Four at Four

This is an OPEN THREAD, but it also features four stories in the news at 4 o’clock.

  1. BBC News reports on the deadly plane crash in Thailand. “At least 87 people have died after a budget airliner crashed after landing in heavy rain at the Thai holiday resort of Phuket, officials say. ¶ The aircraft slipped off the runway and exploded into flames. It was carrying 123 passengers – most of them foreigners – and seven crew. About 40 people escaped the burning wreckage and were taken to hospital. ¶ Flight OG 269, operated by airline One-Two-Go, had flown to Phuket from the Thai capital, Bangkok. Officials say at least 87 people were confirmed dead after the plane skidded off the runway in strong winds and driving rain on Sunday.”.

  2. According to The Telegraph, Osama bin Laden has been sidelined as al-Qaeda threat revives. “Osama bin Laden’s deputy has seized control of al-Qaeda and rebuilt the terror network into an organisation capable of launching complex terror attacks in Britain and America. ¶ Intelligence officials [claim] that bin Laden has not chaired a meeting of al-Qaeda’s ruling shura, or council, in more than two years. ¶ Instead, Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s nominal number two, is credited with rebuilding the terror network since the Afghan war in 2001. ¶ Intelligence sources in Washington have revealed that Western spy chiefs were recently forced to revise dramatically their view that al-Qaeda was so depleted that it was little more than a cheerleader for extremists. ¶ Instead, British and American intelligence agencies believe that a network of terrorist cells, funded, controlled and supported by al-Qaeda’s central command, based in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan, is in place again. ¶ Al-Zawahiri’s task has been made easier because not a single prominent al-Qaeda leader has been captured since March 2006, nearly 18 months ago.” The Los Angles Times explains that al Qaeda is expanding by ‘co-opting’ new affiliate. “Secure in its haven in northwestern Pakistan, a resurgent Al Qaeda is trying to expand its network, in some cases by executing corporate-style takeovers of regional Islamic extremist groups, according to U.S. intelligence officials and counter-terrorism experts. ¶ Though not always successful, these moves indicate a shift in strategy by the terrorist network as it seeks to broaden its reach and renew its ability to strike Western targets, including the United States, officials and experts say.”I guess all those ‘important’ al-Qaeda number threes that the Bush administration trots out every few months are sort of like Star Trek’s red shirt guys.

  3. The New York Times reports that the state of New York has subpoenaed five energy companies that plan on building new coal-burning power plants. “Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo of New York has opened an investigation of five large energy companies, questioning whether their plans to build coal-fired power plants pose undisclosed financial risks that their investors should know about… ¶ In letters accompanying the subpoenas, the attorney general’s office asked whether investors received adequate information about the potential financial liabilities of carbon dioxide emissions that exacerbate climate change. ¶ ‘Any one of the several new or likely regulatory initiatives for CO2 emissions from power plants — including state carbon controls, E.P.A.’s regulations under the Clean Air Act, or the enactment of federal global warming legislation — would add a significant cost to carbon-intensive coal generation,’ the letters said. ¶ They added, ‘Selective disclosure of favorable information or omission of unfavorable information concerning climate change is misleading.‘ ¶ Mr. Cuomo’s move represents a new tactic in an expanding campaign against some of the more than 100 coal-fired power plants currently under consideration.”

  4. While not really news, I found this piece of travel writing by Ellen Knickmeyer of the Washington Post quite evocative. So for your Sunday afternoon reading enjoyment, here is the opening excerpt from ‘Whiling Away the Night In the Salon of the Sahara‘.

    As darkness settled over Marrakech’s Djemma el-Fna Square and the crowds flowed in to pass the evening, a stylish young Moroccan couple in one corner of the plaza crouched by a necromancer, urgently whispering their troubles into his ear.

    Their counselor, a maker of magic charms, listened attentively, pen ready to jot down the right incantation on one of the scraps of paper lying at his feet on the gray stone of the plaza.

    In another corner, a Tuareg tribesman from the Sahara of southern Morocco was having a bad sales night. On a sheet before him lay withered ostrich legs, chunks of petrified wood from the rippling grasslands that once covered the Sahara, and numerous balms, potions, powders and scents. For now, no one was buying.

    From a plastic bin at the Tuareg’s feet, dried chameleons used in magic and folk medicine — their eyes bulging and their tongues extruding — glared sullenly at passersby. Under his blue turban, so did the Tuareg.

    Open fires roasting mutton for sale sent orange flames and towers of greasy smoke over Djemma el-Fna, adding to the medieval air of the ancient square, which is bounded by mosques dating to the 10th century…

So, what else is happening?

Pony Party: Sunday music retrospective

Harry Nilsson

Everybody’s Talkin’

Harry sang Fred Neil’s Everybody’s Talkin’ in the movie Midnight Cowboy.  There was a top 40 version released by Spanky and Our Gang.  Hence we have a connection to this morning’s Party…just as this evening’s Party is connected to this one.  I do like, in the end, to have a point.


Without You

A hint about the late shift

Please do not recommend a Pony Party when you see one.  There will be another along in a few hours.

–The Man

The Real Makah

(Up again. Just because. – promoted by Turkana)

Disclaimer: My only relationship with the Makah tribe consists of having enjoyed their hospitality on numerous occasions.

(map, right, courtesy of the Makah Nation – click to enlarge)

“. . . we are not going to sanction illegal activities. We are not that kind of tribe.”

–Ed Claplanhoo, Makah tribal elder, member of the tribal whaling commission

The statement above is from a Seattle Times article which does a pretty good job of presenting several of the differing viewpoints on the incident of September 8, when five members of the Makah tribe fatally injured a California grey whale in a criminal act that has been loudly condemned by the group angered the most:

The Makah tribal council denounces the actions of those who took it upon themselves to hunt a whale without the authority from the Makah Tribal Council or the Makah Whaling Commission.
We are a law-abiding people and we will not tolerate lawless conduct by any of our members. We hope the public does not permit the actions of five irresponsible persons to be used to harm the image of the entire Makah tribe.

That hope is vain, as the Makah know well. Hence the immediate dispatch of a delegation to DC in an attempt to repair the damage.

Included in the first article above is the following:

The Makah need to follow the laws of the U.S., said Cacace, who lives near Tacoma. “It’s been a long time since those treaties were signed.

“If they did it the way they used to do it, with the harpoon and canoe, it’d probably be fine with me,” he said.

Such statements, remarkably ignorant and confused in more ways than one, are entirely representative of sentiments that can be heard at any coffee shop in the state as well as around the web and even in print. They are considered reasonable, and for that reason are as pernicious as the outright racism that the incident has inspired on the message boards and in the gutter press.

“The Makah need to follow the laws of the U.S.”

The first, the one not directly quoted, is a truism with which no one is arguing and certainly not the Makah tribe, which is cooperating fully with state and local officials and trying the miscreants in tribal court as well, where they face in addition to other penalties possible suspension of their tribal rights. Ironically, among the privileges that the tribe could take away – and only the tribe, because it is the tribe that grants them, not the US – is that of participating in any future whale hunt authorized by the tribe, assuming that such ever happen.

“It’s been a long time since those treaties were signed.”

The second implies that binding treaties can be disregarded if they are found inconvenient. Does that work both ways? If the Treaty of Neah Bay, which uniquely among treaties with native peoples granted the Makah whaling rights in its Article 4, is no longer a binding document, the Makah are presumably free to reassert claims to traditional land given up in that treaty. Or is it only the stronger power that can repudiate treaties? Do we want might makes right to be the only rule that matters? Here, and elsewhere?

The Constitution was signed even longer ago. Yet it is nominally still in effect.

Article 4 contains about all they got out of the deal. The promised assistance didn’t materialize, at least not in the form the Makah expected. What they had in mind was leveling the playing field with a few more modern boats so they could join in the capitalist game. And while they did quite well with sealing, which for years made them more money than whaling ever did, and then with halibut, they did it mostly on their own.

The great white dads prescribed the usual: English, Christian habits, and agrarianism, which would lessen the competition in the ocean fisheries and sealing.

Never mind that the possibilities for farming are severely limited by the region’s climate and geography,1 or that their dress, custom, and economy had served them well for several thousand years. So well that they were known by surrounding tribes as “makah,” a term that translates as “generous with food.”

We call ourselves “Kwih-dich-chuh-ahtx” or “people who live by the rocks and seagulls”.2

“If they did it the way they used to do it, with the harpoon and canoe, it’d probably be fine with me.”

Probably, but maybe not. There is a lot wrong with this. Up front, it demonstrates the common public ignorance of the fact that any tribally sanctioned hunt is done with harpoon and canoe. The 50-caliber rifle is used only after the whale is secured by harpoons, a measure meant to insure that death is as quick and painless as possible. Its use is an attempt to comply with modern practice and sentiment, not a quick and dirty shortcut. This protocol was established by the tribe’s own whaling commission in consultation with the International Whaling Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

More objectionable still is the implicit assumption that it is up to the speaker to decide how the Makah conduct their affairs, that there is an outside arbiter that gets to decide what is the real Makah and what is not. We hear it all the time in the argument that the Makah shouldn’t be allowed to hunt whales because they don’t live in a traditional society any more, that they drive cars and use microwave ovens. They are just like us, the argument goes, and shouldn’t be granted any special privileges.

This is the last gasp of the assimilationist argument. Try arguing that Scotland has no identity of its own because few Scots paint their faces blue any more, or that the Japanese aren’t Japanese because they flock to McDonalds.

Leave it to Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to get it wrong as usual:

I think what the Makah are trying to do is test the resolve of the U.S. government to enforce the law.

This is every bit as bad as the first headlines, like Tribal Hunters Kill Migrating Whale. We have seen that it was not a tribal hunt. To me, this headline is troubling. Imagine a story on Michael Vick that began Negro Tortures Dog.

For Watson, there are no individuals, only the Makah as a group. By turns over the years Watson’s ideas on this have been wrongheaded, false, or irrelevant. He simply cannot understand that the right to the hunt is considered by most Makah as central to cultural identity and that asking them to give it up on someone else’s terms is tantamount to asking them to un-be Makah.

Nor can he comprehend the position of many in the tribe who oppose whaling on some of the same grounds as he, and yet insist on the right to decide for themselves. His remarks this time around only weaken his case.

Watson and the animal rights groups see a tree but not the forest. Firmly focussed on one animal’s death instead of the collapse of the global environment, they have convinced a huge section of the public that the Makah are awful people, utterly lacking in environmental awareness. So it might seem, given the selective amnesia of the outside world and its media.

We never hear much about the tribe’s vital role in helping to manage and protect the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and its three National Wildlife Refuges (click to enlarge map, right). Or about its painstaking monitoring of fresh and ocean water quality.

Or its response to the Tenyo Maru disaster,3 both the immediate cleanup and the long term remediation effort. (What if the tribe had played some part in the oil spill? It would be held against them forever as evidence of their irresponsibility. But the Japanese fishing ship and the Chinese freighter that rammed it? Oh well, accidents happen you know.)

It is forgotten that the tribe chooses to build and maintain hiking trails across its own land so that visitors from around the world can more easily enjoy the remoter parts of the coast.

No one complains when the Makah spend tribal funds to research the decline in deer populations or on how to best manage the Roosevelt elk herds of the Olympic peninsula. Or when they pioneer in removing unnecessary dams to restore salmon runs that benefit not just themselves but also the commercial fishery at large.

Nor is there much coverage of the Makah’s forward thinking on renewable energy, as exhibited by their participation in the Makah Bay AquaBuOY Wave Energy Pilot Project.

Makah Tribal Council Chairman Ben Johnson Jr.:

The Makah Tribe has interest in using energy derived from renewable resources. The Makah Nation chose to partner in this project due to the environmental integrity and low impact of AquaEnergy’s offshore buoy technology.

This is not a group unaware of or disinterested in the larger environment. Without resorting to romantic nonsense it is fair to say they live in a state of closer integration with the world than most.

One of the Makah myths relates that Thunderbird brought Whale to the people, showing them the new resource that would feed them. The story is central enough that it serves as the tribal logo and flag. As stories go, it makes as much sense as the dust and spare ribs and apples on offer elsewhere.

Whatever we feel about whaling, we have no right to tell these people how to live, or to ask them to un-be what they know they are. It might be better to listen.

For your viewing pleasure: Aerial photos of the Washington coast


  1. Nonetheless, and undermining the view that they were simply too lazy or stupid to farm, the Makah had the wit to adopt crops suitable for cultivation in their environment when they ran across any. A 1792 encounter with the Spanish resulted in a tradition of potato cultivation which continues to this day. The unique variety was finally recognized as the Makah Potato, sometimes called the Ozette.
  2. The story of the name, while true, itself plays into a noble savage myth that the Makah are happy to exploit for public relations purposes. Prior to European contact, they were successful players in the great coastal trading network. You can bet many of those gifts of food were what we would call product samples, loss leaders.
  3. It is estimated that this one spill 25 miles northwest of Cape Flattery wiped out more than ten percent of Washington’s marbled murrelets, sensitive because they spend their time at sea just beyond the surf. The coast of the Makah reservation was hit hardest of all.

Is a Jewish Glasnost Coming to America?

Crossposted at PPF!

There is alot of news coming out of Israel/Palestine/Syria/Egypt and maybe I will write a catch-up diary this weekend. But this very relevant article on our foreign policies caught my eye. Got the link over at Marisacat. And yes, I think they are must reading for cutting edge commentary.

Here is the article in entirety(with permission), blockquotes mine for people that do not read every word, BUT I hope you do:

  Despite Backlash, Many Jews Are Questioning Israel
  by Tony Karon and Tom Engelhardt

  I often think of the letters that come into the Tomdispatch email box as the university of my later life – messages from around the world, offering commentary, criticism, encouragement, but mainly teaching me about lives (and versions of life) I would otherwise know little or nothing about. Then again, the Internet has a way of releasing inhibitions and, from time to time, the Tomdispatch email box is also a sobering reminder of the mindless hate in our world – of every sort, but sometimes of a strikingly anti-Semitic sort, letters that are wildly angry and eager, above all, to shut down or shut up commentary or debate of any sort.

  It’s ironic, then, that the threat of sparking such “anti-Semitism,” as well as charges of being functionally anti-Semitic, have been used for a long time in this country as a kind of club to enforce, within the Jewish community, an exceedingly narrow range of correct opinion on Israel and its behavior in the world. In recent months, such attacks from within the Jewish establishment seem to have escalated whenever any professor or critic steps even slightly out of line, and the recent controversial book, The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt has caused a little storm of consternation. Tony Karon, who runs the always provocative Rootless Cosmopolitan website, suggests that these attacks may not be what they seem, that the need to turn back every deviation from Jewish orthodoxy may actually reflect a loosening of control within the political world of American Jews, and a new opening, a Jewish glasnost.


Is a Jewish Glasnost Coming to America?
Despite a Backlash, Many Jews Are Questioning Israel
By Tony Karon

  First, a confession: It may tell me that I hate myself, but I can’t help loving Masada2000, the website maintained by militant right-wing Zionist followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane. The reason I love it is its D.I.R.T. list – that’s “Dense anti-Israel Repugnant Traitors” (also published as the S.H.I.T. list of “Self-Hating and Israel-Threatening” Jews). And that’s not because I get a bigger entry than – staying in the Ks – Henry Kissinger, Michael Kinsley, Naomi Klein, or Ted Koppel. The Kahanists are a pretty flaky lot, counting everyone from Woody Allen to present Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on their list of Jewish traitors. But the habit of branding Jewish dissidents – those of us who reject the nationalist notion that as Jews, our fate is tied to that of Israel, or the idea that our people’s historic suffering somehow exempts Israel from moral reproach for its abuses against others – as “self-haters”is not unfamiliar to me.

  In 1981, my father went, as a delegate of the B’nai B’rith Jewish service organization, to a meeting of the Cape Town chapter of the Jewish Board of Deputies, the governing body of South Africa’s Jewish communal institutions. The topic of the meeting was “Anti-Semitism on Campus.” My father was pretty shocked and deeply embarrassed when Exhibit A of this phenomenon turned out to be something I’d published in a student newspaper condemning an Israeli raid on Lebanon.

  By then, I was an activist in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, which was consuming most of my energies. Having been an active left-Zionist in my teenage years, I had, however, retained an interest in the Middle East – and, of course, we all knew that Israel was the South African white apartheid regime’s most important ally, arming its security forces in defiance of a UN arms embargo. Even back then, the connection between the circumstances of black people under apartheid, and those of Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, seemed obvious enough to me and to many other Jews in the South African liberation movement: Both were peoples harshly ruled over by a state that denied them the rights of citizenship.

  Still, this was a first. I could recite the kiddush from memory, sing old kibbutznik anthems and curse in Yiddish. I had been called a “bloody Jew” many times, but never an anti-Semite or a self-hating Jew. What quickly became clear to me, though, was the purpose of that “self-hating” smear – to marginalize Jews who dissent from Zionism, the nationalist ideology of Jewish statehood, in order to warn others off expressing similar views.

  What I like about the S.H.I.T. list’s approach to the job – other than the “Dangerous Minds” theme music that plays as you read it – is the way it embraces literally thousands of names, including many of my favorite Jews. Memo to the sages at Masada2000: If you’re trying to paint dissenters as demented traitors, you really have to keep the numbers down. Instead, Masada2000’s inadvertent message is: “Think critically about Israel and you’ll join Woody Allen and a cast of thousands…”

  A New Landscape of Jewish Dissent

  The Kahanists are a fringe movement, but their self-defeating list may nonetheless be a metaphor for the coming crisis in more mainstream nationalist efforts to police Jewish identity. The Zionist establishment has had remarkable success over the past half-century in convincing others that Israel and its supporters speak for, and represent, “the Jews.” The value to their cause of making Israel indistinguishable from Jews at large is that it becomes a lot easier to shield Israel from reproach. It suggests, in the most emphatic terms, that serious criticism of Israel amounts to criticism of Jews. More than a millennium of violent Christian persecution of Jews, culminating in the Holocaust, has made many in the West rightly sensitive towards any claims of anti-Semitism, a sensitivity many Zionists like to exploit to gain a carte blanche exemption from criticism for a state they claim to be the very personification of Jewishness.

  So, despite Israel’s ongoing dispossession and oppression of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, then-Harvard president Larry Summers evidently had no trouble saying, in 2002, that harsh criticisms of Israel are “anti-Semitic in their effect if not in their intent.”

  Robin Shepherd of the usually sensible British think-tank Chatham House has gone even further, arguing that comparing Israel with apartheid South Africa is “objective anti-Semitism.” Says Shepherd: “Of course one can criticize Israel, but there is a litmus test, and that is when the critics begin using constant key references to South Africa and the Nazis, using terms such as ‘bantustans.’ None of these people, of course, will admit to being racist, but this kind of anti-Semitism is a much more sophisticated form of racism, and the kind of hate-filled rhetoric and imagery are on the same moral level as racism, so gross and distorted that they are defaming an entire people, since Israel is an essentially Jewish project.”

  I’d agree that the Nazi analogy is specious – not only wrong but offensive in its intent, although not “racist.” But the logic of suggesting it is “racist” to compare Israel to apartheid South Africa is simply bizarre. What if Israel objectively behaves like apartheid South Africa? What then?

  Actually, Mr. Shepherd, I’d be more inclined to pin the racist label on anyone who conflates the world’s 13 million Jews with a country in which 8.2 million of them – almost two thirds – have chosen not to live.

  Although you wouldn’t know it – not if you followed Jewish life simply through the activities of such major Jewish communal bodies as the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations and the Anti-Defamation League – the extent to which the eight million Jews of the Diaspora identify with Israel is increasingly open to question (much to the horror of the Zionist-oriented Jewish establishment). In a recent study funded by the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (an important donor to Jewish communal organizations), Professors Steven M. Cohen and Ari Y. Kelman revealed that their survey data had yielded some extraordinary findings: In order to measure the depth of attachment of American Jews to Israel, the researchers asked whether respondents would consider the destruction of the State of Israel a “personal tragedy.” Less than half of those aged under 35 answered “yes” and only 54% percent of those aged 35-50 agreed (compared with 78% of those over 65). The study found that only 54% of those under 35 felt comfortable with the very idea of a Jewish state.

  As groups such as the Jewish Agency in Israel (which aims to promote Jewish immigration) and the American Jewish committee expressed dismay over the findings, Cohen and Kelman had more bad news: They believed they were seeing a long-term trend that was unlikely to be reversed, as each generation of American Jews becomes even more integrated into the American mainstream than its parents and grandparents had been. The study, said Cohen, reflected “very significant shifts that have been occurring in what it means to be a Jew.”

  Cohen’s and Kelman’s startling figures alone underscore the absurdity of Shepherd’s suggestion that to challenge Israel is to “defame an entire people.” They also help frame the context for what I would call an emerging Jewish glasnost in which Jewish critics of Israel are increasingly willing to make themselves known. When I arrived in the United States 13 years ago, I was often surprised to find that people with whom I seemed to share a progressive, cosmopolitan worldview would suddenly morph into raging ultranationalists when the conversation turned to Israel. Back then, it would have seemed unthinkable for historian Tony Judt to advocate a binational state for Israelis and Palestinians or for Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen to write that “Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now.” Unthinkable, too, was the angry renunciation of Zionism by Avrum Burg, former speaker of Israel’s Knesset.

  And, in those days, with the internet still in its infancy, the online Jewish dissident landscape that today ranges from groups in the Zionist peace camp like Tikkun, Americans for Peace Now, and the Israel Policy Forum, among others, to anti-Zionist Jews of the left such as Not in My Name and Jewish Voices for Peace, had not yet taken shape. Indeed, there was no Haaretz online English edition in which the reality of Israel was being candidly reported and debated in terms that would still be deemed heretical in much of the U.S. media.

  Thirteen years ago, there certainly was no organization around like “Birthright Unplugged,” which aims to subvert the “Taglit-Birthright Program,” funded by Zionist groups and the government of Israel, that provides free trips to Israel for young Jewish Americans in order to encourage them to identify with the State. (The “Unplugged” version encourages young Jews from the U.S. to take the Birthright tour and its free air travel, and then stay on for a two-week program of visits to the West Bank, to Israeli human rights organizations, and to peace groups. The goal is to see another side of Israel, the side experienced by its victims – and by Israelis who oppose the occupation of the West Bank.)

  Clearly, much has changed, and the ability of the Zionist establishment – the America Israel Political Action Committee, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, and others – to impose nationalist boundaries on Jewish identity is being eroded. It’s worth remembering in this context that anti-Zionism was originally a Jewish movement – the majority of European Jews before World War II rejected the Zionist movement and its calls for a mass migration from Europe to build a Jewish nation-state in Palestine. The most popular Jewish political organization in Europe had been the Yiddishe Arbeiter Bund, a Jewish socialist party that was militantly anti-Zionist. Even among the rabbis of Europe, there was considerable opposition to the idea of Jews taking control of Zion before the arrival of the Messiah (and there still is, of course, from a sizable minority of the ultra-Orthodox).

  Of course, the Holocaust changed all that. For hundreds of thousands of survivors, a safe haven in Palestine became a historic necessity.

  But the world has changed since then, and as the research cited above suggests, the trends clearly don’t favor the Zionists. I was reared on the idea that a Jewish nation-state in the Middle East was the “manifest destiny” of the Jews. I learned in the Zionist movement that Jewish life in the Diaspora was inevitably stunted and ultimately doomed. But history may have decided otherwise. The majority of us have chosen to live elsewhere, thereby voting with our feet. Indeed, according to Israeli government figures, some 750,000 Israeli Jews (15% of Israel’s Jewish population) are now living abroad, further undermining the Zionist premise that the Diaspora is an innately hostile and anti-Semitic place.

  The Ferocity of Nationalism, The Universality of Justice

  Increasingly anxious that most of us have no intention of going to Israel to boost Jewish numbers, the Israel-based Jewish Agency – apparently oblivious to irony of its own actions – has complained to Germany over official policies that make life there so attractive to Jewish immigrants from former Soviet territories, thus discouraging them from going to Israel. More immediately threatening to the Zionist establishment, however, is another reality: Many Jews are beginning to make once unthinkable criticisms of Israel’s behavior. If you want to bludgeon Jewish critics with the charge of “anti-Semitism” when they challenge Israel’s actions, then it’s hardly helpful to have other Jews standing up and expressing the same thoughts. It undermines the sense, treasured by Israel’s most fervent advocates, that they represent a cast-iron consensus among American Jews in particular.

  That much has been clear in the response to the publication of John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt’s controversial new book The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, which challenges the wisdom and morality of the unashamed and absolute bias in U.S. foreign policy towards Israel. In an exchange on the NPR show Fresh Air, Walt was at pains to stress, as in his book, that the Israel Lobby, as he sees it, is not a Jewish lobby, but rather an association of groupings with a right-wing political agenda often at odds with majority American-Jewish opinion.

  Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, argued exactly the opposite: Walt and Mearsheimer, he claimed, were effectively promoting anti-Semitism, because the Israel lobby is nothing more (or less) than the collective will of the American Jewish community. Which, of course, it isn’t. In fact, in the American Jewish community you can increasingly hear open echoes of Mearsheimer and Walt’s skepticism over whether the lobby’s efforts are good for Israel.

  But Foxman’s case is undercut by something far broader – an emerging Jewish glasnost. Of course, like any break with a long-established nationalist consensus, the burgeoning of dissent has provoked a backlash. Norman Finkelstein – the noted Holocaust scholar and fierce critic of Zionism recently hounded out of De Paul University in a campaign of vilification based precisely on the idea that fierce criticism of Israel is the equivalent of “hate speech” – could be forgiven for being skeptical of the idea that the grip of the ultranationalists is weakening.

  So, too, could Joel Kovel. After all, he found his important book Overcoming Zionism pulled by his American publisher, the University of Michigan Press, also on the “hate speech” charge.

  Jimmy Carter – who was called a “Holocaust denier” (yes, a Holocaust denier!) for using the apartheid analogy in his book on Israel – and Mearsheimer and Walt might have reason for skepticism as well. But I’d argue that the renewed ferocity of recent attacks on those who have strayed from the nationalist straight and narrow has been a product of panic in the Jewish establishment – a panic born of the fact that its losing its grip. As in the former Soviet Union with the actual glasnost moment, this is a process, once started, that’s only likely to be accelerated by such witch-hunting.

  Last year, a very cranky academic by the name of Alvin Rosenfeld, on behalf of the oldest Jewish advocacy group in the U.S., the American Jewish Committee, got a flurry of attention by warning that liberal Jews such as playwright Tony Kushner, Tony Judt and Richard Cohen, all of whom had recently offered fundamental criticisms of Israel, were giving comfort to a “new anti-Semitism.”

  “They’re helping to make [anti-Semitic] views about the Jewish state respectable – for example, that it’s a Nazi-like state, comparable to South African apartheid; that it engages in ethnic cleansing and genocide. These charges are not true and can have the effect of delegitimizing Israel.”

  In reality, though, whether or not you agree with the views of those critics, they simply can’t legitimately be called anti-Semitic. Actually, I doubt any of those he cited have accused Israel of genocide or compared it in any way to the Nazi state. (Former Israeli Knesset Speaker Avram Burg, however, recently did write, in reference to Israeli militarism and hostility to Arabs, “It is sometimes difficult for me to distinguish between the primeval National-Socialism and some national cultural doctrines of the here-and-now.”). But the ethnic-cleansing in which the Israelis expelled 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 and the apartheid character of Israel’s present occupation of the West Bank are objective realities. Rosenfeld is suggesting that, to take an honest look at either the occupation or the events of 1948, as so many Israeli writers, journalists, and politicians have done, is to “delegitimize” Israel and promote anti-Semitism.

  Just last week, Danny Rubinstein, senior correspondent covering Palestinian affairs for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, was slated to speak to the British Zionist Federation – and then, at the last minute, his speech was canceled. The reason? Rubinstein had pointed out that “today Israel is an apartheid state with different status for different communities.” (While many liberal Jewish Americans can’t bring themselves to accept the apartheid comparison, that’s not true of their Israeli counterparts who actually know what’s going on in the West Bank. Former education minister Shulamit Aloni, for example, or journalist Amira Hass use the comparison. (The comparison first occurred to me on a visit to Kibbutz Yizreel in 1978, when the elders of my Zionist youth movement, Habonim, who had emigrated from South Africa to Israel, warned that the settlement policy of the then-new Likud government was designed to prevent Israel letting go of the West Bank. The population there, they told us, would never be given the right to vote in Israel, and so the result would be, as they presciently put it, “an apartheid situation.”)

  Use of the term “apartheid” in reference to the occupation does draw the attention of those who prefer to look away from the fact that Israel is routinely engaged in behavior democratic society has deemed morally odious and unacceptable when it has occurred in other contexts. It is precisely because that fact makes them uncomfortable, I suspect, that they react so emotionally to the A-word. Take black South Africans who suffered under apartheid on a visit to the West Bank – a mild-mannered moderate Nobel Peace Prize winner such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, for example – ask them about the validity of the comparison, and you know the answer you’re going to get.

  Moreover, it’s an answer with which a growing number of Jews, who place the universal, ethical and social justice traditions of their faith above those of narrow tribalism, are willing to deal.

  In an earlier commentary, perhaps presaging his break with Zionism, Burg noted in 2002:

  “Yes, we Israelis have revived the Hebrew language, created a marvelous theater and a strong national currency. Our Jewish minds are as sharp as ever. We are traded on the Nasdaq. But is this why we created a state? The Jewish people did not survive for two millennia in order to pioneer new weaponry, computer security programs or antimissile missiles. We were supposed to be a light unto the nations. In this we have failed. It turns out that the 2,000-year struggle for Jewish survival comes down to a state of settlements, run by an amoral clique of corrupt lawbreakers who are deaf both to their citizens and to their enemies. A state lacking justice cannot survive. More and more Israelis are coming to understand this as they ask their children where they expect to live in 25 years. Children who are honest admit, to their parents’ shock, that they do not know.”

  Although I am not religious, I share Burg’s view that universal justice is at the heart of the Jewish tradition. Growing up in apartheid South Africa was an object lesson in Jewish ethics. Yes, there was plenty of anti-Semitism in the colonial white society of my childhood, but the mantle of victimhood belonged to others. And if you responded to the in-no-way-exclusively-so, but very Jewish impulse to seek justice, you found yourself working side by side not only with the remarkable number of Jews who filled leadership roles in the liberation movement, but also with Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and others.

  Judaism’s universal ethical calling can’t really be answered if we live only among ourselves – and Israel’s own experience suggests it’s essentially impossible to do so without doing injustice to others. Israel is only 59 years old, a brief moment in the sweep of Jewish history, and I’d argue that Judaism’s survival depends instead on its ability to offer a sustaining moral and ethical anchor in a world where the concepts of nation and nationality are in decline (but the ferocity of nationalism may not be). Israel’s relevance to Judaism’s survival depends first and foremost on its ability, as Burg points out, to deliver justice, not only to its citizens, but to those it has hurt.

  Tony Karon is a senior editor at TIME who also maintains his own website, Rootless Cosmopolitan, where he comments on everything from geopolitical conflict to Jewish identity issues. “Rootless Cosmopolitan” was Stalin’s euphemistic pejorative for “Jew” during his anti-Semitic purges of the late 1940s, but Karon, who grew up in South Africa and whose family roots lie in Eastern Europe, and before that France, takes the term as a badge of honor. Karon was a teenage activist in the left-Zionist Habonim movement before finding his way into the big tent of the anti-apartheid liberation struggle, an experience that prompted him to re-imagine what it meant to be a Jew in the world.

  Copyright 2007 Tony Karon

For more:

Rootless Cosmopolitan…



Not In Our Names

The Official Moody Loner Fuck You Essay.


Yes, God help you, I’ve decided to chime in on the “civility” debate.

Apparently, as far as I can tell with sleep deprivation, being behind on my online projects, and having a small child climbing on me since  7 AM, the problem is that  we don’t say “fuck you” to each other enough.

Therefore, I offer this handy essay, by which any of our members can pass along the requisite “fuck you”s to any of our other members without having to actually type “fuck you” themselves. Civility and lively disagreement are maintained.

That said, let’s get to the fucking.

Fuck you. You fucking idiot.

What the fuck were you thinking, you stupid fuck?

You ignorant, slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, mentally deficient, lousy fuck.

You couldn’t fuck your way out of a paper bag if we’d spotted you a strap-on and a quart of K-Y.

You duck-fucker. Go fuck yourself in the ass with a chainsaw, you lice-ridden scrofulous fucktard.

God, smear yourself with peanut-butter and get fucked to death by elephants already.

You fucking electron-raping monkey-fucker.

Horse-fucker. Dog-fucker. Pie-fucking band-student-fucker.

you forgot pig fucker. nice fucking poll, wankwit. – homo neurotic

They’re playing your fucking song:

Fuckdrops on roses and fuckskers on fucktens
Bright copper fuckles and warm fucken fuckens
Brown paper fuckages tied up with fucks
These are a few of my fuckingest things

Fuck-colored ponies and crisp fucking streudels
Fuckbells and fuck bells and fucking limp noodles
Wild fucks that fuck with the moon on their things
These are a few of my fuckingest things

When the fuck bites
When the bee fucks
When I’m fucking sad
I simply remember my fuckingest things
And then I don’t feel so fucked
  – condoleaser

you better hope you fuck better than you assemble polls or you’re fucked you fucking fuckwad. What the fuck is the meaning of chainsaw fucker? Fuck that, I can see fucking a donut or even a duck, if they were in season, but a chainsaw? You are a sick fuck.
Your poll, as a whole, sucks fuckjuice.
The fucking fucker don’t fuck, as they say. – FireCrow

I can’t get SallyCat’s pics to fucking show up.

Just, fuck you, okay?


[poll id=”



War can be better–ask argyle sweater!

(my deepest apologies for interrupting all the discussion about blog civility, which, given the state of things these days is absolutely crucial.)

Fresh from covering Hillary’s flank with his endorsement, War-is-Wes jumps guns to lay out his Sec’y of Defense duties.

There will be war!!!!!!!!!! Count on it. Know why?

“Today, the most likely next conflict will be with Iran, a radical state that America has tried to isolate for almost 30 years and that now threatens to further destabilize the Middle East through its expansionist aims, backing of terrorist proxies such as the Lebanese group Hezbollah and Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank, and far-reaching support for radical Shiite militias in Iraq. As Iran seems to draw closer to acquiring nuclear weapons, almost every U.S. leader — and would-be president — has said that it simply won’t be permitted to reach that goal.”


Wes and Hill can just state it more eloquently than bushco.

Watch Wes rub his hands—it reminds me a lot of my brothers when they were kids–they’d take their bedcovers and arrange them into fighting terrain for their plastic soldiers–and woe to the one who messed up the keen set-up!:

“The next war would begin with an intense air and naval campaign. Let’s say you’re planning the conflict as part of the staff of the Joint Chiefs. Your list of targets isn’t that long — only a few dozen nuclear sites — but you can’t risk retaliation from Tehran. So you allow 21 days for the bombardment, to be safe; you’d aim to strike every command-and-control facility, radar site, missile site, storage site, airfield, ship and base in Iran. To prevent world oil prices from soaring, you’d have to try to protect every oil and gas rig, and the big ports and load points. You’d need to use B-2s and lots of missiles up front, plus many small amphibious task forces to take out particularly tough targets along the coast, with manned and unmanned air reconnaissance. And don’t forget the Special Forces, to penetrate deep inside Iran, call in airstrikes and drag the evidence of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions out into the open for a world that’s understandably skeptical of U.S. assertions that yet another Gulf rogue is on the brink of getting the bomb.”

But here’s the real height of arrogance:

“The U.S. public is more likely to sour on a conflict when it sees the military losing blood, not treasure.”

You editorialize in the Washington Post, yet refer to the U.S. public as if they might not be people reading it. Yes, you are talking amongst yourselves.Hillary is in to win and Wes is the best in destruction.

Civility Lecturing: The short version

The long version is taking too long to write! It is coming out well and I will publish it later….most likely tomorrow, as the first Big Picture essay.

In the meantime…
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

So the short version.

I will not tell people they cannot write civility lectures.

I WILL tell anyone I see writing a civility lecture to shove it up their ass. But I will probably do it nicely!

My only disagreement with Armando was that there had been a civility lecture…There wasn’t one. So there was nothing for me to do! Armando says ek has it right in this comment….

If what you meant Armando, was that nobody can have the expectation that they won’t get their feelings hurt, and that there is no whining and complaining about hurt feelings I agree.

In the strongest terms.

If you’re not tough enough to withstand my saying your ideas are stupid acompanied by a Wrong! or a Hide without complaining about it OR worrying that it’s somehow going to negatively affect your “popularity” you are showing the same kind of craven cowardice we decry in our elected Representatives.

Think about it.


Maybe you’ll agree with me next time.

But don’t expect anyone to act toward you in any particular way, because they don’t have to.  It’s up to you to control how you act.

I find nothing to disagree with in that statement.

But….we are trying to create new forms here. And those new forms cannot, imo, start off with A RULE about civility. Then we have to define civility, then we have to discuss the definition…etc etc etc.

Not gonna do it.

New forms means among other things….finding new ways to deal with problems. Assuming people will act HERE as they act elsewhere is something I am not willing to do until it is proven to me. And until I, and I hope others, have tried a new form of dealing with it, I am not going to assume we need old forms to handle it, I don’t want to start of using the old way. Certainly NOT an authoritarian way. Top Down Authoritarianism only works with children…and even then not very well.

If a child posts here, I will treat him as a child. But until that happens, I am going to assume we are all adults.

When something comes up that needs dealing with it…we will deal with it. If we need A RULE to deal with it….we will make one.

This was not the case here.

Armando, I hope you can have the level of trust and commitment to try new forms with us. You know I understand your concerns.

And I hope you trust me/us to do the right thing.

Ok. this is turning into the long version! So I am going to publish and we can thrash it out in the comments if I have not made myself clear!

On Civility

Mo’ Meta, Mo Beta.

NO Promotion, NO Recommends.

For one thing I hate the term civility because it does not mean what you think it means.  I prefer the term “Courage”.

But before we talk about that we’re going to take a side excursion into the realm of Community Moderation.

Community Moderation

Community Moderation (as understood by kossacks) is a system of participatory democracy where elite members of the community decide what content is unsuitable for display to the general public and non-elite.

What do I mean by elite and non-elite?  Frankly it is much easier to give Community Moderation responsibilities to everyone or no one at all (just one button to push).  You can grant Trusted User status (and that’s what the software calls it) by Time (and it’s currently set at 45 days) or by measuring community approval.

You measure community approval by selecting a total average rating for a certain number of comments.

An average rating is just that, the average of two or more ratings on a given comment.  Comments without an average rating (those with 1 or no ratings) don’t count.  This is the same average rating that is used to determine if a comment is ‘Hidden’ or not.

The total average rating is the total of all the average ratings.

When I arrived those controls were set for 10 comments with a total average rating of 30.  In other words you had to make 10 comments and if 9 of them had an average rating of 3 and one had an average rating of 4, you’re in.

Ridiculously easy and easy to maintain.  Practically everybody except the rankest n00b and the most despised of users is a Trusted User.

Some time before launch budhy asked me to look at it.  I did the math and set it to the same proportions (you have to have a 3 overall average) but extended the number of comments because I wanted to encourage commenting.

You see the thing about Community Moderation, why it’s really important, is that the desire to attain and keep elite status encourages certain types of behaviors.

One of them is that it motivates and empowers people, making them stakeholders in the success of the blog.

Another one of these is indeed civility, courtesy, politeness, call it what you will.  The Community of Trusted users has a great deal of control over it’s own membership because they are more or less the arbitrators of who has sufficient “popularity” to be a member.

In the system of Moderation proposed for DocuDharma Regular Users also have a say because of the Wrong! (1) rating which, while it wouldn’t hide your comment, does pull down your average for keeping TU.

As always though it takes many, many 1s and 0s to overcome a modest sprinkling of 4s.  The threshold at dK must be incredibly high because I’ve seen the part where MSOC loses TU in 6 comments.

And maybe the controls are different, these are the controls we have.  You can’t use time AND the community approval measure at the same time for instance.

So why are we using time now?

Shortly after launch we discovered that we couldn’t find the button that lets Trusted Users view hidden comments.  This means a ‘Hide Team’ of one single Trusted User and a Regular User (*cough*, *cough*- sockpuppet) can hide any Unrecommended comment with no appeal, even from Admins (if there is a button to change ratings I haven’t found it yet).

There is no uprating unjust ‘Hides’ by anyone at all, unless you encounter them while reading a diary.

Further investigation, including contacting several other boards using this software including pff and MLW showed that NO board using this software had this feature which was deemed essential.  A request has been made to pacified and he promises to get on it real soon now.  Until then it was our decision (and by our I mean basically budhy, OTB, Turkana and I) that we would wait for the upgrade before fully implementing Community Moderation.  I changed to time based eligibility and set a period I thought would be sufficient.

I had also thought it would have eliminated TU for everyone who wasn’t an Admin, a Contributing Editor, or a Guest Blogger, and in many cases it had that effect, but evidently not all.  I’m going to try and find a non destructive way to change it so that nothing much gets hidden and only Admins, CEs, and GBs can do it.  Anything else would be kind of unfair.

But not to worry.  As mentioned above, the Wrong! rating will still blacken and tarnish someone’s reputation quite effectively, making it that much more difficult for them to achieve Trusted Usership.

The Ridiculousness and Danger of Troll Ratings

And that’s it-

You can blacken and tarnish their reputation, making it that much more difficult for them to achieve Trusted Usership.

You can hide things.

There is no autoban here.  Your case will be individually reviewed by budhy who has the final say.  I’ve no doubt he will accept input from his advisors but he’s the man.  I’ve argued for penalties short of banning and I think there’s some consensus on that, but we’ll see when the time arises.

Other than that, there is nothing much anyone on this board can do to you at all.  Other than say harsh words.


Sticks and Stones make break my Bones, But Whips and Chains excite me!

If words can hurt you, perhaps you need another hobby.  My mom crochets.

This is what I said to Armando last night about civility

If what you meant Armando, was that nobody can have the expectation that they won’t get their feelings hurt, and that there is no whining and complaining about hurt feelings I agree.

In the strongest terms.

If you’re not tough enough to withstand my saying your ideas are stupid acompanied by a Wrong! or a Hide without complaining about it OR worrying that it’s somehow going to negatively affect your “popularity” you are showing the same kind of craven cowardice we decry in our elected Representatives.

Think about it.


Maybe you’ll agree with me next time.

But don’t expect anyone to act toward you in any particular way, because they don’t have to.  It’s up to you to control how you act.

You should be a courageous blogger.

Think about what we most decry in Washington, it’s the establishment’s inability to withstand the baseless bloviating and canards of the Right Wing Noise Machine.

You’re tougher than that, aren’t you?

Now I’m all for hiding hate speech and fighting words but stupid ain’t one of them and Wrong! indicates- “Your comment makes me question your motives and/or intelligence.”

It’s ok to call someone Wrong!.  It’s ok to be called Wrong!.  Doesn’t hurt a bit, see?

A Ridiculous Example

budhy explicitly allows 9-11 Conspiracy Theories.  Perhaps you wish to post an Essay.  I think MIHOP is ridiculous and LIHOP proven- “Bin Ladin Determined to Attack in U.S.”

From the community you can expect ridicule and derision at best (yes, I wrote that).  Wrong!s and Hides– piles of them.

Suck it up you Whiny Ass Titty Baby.  You’ll never get TU but you’ll never be banned.  budhy explicitly allows CT.

The community will think you’re kooky because you’re a kook.  Get over it.

You can’t be afraid of words.

“Your ideas are stupid and you’re a poopy head.”

Really? How so?

“You smell like farts. Hahhahahahahhahhahah!”

Pfui.  I’m done with you.

And stay done.

The whole concept of this site is for you not to be afraid to say what you think, but you can’t go around afraid that someone will disagree with you.  And that’s what it is.

If you have the courage of your convictions engage.  If you’re not impressed don’t, you control your own actions and reactions.

What ever you do don’t whine and complain about how mean and unfair it is when somebody says Wrong! “Your comment makes me question your motives and/or intelligence.”, either with words or with ratings.

I didn’t sign on to be a hall monitor in a kindergarden.

civility? i’ll give you civility

yikes… this is like deju vu all over again… where am I? at dKos????

see what you’ve stirred up Armando? … factions… now we have factions!!! now we have to worry about defining civility::: what if we get rules about what coloring inside the lines mean??? huh??? what then armando… sure you get your over 300 comments… but what do we get???

take the jump::: if you want that is….

this place is full of essays on poetry, music, a parable drawn from whitewater rafting…

we have pony parties, for god’s sake

how much more civil do we need it to be??? what kind of rules do we need to write that aren’t covered by pony party and be excellent to each other???

i know, the boss has one more essay in store for us. and i’ve already told him::: he gets pie from me.

now… let’s get back to the sublime and lovely chaos of this place. Leave the damned rules at the door. we have ponies here… and pie.

and Robyn has the best line of the day… shrugging at all this silliness:

If my eyes had rolled any more than they did last night, i’d not be able to find them this morning…

ps. feel free to pile on the pie for this essay cause i just had to … had to add my 2cents… bwahahahahahahaha (even though, i’m told, the maniacal laugh is sooooooo last season)

On civility

I can’t post in Armando’s diary, for some reason.  It keeps rejecting my comments.  Since I am the one who wrote the comment that led to his diary, I figure I might as well say something.

Armando misread my comment. He also ventured that I would find his diary uncivil.  I did not.  He did none of the things I regard as uncivil.  He argued with me.  That’s fine.  I will argue back.  I *like* argument.  I like *civil* argument.

Armando has lumped me with others who use the ‘uncivil’ argument.  I don’t know which others, and I don’t really care.  I am not them.

Armando says that people only use the ‘uncivil’ argument with people whom they disagree with.  I do not do this.  I have, several times, used this argument with people whom I agree with, saying, in almost these words: “I agree with you, but why use such language?”  I have seen others do this, as well, over at big Orange.

So, Armando’s fulminating diary in essence proves my point: He is arguing with someone else, not with me. 

As for me, if the site wants to tolerate what *I* regard as uncivil posts, that’s fine.  I’ll leave.  But I haven’t seen such posts yet.

Bud and turk wrong; armando right

Bud and turk, you are not listening to Armando and are giving responses that are not relevant to the issue Armando raises, which is a valid issue.

I can not speak for Armando, but this is my take of this thread in my unawake state.

There are several ways that an unwritten “rule” becomes a “law.”

One method is intentional and is similar to how statutes are enacted by congress (or unilaterally by Bush). Someone drafts a policy that becomes a rule either by the unilateral decision of the community leader or group consensus. It is usually transparent. Bud and turk are focused on this type of rule, Armando is not.

A second method is more stealth and is similar to natural law or common law. Someone says yada, as in this comment, which is a definitive statement of what is and is not civil and therefore constitutes a “rule” whether the leaders or community call it that or not. The community approves, in this case by a good chunk here reccing the comment. Then, at some point in future, one of the members of the group who approved the comment applies the civility rules to a comment or diary, maybe not expressly, it could be implicitly. You now have precedent in the facts of this rule being applied to the comment or diary, whether it is called a civility rule or not. In the future, this precedent can be cited by others, again and again, and eventually the rule is recognized as a rule.

Turk and bud, when you tell Armando that this will not happen, what you don’t see is that it has already started. The stealth manner of adopting rules has already started when the declarative statement was posted and then approved by a good chunk of community. So, Armando is saying, wake up because down the road you may find that a rule you did not intend to “enact” has already taken hold at this site.

btw, if this posts as an essay, i will be surprised because i tried to post as a comment in armando’s thread, but it was rejected several times. hmmm…

Pony Party: Sunday music retrospective

Spanky and Our Gang

Sunday Morning

On Sundays I shall inflict my musical taste upon you as much as possible.  Almost everyone liked the Mamas and Papas.  How could you not?  But some of us preferred Spanky MacFarlane and Our Gang.

Lazy Days

I’d Like to Get to Know You

Sundays Will Never Be the Same

Please do not recommend a Pony Party when you see one.  There will be another along in a few hours.

–Teh Management

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