25 January 2011
It is easy to say, Annie,
that we hate life,
and that we thus hate
and rue our lives.
We can hate life, my dear,
and pound away at our pillows
as if we know, most decidedly, better—
the first of three heavy, heavy snows,
and a hard, deep, mysterious tumor,
remember (when is it melting)?
Nutterbutter Peanut Butter (that’s her real name)
But we do not, bamboo.
Today, Sunday, the 2nd of May 2010,
the heat descended on 41 Madison
like a terrible and profound weight,
and the terribly humid evening wore us down
Spring had turned a corner.
Vicious winter had finally given way to wistful summer,
and the hummingbird’s flighty metabolic flare
rose like the first red ruby
of the season
(to take a drink).
And we cried as such
needy, needy dogs:
Nutt Nutt of Ellis, Nutt Nutt of Doris
Nutty Nutty Ms. Nutty
Earlier in the day, in a wonderfully shaded haven
in a neighborhood far, far away,
a beautiful young girl rescued
a torpid eastern tent caterpillar
from a desperate deckbound
captivity and death,
taking the solitary fern frond
under which the caterpillar
had been found
This was fortune, what did it mean,
and the caterpillar did go gladly up
the cherry tree
at the delicate drop
of her fingertip.
At the same time, sadly, some 40 miles away,
a beautiful young woman (this one with wild eyes and wild hair)
saw her companion
close her sweet little eyes
for the duration.
We wonder about such things as correlation.
We wonder about fate and lessons.
But for now, Father Time, we beg you, let us not lose sight of what it is that we are doing:
Ms. Nutty Nutty
Nutty of Yesteryear
Nutty of Nevermore
For her keepers now we pray for carrots.
We pray for simple bedding and strawberries too.
We pray for brown eyes and the sparkling gift of Christmas.
And to her progenitors we say thank you.
Be well, we pray,
and rest easy, Nutmeg.
24 March 2010
Best argument on why the individual mandate is both constitutional and necessary that I've seen thus far. . . .
From David Orentlicher:
The Supreme Court would have to overturn 70 years of case law to side with the attorneys general challenging the health care legislation. To be sure, there is a germ of truth to the argument that the federal government may not require people to buy an insurance policy. If Congress passed a law whose only provision entailed a mandate to purchase a product, and violators of the law were automatically subject to incarceration, constitutional concerns would arise. Imagine a criminal law that required people to buy an American-made automobile to bolster the domestic car industry. But that is not the kind of mandate that Congress passed. Rather, the obligation to purchase insurance, with its financial penalty of $750, falls readily within the commerce clause authority of Congress.
Under the commerce clause, Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce, and the health care insurance industry clearly satisfies the Supreme Court's understanding of interstate commerce. Further, the new legislation constitutes an important effort to regulate the health care insurance industry. Key elements of the legislation are the provisions that prohibit insurers from denying coverage or raising prices because of a person's "preexisting" medical conditions. Under current industry practices, many people cannot obtain health care coverage because they have heart disease or other medical problems that cause insurers to refuse coverage or charge higher premiums. The new law would prohibit these denials and higher charges so everyone can purchase affordable coverage.
But insurers cannot be asked to eliminate the higher charges unless everyone is required to have insurance. Otherwise, many people would wait until they became sick before buying coverage. In short, the individual mandate is a necessary component of the effort by Congress to protect people from unaffordable health insurance premiums. And under the Constitution, Congress is entitled to "make all laws which shall be necessary" for carrying out its commerce clause and other specified powers. Thus, the court made it clear in the medical marijuana case (Raich v. Gonzales) that Congress may regulate in areas that might not ordinarily fall within the commerce clause power if the policy is part of a broad regulatory program that falls within the commerce clause power.
10 February 2010
All photos from Columbia, MD, 10 February 2010.
From top to bottom:
1 - Sinewy meshwork from the one and only back patio creature me I
2 - Sinewy meshwork from the one and only back patio creature me II
3 - Implications of leaning right
4 - Welcome to Poplar Glen Apartments!
5 - Faux exodus
6 - On behalf of Populus deltoides
7 - 203, uphill, empty inside, and none too amused
8 - Synaptic futility and failure, early phases
9 - In remembrance of the red-shouldered hawk, not appearing here
10 - God damn
11 - In remembrance of the wondrous and mysterious red fox hiding
12 - Closer to dunking
13 - Tell me why, godly, tell me why (and make it stop)
14 - 11650, buttressed equally and righteously on either side I might add
15 - Corridor to Jesus I
16 - Corridor to Jesus II
17 - Most deeply felt indication
18 - This is no longer amusing
19 - 35!
20 - Bend approaching Watch Chain Way and Poplar Glen, pedestrians no more
21 - Tree of yore no doubt, tree of yore
22 - Grim battles ahead
23 - Snow monster, large, and if I may, forlorn
SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
Adapted from National Weather Service, Howard County, MD, 10 February 2010
07 February 2010
First, a reminder of some predictions. From the Farmers' Almanac online at http://www.farmersalmanac.com:
Although 3/4 of the US is predicted to see near- or below-average precipitation this winter, that does not mean, natalnorgs, that there will not be any winter storms. On the contrary, significant snowfalls are forecast for parts of every zone. For the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, for instance, we are predicting a major snowfall in mid-February, possibly even blizzard conditions....
All photos from Annapolis, MD, 5–6 February 2010.
From top to bottom:
- Hill at height
- Madison at height
- Madison after storm
- Trek up Jefferson
- West after storm
- Igloo for a car
05 February 2010
THIS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS STORM IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE RECORD SNOWFALL. TRAVEL CONDITIONS TONIGHT ACROSS THE REGION WILL BE EXTREMELY HAZARDOUS AND LIFE-THREATENING. HELP YOUR LOCAL AND STATE GOVERNMENT FIRST RESPONDERS AND TRANSPORTATION AGENCIES BY STAYING OFF THE ROADS.
vl: TIME TO CHECK ME OUT SOME HASTINGS PASS...
Snow incredible here. Nearly 1900. Worst yet to come...
28 January 2010
26 January 2010
Here's hoping everyone's doing well.
17 January 2010
And in so thinking to varying degrees (as I am hereby being stripped) on perhaps another tactic to be used in the war on terror
Why Haiti Matters:
What America Must Do
Adapted from http://www.newsweek.com/id/231131/output/print
During the this past week we have been moved by the devastation in Haiti. Entire swaths of Port-au-Prince are in ruins. Families seek shelter in makeshift camps. Children search desperately for their mothers and fathers; mothers and fathers search desperately for their children. Both to no avail. Anarchy reigns in the darkened streets.
We have ordered
We have ordered a swift, coordinated, and aggressive effort to save lives in Haiti. We have instructed the leaders of all agencies to make our response a top priority across the federal government. We are mobilizing every element of our national capacity: the resources of development agencies, the strength of our armed forces, and most important, the compassion of the American people. And we are working closely with the Haitian government, the United Nations, and the many international partners who are also aiding in this extraordinary effort. We act on behalf of all who have been affected. We act for the thousands of American citizens who are in Haiti and for their families back home. We act on behalf of the Haitian people. And we act for a very simple reason. In times of tragedy, we step forward and help. That is who we are. That is what we do. At no time is that more true than in moments of great peril and human suffering. When we show our compassion, the world looks to us. That advances our leadership. That shows the character of our country. And it is why every citizen can look at this relief effort with the pride of knowing that America is acting on behalf of our common humanity.
Tell me who,
and why it matters
Right now, our search-and-rescue teams are on the ground, pulling people from the rubble. Americans from Virginia and California and Florida have worked round the clock to save people whom they've never met. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen quickly deployed to the scene. Hand in hand with our civilians, they're laboring day and night to facilitate a massive logistical enterprise; to deliver and distribute food, water, and medicine to save lives; and to prevent an even larger humanitarian catastrophe.
Greater help is on the way. This will be a complex and difficult rescue and recovery operation, and it takes time to move all of the resources necessary into such a devastated environment. But more American rescue teams, doctors, nurses, and paramedics will arrive to care for the injured. More water, food, and supplies will be delivered. An aircraft carrier has arrived. A naval hospital ship has been deployed. And additional aircraft and heavy equipment will restore communications and clear roads and ports to speed relief and hasten recovery.
In the days, months, and years ahead, we will need to work closely with the government and people of Haiti to reclaim the momentum that they achieved before the earthquake. It is particularly devastating that this crisis has come at a time when—at long last, after decades of conflict and instability—Haiti was showing hopeful signs of political and economic progress. As the tremors fade and Haiti no longer tops the headlines or leads the evening news, our mission will be to help the people of Haiti to continue on their path to a brighter future. We will be there with the Haitian government and the United Nations every step of the way.
11 January 2010
My how I have not missed you.
Nevertheless, a fascinating defense in the making for your perusal...
11 January 2010
Adapted from AP report
On a balmy Sunday morning in May, on the east side of Wichita, Kansas, a man by the name of Scott Roeder rose inconspicuously from his pew at Reformation Lutheran and walked discreetly to the foyer, where two ushers had been chatting around a table. Mr. Roeder carried with him a .22-caliber handgun, and as he moseyed on into the foyer he pressed the barrel to the forehead of one of the ushers, unsuspecting abortion doctor George Tiller, and blew his brains all to hell. Roeder's premeditated, first-degree murder trial begins Wednesday, and no one—not even Roeder himself—disputes the fact that he killed Tiller. But what had been expected to be an open-and-shut murder trial was upended Friday when a judge decided to let Roeder argue he should be convicted of voluntary manslaughter because he believed the May 31 slaying would save unborn children. Prosecutors on Monday challenged the ruling, arguing that such a defense is not appropriately considered with premeditated first-degree murder when there is no evidence of an imminent attack at the time of the killing. Jury selection was thus delayed. A hearing was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon to give the defense time to respond. "The State encourages this Court to not be the first to enable a defendant to justify premeditated murder because of an emotionally charged political belief," the prosecution wrote. "Such a ruling has far-reaching consequences...."
28 October 2009
Let us remember by flight
that we were never designed to fly.
Let us suppose—golden once, then dropped,
starry-eyed and spiraling—that we landed
on the corner of proxy and spin.
At some point during the heralded age of enmity and beyond,
we began to utter our first word.
We were terrified at first,
and we said so.
We said pen and reckoned—
would you not know it?—
we would say it again.
We said paper for the sake of saying something else.
To be sure, all of it was random,
but it was full steam ahead nonetheless,
and section by section
the whole thing fell apart
We said some other things too, later, ha,
just for kicks—
like whispering was for bursting secrets,
capital for opportunistic trogs.
We even ghoulishly believed in those days
that the wind and flames were equally proportionate
to the classless whims
of our rulers, principles, and aims.
we believed in anything.
01 August 2009
To be said in the twilight, wandering, and for whom
all of our lives had been numb to the touch
then to think, my god, of this planet
through which we entered unwittingly to form
as strokes of luck inhabiting bodies
the trade off being infinite spaces secret
obsequious flickers and fancies
Forget-me-nots yielding and weeping
and the glorious passing sky that had been
waiting for us suspended
overcome by our whimsical nature
and the very essence
of that we sought
for Gretchen Moer, on the day of her burial, 1 August 2009
25 July 2009
Send me to the pits, La Brea, and did I say wrangling, uneasily?
Sink me, motherfucker, because time is short.
Tomorrow is who I’d rather be. Forget me not
you know how, and who I am I gather
like saber-toothed storm clouds.
Go home. It can be sunny in time.
Alas, I know how to cast spells with my eyes closed—animals.
And just like that a dead deer on the suburban sidewalk this morning.
Only when you disappear down into the hollows
will the deer be gone…
Just a week ago I watched Charlotte burn
the dug-out insides of a canoe. Thanks for the recommendation.
The finishing touches were smoldering but wickedly hot,
and no one, I swore, could see the smoke
rising over the palisade
except for us.
[A large canoe could glide quietly along with twenty men.]
Moments later, while inside the hut,
we took the hearth broom from the wattle- and daub-walled holder
and swept away the leaves and soot
and then imagined the invasion.
We scrambled to latch shut
all the doors and all the windows. Sadly,
there were not too many.
Tourist season was his favorite.
Each time the distant muskets or cannons erratically rang out,
the lollipop man in the gift shop would proudly say:
“Oops, ladies and gentlemen,
there goes another one.”
And would rear back and bellow…
06 June 2009
Perhaps I could write this to say that the disappearance was what mattered.
We were one, once, and all of a sudden we shattered into
an incomprehensible seafaring debris field.
This planet was nearly just an ocean.
Thar—a floating arm, a floating leg, a floating head—behold—that is us!
Thar we blow! Quickly!
Look at us. We had only time
to be mortified, jettisoned, and—if we were lucky—
How sad, but spirited,
and although spiraling like fiery meteors all the same
we became the otherworldly cumulonimbus
from which we came
(and were cushioned): truly, extraordinaire.
It was the sudden outcome that proved to be
Indeed, here we are, but no matter!
In fact, I remember being dead and drowning
and wondering all the while
how I could and could not be both.
And how to explain what eventually went wrong
6 June 2009
30 May 2009
Recently mowed mourning man made his way into the meadow. He was a happier sort of scamp now that the rains had ended, and skipping why not he decided that no one, probably (if it could be said), would be looking. It was early. And the sun and sky parabolically reflected in that space all that the heavy glistening could offer. His companion had been there too—and the airplanes, as always, those airplanes—rising and falling again and again in their customary patterns above his head. What a wonder he thought. And how splendid. So like him, anyway, the sadness parted—bidding adieu in most heartbreaking fashion—going away, as he recalled wistfully, some years later, for a little less than forever.
for Isabelle Muneera-Copeland Murdock, my most precious girl,
far away in Essouira, Maroc
30 May 2009
29 May 2009
In the hall of sweet persimmons the rule of phantoms marched,
spun, and stood attention—
such squirming, squeamish, garrulous little boys—
a psychophalanx of babble and whims—
flanked on both sides by a mean and virile brand of willow—
and in the rear, a buzzard, a bat—
directed, clearly, toward the impressionable sort—
the spasmodic furies, us, the toasted bursts,
the innumerable moons of Jupiter for god’s sake—
whomever—to be certain—
you did not want to encounter their kind—
still there they were—all the same—saluting you—
19 April 2009
86│ my apologies, it has been too long, and thus here we go again (early spring poem)
It could be that we are hatched as a vulnerable flyer,
and that is how we return.
Let us say in this case, if you’ll forgive me, a robin.
We are hatched again by that robin,
the progression releases anew,
and we flutter back
as we ought and need
to our sanctuary
of dried-up mud and refuse—
dead grass and twigs.
Yes! And from a perfectly blue elliptical sphere
we have cracked,
We were nourished almost solely
Sunday, 19 April 2009
24 February 2009
27 January 2009
Transformative philosophy asks: What can one do today to promote a promise of emancipation through enlightenment?
Interviewer: Hisham Melhem (see brief bio at http://www.publicpolicyseminars.com/melhem.html)
Interesting link to Al-Arabiya profile here: http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/01/04/africa/profile.php
natalnorg note: Interview loops back to beginning of the Israeli-Palestinian segment near the 5-min mark.
25 January 2009
US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
Dave Obey (D - WI), Chairman
15 January 2009
Contact: Kirstin Brost - (202) 225-2771
American Recovery and Reinvestment: A Summary
Action, and action now. The economy is in a crisis not seen since the Great Depression. Credit is frozen, and consumer purchasing power is in decline. In the last 4 months the country has lost 2 million jobs. We stand to lose another 3 to 5 million in the next year.
The economy is shutting down.1
In the next 2 weeks Congress will consider the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009. This package is the first crucial step in a concerted effort to create and save 3 to 4 million jobs, jumpstart our economy, and begin the process of transforming it for the 21st century. The package includes $275 billion in economic recovery tax cuts and $550 billion in thoughtful and carefully targeted priority investments. Unprecedented accountability measures have also been included.
The package contains targeted efforts in each of the following core areas:
• Energy - $54B
• Science and Technology - $16B
• Transit Infrastructure/Transportation - $90B
• Education - $142B
• Healthcare - $24B
• Worker Protection - $102B
• Public Sector - $91B
Unemployment rates are expected to rise to between 8% and 9% this year (and by some estimates to as high as 12%). Tough choices have been made in this legislation, and fiscal discipline will demand more tough choices in the future. We will face a large deficit for years to come. Without this package, those deficits could be devastating. We face the risk of economic chaos.
Since 2001 US worker productivity has risen, and 96% of the income growth has gone to the wealthiest 10%. While the wealthiest reaped the benefits from record high worker productivity, the remaining 90% of Americans struggled to sustain their standard of living. They sustained it by borrowing … and borrowing … and borrowing. When they could borrow no more, the bottom collapsed.
Our immediate aim is to prevent the loss of millions of jobs. Our ultimate aim is to make the investments that restore the ability of average middle income families to increase their income and build a decent future for their children.
A historic level of transparency, oversight, and accountability will help guarantee taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and Americans can see the results of their investments. In many instances funds are distributed through existing formulas to programs with proven track records and accountability measures already in place. How funds are spent, all announcements of contract and grant competitions and awards, and formula grant allocations must be posted on a special website created by the President.
Program managers will also be listed so the public knows who to hold accountable. Public notification of funding must include a description of the investment funded, the purpose, the total cost, and why the activity should be funded with recovery dollars. Governors, mayors, or others making funding decisions must personally certify that the investment has been fully vetted and is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. This will also be placed on the recovery website.
A Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board will be created to review management of recovery dollars and to signal and investigate any potential problems. The seven-member board will include Inspectors General and Deputy Cabinet secretaries. The Government Accountability Office and the Inspectors General will be provided with additional funding and access to conduct special recovery funding reviews. State and local whistleblowers who report fraud and abuse will be protected.
This plan targets investments to key areas that will create and preserve good jobs while strengthening the ability of this economy to become more efficient and produce more opportunities for employment.
There are no earmarks in this package.
To put people back to work today and reduce our dependence on foreign oil tomorrow, we will strengthen efforts directed at doubling renewable energy production and renovate public buildings to make them more energy-efficient. Investments include the following:
• $32 billion to transform the nation’s energy transmission, distribution, and production systems by allowing for a smarter and better grid and focusing investment in renewable technology
• $16 billion to repair public housing and make key energy efficiency retrofits
•$6 billion to weatherize modest-income homes
Science and Technology
We need to put scientists to work looking for the next great discovery. We need to create jobs in new and expanding technologies, making smart investments that will help businesses in every community succeed in a global economy. For every dollar invested in broadband the economy sees a ten-fold return on that investment. Investments include the following:
• $10 billion for science facilities, research, and instrumentation
• $6 billion to expand broadband Internet access so businesses in rural and other underserved areas can connect to the global economy
To build a 21st-century economy, we must engage contractors across the nation. We must create jobs to rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges. We must modernize public buildings and put people to work cleaning our air, water, and land. Investments include the following:
• $30 billion for highway construction
• $31 billion to modernize federal and other public infrastructure
• $19 billion for clean water, flood control, and environmental restoration investments
• $10 billion for transit and rail to reduce traffic congestion and gas consumption
To remain prosperous and competitive, we must enable more children to learn in 21st-century classrooms, labs, and libraries. Investments include the following:
• $41 billion to local school districts through Title I ($13 billion), IDEA ($13 billion; see http://idea.ed.gov), a new School Modernization and Repair Program ($14 billion), and the Education Technology Program ($1 billion)
• $79 billion in state fiscal relief to prevent cutbacks to key services, including $39 billion to local school districts and public colleges and universities distributed through existing state and federal formulas; $15 billion to states as bonus grants as a reward for meeting key performance measures; and $25 billion to states for other high-priority needs such as public safety and other critical services
• $16 billion to increase the Pell grant (http://www.ed.gov/programs/fpg/index.html) by $500
• $6 billion for higher education modernization
We will lower the costs of healthcare. To save not only jobs but also money and lives, we will update and computerize our healthcare system to cut red tape, prevent medical mistakes, and help drastically reduce healthcare costs (by billions) each year. Investments will include the following:
• $20 billion for health information technology to prevent medical mistakes, provide better care to patients, and introduce cost-saving efficiencies
• $4.1 billion to provide for preventative care and to evaluate the most effective healthcare treatments
High unemployment and rising costs have exceeded what most Americans earn. We will provide direct tax relief to 95% of American workers and spur investment and job growth for American businesses. We will also help workers train and find jobs and help struggling families make ends meet. Investments include the following:
• $43 billion for increased unemployment benefits and job training
• $39 billion to support those who lose their jobs by helping them to pay the cost of keeping their employer-provided healthcare under COBRA2 and providing short-term options to be covered by Medicaid
• $20 billion to increase the food stamp benefit by ~13% to help defray rising food costs
We will provide relief to states so they can continue to employ teachers, firefighters, and police officers and provide vital services without having to unnecessarily raise middle class taxes.
• $87 billion for a temporary increase in the Medicaid matching rate
• $4 billion for state and local law enforcement funding
natalnorg note: The reader should be advised that the outline of this economic stimulus package has been modified (in some cases quite considerably and creatively so) from http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/PressSummary01-15-09.pdf. Changes apart from standard mechanical copyediting include rewording, reformatting, and restructuring. The Editor of alchemy strongly believes, however, that no substantive changes have been introduced here. The bill in its 647-page entirety deserves some perusal as well and is thus made available here: http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/HR1.pdf. Refer back to the outline from the House of Appropriations for a more accessible, detailed review of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. As for the Act itself, the Editor renders no judgment except to say that we will be talking about this legislation for as long as we are a nation. That is the natalnorg promise and guarantee. This is the New Deal for our time, ladies and gentlemen. God bless you for reading. A good Sunday to you. And to the survival of the planet, I say Amen.
- vl1 Conservative economist Mark Zandi. See http://www.economy.com/mark-zandi/default.asp.
2 See employee's guide at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/cobraemployee.pdf for detailed information regarding this act.
15 January 2009
soaring: we did not see it coming: guardians to be here
We were holding people, hugging them … holding their hands, warming them with our body heat. We tried to take them to the back ... which was warmer. It was furthest from the entrance.
10 January 2009
For starters, sobbing wretchedly—
the elder, one deep night,
shook the younger,
and suddenly aloud:
Why are these cities black, son?
Why this ashen earth!
Wherefore art thou rainbows?
[huh son, he said, tell me]
And on and on incredulity went,
stretching out in shook to another fine and dreamy hayseed of crosses, stars, and crescents.
I am your host this evening.
And heroically he was
off his medication.
With this pardonable droplet of sin I give you
a reckoning! Do not warn me!
[there is no trespassing, etc.]
They say it was a long night
for young shook.
9 January 2009
04 January 2009
Slouching Toward a Palestinian Holocaust
by Richard Falk
The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research
29 June 2007
There is little doubt that the Nazi Holocaust was as close to unconditional evil as has been revealed throughout the entire bloody history of the human species. Its massiveness, unconcealed genocidal intent, and reliance on the mentality and instruments of modernity give its enactment in the death camps of Europe a special status in our moral imagination. This special status is exhibited in the continuing presentation of its gruesome realities through film, books, and a variety of cultural artifacts more than six decades after the events in question ceased. The permanent memory of the Holocaust is also kept alive by the existence of several notable museums devoted exclusively to the depiction of the horrors that took place during the period of Nazi rule in Germany. Photo caption: Sunset. Gaza. 3 January 2009. Photo courtesy Getty Images.
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
William Butler Yeats - The Second Coming
Against this background, it is especially painful for me, as an American Jew, to feel compelled to portray the ongoing and intensifying abuse of the Palestinian people by Israel through a reliance on such an inflammatory metaphor as ‘holocaust.’ The word is derived from the Greek holos (meaning ‘completely’) and kaustos (meaning ‘burnt’), and was used in ancient Greece to refer to the complete burning of a sacrificial offering to a divinity. Because such a background implies a religious undertaking, there is some inclination in Jewish literature to prefer the Hebrew word ‘Shoah’ that can be translated roughly as ‘calamity,’ and was the name given to the 1985 epic nine-hour narration of the Nazi experience by the French filmmaker, Claude Lanzmann. The Germans themselves were more antiseptic in their designation, officially naming their undertaking as the ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Qestion.’ The label is, of course, inaccurate as a variety of non-Jewish identities were also targets of this genocidal assault, including the Roma and Sinti(‘gypsies), Jehovah Witnesses, gays, disabled persons, political opponents.
Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not. The recent developments in Gaza are especially disturbing because they express so vividly a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty. The suggestion that this pattern of conduct is a holocaust-in-the-making represents a rather desperate appeal to the governments of the world and to international public opinion to act urgently to prevent these current genocidal tendencies from culminating in a collective tragedy. If ever the ethos of ‘a responsibility to protect,’ recently adopted by the UN Security Council as the basis of ‘humanitarian intervention’ is applicable, it would be to act now to start protecting the people of Gaza from further pain and suffering. But it would be unrealistic to expect the UN to do anything in the face of this crisis, given the pattern of US support for Israel and taking into account the extent to which European governments have lent their weight to recent illicit efforts to crush Hamas as a Palestinian political force.
Even if the pressures exerted on Gaza were to be acknowledged as having genocidal potential and even if Israel’s impunity under America’s geopolitical umbrella is put aside, there is little assurance that any sort of protective action in Gaza would be taken. There were strong advance signals in 1994 of a genocide to come in Rwanda, and yet nothing was done to stop it; the UN and the world watched while the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Bosnians took place, an incident that the World Court described as ‘genocide’ a few months ago; similarly, there have been repeated allegations of genocidal conduct in Darfur over the course of the last several years, and hardly an international finger has been raised, either to protect those threatened or to resolve the conflict in some manner that shares power and resources among the contending ethnic groups.
But Gaza is morally far worse, although mass death has not yet resulted. It is far worse because the international community is watching the ugly spectacle unfold while some of its most influential members actively encourage and assist Israel in its approach to Gaza. Not only the United States, but also the European Union, are complicit, as are such neighbors as Egypt and Jordan apparently motivated by their worries that Hamas is somehow connected with their own problems associated with the rising strength of the Muslim Brotherhood within their own borders. It is helpful to recall that the liberal democracies of Europe paid homage to Hitler at the 1936 Olympic Games, and then turned away tens of thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. I am not suggesting that the comparison should be viewed as literal, but to insist that a pattern of criminality associated with Israeli policies in Gaza has actually been supported by the leading democracies of the 21st century.
To ground these allegations, it is necessary to consider the background of the current situation. For over four decades, ever since 1967, Gaza has been occupied by Israel in a manner that turned this crowded area into a cauldron of pain and suffering for the entire population on a daily basis, with more than half of Gazans living in miserable refugees camps and even more dependent on humanitarian relief to satisfy basic human needs. With great fanfare, under Sharon’s leadership, Israel supposedly ended its military occupation and dismantled its settlements in 2005. The process was largely a sham as Israel maintained full control over borders, air space, offshore seas, as well as asserted its military control of Gaza, engaging in violent incursions, sending missiles to Gaza at will on assassination missions that themselves violate international humanitarian law, and managing to kill more than 300 Gazan civilians since its supposed physical departure.
As unacceptable as is this earlier part of the story, a dramatic turn for the worse occurred when Hamas prevailed in the January 2006 national legislative elections. It is a bitter irony that Hamas was encouraged, especially by Washington, to participate in the elections to show its commitment to a political process (as an alternative to violence) and then was badly punished for having the temerity to succeed. These elections were internationally monitored under the leadership of the former American president, Jimmy Carter, and pronounced as completely fair.
Carter has recently termed this Israeli/American refusal to accept the outcome of such a democratic verdict as itself ‘criminal.’ It is also deeply discrediting of the campaign of the Bush presidency to promote democracy in the region, an effort already under a dark shadow in view of the policy failure in Iraq.
After winning the Palestinian elections, Hamas was castigated as a terrorist organization that had not renounced violence against Israel and had refused to recognize the Jewish state as a legitimate political entity. In fact, the behavior and outlook of Hamas is quite different. From the outset of its political Hamas was ready to work with other Palestinian groups, especially Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas, to establish a ‘unity’ government. More than this, their leadership revealed a willingness to move toward an acceptance of Israel’s existence if Israel would in turn agree to move back to its 1967 borders, implementing finally unanimous Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
Even more dramatically, Hamas proposed a ten-year truce with Israel, and went so far as to put in place a unilateral ceasefire that lasted for eighteen months, and was broken only to engage in rather pathetic strikes mainly taking place in response to Israeli violent provocations in Gaza. As Efraim Halevi, former head of Israel’s Mossad was reported to have said, ‘What Isreal needs from Hamas is an end to violence, not diplomatic recognition.’ And this is precisely what Hamas offered and what Israel rejected.
The main weapon available to Hamas, and other Palestinian extremist elements, were Qassam missiles that resulted in producing no more than 12 Israeli deaths in six years. While each civilian death is an unacceptable tragedy, the ratio of death and injury for the two sides in so unequal as to call into question the security logic of continuously inflicting excessive force and collective punishment on the entire beleaguered Gazan population, which is accurately regarded as the world’s largest ‘prison.’
Instead of trying diplomacy and respecting democratic results, Israel and the United States used their leverage to reverse the outcome of the 2006 elections by organizing a variety of international efforts designed to make Hamas fail in its attempts to govern in Gaza. Such efforts were reinforced by the related unwillingness of the defeated Fatah elements to cooperate with Hamas in establishing a government that would be representative of Palestinians as a whole. The main anti-Hamas tactic relied upon was to support Abbas as the sole legitimate leader of the Palestinian people, to impose an economic boycott on the Palestinians generally, to send in weapons for Fatah militias and to enlist neighbors in these efforts, particularly Egypt and Jordan. The United States Government appointed a special envoy, Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, to work with Abbas forces, and helped channel $40 million to buildup the Presidential Guard, which were the Fatah forces associated with Abbas.
This was a particularly disgraceful policy. Fatah militias, especially in Gaza, had long been wildly corrupt and often used their weapons to terrorize their adversaries and intimidate the population in a variety of thuggish ways. It was this pattern of abuse by Fatah that was significantly responsible for the Hamas victory in the 2006 elections, along with the popular feelings that Fatah, as a political actor, had neither the will nor capacity to achieve results helpful to the Palestinian people, while Hamas had managed resistance and community service efforts that were widely admired by Gazans.
The latest phase of this external/internal dynamic was to induce civil strife in Gaza that led a complete takeover by Hamas forces. With standard irony, a set of policies adopted by Israel in partnership with the United States once more produced exactly the opposite of their intended effects. The impact of the refusal to honor the election results has after 18 months made Hamas much stronger throughout the Palestinian territories, and put it in control of Gaza. Such an outcome is reminiscent of a similar effect of the 2006 Lebanon War that was undertaken by the Israel/United States strategic partnership to destroy Hezbollah, but had the actual consequence of making Hezbollah a much stronger, more respected force in Lebanon and throughout the region.
The Israel and the United States seemed trapped in a faulty logic that is incapable of learning from mistakes, and takes every setback as a sign that instead of shifting course, the faulty undertaking should be expanded and intensified, that failure resulted from doing too little of the right thing, rather than is the case, doing the wrong thing. So instead of taking advantage of Hamas’ renewed call for a unity government, its clarification that it is not against Fatah, but only that “[w]e have fought against a small clique within Fatah,” (Abu Ubaya, Hamas military commander), Israel seems more determined than ever to foment civil war in Palestine, to make the Gazans pay with their wellbeing and lives to the extent necessary to crush their will, and to separate once and for all the destinies of Gaza and the West Bank.
The insidious new turn of Israeli occupation policy is as follows: push Abbas to rely on hard-line no compromise approach toward Hamas, highlighted by the creation of an unelected ‘emergency’ government to replace the elected leadership. The emergency designated prime minister, Salam Fayyad, appointed to replace the Hamas leader, Ismail Haniya, as head of the Palestinian Authority. It is revealing to recall that when Fayyad’s party was on the 2006 election list its candidates won only 2% of the vote. Israel is also reportedly ready to ease some West Bank restrictions on movement in such a way as to convince Palestinians that they can have a better future if they repudiate Hamas and place their bets on Abbas, by now a most discredited political figure who has substantially sold out the Palestinian cause to gain favor and support from Israel/United States, as well as to prevail in the internal Palestinian power struggle.
To promote these goals it is conceivable, although unlikely, that Israel might release Marwan Barghouti, the only credible Fatah leader, from prison provided Barghouti would be willing to accept the Israeli approach of Sharon/Olmert to the establishment of a Palestinian state. This latter step is doubtful, as Barghouti is a far cry from Abbas, and would be highly unlikely to agree to anything less than a full withdrawal of Israel to the 1967 borders, including the elimination of West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements.
This latest turn in policy needs to be understood in the wider context of the Israeli refusal to reach a reasonable compromise with the Palestinian people since 1967. There is widespread recognition that such an outcome would depend on Israeli withdrawal, establishment of a Palestinian state with full sovereignty on the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as capital, and sufficient external financial assistance to give the Palestinians the prospect of economic viability. The truth is that there is no Israeli leadership with the vision or backing to negotiate such a solution, and so the struggle will continue with violence on both sides.
The Israeli approach to the Palestinian challenge is based on isolating Gaza and cantonizing the West Bank, leaving the settlement blocs intact, and appropriating the whole of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. For years this sidestepping of diplomacy has dominated Israeli behavior, including during the Oslo peace process that was initiated on the White House lawn in 1993 by the famous handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat.
While talking about peace, the number of Israeli settlers doubled, huge sums were invested in settlement roads linked directly to Israel, and the process of Israeli settlement and Palestinian displacement from East Jerusalem was moving ahead at a steady pace. Significantly, also, the ‘moderate’ Arafat was totally discredited as a Palestinian leader capable of negotiating with Israel, being treated as dangerous precisely because he was willing to accept a reasonable compromise. Interestingly, until recently when he became useful in the effort to reverse the Hamas electoral victory, Abbas was treated by Isreal as too weak, too lacking in authority, to act on behalf of the Palestinian people in a negotiating process, one more excuse for persisting with its preferred unilateralist course.
These considerations also make it highly unlikely that Barghouti will be released from prison unless there is some dramatic change of heart on the Israeli side. Instead of working toward some kind of political resolution, Israel has built an elaborate and illegal security wall on Palestinian territory, expanded the settlements, made life intolerable for the 1.4 million people crammed into Gaza, and pretends that such unlawful ‘facts on the ground’ are a path leading toward security and peace.
On June 25, 2007 leaders from Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority met in Sharm El Sheik on the Red Sea to move ahead with their anti-Hamas diplomacy. Israel proposes to release 250 Fatah prisoners (of 9,000 Palestinians currently held) and to hand over Palestinian revenues to Abbas on an installment basis, provided none of the funds is used in Gaza, where a humanitarian catastrophe unfolds day by day. These leaders agreed to cooperate in this effort to break Hamas and to impose a Fatah-led Palestinian Authority on an unwilling Palestine population. Remember that Hamas prevailed in the 2006 elections, not only in Gaza, but in the West Bank as well. To deny Palestinian their right of self-determination is almost certain to backfire in a manner similar to similar efforts, producing a radicalized version of what is being opposed. As some commentators have expressed, getting rid of Hamas means establishing al Qaeda!
Israel is currently stiffening the boycott on economic relations that has brought the people of Gaza to the brink of collective starvation. This set of policies, carried on for more than four decades, has imposed a sub-human existence on a people that have been repeatedly and systematically made the target of a variety of severe forms of collective punishment. The entire population of Gaza is treated as the ‘enemy’ of Israel, and little pretext is made in Tel Aviv of acknowledging the innocence of this long victimized civilian society.
To persist with such an approach under present circumstances is indeed genocidal, and risks destroying an entire Palestinian community that is an integral part of an ethnic whole. It is this prospect that makes appropriate the warning of a Palestinian holocaust in the making, and should remind the world of the famous post-Nazi pledge of ‘never again.’
There is little doubt that the Nazi Holocaust was as close to unconditional evil as has been revealed throughout the entire bloody history of the human species. Its massiveness, unconcealed genocidal intent, and reliance on the mentality and instruments of modernity give its enactment in the death camps of Europe a special status in our moral imagination. This special status is exhibited in the continuing presentation of its gruesome realities through film, books, and a variety of cultural artifacts more than six decades after the events in question ceased. The permanent memory of the Holocaust is also kept alive by the existence of several notable museums devoted exclusively to the depiction of the horrors that took place during the period of Nazi rule in Germany.
Photo caption: Sunset. Gaza. 3 January 2009. Photo courtesy Getty Images.
01 January 2009
Aboubacar saysIf Palestine wants peace they can get it, easily. If they prefer war they will smell the smoke forever. Arabs are ignorant. They know only their dictator who put fire on them. An Arab man asks a black man in Egypt (the Arab in Arabic): "Where are you from?" The black man answers: "From Guinea." The Arab asks: "Is Guinea in America or Europe?" Then the Arab asks: "Are there women in your country, cars, houses?"
natalnorg note: Comment taken and adapted from Al Jazeera English, "Obama's Gaza silence condemned." See http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2008/12/2008123101532604810.html.
12 December 2008
And in so parting for the night I present to you the wholesome, absolute reminder of what has been conceived, and what has been done?
I refer the skedaddling reader with all due haste and seriousness to the following conclusions from the SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE INQUIRY INTO THE TREATMENT OF DETAINEES IN US CUSTODY:
Senate Armed Services Committee Conclusions1: On February 7, 2002, President George W. Bush made a written determination that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, did not apply to al Qaeda or Taliban detainees. Following the President's determination, techniques such as waterboarding, nudity, and stress positions, used in SERE training to simulate tactics used by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions, were authorized for use in interrogations of detainees in US custody.
2: Members of the President's Cabinet and other senior officials participated in meetings inside the White House in 2002 and 2003 where specific interrogation techniques were discussed. National Security Council Principals reviewed the CIA's interrogation program during that period.
Conclusions on SERE Training Techniques and Interrogations
1: The use of techniques similar to those used in SERE resistance training – such as stripping students of their clothing, placing them in stress positions, putting hoods over their heads, and treating them like animals – was at odds with the commitment to humane treatment of detainees in US custody. Using those techniques for interrogating detainees was also inconsistent with the goal of collecting accurate intelligence information, as the purpose of SERE resistance training is to increase the ability of US personnel to resist abusive interrogations and the techniques used were based, in part, on Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to elicit false confessions.
2: The use of techniques in interrogations derived from SERE resistance training created a serious risk of physical and psychological harm to detainees. The SERE schools employ strict controls to reduce the risk of physical and psychological harm to students during training. Those controls include medical and psychological screening for students, interventions by trained psychologists during training, and code words to ensure that students can stop the application of a technique at any time should the need arise. Those same controls are not present in real world interrogations.
Conclusions on Senior Official Consideration of SERE Techniques for Interrogations
1: In July 2002, the Office of the Secretary of Defense General Counsel solicited information from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) on SERE techniques for use during interrogations. That solicitation, prompted by requests from Department of Defense General Counsel William J. Haynes II, reflected the view that abusive tactics similar to those used by our enemies should be considered for use against detainees in US custody.
2: The Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) interrogation program included at least one SERE training technique, waterboarding. Senior Administration lawyers, including Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the President, and David Addington, Counsel to the Vice President, were consulted on the development of legal analysis of CIA interrogation techniques. Legal opinions subsequently issued by the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) interpreted legal obligations under US anti-torture laws and determined the legality of CIA interrogation techniques. Those OLC opinions distorted the meaning and intent of anti-torture laws, rationalized the abuse of detainees in US custody and influenced Department of Defense determinations as to what interrogation techniques were legal for use during interrogations conducted by US military personnel.
Conclusions on JPRA Offensive Activities
1: Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) efforts in support of "offensive" interrogation operations went beyond the agency's knowledge and expertise. JPRA's support to US government interrogation efforts contributed to detainee abuse. JPRA's offensive support also influenced the development of policies that authorized abusive interrogation techniques for use against detainees in US custody.
2: Detainee abuse occurred during JPRA's support to Special Mission Unit (SMU) Task Force (TF) interrogation operations in Iraq in September 2003. JPRA Commander Colonel Randy Moulton's authorization of SERE instructors, who had no experience in detainee interrogations, to actively participate in Task Force interrogations using SERE resistance training techniques was a serious failure in judgment. The Special Mission Unit Task Force Commander's failure to order that SERE resistance training techniques not be used in detainee interrogations was a serious failure in leadership that led to the abuse of detainees in Task Force custody. Iraq is a Geneva Convention theater and techniques used in SERE school are inconsistent with the obligations of US personnel under the Geneva Conventions.
3: Combatant Command requests for JPRA "offensive" interrogation support and US Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) authorization of that support led to JPRA operating outside the agency's charter and beyond its expertise. Only when JFCOM's Staff Judge Advocate became aware of and raised concerns about JPRA's support to offensive interrogation operations in late September 2003 did JFCOM leadership begin to take steps to curtail JPRA's "offensive" activities. It was not until September 2004, however, that JFCOM issued a formal policy stating that support to offensive interrogation operations was outside JPRA's charter.
Conclusions on GTMO's Request for Aggressive Techniques
1: Interrogation techniques in Guantanamo Bay's (GTMO) October 11, 2002 request for authority submitted by Major General Michael Dunlavey were influenced by JPRA training for GTMO interrogation personnel and included techniques similar to those used in SERE training to teach US personnel to resist abusive enemy interrogations. GTMO Staff Judge Advocate Lieutenant Colonel Diane Beaver's legal review justifying the October 11, 2002 GTMO request was profoundly in error and legally insufficient. Leaders at GTMO, including Major General Dunlavey's successor, Major General Geoffrey Miller, ignored warnings from DoD's Criminal Investigative Task Force and the Federal Bureau of Investigation that the techniques were potentially unlawful and that their use would strengthen detainee resistance.
2: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers's decision to cut short the legal and policy review of the October 11, 2002 GTMO request initiated by his Legal Counsel, then-Captain Jane Dalton, undermined the military's review process. Subsequent conclusions reached by Chairman Myers and Captain Dalton regarding the legality of interrogation techniques in the request followed a grossly deficient review and were at odds with conclusions previously reached by the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Criminal Investigative Task Force.
3: Department of Defense General Counsel William J. Haynes II's effort to cut short the legal and policy review of the October 11, 2002 GTMO request initiated by then- Captain Jane Dalton, Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was inappropriate and undermined the military's review process. The General Counsel's subsequent review was grossly deficient. Mr. Haynes's one page recommendation to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld failed to address the serious legal concerns that had been previously raised by the military services about techniques in the GTMO request. Further, Mr. Haynes's reliance on a legal memo produced by GTMO's Staff Judge Advocate that senior military lawyers called "legally insufficient" and "woefully inadequate" is deeply troubling.
4: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there. Secretary Rumsfeld's December 2, 2002 approval of Mr. Haynes's recommendation that most of the techniques contained in GTMO's October 11, 2002 request be authorized, influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques, including military working dogs, forced nudity, and stress positions, in Afghanistan and Iraq.
5: Department of Defense General Counsel William J. Haynes II's direction to the Department of Defense's Detainee Working Group in early 2003 to consider a legal memo from John Yoo of the Department of Justice's OLC as authoritative, blocked the Working Group from conducting a fair and complete legal analysis and resulted in a report that, in the words of then- Department of the Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora contained "profound mistakes in its legal analysis." Reliance on the OLC memo resulted in a final Working Group report that recommended approval of several aggressive techniques, including removal of clothing, sleep deprivation, and slapping, similar to those used in SERE training to teach US personnel to resist abusive interrogations.
Conclusions on Interrogations in Iraq and Afghanistan
1: Special Mission Unit (SMU) Task Force (TF) interrogation policies were influenced by the Secretary of Defense's December 2, 2002 approval of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at GTMO. SMU TF interrogation policies in Iraq included the use of aggressive interrogation techniques such as military working dogs and stress positions. SMU TF policies were a direct cause of detainee abuse and influenced interrogation policies at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq.
2: During his assessment visit to Iraq in August and September 2003, GTMO Commander Major General Geoffrey Miller encouraged a view that interrogators should be more aggressive during detainee interrogations.
3: Interrogation policies approved by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, which included the use of military working dogs and stress positions, were a direct cause of detainee abuse in Iraq. Lieutenant General Sanchez's decision to issue his September 14, 2003 policy with the knowledge that there were ongoing discussions as to the legality of some techniques in it was a serious error in judgment. The September policy was superseded on October 12, 2003 as a result of legal concerns raised by US Central Command. That superseding policy, however, contained ambiguities and contributed to confusion about whether aggressive techniques, such as military working dogs, were authorized for use during interrogations.
4: US Central Command (CENTCOM) failed to conduct proper oversight of Special Mission Unit Task Force interrogation policies. Though aggressive interrogation techniques were removed from Combined Joint Task Force 7 interrogation policies after CENTCOM raised legal concerns about their inclusion in the September 14, 2003 policy issued by Lieutenant General Sanchez, SMU TF interrogation policies authorized some of those same techniques, including stress positions and military working dogs.
5: The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own. Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at GTMO. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's December 2, 2002 authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in US military custody. What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely.
See full report at http://www.democrats.com/senate-armed-services-committee-report-on-torture.
See Senate Armed Services website at http://armed-services.senate.gov.
natalnorg disclaimer: style, formatting, and minor editing compliments of the chef
12 December 2008
Tar Heel Plaza to be exact: prosperous capital of sin and swine.
Direct your attention, if you will, if you please,
over thataways. That’s
home of the world's largest
hog processing plant,
the one that put the ever-loving swill and swish-chute
in your gummies,
and packers. [This is a lottery.]
Today: 4000 ballots cast like anglers for a cat.
I cannot say that anyone cheated.
Said Fulcher, poor, poor Fulcher, Fulcher of the livestock section:
We are able to speak now
We will be treated fairly
Alas, another lesson and hoedown for the cafeteria netheryear and netherfolk:
A lot of people have not been treated fairly
But a victory and victory dance alike
cannot be scorned. Remember.
And so upon the Plaza steps the workers danced and danced and danced.
It went on and on like that, reeling.
And all throughout the evening the sun imagined and wanted desperately to say,
Fulcher again, voice cracking:
We have worked hard for this and we did it and we can continue to do it
All I want is for everybody to be together
As long as we do that we can make it
Not to all of a sudden spring
a full moon on you, but a full moon it is, and dark,
a full moon nonetheless, chasing me, now.
I mean to tell you a full moon, and a dark moon.
My man dread: There is a sense of relief that it will finally be over.