselves.

I probably should not be trying to talk about the Israeli attack on Lebanon, since all I really know of Lebanon is that I loved being shown this lovely, ancient, multi-faceted country on a visit last month. But I know a hell of a lot about what progressive activists in the United States can and cannot do. And meaning no disrespect to Mike whose Civic Center blog has given me a lot of inspiration in developing this one, I want to take his remark apart a little.

I don't think we here in the U.S. suffer any very immediate risk for expressing any kind of opinion, however vigorously. We can even -- if we are white, native-born, not really poor, of discernable gender, and live in an urban area -- "risk arrest" by slightly impeding the activity of the state and usually pay very little penalty. But we've arrived at a pass in which we know clearly, perhaps more than we could have in the past, the crimes of our regime, externally and internally. And concurrently we can't do a thing about them -- we are very nearly impotent in the face of the evil done in our name.

Here I write generationally, as one of the 1960s people, the leading edge of the Boomers who thought we were seeing the birth of a better, more racially equitable, more gender equal, perhaps even a less imperially adventurous, country. We sure were wrong, weren't we?

So how'd we get to our present futility? We made a mountain of mistakes and committed some pretty stupid errors of our own of course -- books have been written about them. Revolution in the Air and Which Side Are You On?: Trying to Be for Labor When It's Flat on Its Back come to mind.

But for the sake of simplicity, today I'm going to focus on one aspect of our failure: our confusion between winning the culture and winning power. Those of us who came up in the 60s not only lived in a time of great hope, we also could feel the zeitgeist was moving our way. Even those of our peers who were completely disconnected from the struggles for racial and gender justice and for peace were growing their hair long and adopting "anti-establishment" values -- who cared what the "straights" in suits and ties did in legislatures and executive offices? Elections were beneath us; we were the militant outsiders who were defining a new world. We were winning culture; who cared about the instruments of power grasped by those other people? They'd die off or have to come around eventually.

For a couple of decades, this posture actually seemed to give us momentum -- especially if we were economically comfortable white folks. After all, some women entered realms of activity previously unimagined -- and even queer folks began to live in the light of day. We were cool; they were stodgy old foggies. The world was troubled, but on the way to good.

Meanwhile, the right set about taking over the actual instruments of power, the institutions of government. Sure, they built up their own "cultural" institutions -- "Christian rock" and AM hate radio -- but they also knew where power was located and they wanted it. And gradually, they took it. Today we are probably one ancient Supreme Court justice away from living under a completely authoritarian regime cheered on by a compliant corporate media.

Now this simplistic picture of what the potential base of progressive people have been doing for the last 35 years doesn't really describe hardly anyone I know. Most of us have done quite a lot of things to attempt to actualize policies we believe in -- and some of us have been in various struggles our whole lives. But we have not started from a vision that said that winning political power was the necessary prerequisite to making any of the things we thought ought to happen in the world come true. And, consequently, when push comes to shove, as it has when our country directly commits mayhem in Iraq and Afghanistan and supports mayhem in Palestine and Lebanon, we can do nothing. So we blither -- and endlessly inform ourselves.

These days, I do see a new generation coming along that knows that they have to take power to make change. They aren't winning yet, but I don't think things are hopeless. Even the somnolent Democratic Party has gotten tired of being shut out and is building organizing infrastructure. And if the basic organizing gets done, that insight many of us had a lifetime ago that leading with culture works will again have great force -- and so long as it sells, we can count on corporate media to come around and sell our version of culture.

Meanwhile, we are stuck doing all the futile things that bear witness that another world is possible and we repudiate the right's imperial wars. Time to call our timid Congresscritters and remind them that they work for us, not just for the Israel lobby. Time to demonstrate where we can. Time to get creative and active and keep on keepin' on -- knowing that throwing the bums out and replacing them with our own bums is not beneath our dignity!
In the interests of further informing our weak efforts, let me suggest this corrective to CNN's disinformation. And after reading that, if you have a strong stomach, read this 2002 interview with an Israeli expert on asymmetrical warfare; based on this sample, I suspect he'd say that at this moment when the IDF pounds Lebanon, it is losing its war. (Via the brutally wise Bilmon.)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

U.S. pours fuel on fire

A Lebanese man escapes from a gasoline station after it was hit by an Israeli air strike in Saida, south Lebanon, July 15, 2006. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho
Yesterday the Pentagon announced plans to send more jet fuel to Israel.

"The jet fuel will be consumed while (Israel's) aircraft (are) in use to keep peace and security in the region," the notice to Congress said.

I see. More flights to bomb Lebanon. More flights to bomb Gaza. Maybe Syria? Maybe Iran?

Meanwhile, consumers of U.S. TV "news" are shielded from the awful reality. Well, some people's awful reality. Eric Boehlert spent yesterday keeping track:

...throughout the day CNN repeatedly reported on the lone Israeli civilian causality without making any mention of the more than 50 Lebanese civilian casualties. To be exact, CNN did that at 10:31 a.m., 11:02, 12:09 p.m., 12:19, 1:00, 1:30, 1:52, 2:00, 2:17, 2:30, 2:50, and 4:04.

Have we are arrived at a pass in which that bellicose demagogue, President Ahmadinejad of Iran, sounds like a sane man?

"This situation cannot last, and one day the protectors of the Zionist regime -- the US in particular -- will have to explain themselves and be judged by the conscience of humanity," he added.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The great fleamarket of Chilmark, Mass.

Since I recently posted a photo essay about the great souq of Damascus, it seems a worthy counterpoint to post pictures of the market held Wednesday and Saturday mornings down the road from where I am currently visiting. It is not perhaps quite as exotic to my eyes, but a closer look is amusing.

Many of the goods for sale are used household goods.

Some are tastefully displayed.

Some displays are a little incomprehensible.

A few of the sale items are downright distasteful in themselves.

A few artists promote their works.

Some craft items are quite attractive, though not necessarily things I'd want.

Customers eye the wares.

Some come ready to sit down, while others stride purposefully.

Someone must have dispatched her to find something they wanted. She is serious about her errand.

I didn't buy anything, but this reminder of the World Cup would have been fun to take home at a more reasonable price. Forty-five dollars seemed too much for a toy, even one that screams "ANTIQUE."