Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obama's Doing a Pretty Good Job!

Which is a bit of an issue, since that sort of thing can be difficult to blog. Fortunately, once again, America's northern neighbours and its 'Liberal' party come to the rescue, after placing themselves in a de-facto coalition with the ruling Conservatives. And, well, they don't like small 'l' liberals opening their mouths much these days.

James Curran:

Is anyone else in this f--king party livid? Cause this - As Warren Kinsella would say - former Liberal activist (not) is. Unbelievable. Michael! You crossed the ocean to Harvard, then to Toronto, then to Ottawa, to be Prime Minister! What the hell are you waiting for?

More proof the kids in the OLO have no clue what they're doing, and that this party is lost for a generation. We have the conviction of nothing. Say what you want about Stephane Dion, he died fighting for the environment and some sort of principal attached thereto.

The other night a Liberal friend of mine suggested I leave the party for the party's sake and complain as a non-member. It was the 6th such suggestion by an Ignatieff insider over the last month. Let me just tell you something people. You've pissed me off. You're pissing off the rest of the party too. Just like you did in the 2006 leadership.

You know what else? I ain't leaving! Unlike some of the others that won't be heard, I'm gonna stick around and help change the bullshit attitude in this party. Know what else? I bet I'm not gonna be alone in my quest. Don't believe me? Just watch us!

While we're at it, let me ask what the hell the rest of the 76 Liberal MPs were thinking over the last 24 hours that would lead their leader to the undramatic decision he made today? What the hell are you thinking? You think that you're doing justice for your constituents? I have news for you people, your constituents sent you to Ottawa to speak up for them, not just so you can collect your $158,000 a year.

Where is the Liberal Party of Kelowna? Where is the Liberal Party of Health Care? Where is the Liberal Party of a National Childcare Strategy? Where is the Liberal Party of Kyoto? The Party of Trudeau? Of Laurier? Of Pearson? Of Chretien? We just sold out our convictions to keep this evil, vindictive Conservative government in power. We just let this country slip back into Mulroney years.

Bolding's mine.

You know what's a sign of a healthy, strong, vibrant political party? Telling your most passionate, engaged members to "get the fuck out" because they don't Support The Leader. Never mind that The Leader wasn't technically chosen by the party and was instead placed there by its most powerful members (having just tweaked the rules to ensure nobody else would run). And never mind that his ideology clearly has little to do with the ideals of the party he leads.

Nope, it's "fall in line or piss off and die."

Funny thing, though. Everybody thought that Obama would be like this, but he's turned out to be surprisingly progressive-friendly. He's not always progressive, but he clearly keeps progressives in mind when he's making his decisions and explaining them. "Obama the centrist anti-liberal" is not a problem, even if the media and Republicans are screaming foul about it.

What's surprising is that everything that everybody feared about Obama is, it would appear, true for Ignatieff. Ignatieff wouldn't close Gitmo: he's defended "the lesser evil" and "coercion" any number of times in the past, as much as he whines that he's anti-torture. (Carefully splitting hairs, Cheney-style, over what that is.) Ignatieff propped up the Conservatives, despite their production of a pork-laden "stimulus" budget that privileges tax cuts and anti-environmentalism over aid to the unemployed and desperate. And he's being as adroit at kicking out the people who don't fall in line as any Republican, where Obama has made a point of bringing critics on board.

Ignatieff clearly hopes that Obama's success will spill off on him. But, honestly, why should it?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bit of Old News Footage

It's a bit dated, but there's definitely some interesting information in this old broadcast I saw on YouTube:

Worth a watch.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama's First Call to a Foreign Leader

...was Mahmud Abbas?

Astonishing. Here's the AP:

President Barack Obama plunged straight into the Middle East conflict on his first day in office calling the Palestinian president on Wednesday after the last Israeli soldier withdrew from Gaza.

Obama assured Mahmud Abbas that he intended "to work with him as partners to establish a durable peace in the region," the Palestinian leader's spokesman told AFP.

The new US leader told Abbas that the Palestinian president was the first foreign leader he called since taking office, said spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina.

"This is my first phone call to a foreign leader and I'm making it only hours after I took office," he quoted Obama as telling Abbas.

Obama and his secretary of state-designate Hillary Clinton had vowed to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict immediately after taking office.

There was no confirmation if Obama also called Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, while a close Abbas aide admitted surprise at the speed with which Obama moved.

"We were not expecting such a quick call from President Obama but we knew how serious he is about the Palestinian problem," said Yasser Abed Rabbo.

During his inauguration speech Tuesday, Obama pledged a new approach to the Muslim world saying "we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect."

This is an incredible gesture. Yes, the fact that he's appointing George Mitchell as an envoy is also an important gesture, but the fact that this ultra-popular and ridiculously powerful incoming president chose Abbas is likely to send shockwaves throughout the Middle East.

(And throughout America. I'm already reading rumblings of discontent from those who aren't too thrilled with either the call or Mitchell.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Anybody else watching C-Span Right Now?

Apropos of nothing, that version of Amazing Grace at the National Prayer Service was incredible.

Day One of the Post-Bush Era

Anybody else feeling a bit...lighter? Feeling a bit as if some great weight has been taken of your shoulders? Maybe feeling as if a cloud in your vision has finally dissipated, and for the first time you can actually see what's ahead of you?

It's not so much the new guy. He's still just a guy, at the end of the day. But that idiot and his rat-bastard handler are gone, gone away, gone to Texas. Hallelujah.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

First Blogger?

Maybe, maybe not. But does have an RSS feed and a blog now.

A Brilliant Speech

...though, at this point, who would have expected anything else?

The theme of service and sacrifice, of common purpose, that I expected. What I didn't expect was that the speech would be a not-so-hidden challenge to the doctrine of small government and small ideas; that he'd come out so thoroughly against consumerism, selfishness, and nativism.

It also looks like the "meeting with leaders" line wasn't actually a mistake, or at least that he's embraced it. That line about "we will reach to you with open hands, if you first unclench your fist" was just about the most poetic summation of the doctrine of liberal engagement I've yet heard. And to say he'll "defeat" those who use terrorism, instead of "destroy" or "kill" or "eliminate" was a very striking choice. It suggests that the intention is to make them irrelevant, not simply blow the up and let their neighbors sing their martyr's praises.

The other bit that grabbed and excited me: in the midst of talking about roads and bridges and electrical grids, he included "data lines." It looks like he sees this here 'net as part of America's infrastructure after all. Perhaps we'll see a more mature attitude towards the Internet from this White House; what I hope is that they start asking the hard questions about the Last Mile that far, far too many have been avoiding.

And, yes, it was somber. It wasn't a smiling declaration of strength; it was a invocation to service in the context of 0ur challenging times. That was inevitable, but I can understand why there wasn't much cheering. If he succeeds, he may be one of the greatest Presidents the Union has ever had; but if he fails, that same Union could be irrevocably damaged.

What concerns me is that fate may not be in his own hands, but in the hands of those opponents in whom he has placed (in many eyes) too much trust. They're the ones who put America in this place, more than anything else. They're the ones who could still exploit enduring advantages to frustrate attempts to change a system that benefits them so handsomely. Obama will quickly learn, to his sorrow, that not everybody is willing to work to America's benefit at the expense of their own. As digby said, the true test is what happens after he learns that lesson.

So far, though, he's been a quick learner. He may not get all of it yet, but the man went from obscure State Senator to President in a shockingly short time. With any luck, he'll just as speedily learn about the job he was just given, and how to deal with those in his own city who would "defeat" him.

The Forty-Fourth

Oath or no, as of right now Obama is President of the United States.

Watching his face is fascinating. I suspect that, deep down, he's a bit freaked out. I can't imagine I wouldn't be.

Edit: he just took the oath. And messed up the words a bit. Yeah, he's freaked out.

But, freaked out or no, it's done. Defying all expectations, predictions, and conventional wisdom, Barack Hussein Obama is now the President of the United States.

Go Aretha

I hadn't realized she'd be performing "My Country 'tis of Thee". And damned if she didn't perform the hell out of it.

(Warren was surprisingly non-annoying too.)

(Though over at Kos there are a few who are quite annoyed that he specifically invoked Jesus; I thought it was tempered with that "America isn't about any religion" bit earlier, but I can see why it would be off-putting. It definitely surprised me considering that earlier line.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Froomkin Summarizes Bush

Via Atrios, here's the choice bit from Dan Froomkin's The Bush Verdict Is In:

Here is Bush's legacy, in part:

He took the nation to a war of choice under false pretenses -- and left troops in harm's way on two fields of battle. He embraced torture as an interrogation tactic and turned the world's champion of human dignity into an outlaw nation and international pariah. He watched with detachment as a major American city went under water. He was ostensibly at the helm as the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression took hold. He went from being the most popular to the most disappointing president, having squandered a unique opportunity to unite the country and even the world behind a shared agenda after Sept. 11. He set a new precedent for avoiding the general public in favor of screened audiences and seemed to occupy an alternate reality. He took his own political party from seeming permanent majority status to where it is today. And he deliberately politicized the federal government, circumvented the traditional policymaking process, ignored expert advice and suppressed dissent, leaving behind a broken government.

Worst president since slavery. At the very least.

As annoying as Obama's tendency to split the difference between sanity and Republicanism may become, we can all take heart in the fact that at least he's not Bush.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Israel Bans Arab Parties

You have GOT to be kidding me.

Israel on Monday banned Arab political parties from running in next month's parliamentary elections, drawing accusations of racism by an Arab lawmaker who said he would challenge the decision in the country's Supreme Court.

The ruling by parliament's Central Election Committee reflected the heightened tensions between Israel's Jewish majority and Arab minority caused by Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip. Arabs have held a series of demonstrations against the offensive.

Parliament spokesman Giora Pordes said the election committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of the motion, accusing the country's Arab parties of incitement, supporting terrorist groups and refusing to recognize Israel's right to exist. Arab lawmakers have traveled to some of Israel's staunchest enemies, including Lebanon and Syria.

The 37-member committee is composed of representatives from Israel's major political parties. The measure was proposed by two ultranationalist parties but received widespread support.

The decision does not affect Arab lawmakers in predominantly Jewish parties or the country's communist party, which has a mixed list of Arab and Jewish candidates. Roughly one-fifth of Israel's 7 million citizens are Arabs. Israeli Arabs enjoy full citizenship rights, but have suffered from discrimination and poverty for decades.

Arab lawmakers Ahmed Tibi and Jamal Zahalka, political rivals who head the two Arab blocs in parliament, joined together in condemning Monday's decision.

"It was a political trial led by a group of Fascists and racists who are willing to see the Knesset without Arabs and want to see the country without Arabs," said Tibi.

Together, the Arab lists hold seven of the 120 seats in the Knesset, or parliament.

Tibi said he would appeal to the high court, while Zahalka said his party was still deciding how to proceed.

Pordes, the parliament spokesman, said the last party to be banned was the late Rabbi Meir Kahane's Kach Party, a list from the 1980s that advocated the expulsion of Arabs from Israel.
Incitement or no—and my gut feeling is "no"—this is just about the worst possible move the Knesset could have made at this time. Arabs across Israel are going to feel completely alienated, and the members of those banned parties have little to lose if they do decide to incite.

I can only hope the Supreme Court reverses this decision. It is not only an injustice, but a grave threat to Israel's legitimacy and, yes, to Israel itself.

Friday, January 09, 2009

So What's This All About?

In the Grauniad:

The Israeli military may have committed war crimes in Gaza, the UN's most senior human rights official said tonight, as Israeli troops pressed on with their increasingly deadly offensive in defiance of a UN security council resolution demanding a ceasefire.

Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, singled out the killing this week of up to 30 Palestinians in Zeitoun, south-east of Gaza City, when Israel shelled a house where its troops had told about 110 civilians to take shelter.

Pillay, a former international criminal court judge from South Africa, told the BBC the incident "appears to have all the elements of war crimes". She called for "credible, independent and transparent" investigations into possible violations of humanitarian law.

The accusation came as Israel kept up its two-week-old air and ground offensive in Gaza and dismissed as "unworkable" the UN security council resolution calling for "an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire". Protests against the offensive were held across the world today as diplomacy to halt the conflict appeared to falter.

With the Palestinian casualty toll rising to around 780 dead and more than 3,100 injured, fresh evidence emerged today of the Zeitoun killings.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said in a report it was "one of the gravest incidents since the beginning of operations" against Hamas militants in Gaza by the Israeli military on 27 December.

OCHA said the incident took place on 4 January, a day after Israel began its ground offensive in Gaza. According to testimonies gathered by the UN, Israeli soldiers evacuated about 110 Palestinians to a single-storey house in Zeitoun. The evacuees were instructed to stay indoors for their safety but 24 hours later the Israeli army shelled the house. About half the Palestinians sheltering in the house were children, OCHA said. The report also complains that the Israeli Defence Force prevented medical teams from entering the area to evacuate the wounded.

The OCHA report does not accuse Israel of a deliberate act but calls for an investigation. Responding to the report, an Israeli military spokeswoman, Avital Leibovich, told AFP news agency: "From initial checking, we don't have knowledge of this incident. We started an inquiry but we still don't know about it."

Among the dead were nine members of the Samouni family; a picture of three of the family's children in blood-stained clothing laid on a morgue floor and in front of their grieving father was shown in the Guardian on Tuesday. The father, Wael Samouni, said dozens of people had been sheltering in the house after Israeli troops ordered them and neighbours to stay inside.

"Those who survived, and were able, walked two kilometres to Salah Ed Din road before being transported to the hospital in civilian vehicles," the UN said.

Rescuers from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said they were able to reach the area on Wednesday only after being allowed safe passage by Israel.

The ICRC issued a statement on the incident yesterday, accusing the Israeli military of "unacceptable" delays in allowing medics safe access to injured Gazans.

This is, ahem, probably going to be a bit of a PR problem. Especially if this is the response:

Israel has accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields and has said militants have fired rockets from rooftops of homes and mosques.

Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, said: "Israel wants to see no harm to the children of Gaza. On the contrary, we would like to see their children and our children grow up without the fear of violence. Until now, Hamas has deliberately prevented that from becoming reality."

Mark? Buddy? Find a new line of work. This doesn't even pass the laugh test.

Meanwhile, at the UN:

Fighting in Gaza has continued despite yesterday's UN security council resolution calling for an "immediate" and "durable" ceasefire and the full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza. The resolution was passed with 14 out of 15 members in support of the resolution. The US abstained from the vote.
Wait, so they're straight-up ignoring a UN security council resolution? Creative reinterpretation is one thing, everybody does that, but ignoring it?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

So Much for LibLogs

As much as I grouse about DailyKos, one of the things I like there is that there is a diversity of views on issues of policy, particularly foreign policy. And since I still believe that the Canadian Liberals need something like that, considering the incredibly dubious way that Ignatieff achieved near-dictatorial control over the party and the lack of grassroots support the party suffers, I've been very interested in whether LibLogs could serve that role. Right now it's a glorified RSS aggregator, but perhaps it could grow into something more.

Apparently not.

Jason Cherniak, the Liblogs administrator who ran away from his own blog, is apparently quite content to twist LibLogs to his own ends, appending apologias to the top of the page and deleting posts when and if they make Liblogs unpopular with, um, conservatives. Far from serving as some kind of Canadian Kos, it appears that Cherniak is trying to make the Liberals are turning into the kind of spineless, "centrist", enabling Democratic boobs that people like Kos were working to counter.

But never mind that. What really bothers me is that this seems to suggest that no diversity of opinion is allowed now within the Liberal party. Whatzisname, newly-minted de facto iggy spokesman, was quite supportive of this, babbling about how ethical criticism of Israel's tactical and strategic choices is racist and how it's wonderful that Cherniak pulled the post down.

And what was it that was pulled down? Well, let's see. From "LeDaro":
In the interests of free speech and open dialogue, I am re-posting the entry which Cherniak found so "offensive." I wonder how the other Liblog board members feel about Cherniak acting unilaterally in censoring bloggers?

Do Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon have any humanity left in them? They keep on firing their verbal cannon that it is all about Israel's self-defence. Every passing day it is becoming harder to believe. The tacit (and not so tacit) approval by the Harper government is giving a black eye to Canada's past reputation as a peacekeeper.

Harper and Cannon are reading from Bush's playbook or talking points, but what is with our leader Ignatieff? When will red hot Liberal blood boil in him so that he sees the reality and call a spade a spade. European nations have caught on and French President Sarkozy is visiting the area. Even Obama, who has been keeping mostly silent on the issue (which raises criticisms of its own, though at least he is not yet sworn into office), has expressed regret at the loss of lives in Gaza.

Come on Canada.

Recently, 40 people (including children) were killed when a UN school in Gaza, which was being used as a shelter, was hit. Sorry folks, I must admit, I feel too upset to write anymore. The pictures above speak volumes.

This was accompanied by a series of pictures of Gaza casualties. Upsetting, but were it written about (say) Russians in Chechnya, nobody would dream of censoring it. And I've certainly read worse out of respected, widely linked American bloggers. So if it isn't offensive in-and-of-itself, then it could only have been removed because it didn't fit The Party Line; and, I suspect, LibLogs now exists solely to disseminate The Party Line.

But here's the thing- that doesn't work. It's terrible. The Party Line was what made American conservative blogs so ineffective and dull; because if you'd read one, you'd read them all. It's also why the Republicans became so empty of policy ideas: because the party line was ensuring that only those ideas that came from the top would actually get repeated. Meanwhile, the Democratic netroots' vigorous (and often frustrating) rolling debate would at least allow ideas to come to the fore. Yes, a lot of Dem activists are critical of Israel. A lot are critical of Hamas, too. MORE are just interested in getting past stupid apologias and figuring out what's needed for a long-term solution, and that includes the use of force.

In Canada? Whatzisname and his (again) friend li'l Jason dictate terms on the only "group blog" out there, Liberal progressives get further alienated—like the party needed that—Liberal blogging becomes even sadder, and the Conservatives will be able to use this victory to dictate to the Liberals what is, and isn't, "acceptable" for discussion. The Overton Window gets yanked to the right, and everybody who actually cares about liberalism gets screwed.

(Then again, it remains to be seen how many Liberals actually do care, instead of just seeing the party as a vehicle for getting fat those fat stacks lobbyist and consulting dollars. After all, real parties elect their leaders.)

Edit:I should, of course, add that I'm not necessarily endorsing all that was said on LibLogs. It's ridiculous to blame Liberals for the school bombing, as one (non-)Liblogger seemed to put it.

I do, however, think that there is a very, very questionable game being played here, and I'm concerned that it's ideology and fear,not taste or judgement, that are governing these choices.

Hospital Scrubs: "Germy Mess"?

So Says Betsy McCaughey in the WSJ, and the Journal would certainly know about things that are ill-conceived and dangerous.
You see them everywhere -- nurses, doctors and medical technicians in scrubs or lab coats. They shop in them, take buses and trains in them, go to restaurants in them, and wear them home. What you can't see on these garments are the bacteria that could kill you.

Dirty scrubs spread bacteria to patients in the hospital and allow hospital superbugs to escape into public places such as restaurants. Some hospitals now prohibit wearing scrubs outside the building, partly in response to the rapid increase in an infection called "C. diff." A national hospital survey released last November warns that Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections are sickening nearly half a million people a year in the U.S., more than six times previous estimates.

The problem is that some medical personnel wear the same unlaundered uniforms to work day after day. They start their shift already carrying germs such as C.diff, drug-resistant enterococcus or staphylococcus. Doctors' lab coats are probably the dirtiest. At the University of Maryland, 65% of medical personnel confess they change their lab coat less than once a week, though they know it's contaminated. Fifteen percent admit they change it less than once a month. Superbugs such as staph can live on these polyester coats for up to 56 days.

Do unclean uniforms endanger patients? Absolutely. Health-care workers habitually touch their own uniforms. Studies confirm that the more bacteria found on surfaces touched often by doctors and nurses, the higher the risk that these bacteria will be carried to the patient and cause infection.
Ugh. It does explain something that's bothered me, though: why on earth the almost religiously-sterilized environments you see in hospitals are somehow riddled with germs.

Fortunately the solution is easy:

Until about 20 years ago, nearly all hospitals laundered scrubs for their staff. A few hospitals are returning to that policy. St. Mary's Health Center in St. Louis, Mo., reduced infections after cesarean births by more than 50% by giving all caregivers hospital-laundered scrubs, as well as requiring them to wear two layers of gloves. Monroe Hospital in Bloomington, Ind., which has a near-zero rate of hospital-acquired infections, provides laundered scrubs for all staff and prohibits them from wearing scrubs outside the building. Stamford Hospital in Connecticut recently banned wearing scrubs outside the hospital.

Across the pond, a British study found that one-third of medical personnel did not launder their uniforms before coming to work. One British surgeon who specializes in hip and knee replacements reduced postoperative infections by two-thirds at her hospital by protecting patients from contaminated uniforms. Before approaching any patient's bed, nurses put on disposable, clear plastic aprons that were pulled off rolls like dry cleaning bags. Each one costs a nickel.

In response to this evidence and public outrage over infections, the cash-strapped British National Health Service is providing nurses with hospital-laundered "smart scrubs." The smart design includes short sleeves, because long sleeves spread germs from patient to patient.

Can it really be that simple? Hospital-laundered scrubs that are forbidden from leaving the Hospital produce a near-zero infection rate? How is this not LAW?

Sure, it's the WSJ, and for all I know this is nonsense. I found the link while reading a Karl Rove piece about the mortgage crisis that blamed everything on Fannie and Freddie, for God's sake, one has to be cautious. But still.

FINALLY, Someone Gets It

Brilliant piece in Ha'aretz today by Gideon Lichfield explaining my take on the Gaza thing.
I frequently get asked by Israelis, "why aren't we winning the PR war? Why don't people understand that this is what we have to do?" Many are convinced that there is something wrong with Israeli hasbara (public advocacy), that the spokespeople aren't effective enough, or that the Palestinians have a huge and demonically efficient propaganda machine. When I hear this I have to explain that Israeli hasbara is so sophisticated that there is still no adequate word for it in English; that some of Israel's spokespeople could talk the hind legs off a donkey and then persuade the donkey to dance the hora, and that the Palestinians barely even know what a spokesman is, let alone be able to provide one who is available when he needs to be and knows anything about what is actually going on. So why isn't Israel winning the PR war?
I had forgotten that word, hasbara. It's a damned good word, and a one-word summary of this sort of monomaniacal advocacy and apology is damned handy, too. Especially when it's precisely that hasbara that annoys me so much.
Partly, of course, it's because the numbers are against it. Six hundred Palestinians dead versus nine Israelis, as of today's figures: There's just no way to make that proportion look pretty. Retired generals can drone on all they like about what "proportionality" really means in the laws of war, ambassadors can helpfully point out that many more Germans were killed than British in the Second World War, but these are theoretical notions; on television, what looks bad looks bad. (Nor do I really buy the argument that if Israel's casualties were more visibly bloody - if, say, the media showed the gory pictures of the few people who have been hit by Qassams instead of holding them back to keep the home front from getting agitated - then you could counter the stream of barbaric images from Gaza. There's just no competition.)

But the deeper reason is this: Israeli hasbara is perpetually trying to answer the wrong question: "Why is this justified?" Of course, it's natural for either side in a conflict to try to explain why it, and not the other side, has the moral high ground. But, especially in a conflict where both sides have been claiming the moral high ground for decades, nobody in the outside world is all that interested. From a foreign correspondent's point of view, it makes for boring journalism: "The Israelis said this, but the Palestinians said that." And since we're all studiously trying to be "neutral," we'll always balance your view against theirs; so the fact that you make more of an effort to explain than they do doesn't really matter.
And this is WHY I get annoyed. It's not that I think that both sides are equally justified in their behavior, although the issues that tend to end up below the radar (unfair distribution of water, for instance) are exactly the ones where Israelis tend to come off looking badly. It's that the hasbara always tries to focus on how bad Hamas is, and how righteous the Israelis are, and how it's Hamas' fault that each and every Palestinian died. And while some outlets (principally American) will dutifully follow along, most media organizations are going to "balance" as a matter of course.

And if the Palestinians don't have a spokesman? Well, the images will do the speaking for them, and the Israeli spokesman ends up looking like a callous ass for not being willing to acknowledge that the mayhem is even a necessary evil.
The question the foreign media really wants answered is invariably not "who's in the right?" but "how will this round of fighting improve the overall situation?" And on that point, Israel never has a convincing argument. Given the country's long history of engaging in wars that kill many more of its enemies than its own citizens but only buy a few months or years of calm, it's a tough call to explain how this latest escapade will change the strategic balance, bring peace and prevent the need for another such bloodbath further down the line. Often that's because there is in fact no good reason: Wars are fought for short-term gains. And it doesn't help that with the constant competition for power within Israeli coalitions, it's easy to interpret this war, like many others, as a political imperative, not a strategic one.

And so when the question the world is asking is not "who's right?" but "what works?" the consistent impression Israel leaves is that it kills people because, at best, it simply doesn't have any better ideas, and at worst, because some Israeli leader is trying to get the upper hand on one of his or her rivals. And no amount of hasbara can make that look good.
Exactly. This Gaza incursion isn't just reminiscent of the conflict in 2006, it's reminiscent of every foray into Gaza and the West Bank since the Sixties. Repeating rote arguments that it's Hamas' fault is not only not going to convince anybody that that's actually true, but it's not going to convince anybody that anything's going to change. Hamas isn't going to be deterred by this, and the Gazans are almost certainly going to rally around them.

But make the case that this will accomplish real strategic goals, that it will prevent more and bloodier conflicts in the future, that it will make for a safer Israel and speed a real two-state solution, and then I think people will start listening.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Panetta Choice

From what I've seen, he'd be an admirable choice. An outsider, yes, but exactly the kind of outsider that the CIA needs to give it fresh eyes and reconnect it with the world outside "the intelligence community." And he's no fan of "coercive interrogation." Far from it.

That's why I'm concerned that Feinstein and Rockefeller are going to scupper the deal. They seem little interested in anything like real oversight, and know that they don't have to worry about challenges from progressives in their states. Sure, Obama has a lot of Dems owing him bigtime, but memories are short in Washington, and Dems' loyalties even shorter.

Even worse, I wonder whether Panetta was a deliberate sacrificial lamb, and that he'll be replaced with something more palatable to the Usual Suspects in that oft-cited "community." I think that'd be a bad idea, making Obama look weak at the moment when he most needs to appear strong, but it's possible. And let's be honest: Obama's got enough friction with the people that got him there as it is.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Dennis Blair, huh?

It would appear that Obama might have more of an Asian focus in his security policy than I had thought.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Dershowitz and Hamas

So Dersh was on CNN earlier tonight, and said something along the lines of "Israel can only succeed by defeating and destroying Hamas."

I had the same response as I always do to that sort of thing: And how, exactly, do you propose to do that? You can kill every member of Hamas, but you still won't get rid of the organization. Anybody who says they're Hamas is, um, Hamas. It's a concept, and you can't kill an idea.

The only way that Israel could theoretically "destroy Hamas" is to make it illegal to be a member of an organization called Hamas. But, ahah, how do they propose to make that happen, either? You can't make something illegal unless you are a government. And Israel has been steadfast about not wanting to occupy Gaza.

But that's it, isn't it? That's just about the only endgame that makes sense right now: re-occupation. They can't completely "destroy" Hamas without the power of a government to make organizations illegal. And they can't actually prevent rocket attacks unless they have a government's ability to enter homes and dictate what is and isn't acceptable behavior. They cannot achieve their goals unless they are the government of Gaza, and that means re-occupation, since Fatah would never threaten its own position by endorsing Israel's actions.

I'm not saying this is some Machiavellian plot by the Israelis to re-occupy Gaza. I don't think that's the case at all. I think that the various military and political leaders aren't really considering their endgame, and don't realize that they've boxed themselves in to the extent that there's only one possible one, and it's both odious and ultimately fruitless.

No, I think they're listening too much to the reflexive apologists like Alan, who aren't really concerned with Israel's security, but just making its actions look as good as possible in the foreign press to make themselves look good in turn. And I think it's going to bite them in the ass when they end up either re-occupying a riotous Gaza Strip, or withdrawing and facing the inevitability of more rocket attacks from defiant Gazans.

And Now, a Special Message from Kos to Bill O'Reilly:

Quoted Verbatim:

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Couldn't say it better myself. Recount's over, Al's up by 226, and Bill's day is completely ruined.

This is a great day for liberalism and progressivism in America, because Al's going to be a strong, forthright liberal progressive voice in exactly the time and place where it's most needed. And if Al can learn the lessons that Paul Wellstone's enormous success can teach him, he could be a progressive Senatorial voice for a very long time, indeed.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

IDF Troops Enter Gaza

Yep, we've hit the ground phase, even though any kind of end-game is still as opaque as ever.

I can't see how this ends well. The bombings were inflammatory enough, but any sort of ground incursion is going to create casualties on both sides, which will only harden their resolve to "win". (Whatever that is supposed to entail.)

Friday, January 02, 2009

"Or What?"

That was my reaction upon reading the ultimate end of Charles Krauthammer's latest apologia for blowing up brown peopleAy-rabs.

And no, I'm not referring to this bit:
The grievance? It cannot be occupation, military control or settlers. They were all removed in September 2005. There’s only one grievance and Hamas is open about it. Israel’s very existence.
My reactions to this were "of course Israel is still in military control, you ninny, they determine who gets to stay and leave" and "It figures that this kind of empathy-free ass wouldn't understand that Gazans might care about settlers occupying the West Bank".

And no, it wasn't this bit either:
Since its raison d’etre is the eradication of Israel, there are only two possible outcomes: the defeat of Hamas or the extinction of Israel.
My reaction was "this is nonsense", like suggesting that the only possibilities in Northern Ireland were the eradication of the IRA or the end of Britain. As much as they're a source of tension and terror, and as much as they're ridiculously counter-productive for getting anything useful accomplished, Gaza's rockets pose no existential threat to Israel. They simply don't. And nor does Hamas. They don't have the power.

No, "Or What" was my reaction to this:

Israel’s only response is to try to do what it failed to do after the Gaza withdrawal. The unpardonable error of its architect, Ariel Sharon, was not the withdrawal itself but the failure to immediately establish a deterrence regime under which no violence would be tolerated after the removal of any and all Israeli presence. Instead, Israel allowed unceasing rocket fire, implicitly acquiescing to a state of active war and indiscriminate terror.

Hamas’ rejection of an extension of its often-violated six-month cease-fire (during which the rockets never stopped, just were less frequent) gave Israel a rare opportunity to establish the norm it should have insisted upon three years ago: no rockets, no mortar fire, no kidnapping, no acts of war. As the U.S. government has officially stated: a sustainable and enduring cease-fire.

Yep, this is it! "Or what?" So what happens if another rocket gets launched from Gaza after all this punishing fire? Trying to take away the supply of the damned stupid things is nearly impossible; they're small, portable, and easily smuggled into the country.

Does Israel come back in again? Whoops, there's your occupation back, Chuck! Now they don't need rockets to blow up Israelis!

Or maybe do they just keep on bombing everything flat? Well, that'll sure help the cause of peace!

This is the problem with asshats like Krauthammer. Since they have no idea how human beings think, they have no idea how human beings react or behave. So they come up with these grand statements about how "they'll stop, or else", assume that they would do so in that circumstance, and never consider either how people really react and what might happen when their carefully-dreamed-up fantasies fall apart! Chuck can't even learn from history: if he could, then he'd have realized that it has never, ever worked like this, and thus is very unlikely to ever work! And what happens when it doesn't?

"No violence will be tolerated?" Or what?

(Unless, of course, the "or what" is dumping them all in Jordan, the Transfer That Dare Not Speak Its Name. And I'm sure that would go well.)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

Here's hoping it's better than the last few.