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left/right media on schools: 'no one cares about black kids!'

by fairleft Wed Sep 15th, 2010 at 03:39:28 PM EST

The politics of many aspects of American life are more or less 'owned' by their associated interest groups, often just one, the interest group making money from that aspect of U.S. life. But education is not one of those, and that might be a blessing, except that actual learning for our young people is not 'the prize' for either of the two interest groups -- 'anti teachers union' and 'pro teachers union' -- that do dominate. And we do have problems making sustained progress and resisting regress if we follow either of those interest groups all the way down their road. (A sidenote that these days the anti-teachers-union crowd is much more media/politically powerful and therefore potentially dangerous than its opponent.)

However, progress sometimes really happens when, somehow, an actually good idea from one side is implemented. For example, by the teachers union side, introducing free day care and kindgergarten, and reducing class size in primary grades. And, from the anti-teachers union side, using (in theory fair, predictive and reliable) tests to put some accountability pressure on teachers. While none of the preceding has worked miracles (maybe it's not helpful or 'real' to promote expectations of rapid improvement), the numbers (here's another take on them) indicate the U.S. has made solid progress in elementary school education. The chart below, on writing, reading, and mathematics test scores from the 'testing gold standard' NAEP in the 2000s, shows half-grade (10 points is roughly one grade level) or better improvements in 26 of the 38 comparisons, in the short span of 5 or 6 years between 2003 and 2009 or 2002 and 2007 (less than half-grade progess blocks are in grey):

Read more... (13 comments, 982 words in story)

Gas explosion & mainstream news: beauty of photos & subversive comment sections

by fairleft Fri Sep 10th, 2010 at 01:01:16 PM EST

The only thing beautiful about the internet mainstream 'news', aside from the visuals, are the subversive anti-corporate-rule comment sections. The gas line explosion catastrophe near San Francisco provides an excellent example. Though distracted by the beauty of the images emerging from the U.S.'s latest man-made tragedy, I did manage to find perfectly well-informed anonymous speculation in a comment section, on our industry-controlled regulatory nightmare and why things too often go boom in the night:

[Reuter's] Four dead in San Francisco suburb gas line inferno

THE ONLY COMMENT SO FAR:

An industry that is self regulated or largely gets to write its own regulations and provide its own oversight thanks to generously funded lobbying efforts.
+
aging infrastructure with maintenance/replacement cycles driven by profit considerations
=
things that go boom in the night.

Over the past decade there has been a flow of reports and articles written independent of the gas industry that chronicle the increasing obsolescence of transportation (pipeline) infrastructure. So this and future deadly accidents should not come as a surprise.

. . .

Read more... (7 comments, 529 words in story)

Daley's yuppie zone & ignore that other stuff

by fairleft Wed Sep 8th, 2010 at 04:28:58 PM EST

Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley announced yesterday that he is stepping down after 21 years in power. He's been the mayor of a large American city for such a long time that inevitably he'll be blamed and credited for stuff American mayors have little control over. That he has done a poor job for most of the city's people was, of course, to be expected, as they are poor and poorly represented. That Chicago's yuppies secretly and not so secretly love him is also not unexpected. The city that they know has changed in ways they like, and the city they don't know or ever go to is not their Chicago, it doesn't exist for them.

Does this all sound familiar? Well, yeah, it's America, a violent country in its second guilded age, acted out in one city's economic demography. Here then is Daley's finest achievement, a low-crime and 'nice' zone, from downtown ('the loop') north about 8 miles. A huge and mostly 'economically cleansed' district of gentrification, sports bars, police presence, stylish restaurants and fashionable 'alternative' lifestyles:

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CHICAGO poverty and the 'yuppie zone' built during Daley's reign.

Read more... (3 comments, 522 words in story)

Wikileaks, Sex and Afghanistan: What Matters Now

by fairleft Tue Aug 24th, 2010 at 02:49:00 PM EST

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SEX! criminal charges have a way of drowning out substance and dominating the mainstream media take on a `story'. And, so, Julian Assange being briefly charged over the weekend with rape and still facing allegations of sexual harassment ('molestation' is a misleading translation) can't be particularly good for making the `Wikileaks story' about the routine killing of large numbers of Afghanistan civilians by the U.S. and NATO (continuing as we speak), or for bringing widespread attention to that aspect of the story.

Certain important things, however, are now fairly clear about the 'Assange charges' story (the best account of which is now here):

1.    The facts we know point away from a conspiracy of intelligence operatives generating the initial and quickly dropped rape charge or the now being investigated ‘sexual harassment’ (or 'unwanted sexual contact') charge. The rape charge looks like it was just a mistake made by a "late hours special prosecutor' not familiar enough with the charges and/or applied Swedish law. However, no one inexpert in the facts and relevant Swedish law should rush to drag the apparently mistaken prosecutor through the mud just yet.

Read more... (120 comments, 643 words in story)

Obama vs Social Security trial balloon is up!

by fairleft Fri Aug 20th, 2010 at 03:03:34 PM EST

Summary: President Obama's Social Security cutbacks are being trial ballooned today, with little resistance shown by the official left. Obama wants us not to notice those plans, while animatedly (since 2007) nodding and winking to the financial and economic elite. The U.S. Democratic Party are no help, of course, so what strategy do the rest of us need in order to successfully protect Social Security?

According to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, U.S. Voters Want to Soak the Rich in order to fight the deficit. Matthew Yglesias writes that the only measures a majority of voters supported were

lower Medicare benefits for the rich, higher Social Security taxes for the rich, higher income taxes for the rich, higher corporate income tax, and lower Medicare payment rates. That's pretty much an aggressively leveling agenda.

(Like Yglesias I'll note in passing that the WSJ headlined their 'editorial pretending to be news' on the poll "Voters Back Tough Steps to Reduce Budget Deficit.")

But, unfortunately for all but the ruling elite, for President Obama (through his appointed commission) the way to cut the deficit is to soak the old by cutting Social Security:

In addition to raising the retirement age, which is now set to reach age 67 in 2027, specific cuts under consideration include lowering benefits for wealthier retires and trimming annual cost-of-living increases, perhaps only for wealthier retirees, people familiar with the talks said.

On the tax side, the leading idea is to increase the share of earned income that is subject to Social Security taxes, officials said. Under current law, income beyond $106,000 is exempt. Another idea is to increase the tax rate itself, said a Democrat on the commission.

The next paragraph of the WSJ piece is the 'get a clue' one for those who still don't `get' Obama:

Read more... (6 comments, 1169 words in story)

Alice in Guantanamoland: life for 15-year-old soldier?

by fairleft Tue Aug 10th, 2010 at 06:45:53 PM EST

Mr. Khadr was captured by U.S. Forces in 2002, when he was just fifteen years old. Since then, he has been forced into various "stress positions" and left there for many hours on end. He has been suffocated until he passed out, revived, and then suffocated again. He has been terrorized by barking dogs while his head was covered by a plastic bag tied tightly around his neck, making it hard for him to breathe. He was told he was going to be sent to a country where he would be horribly tortured and raped. He has been doused with freezing water and left cold and shivering. He has been interrogated for long stretches of time without being allowed to go to the bathroom, forcing him to urinate on himself. He was subjected to "light pushing," bright lights left in front of his eyes until he could not see. He has spent long periods in solitary confinement, sometimes in very cold temperatures. He has been beaten by interrogators who shackled his hands and feet together, lifting him off the ground and then dropping him many times over. He has been abused until he could not stand, and then used by military police as a human mop to wipe his own urine and pine oil off the floor of an interrogation chamber.

-    From Defense Motion to v. Suppress Statements Allegedly Procured Using Torture, Coercion and Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment (pdf file)

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Omar Khadr shortly before capture and 7 months afterwards.

Trying a 15-year-old child soldier for murder, the planned sentence life imprisonment, absurd and obscene on so many levels.

. . .

Read more... (11 comments, 593 words in story)

Defeating Cameron's budget cuts

by fairleft Tue Aug 3rd, 2010 at 06:40:47 PM EST

(Inevitably, of course, the same will be proposed by Obama a few days after the November elections, so Americans should follow the debate on this and learn.)

Well, let's be clear, the defeatist way of stating the title is "resisting the cuts agenda." Just asking, but why does 'realism' on this matter require pessimism? In any case, there are two aspects to the problem, what to do immediately and where, and then a 'makes sense' alternative proposed by those resisting. First on the immediate, Richard Seymour (of The Meaning of David Cameron) proposes:

As I see it, the Left has no choice but to look to and work in the trade unions for the agencies that will resist the cuts agenda. This poses some difficulties. It has taken a while for the traditional institutions of the labour movement to grasp the severity of the situation. Inertia, tactical conservatism, loyalty to the Parliamentary Labour Party's leadership, and the fear of risk-taking after years of declining union density, will tend to restrain the trade union leadership from reacting in a proportionate fashion to the scale of the assault. It is the job of the Left to alert people to the exigencies of the cuts agenda, and to the urgent need for militancy beyond the traditional policies of the trade union leadership. This does not involve treating trade union leaders as an `enemy' to be ritually denounced. We should seek to work with them where possible. But we should not be constrained by their limits.

The Left should also . . .

Read more... (31 comments, 871 words in story)

Wikileaks: Eastern Afghanistan is Talibanland?

by fairleft Mon Jul 26th, 2010 at 07:47:06 PM EST

Wikileaks' Afghanistan revelations ain't much, as far as I and others can tell (look here for multiple links on the story). Much ado, but little if any new there there. Andrew Weinstein has one of the most knowledgeable takes, by the way. So, yeah, the U.S. has a secret task force designed to kill senior Talban which accidentally but by design kills lots of civilians, the U.S. generally kills a lot of civilians, the war has been going badly for us (and well for 'them') especially since mid-2007, and Pakistan military/intelligence has long helped the Afghan Taliban, but didn't anyone paying average attention already sort of more or less know that stuff?

Not entirely new, but 'newish' with an on-the-ground perspective is Losing the east in Afghanistan, by Aljazeera's Gregg Carlstrom, which focuses on 'deteriorating' (or is it 'increasingly liberated'?) eastern Afghanistan and the role of Jalaluddin Haqqani's forces in making that happen:

Read more... (3 comments, 523 words in story)

Israel vs Arabs doing 'it' with Jews

by fairleft Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 01:03:29 PM EST

I was gonna write a brief 'good news' summer diary today (hey hey, 'California city approves marijuana farming'), but then had to click on Lenin's Tomb and that was out. I didn't know that Israeli law considers it rape if an Arab Israeli man has consensual sex with a Jewish Israeli female (if he does not say that he is Arab). File this under "it's not your grandparents' Israel anymore." Here's lenin's take (links in original):

Racist patriarchy in Israel  posted by lenin

This is an example of racist patriarchy. A man, Sabbar Kashur, has been imprisoned for doing nothing more than having consensual sex with a woman, whose name has not been disclosed. Both parties were of age, and no one alleges that the transaction took place without consent. . . . as the woman's testimony in the course of the trial made clear, the only crime that Kashur, now convicted of rape, committed was to have allowed the woman to believe that he was Jewish, when in fact he was an Arab. He did not even actively perpetrate a deceit, merely chatted the woman up and didn't say "by the way, I am an Arab". And that has earned him 18 months in prison, on the basis of a plea bargain. Judge Tzvi Segal explained:

"The court is obliged to protect the public interest from sophisticated, smooth-tongued criminals who can deceive innocent victims at an unbearable price - the sanctity of their bodies and souls."

Are you getting it yet? Sex with an Arab constitutes a violation of the sanctity of body and soul - an "unbearable price". This is not a freakish opinion in Israeli society. For example, half of Israeli Jews believe intermarriage between Arabs and Jews is equivalent to national treason . . . Gangs of men in a Jerusalem neighbourhood roam around, behaving as a de facto vice and virtue squad, to 'protect' young Jewish girls from Arabs. One local authority has set up a squad of counsellors and psychiatrists to 'rescue' Jewish girls who are dating Arabs. . . .

Read more... (53 comments, 714 words in story)

The Green New Deal, by 'Green Change'

by fairleft Sat Jul 17th, 2010 at 08:09:05 PM EST

On July 7, Green Change launched its campaign for a Green New Deal. (I first found out about it on Firedoglake's 'The Seminal'.) Their ten proposals would shatter the earth as we know it (in a good way).

Green Change's new campaign: the Green New Deal

. . . The Green New Deal is our answer to the economic and ecological problems facing communities around the world.

The Green New Deal is a platform of policies aimed at creating broadly shared economic prosperity and effecting the transition to a sustainable civilization. . . .

Sign onto the Coalition for a Green New Deal today.

Here's what you endorse by joining the Coalition for a Green New Deal:

THE GREEN NEW DEAL

1.  Cut military spending at least 70%.

2.  Create millions of green union jobs through massive public investment in renewable energy, mass transit and conservation.

3.  Set ambitious, science-based greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, and enact a revenue-neutral carbon tax to meet them.

4.  Establish single-payer "Medicare for all" health care.

5.  Institute tuition-free public higher education.

6.  Change trade agreements to improve labor, environmental, consumer, health and safety standards.

7.  End counterproductive prohibition policies and legalize marijuana.

8.  Enact tough limits on credit card interest and lending rates, progressive tax reform and strict financial regulation.

9.  Amend the U.S. Constitution to abolish corporate personhood.

10. Pass sweeping electoral, campaign finance and anti-corruption reforms.

Read more... (27 comments, 801 words in story)

"Turncoat [??] Afghan soldier kills 3 British troopers"

by fairleft Tue Jul 13th, 2010 at 08:02:58 PM EST

"Turncoat Afghan soldier kills 3 British troopers"

That's the AP headline on Yahoo news at the moment. Hard. to. take. sometimes. So he's not a turncoat when he fights and kills for the US/UK occupation and its Karzai puppet, who was allowed to steal the last national election, but he is a turncoat when he joins the fighting majority trying to kick out the foreigners occupying a country, his country, for the fun and profit of those foreigners' corporations and politicians?

But the UK Guardian gets it worse:

Renegade Afghan kills three British soldiers
[subhead:] Murder of troops inside Helmand patrol base deals severe blow to government's Afghanistan exit strategy

Okay, yeah, I get it, 'renegade', so you can get in this connotation from dictionary.com:

-adjective
3. of or like a renegade; traitorous.

And murder? . . .

Read more... (13 comments, 345 words in story)

'Chairman Steele, Afghanistan truth is taboo!'

by fairleft Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 10:30:48 PM EST

For a brief and shining moment, well more or less just July 1 & 2, a major mainstream U.S. political leader told the truth everyone knows about Afghanistan: it's unwinnable. And he even held his ground for, like, a day. As a consequence, Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele was attacked without mercy by both parties and all of official Washington. That's even though we all know Steele is right, and we all know our first priority, saving Afghan lives, and second priority, saving foreign soldier lives, mean we need to get international military forces quickly removed from Afghanistan. Here's Steele, taboo busting:

This was a war of Obama's choosing. This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in. . . .

It was the president who was trying to be cute by half by flipping a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should be in Afghanistan. Well, if he's such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that's the one thing you don't do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right, because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan.

Wow, refreshing, a normal person might at first react. Admittedly, you could question the beginning of the statement, since we all know Bush started the Afghan war; but it is also true that after deposing the Taliban Bush kept the war on low or simmer for the rest of his time in office. And Obama has turned the heat way up, doubling the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan (and unleashing McChrystal's assassination squads there, btw). In that reasonable benefit-of-the-doubt context, Steele's first two sentences above are accurate. But oh, what a second paragraph: right on Mr. Steele, and take that, warmongers!

As you'd expect, military-industrial complex and warmonger Republicans are on the anti-Steele warpath. And the other war party, the Democrats, are also attacking Steele, nearly accusing him of treason (yup, that sounds Bush-era familiar). As if we haven't known it for awhile, the party and President swooped into office by peacenik votes is also the other 'support the war or it'll make the troops feel bad' party:

Read more... (16 comments, 937 words in story)

U.S./Canada Chosen G-20 vs. Objective G-20 (w/ chart)

by fairleft Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 04:22:15 PM EST

The G-20 meeting of finance ministers in Canada was its expected police provocateur marred on the outside, Hooverville economics on the inside event, but what about the G-20 itself? Why that particular 20 in an organization that may now become very important (European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet "views the G-20 as being the main forum for steering the global economy")? And why so many Western European representatives when the EU and its central bank appear to determine economic (especially financial) policy for Eurozone countries?

Well, apparently the G-20 was chosen by the G-7 (in particular the 1999 U.S. and Canadian finance ministers), and that's anti-democratic, of course, and as you'd expect 'The West'-centric. Is it possible, instead, to choose the G-20 transparently and objectively? Well, maybe. Going along with the ostensible, official purpose of the G-20, to gather together finance ministers representing power over the largest chunk possible of the world economy, why not simply call together the finance ministers representing the largest chunk possible of the world economy (sorry, but minus Taiwan)?

Using the CIA list of countries ranked by GDP as measured by purchasing power parity (PPP), here's how that would look:

Read more... (43 comments, 282 words in story)

Obama Cancels Withdrawal, Peace No, Petraeus

by fairleft Fri Jun 25th, 2010 at 03:36:45 PM EST

The U.S. being the U.S., it would be smart not to look with 'peacenik' optimism on Afghanistan disarray and Obama's stubborn pursuit of a failed and fraudulent strategy there, but probably more realistic to consider the possibility of a David Petraeus 2012 presidential run (though admittedly the juvenile thug Stanley McChrystal fits the Republican rogue vibe better). Yeah, that's more like it: having a general run the U.S. increasingly fits the militarized mood here, or at least what we are provided as the mood by the corporate media. (Media side note of dismay: even the once alternative Nation magazine is now dishing 'next war' anti-Iran propaganda.)

American imperialism (like Israel's, actually, but that's another diary (that I would be advised on eurotrib to confine to a comment)) will be deterred by effective guerrilla resistance, budget constraints, and/or by politicians among its major 'allies' forced to act against U.S. demands/commands by strong and voting antiwar movements. The latter doesn't appear to be happening now, not in Britain or Germany, the numbers 2 and 3 in contributions to the U.S. (okay, NATO fig leaf) occupation army in Afghanistan. But, somehow, despite the CIA's efforts, I think prospects for effective war opposition (especially during economic hard times) is better there than it is in the States.

Yeah, and sorry, European anti-warniks, . . .

Read more... (48 comments, 901 words in story)

South Africa's new high-speed rail not for country's poor

by fairleft Thu Jun 17th, 2010 at 12:26:53 AM EST

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The Gautrain is not for you.

The Gautrain is the high-speed rail vanity project that accompanies the football stadium vanity projects (even when there were perfectly serviceable older stadiums nearby) that South Africa has built for FIFA but cannot afford. I understand that 'Eurotrib' (or those who think of themselves as Eurotrib) is a pro-HST site, but hopefully not uniformly, because here is a high speed rail project where the social wrong and white elephantism absolutely cry out. The basic injustice is described in the following paragraph:

All in the Name of the Beautiful Gain: On the World Cup in South Africa

South Africa desperately needs large-scale public infrastructure, especially in the area of public transport which in some cities, including Johannesburg, is almost entirely absent. The Gautrain, which was launched on Tuesday the 8th June (just in time for the big event) is probably the biggest irony here: in a country where the large majority rely on unsafe private mini-bus taxis to travel long distances on a daily basis, the Gautrain offers high speed, luxury transport for tourists and those travelling between Johannesburg and Pretoria . . . who can afford it as a single trip between the airport and Sandton will set you back a massive R100.

The injustice was first a major issue five years ago, with the news that the cost projections were boosted from $1 billion to at least $3 billion. And note the paragraph at the end in the following, reporting studies that found bus-only lanes on the Johannesburg-Pretoria highway would do the job of the expensive rail line at a fraction of the cost:

Read more... (70 comments, 1597 words in story)

Soccer: more goals, please [updated]

by fairleft Mon Jun 14th, 2010 at 01:56:45 PM EST

Here's how it's gone so far in the World Cup as of just before Italy-Paraguay, which I predict won't alter the trend:

1-1
0-0
2-0
1-0
1-1 (England 'own goal')
1-0
1-0
4-0
2-0 (Denmark own goal)
1-0
16 goals/10.

Soccer is a game and a business, the entertainment business, right? It is more entertaining when there are more goals scored than 1.6 per game, I mean match.

Solution: an adjustable goal mouth: make it wider till the average number of goals per match is, like 6 or 7. Of course, this is a strictly know-nothing American "I want my entertainment" suggestion, and mebbe there are more 'elegant' modifications available. For example, make the goalies wear army boots and/or dark sunglasses.

But you have to believe there is a problem before you begin pondering solutions. And, when I've even suggested my line of thinking, I run into resistance from soccer's, I mean football's, 'home country' purist zealotry. So, here I am, watching 1-0, I mean nil, matches till I'm dead bored in my grave.

Read more... (217 comments, 707 words in story)

Can't say 'Israeli apartheid' in Toronto

by fairleft Wed Jun 9th, 2010 at 07:19:21 PM EST

Let them in the parade and let people along the parade route judge for themselves. I've booed and shouted opinions at a few organizations in gay pride parades.

Do we have to act as if everyone with a sign in a gay pride parade has to follow a certain script?

Geena | June 9, 2010 12:29 PM

It's strange that the phrase 'Israeli apartheid' is now banned at a major political event in Toronto. This involves a pro-Palestinian group that has marched in Toronto's gay pride parade for many years, as have groups supporting Israeli government policies. That 'both sides' approach seems so civilized and democratic, but times are a-changing and not for the better.

Pride festival bans 'Israeli apartheid'
Toronto parade marshal resigns in protest
By Carmen Chai
Windsor Star
June 8, 2010  

This year's Toronto Gay Pride Parade Grand Marshal has resigned and 23 former Pride Toronto activists announced on Monday they have pulled out of Pride festivities after organizers banned the term "Israeli apartheid" from its 10-day event.

"Pride's recent decision to ban the term 'Israeli apartheid' and thus prohibit the participation of the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid in Pride celebrations this year is a slap in the face to our history of diverse voices," said Alan Li, a co-founder of Gay Asians Toronto who rejected his appointment as grand marshal.

"Pride's choice to take a pre-emptive step to censor our own communities' voices and concerns in response to political and corporate pressure shows a lack of backbone to stand up for principles of inclusiveness and anti-oppression." . . .

Read more... (57 comments, 1029 words in story)

Barney Frank: Israel is Mandela, Gaza is apartheid South Africa

by fairleft Sat Jun 5th, 2010 at 02:54:59 AM EST

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U.S. Senator Barney Frank equates Israel's brutal embargo against the Gaza Strip with the 1980s U.S. sanctions against the South Africa apartheid regime. Can a member of Congress get any more down on his hands and knees toward a foreign power, one that seems to have just engaged in murder and piracy on the high seas, and this from a supposed liberal beacon in the U.S. Senate?

Barney Frank Compares Israel's Gaza Blockade to Sanctions Against Apartheid
By Nathan Guttman
Published June 04, 2010

Israel's blockade against Gaza is comparable to the sanctions levied by the U.S. Congress against the apartheid regime of South Africa in 1986, Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank told the Forward in an interview June 3.

Rebuffing critics who decry the effects of the Israeli blockade on the health and welfare of Gaza's Palestinian residents, Frank said, "I remember that argument being used against our tough sanctions against the South African regime during apartheid. People said, `You're hurting the South African black people,' and Ronald Reagan vetoed the bill and we overrode his veto.

"A few years later," Frank recalled, proudly, "I listened to Nelson Mandela in the Capitol thank us for helping maintain the sanctions because they were so effective." . . .

And now Frank listens to Benjamin Netanyahu deny medicine and infant formula to the Gaza Strip and he hears Nelson Mandela in that? Here's more obsequiosity from the leading 'progressive' in the U.S. Senate:

Read more... (34 comments, 1008 words in story)

Israeli Arab flotilla hero: kill her or revoke her citizenship?

by fairleft Thu Jun 3rd, 2010 at 05:29:05 PM EST

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Haneen Zuabi (right), who represents the Arab nationalist party Balad in the Israeli Knesset, is heckled by Anastassia Michaeli, of the ultra-nationalistic Yisrael Beteinu party (centre). Photograph: David Vaaknin/AP

Read the details in the Guardian of Israel parliament member Haneen Zuabi's experience aboard the ship attacked by Israel for why she seems very much to be a hero. But the issue for me is, how far right is normal political life now in Israel? What has become of an Israel where "the ultra-nationalistic Yisraeli Beteinu party" can be part of the government and represents near-majority (majority?) political sentiment toward Arabs? ("There've been no public-opinion polls yet, but clearly many Israelis support a hard-line approach to Gaza and the Palestinian situation in general; experts note the population has grown increasingly conservative since the second Palestinian intifada, or "uprising," in 2000, exacerbated by hard-line new arrivals to Israel from Russia and elsewhere.") And then there's the ultra-orthodox religious party Shas, which provides Israel its Interior Minister. He's seriously seeking to revoke Zuabi's citizenship! (Emphasis added):

Gaza flotilla activist faces death threats
Haneen Zuabi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, has been sworn at by parliamentary colleagues and received death threats since disembarking on Monday
Rachel Shabi in Jerusalem guardian.co.uk
Thursday 3 June 2010 17.21 BST

While other activists from the Gaza aid flotilla have returned home, one is left facing death threats and abuse in Israel. Haneen Zuabi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset who was aboard the Mavi Marmara, is now under armed protection after nearly 500 people signed up to a Facebook page calling for her execution.

During a heated parliamentary session yesterday Zuabi was sworn at and then shoved out of the chamber amid shouts of "Go to Gaza, traitor".

The 41-year-old member of the Arab nationalist party Balad has also received death threats by phone and mail. "I am not scared," she said, speaking from her home town of Nazareth in northern Israel. "This is inherent here, it is not something that started yesterday. It is just harder and harsher now."

And then there's Israel's loony Interior Minister. Note the fantastical perspective (but I guess it is majority opinion (?) in Israel) on what was plainly a deadly attack by armed Israeli soldiers on unarmed civilians on a boat in international waters:

Read more... (26 comments, 1151 words in story)

Human Rights Watch against _real_ ship attack inquiry?

by fairleft Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 05:54:00 PM EST

Does Human Rights Watch take orders directly from the U.S. Department of State, or is it that the two bodies' shared excess of empathy for Israel makes them just seem to be in lock step? Specifically, why does HRW not call for an independent international investigation of Israeli piracy in international waters and its massacre of civilians on the Mavi Marmara? Why call for Israel to investigate itself when they _know_ an Israeli investigation will be bullshit? HRW admits the last in the final sentence blockquoted below:

Israel: Full, Impartial Investigation of Flotilla Killings Essential
May 31, 2010
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director.

(New York) - Israel should promptly conduct a credible and impartial investigation into the deaths of at least 10 activists after Israeli security forces boarded ships that were part of an "aid flotilla" to Gaza, Human Rights Watch said today. . . .

"A prompt, credible, and impartial investigation is absolutely essential to determine whether the lethal force used by Israeli commandos was necessary to protect lives and whether it could have been avoided," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Given Israel's poor track record of investigating unlawful killings by its armed forces, the international community should closely monitor any inquiry to ensure it meets basic international standards and that any wrongdoers are brought to justice."

And yet HRW doesn't ask for an independent international investigation, exactly in line with the U.S. government's position:

Read more... (23 comments, 1471 words in story)
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