Monday, July 31, 2006

Meanwhile, Politics as usual

The Republicans are without shame, without a shred of common decency. House GOP ties minimum wage to Estate Tax Cut.

Really, someone explain to me how the Republicans can justify leaving the minimum wage at $5.15 per hour, where it has languished for the last ten years, while they try to repeal a tax that affects only the wealthiest Americans. By tacking an amendment onto a bill to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour, they display an arrogance that goes beyond comprehension.

"According to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank, the modest wage raise would directly benefit an estimated 6.6 million people who are currently bringing home less than $7.25 per hour. The average wage increase predicted for those workers is $1,200 per year. The Center also estimated that current minimum-wage workers would see their yearly incomes go up about $4,400 to $15,100 per year, still less than the federal poverty level for a family of three.

The other beneficiaries of the House bill would be the heirs of Americans who have more than $5 million in assets. The estate-tax cut would allow those heirs to keep an estimated $267.5 billion between 2007 and 2016 that would otherwise go to federal coffers, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation."

Midterms are coming up, not soon enough by my count.

I Have No Government. I'm A Disenfranchised American.

I urge you to read This post by Linda Milazzo at Winograd Watchdog. She writes In the current debacle between Israel and Hezbollah, with the mounting deaths of Lebanese children, it is unconscionable for Israel to justify murdering these children by labeling them embeds of Hezbollah. I agree. Every day this disaster continues, I feel my heart break.

Ms. Milazzo also writes: Sadly, this badge of inhumanity isn't only worn by Israel who slays the children of Lebanon. Or by the Hezbollah who slay the children of Israel. It is worn by the Sudanese, who willingly decimate the children of Darfur. It is worn by the Congolese soldiers who savage the children of Congo. It was worn a dozen years earlier in Rwanda, when willing Hutus murdered hundreds of thousands of Tutsi children in a span of 100 days. The same badge of inhumanity was worn in Bosnia by the Serbs who murdered Muslim children, by the Turks who murdered Armenian children, by the Nazis who murdered Jewish children, and on and on and on.

Throughout the history of un-civilization, the badge of inhumanity has been worn by one genocidal ideology after another.

Shamefully, this very same badge of inhumanity is also worn by the United States, where I live. Where the Government's decision to willingly overtake the nation of Iraq has triggered the murders of tens of thousands of children. And where the ideological refusal to support a ceasefire between Lebanon and Israel willingly adds to the murders of Lebanese and Israeli children each and every day.

The right wing says "America, love it or leave it." Ms. Milazzo writes America, leave it or SEIZE IT. Humanity, know it and show it. Save the children!! Save the children!! Save the children!!

In Lebanon. In Israel. In Iraq. In sub-Saharan Africa. In Aceh, Indonesia. In Haiti. In the Dominican Republic. In South and Central America. In North America.

Please read the entire post.

The Sequel

Hat tip to Agi - he says Mel Gibson's making a sequel.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Condi ends her Middle East Trip

And Israel agrees to a 48 hour cease fire. This is effective immediately, to allow an investigation into the bombing of Qana that left about 57 Lebanese cililians dead.

History repeats itself; in 1992, Israel launched a similar attack on Qana, leaving 100 civilians dead. International outcry was strong enough then to stop Israel's operation at that time. Will it be strong enough now? Hezbollah promises vengence.

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora of Lebanon said he will not hold talks on the crisis until there is an immediate and permanent cease-fire. Condi packed her bags and went home without calling for an immediate cease fire.

Reluctant post about Israel/Palestine, take two

I don't think this post will win me any popularity contests among leftist bloggers, although I am a leftist blogger. But I also happen to be a Jew, and a Zionist. I read people's comments that range from "the Zionists need to pack their shit and leave," to dropping the full weight of hatred and responsibility on the backs of the Jewish people. This breaks my heart. On some days, it breaks my spirit. On other days, it infuriates me. My anger on those days is not only at the sociopaths who have stolen their way into power in the United States, and, quite probably, Israel; but also at the Militant, fundamentalist leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah, who also hold their people hostage to their restrictive beliefs. And my anger is also directed at my brothers and sisters in the left blogsphere, who often have an unbalanced view of what is actually happening in the Middle East.

Let me be very clear: I do NOT condone Israel's invasion of Lebanon. I do NOT condone Israel's dropping bombs on the people living in Gaza. I urgently support an immediate cease-fire, and serious negotiations. That said, I also need to post some clarifications.

The Cave of Machpelah is the world's most ancient Jewish site and the second holiest place for the Jewish people, after Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The cave and the adjoining field were purchased—at full market price—by Abraham some 3700 years ago. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah are all later buried in the same Cave of Machpelah. These are considered the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people. The only one who is missing is Rachel, who was buried near Bethlehem where she died in childbirth. I have visited these places. They are in The West Bank.



“The Jews have no claim to the land they call Israel.”


A common misperception is that all the Jews were forced into the Diaspora by the Romans after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E. and then, 1,800 years later, suddenly returned to Palestine demanding their country back. In reality, the Jewish people have maintained ties to their historic homeland for more than 3,700 years.

The Jewish people base their claim to the Land of Israel on at least four premises: 1) the Jewish people settled and developed the land; 2) the international community granted political sovereignty in Palestine to the Jewish people; 3) the territory was captured in defensive wars and 4) God promised the land to the patriarch Abraham.

Even after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and the beginning of the exile, Jewish life in the Land of Israel continued and often flourished. Large communities were reestablished in Jerusalem and Tiberias by the ninth century. In the 11th century, Jewish communities grew in Rafah, Gaza, Ashkelon, Jaffa and Caesarea. The Crusaders massacred many Jews during the 12th century, but the community rebounded in the next two centuries as large numbers of rabbis and Jewish pilgrims immigrated to Jerusalem and the Galilee. Prominent rabbis established communities in Safed, Jerusalem and elsewhere during the next 300 years.

By the early 19th century — years before the birth of the modern Zionist movement — more than 10,000 Jews lived throughout what is today Israel. The 78 years of nation-building, beginning in 1870, culminated in the reestablishment of the Jewish State.

Israel’s international “birth certificate” was validated by the promise of the Bible; uninterrupted Jewish settlement from the time of Joshua onward; the Balfour Declaration of 1917; the League of Nations Mandate, which incorporated the Balfour Declaration; the United Nations partition resolution of 1947; Israel’s admission to the UN in 1949; the recognition of Israel by most other states; and, most of all, the society created by Israel’s people in decades of thriving, dynamic national existence.


“Palestine was always an Arab country.”

The term “Palestine” is believed to be derived from the Philistines, an Aegean people who, in the 12th Century B.C.E., settled along the Mediterranean coastal plain of what are now Israel and the Gaza Strip. In the second century C.E., after crushing the last Jewish revolt, the Romans first applied the name Palaestina to Judea (the southern portion of what is now called the West Bank) in an attempt to minimize Jewish identification with the land of Israel. The Arabic word Filastin is derived from this Latin name.

The Hebrews entered the Land of Israel about 1300 B.C.E., living under a tribal confederation until being united under the first monarch, King Saul. The second king, David, established Jerusalem as the capital around 1000 B.C.E. David’s son, Solomon, built the Temple soon thereafter and consolidated the military, administrative and religious functions of the kingdom. The nation was divided under Solomon’s son, with the northern kingdom (Israel) lasting until 722 B.C.E., when the Assyrians destroyed it, and the southern kingdom (Judah) surviving until the Babylonian conquest in 586 B.C.E. The Jewish people enjoyed brief periods of sovereignty afterward before most Jews were finally driven from their homeland in 135 C.E.

Jewish independence in the Land of Israel lasted for more than 400 years. This is much longer than Americans have enjoyed independence in what has become known as the United States. In fact, if not for foreign conquerors, Israel would be more than 3,000 years old today.

Palestine was never an exclusively Arab country, although Arabic gradually became the language of most of the population after the Muslim invasions of the seventh century. No independent Arab or Palestinian state ever existed in Palestine. When the distinguished Arab-American historian, Princeton University Prof. Philip Hitti, testified against partition before the Anglo-American Committee in 1946, he said: “There is no such thing as ‘Palestine’ in history, absolutely not.”

Prior to partition, Palestinian Arabs did not view themselves as having a separate identity. When the First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations met in Jerusalem in February 1919 to choose Palestinian representatives for the Paris Peace Conference, the following resolution was adopted:

We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical bonds.

In 1937, a local Arab leader, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, told the Peel Commission, which ultimately suggested the partition of Palestine: “There is no such country as Palestine! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria.

The representative of the Arab Higher Committee to the United Nations submitted a statement to the General Assembly in May 1947 that said, Palestine was part of the Province of Syriaand that, politically, the Arabs of Palestine were not independent in the sense of forming a separate political entity. A few years later, Ahmed Shuqeiri, later the chairman of the PLO, told the Security Council: “It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria.”

Palestinian Arab nationalism is largely a post-World War I phenomenon that did not become a significant political movement until after the 1967 Six-Day War and Israel’s capture of the West Bank.


“The Palestinians are descendants of the Canaanites and were in Palestine long before the Jews.”

Palestinian claims to be related to the Canaanites are a recent phenomenon and contrary to historical evidence. The Canaanites disappeared from the face of the earth three millennia ago, and no one knows if any of their descendants survived or, if they did, who they would be.

Sherif Hussein, the guardian of the Islamic Holy Places in Arabia, said the Palestinians’ ancestors had only been in the area for 1,000 years. Even the Palestinians themselves have acknowledged their association with the region came long after the Jews. In testimony before the Anglo-American Committee in 1946, for example, they claimed a connection to Palestine of more than 1,000 years, dating back no further than the conquest of Muhammad’s followers in the 7th century. And that claim is also dubious. Over the last 2,000 years, there have been massive invasions (e.g., the Crusades) that killed off most of the local people, migrations, the plague, and other manmade or natural disasters. The entire local population was replaced many times over. During the British mandate alone, more than 100,000 Arabs emigrated from neighboring countries and are today considered Palestinians.

By contrast, no serious historian questions the more than 3,000-year-old Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, or the modern Jewish people’s relation to the ancient Hebrews.


“The Balfour Declaration did not give Jews the right to a homeland in Palestine.”

In 1917, Britain issued the Balfour Declaration:

His Majesty’s Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

The Mandate for Palestine included the Balfour Declaration. It specifically referred to “the historical connections of the Jewish people with Palestine” and to the moral validity of “reconstituting their National Home in that country.” The term “reconstituting” shows recognition of the fact that Palestine had been the Jews’ home. Furthermore, the British were instructed to “use their best endeavors to facilitate” Jewish immigration, to encourage settlement on the land and to “secure” the Jewish National Home. The word “Arab” does not appear in the Mandatory award.

The Mandate was formalized by the 52 governments at the League of Nations on July 24, 1922.


“The ‘traditional position’ of the Arabs in Palestine was jeopardized by Jewish settlement.”

For many centuries, Palestine was a sparsely populated, poorly cultivated and widely-neglected expanse of eroded hills, sandy deserts and malarial marshes. As late as 1880, the American consul in Jerusalem reported the area was continuing its historic decline. “The population and wealth of Palestine has not increased during the last forty years,” he said.

The Report of the Palestine Royal Commission quotes an account of the Maritime Plain in 1913:

The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and orange groves, orchards or vineyards were to be seen until one reached the Jewish village of Yabna Yavne....Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen....The ploughs used were of wood....The yields were very poor....The sanitary conditions in the village were horrible. Schools did not exist....The western part, towards the sea, was almost a desert....The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants.

Surprisingly, many people who were not sympathetic to the Zionist cause believed the Jews would improve the condition of Palestinian Arabs. For example, Dawood Barakat, editor of the Egyptian paper Al-Ahram, wrote: “It is absolutely necessary that an entente be made between the Zionists and Arabs, because the war of words can only do evil. The Zionists are necessary for the country: The money which they will bring, their knowledge and intelligence, and the industriousness which characterizes them will contribute without doubt to the regeneration of the country.”

Even a leading Arab nationalist believed the return of the Jews to their homeland would help resuscitate the country. According to Sherif Hussein, the guardian of the Islamic Holy Places in Arabia:

The resources of the country are still virgin soil and will be developed by the Jewish immigrants. One of the most amazing things until recent times was that the Palestinian used to leave his country, wandering over the high seas in every direction. His native soil could not retain a hold on him, though his ancestors had lived on it for 1000 years. At the same time we have seen the Jews from foreign countries streaming to Palestine from Russia, Germany, Austria, Spain, America. The cause of causes could not escape those who had a gift of deeper insight. They knew that the country was for its original sons (abna’ihi­l­asliyin), for all their differences, a sacred and beloved homeland. The return of these exiles (jaliya) to their homeland will prove materially and spiritually [to be] an experimental school for their brethren who are with them in the fields, factories, trades and in all things connected with toil and labor.

As Hussein foresaw, the regeneration of Palestine, and the growth of its population, came only after Jews returned in massive numbers.

Mark Twain, who visited Palestine in 1867, described it as: “...a desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds-a silent mournful expanse....A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action....We never saw a human being on the whole route....There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”


“Zionism is racism.”

In 1975, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution slandering Zionism by equating it with racism. Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, which holds that Jews, like any other nation, are entitled to a homeland.

History has demonstrated the need to ensure Jewish security through a national homeland. Zionism recognizes that Jewishness is defined by shared origin, religion, culture and history. The realization of the Zionist dream is exemplified by more than five million Jews, from more than 100 countries, who are Israeli citizens.

Israel’s Law of Return grants automatic citizenship to Jews, but non-Jews are also eligible to become citizens under naturalization procedures similar to those in other countries. More than one million Muslim and Christian Arabs, Druze, Baha’is, Circassians and other ethnic groups also are represented in Israel’s population. The presence in Israel of thousands of dark-skinned Jews from Ethiopia, Yemen and India is the best refutation of the calumny against Zionism. In a series of historic airlifts, labeled Moses (1984), Joshua (1985) and Solomon (1991), Israel rescued more than 20,000 members of the ancient Ethiopian Jewish community.

Zionism does not discriminate against anyone. Israel’s open and democratic character, and its scrupulous protection of the religious and political rights of Christians and Muslims, rebut the charge of exclusivity. Moreover, anyone — Jew or non-Jew, Israeli, American, or Saudi, black, white, yellow or purple — can be a Zionist.

Writing after “Operation Moses” was revealed, William Safire noted:
“...For the first time in history, thousands of black people are being brought to a country not in chains but in dignity, not as slaves but as citizens.”

By contrast, the Arab states define citizenship strictly by native parentage. It is almost impossible to become a naturalized citizen in many Arab states, especially Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Several Arab nations have laws that facilitate the naturalization of foreign Arabs, with the specific exception of Palestinians. Jordan, on the other hand, instituted its own “law of return” in 1954, according citizenship to all former residents of Palestine, except for Jews.

To single out Jewish self-determination for condemnation is itself a form of racism. When approached by a student at Harvard in 1968 who attacked Zionism, Martin Luther King responded: “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”

The 1975 UN resolution was part of the Soviet-Arab Cold War anti-Israel campaign. Almost all the former non-Arab supporters of the resolution have apologized and changed their positions. When the General Assembly voted to repeal the resolution in 1991, only some Arab and Muslim states, as well as Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam were opposed.


“The delegates of the UN World Conference Against Racism agreed that Zionism is racism.”

In 2001, Arab nations again were seeking to delegitimize Israel by trying to equate Zionism with racism at the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. The United States joined Israel in boycotting the conference when it became clear that rather than focus on the evils of racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia that were supposed to be the subject of the event, the conference had turned into a forum for bashing Israel.

The United States withdrew its delegation “to send a signal to the freedom loving nations of the world that we will not stand by if the world tries to describe Zionism as racism. That is as wrong as wrong can be.”


“The Zionists could have chosen another country besides Palestine.”

In the late 19th century, the rise of religious and racist anti-Semitism led to a resurgence of pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe, shattering promises of equality and tolerance. This stimulated Jewish immigration to Palestine from Europe.

Simultaneously, a wave of Jews immigrated to Palestine from Yemen, Morocco, Iraq and Turkey. These Jews were unaware of Theodor Herzl’s political Zionism or of European pogroms. They were motivated by the centuries-old dream of the “Return to Zion” and a fear of intolerance. Upon hearing that the gates of Palestine were open, they braved the hardships of travel and went to the Land of Israel.

The Zionist ideal of a return to Israel has profound religious roots. Many Jewish prayers speak of Jerusalem, Zion and the Land of Israel. The injunction not to forget Jerusalem, the site of the Temple, is a major tenet of Judaism. The Hebrew language, the Torah, laws in the Talmud, the Jewish calendar and Jewish holidays and festivals all originated in Israel and revolve around its seasons and conditions. Jews pray toward Jerusalem and recite the words “next year in Jerusalem” every Passover. Jewish religion, culture and history make clear that it is only in the land of Israel that the Jewish commonwealth can be built.

In 1897, Jewish leaders formally organized the Zionist political movement, calling for the restoration of the Jewish national home in Palestine, where Jews could find sanctuary and self-determination, and work for the renascence of their civilization and culture.


“Herzl himself proposed Uganda as the Jewish state as an alternative to Palestine.””

Theodor Herzl sought support from the great powers for the creation of a Jewish homeland. He turned to Great Britain, and met with Joseph Chamberlain, the British colonial secretary and others. The British agreed, in principle, to Jewish settlement in East Africa.

At the Sixth Zionist Congress at Basle on August 26, 1903, Herzl proposed the British Uganda Program as a temporary emergency refuge for Jews in Russia in immediate danger. While Herzl made it clear that this program would not affect the ultimate aim of Zionism, a Jewish entity in the Land of Israel, the proposal aroused a storm at the Congress and nearly led to a split in the Zionist movement. The Uganda Program, which never had much support, was formally rejected by the Zionist movement at the Seventh Zionist Congress in 1905.


“All Arabs opposed the Balfour Declaration, seeing it as a betrayal of their rights.””

Emir Faisal, son of Sherif Hussein, the leader of the Arab revolt against the Turks, signed an agreement with Chaim Weizmann and other Zionist leaders during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. It acknowledged the “racial kinship and ancient bonds existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people” and concluded that “the surest means of working out the consummation of their national aspirations is through the closest possible collaboration in the development of the Arab states and Palestine.” Furthermore, the agreement looked to the fulfillment of the Balfour Declaration and called for all necessary measures “ encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale, and as quickly as possible to settle Jewish immigrants upon the land through closer settlement and intensive cultivation of the soil.”

Faisal had conditioned his acceptance of the Balfour Declaration on the fulfillment of British wartime promises of independence to the Arabs. These were not kept.

Critics dismiss the Weizmann-Faisal agreement because it was never enacted; however, the fact that the leader of the Arab nationalist movement and the Zionist movement could reach an understanding is significant because it demonstrated that Jewish and Arab aspirations were not necessarily mutually exclusive.


“The Zionists were colonialist tools of Western imperialism.”

“Colonialism means living by exploiting others,” Yehoshofat Harkabi has written. “But what could be further from colonialism than the idealism of city-dwelling Jews who strive to become farmers and laborers and to live by their own work?”

Moreover, as British historian Paul Johnson noted, Zionists were hardly tools of imperialists given the powers’ general opposition to their cause. “Everywhere in the West, the foreign offices, defense ministries and big business were against the Zionists.”

Emir Faisal also saw the Zionist movement as a companion to the Arab nationalist movement, fighting against imperialism, as he explained in a letter to Harvard law professor and future Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter on March 3, 1919, one day after Chaim Weizmann presented the Zionist case to the Paris conference. Faisal wrote:

The Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement....We will wish the Jews a hearty welcome home....We are working together for a reformed and revised Near East and our two movements complete one another. The Jewish movement is nationalist and not imperialist. And there is room in Syria for us both. Indeed, I think that neither can be a real success without the other.

In the 1940s, the Jewish underground movements waged an anti-colonial war against the British. The Arabs, meanwhile, were concerned primarily with fighting the Jews rather than expelling the British imperialists.


“Israeli policies cause anti-Semitism.”


Anti-Semitism has existed for centuries, well before the rise of the modern State of Israel. Rather than Israel being the cause of anti-Semitism, it is more likely that the distorted media coverage of Israeli policies is reinforcing latent anti-Semitic views.

As writer Leon Wieseltier observed, “The notion that all Jews are responsible for whatever any Jews do is not a Zionist notion. It is an anti-Semitic notion.” Wieseltier adds that attacks on Jews in Europe have nothing whatsoever to do with Israel. To blame Jews for anti-Semitism is similar to saying blacks are responsible for racism.

Many Jews may disagree with policies of a particular Israeli government, but this does not mean that Israel is bad for the Jews. As Wieseltier noted,“Israel is not bad for the Jews of Russia, who may need a haven; or for the Jews of Argentina, who may need a haven; or for any Jews who may need a haven.”


“Supporters of Israel only criticize Arabs and never Israelis.”


Israel is not perfect. Even the most committed friends of Israel acknowledge that the government sometimes makes mistakes, and that it has not solved all the problems in its society. Supporters of Israel may not emphasize these faults, however, because there is no shortage of groups and individuals who are willing to do nothing but focus on Israel’s imperfections. The public usually has much less access to Israel’s side of the story of its conflict with the Arabs, or the positive aspects of its society.

Israelis themselves are their own harshest critics. If you want to read criticism of Israeli behavior, you do not need to seek out anti-Israel sources, you can pick up any Israeli newspaper and find no shortage of news and commentary critical of government policy. The rest of the world’s media provides constant attention to Israel, and the coverage is far more likely to be unfavorable than complimentary.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Zionism is a political movement and ideology that supports a homeland for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel, where the Jewish nation originated over 3,200 years ago and where Jewish kingdoms and self-governing states existed up to the 2nd century. While Zionism is based in part upon religious tradition linking the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, the modern movement was originally secular, beginning largely as a response to rampant antisemitism in Europe and in many parts of the Muslim world during the 19th Century. After a number of advances and setbacks, and after the Holocaust had destroyed much of the existing Jewish society in Europe, the Zionist movement culminated in the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

Since the founding of the State of Israel, the term Zionism is generally considered to mean support for Israel. However, a variety of different, and sometimes competing, ideologies that support Israel fit under the general category of Zionism, such as Religious Zionism, Revisionist Zionism, and Labor Zionism. Thus, the term is also sometimes used to refer specifically to the programs of these ideologies, such as efforts to encourage Jewish emigration to Israel. The term Zionism is also sometimes used retroactively to describe the millennia-old Biblical connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, which existed long before the birth of the modern Zionist movement.

Certain individuals and groups have seized on the term Zionism and misuse it to justify attacks on Israel. In some cases, the label "Zionist" is also used improperly as a euphemism for Jews in general by those wishing to whitewash anti-Semitism (as in the Polish anti-Zionist campaign).

How's this workin for ya, Shrub?

Audit Finds U.S. Hid Cost of Iraq Projects . An agency in the State Department running a shell game! Hiding costs and overruns, withholding information, lying (gasp.) The findings appeared in an audit of a children’s hospital in Basra, but they referred to the wider reconstruction activities of the development agency in Iraq. Guess who the contractor is? Bechtel. Yes, THAT Bechtel, the one with a slew of contacts within the Government. After leaving the Nixon administration, former Treasury Secretary George Shultz joined Bechtel in 1974 as its executive vice president. Shultz suspended his association with Bechtel when appointed secretary of state by President Ronald Reagan in 1982. In 1983, Shultz dispatched diplomatic envoy Donald Rumsfeld to meet with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to advocate for construction of a pipeline running from Iraqi oilfields to Jordan's port of Aqaba. According to documents recently obtained by the Institute for Policy Studies, Hussein was afraid Israel would bomb the pipeline, so an investor in the project—whom Bechtel claimed was not on its payroll—reportedly tried to arrange a deal through the U.S. Attorney General's office by which Israel would receive some $70 million per year not to bomb the pipeline. Critics accused Shultz of intervening on behalf of Bechtel, which he denied. Shultz rejoined Bechtel in 1989 as a member of its board of directors after retiring from the State Department. Upon returning, he learned that the company had assumed a $2 billion contract for project management of an Iraqi petrochemicals complex that manufactured ethylene oxide, a chemical used in the production of plastics. U.S. chemical experts pointed out, however, that the chemical was also a precursor to mustard gas. On Shultz's recommendation, Bechtel pulled out of the project. Shultz currently serves as a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

In 1998, Bechtel hired former Marine four-star general Jack Sheehan as senior vice president in charge of project operations in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Sheehan served as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic and Commander in Chief U.S. Atlantic Command before his retirement in 1997. After leaving active duty, Sheehan served as Special Adviser for Central Asia for two U.S. defense secretaries. He also sits on the Defense Policy Board, a Pentagon-appointed board that advises it on defense issues.

But back to the Basra Children's hospital. The project was budgeted to cost $50 Million. Bechtel told the Agency in April that it would actually cost $98 Million. But the Agency wrote in its report the project cost was $50 Million - The rest was reclassified as overhead, or “indirect costs.” "We find the entire agreement unclear,” the inspector general wrote of the A.I.D. request approved by the embassy. No kidding, ya think?

Meanwhile, Partisan Divide on Iraq Exceeds Split on Vietnam. While people were sharply divided over Viet Nam, it was not a division along party lines, as this appears to be. As a nation, we still feel the scars from the Viet Nam War. The Vietnam War caused a wrenching debate that echoes to this day and shaped both parties, but at the time, public opinion did not divide so starkly on party lines, experts say. The partisan divide on Iraq has fluctuated but endured across two intensely fought campaigns in which war and peace — and the overarching campaign against terrorism — have figured heavily. Each party has its internal differences, especially on future strategy for Iraq. But the overall divide is a defining feature of the fall campaign.

How we vote this fall is essential. We have an opportunity to take back our country. John Dean, in Conservatives Without Conscience, has some quotes before the table of contents:

"If you think [the United States] could never elect an Adolf Hitler to power, note that David Duke would have become governor of Louisiana if it had just been up to the white voters of that state." - Professor Bob Altemeyer

"The administration of George W. Bush is not a dictatorship, but it does manifest the characteristics of one in embryonic form." - Jonathan Schell

And if we sit back, and let the neo-conservatives have their way, the bloodbath will continue.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Saturday night movie thoughts

Needing mindless entertainment, a friend and I went to see Pirates of the Carribean 2, with the hilarious Johnny Depp. One of the endless bits of advertising was for an upcoming football film based on a true story about LA Gangbangers who are sent to a particular facility and turned into a football team. The guy who trained them in real life felt that he needed to take these rival gangs and teach them to trust each other, and turn them from potential statistics into winners (he means in the sense that they'd make something positive of their lives, not necessarily on the football field.) His premise was to take historical hatred and turn it around by showing them what they shared. I didn't think much about it, other than to note it's a football film, which I love as a genre because football players have fantastic butts, and I like to - oh, never mind - but after the movie, and dinner, I came home, and was downloading some music to my ipod when it hit me.

One true method of eradicating historical hatreds is to find the common, shared experience. We look at the differences, because it is easy. It is much harder to find commonality. When I was new in AA, all I could focus on was how different everyone was from me, and how I didn't belong there. I hated it. Someone wiser told me I had to find the similarities, to listen to the similarities. It saved my life. There is a Kabbalistic concept of a River of Light that connects all things. We are connected. Our job, as human beings, is to try to heal the world.

Friday, July 28, 2006

IPCRI - A Comprehensive Approach to the Current Crisis

מרכז ישראל/פלסטין למחקר ולמידע
مركز إسرائيل فلسطين للأبحاث و المعلومات
Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information

New IPCRI Policy Paper
A Comprehensive Approach to the Current Crisis
JULY 25, 2006

General Comprehensive Approach

It has been said that wars create opportunities for political changes. The current Middle East crisis should be used by decision makers to create opportunities to bring the region into a new era of regional and bilateral negotiations aimed at dealing with the Israeli-Arab conflict in a comprehensive fashion.

Some of the opportunities which could be created by the crisis include:

Greater will of all parties involved to replace the paradigm of violence with one of political dialogue and negotiations.
The implementation of UN Resolution 1559 and other relevant UN Resolutions.
Creating a peace process between Israel and Lebanon.
Creating a peace process between Israel and Syria.
Stabilizing a long-term Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire leading to the renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
The utilization of international forces in various effective peacekeeping roles.
The integration of several of the regional actors in the international forces in various effective peace-keeping roles.

This paper outlines several new directions that seek to exploit and to materialize the opportunities created by the current crises. These opportunities include several bilateral tracks with specific steps that should be taken to resolve the current immediate crisis and to bring the region back to the peace track. The comprehensive approach of dealing with bilateral tracks in parallel enables the entire process to be concluded by addressing the root causes of the conflict. The comprehensive approach detailed below could lead to the development of peaceful relations between Israel and all of its neighbors in accordance with the vision of the Arab League Peace Initiative from March 2002. That initiative takes the most comprehensive approach which includes the end of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, the establishment of an independent Palestinian State along the 1967 borders and a just and agreed upon solution to the Palestinian refugee problem. Together with the advancing of an Israeli-Lebanese Track and an Israeli-Syrian Track, the end result could be the establishment of peace and normalized relations with all of the countries of the Arab world.

The following describes in brief the measures that we believe must be taken in order to return the region to a political process.

Israeli-Lebanon Track

A ceasefire agreement will be reached supported by the international community. The Lebanese government will ensure immediately that signs of life of the two Israeli soldiers are transmitted to the Government of Israel. A mutual exchange of all prisoners will take place immediately after the ceasefire agreement comes into force.

Israel will withdraw all of its forces in Lebanon and an effective international peace-keeping force led by NATO and mandated by the Security Council will be sent to south Lebanon. The force will work with the Lebanese Army to strengthen it as it is deployed in southern Lebanon and along the Lebanon-Israel border. The Government of Lebanon will implement UN Resolution 1559. Hezbollah forces will be immediately removed from the south of Lebanon.

Israel will withdraw from the Shebaa farms which will be turned over to the United Nations until transferred either to Lebanon or Syria.

Israel and Lebanon will enter into bilateral peace negotiations assisted and/or supervised by France and/or others with the aim of reaching a full peace treaty including normalized relations between them addressing all outstanding issues. The peace treaty will be ratified by the United Nations Security Council. This process is part of the larger regional process involving bilateral negotiations on other tracks and will be considered within that framework.

The Israeli-Palestinian Track

The Palestinian captors of Israeli soldier in Gaza must immediately show a sign of life from him.

The Palestinian President and the Palestinian Prime Minister should announce an immediate ceasefire agreed to by all of the factions including all acts of aggression against Israel, especially the Qassam rockets from Gaza. The Government of Israel should respond by announcing an immediate Israeli ceasefire including all acts of aggression against the Palestinians, especially targeted killings and Israeli military incursions in Gaza and the West Bank.

The kidnapped soldier will be released in Gaza to one of the international representatives in Gaza. The Egyptians could probably fulfill this role.

Within one week after the release of the Israeli soldier held in Gaza, and as part of the framework of the ceasefire agreement, Israel will release all of the women and minors Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons.

One week later assuming the continuation of the ceasefire, Israel will release all of the Palestinian PLC members and Ministers from prison.

An Olmert-Abbas summit will be held immediately to begin the renewal of the political process that could focus on the ultimate coordination and cooperation of all future Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank and on outstanding issues concerning Gaza such as the passage between Gaza and the West Bank, the air and seaports, and internal Palestinian issues such as the unification of the Palestinian forces, the rule of law and order in the Palestinian territories.

Within six months of the Olmert-Abbas summit, Israel will release all of the Palestinian security-political prisoners in Israeli jails from before September 1993.

Within one year of the Olmert-Abbas summit, permanent status negotiations will ensue that will be completed within six months time leading to the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state and peaceful relations between the two states based on the Clinton parameters and the Arab League Peace Plan. This process is part of the larger regional process involving bilateral negotiations on other tracks and will be considered within that framework. The peace treaty will be ratified by the United Nations Security Council.

Israeli-Syrian Track

The United States will undertake to support a renewed track of negotiations between Israel and Syria following Syria's undertaking in respect of several steps that will demonstrate Syria’s willingness to change its current course. These steps will include the sealing of its borders with Iraq, the closing of the offices of Islamic Jihad and Hamas in Damascus, and the closing of the “pipeline” of transferring weapons to Hezbollah.

In agreement between the United States, Syria and Israel, the Israeli-Syrian track of negotiations will be immediately renewed.

The basis of the Israeli-Syrian track have been mostly agreed to in the past and it entails a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. The territory of the Golan will be demilitarized forever with a ten year mandated international peacekeeping force in place.

Israel and Syria will sign a full peace treaty between them with full normalized relations. This process is part of the larger regional process involving bilateral negotiations on other tracks and will be considered within that framework. The peace treaty will be ratified by the United Nations Security Council.

The United States and the EU will provide significant funding for the economic development of Syria and the advancement of regional cooperation and economic development programs.

Concluding the comprehensive approach

The implementation of these steps in all three bilateral tracks would enable the conclusion of peace treaties and normalized relations between Israel and all of the countries of the Arab League.

Once the three trilateral tracks have reached peace treaties, the multilateral aspects of the Madrid process should re-resume with the convening of the original five multilateral working groups.

Gershon Baskin and Hanna Siniora – Co-CEOs
Khaled Duzdar and Yossi Ben Ari – Co-Directors, the Strategic Affairs Unit

P.O. BOX 9321

Telephone: +972-2-676-9460
Fax: +972-2-676-8011


What does this solve?

Six shot, one fatally, at Seattle Jewish Federation office. The lone gunman, a Muslim, expressed anger toward Jews in a phone conversation with police. He was arrested immediately after the shootings, and his action is being treated as a hate crime. No kidding.

A Seattle Mosque was attacked after Sept. 11, 2001. The gunman in today's shooting is not a resident of Seattle. He identified himself as Muslim-American, and that he is angry with Israel.

I get it. Angry with Israel, go shoot up some American Jews in Seattle. That's going to bring an end to the war in Lebanon.

Do NOT, do not, do not tell me another word about the Zionist Pigs in Israel. Do not. I am a Zionist. I believe in the necessity of the State of Israel. I want to see broad reforms to their system of government that will lessen the stranglehold the military has on the country. I love Israel, and I love America so much that I am sick at heart, at core, at depth at how these bastards without heart have hijacked both countries. Responding with hatred solves nothing. It serves to divide those of us who should be supporting a strong peace effort. War will not right what is wrong. Suicide bombings will not right what is wrong. The destruction of Israel is not the solution. The murder of Lebanese civilians is not the solution. You will not change my opinion, I will not condemn an entire country - I will condemn the people in power, and them alone. But I remain a Zionist, and I remain an American.

I am proud of what America promises when we adhere to our Constitution, and when we are at our best. We've been so far off since the Great Orator, Ronnie Reagan, was President that I fear we'll never get back on track. Israel is still young - 58 years old. They need major overhaul to their system of government, and they need people who have the hearts of lions to stand up and say Peace.

The true warrior hates war. The true warrior will find a peaceful settlement. Self-righteous indignation and finger-pointing at this moment solves nothing.

But if you feel the need to tell me how wrong Israel is (bigger weapons, alleged banned weapons) and how you dislike Zionists, so be it. You need to be right. I need to hope for a restoration of sanity and semblance of civility. You can be right. Israel is bad. There. Happy now? Does it justify shooting up a Jewish Federation office in Seattle?

Friday Grandbaby Blogging

Without photo - nothing new has been sent in two weeks. I'm pouting now. However, I called them yesterday on my way to work. Daughter wasn't home, Son-in-law was just putting Ellie to bed for a nap, but he put her on the phone first to talk to gramma. I said "Ellie, can you say doggie?" She put the phone down, ran to her doggie, and shouted "DOGGIE." That was the coolest thing - she just is so clever. Her voice is as sweet as can be, and I want to bite her chubby cheeks.

But I need new photos, because she changes weekly.

Fridays around the blogs I read often have cat blogging or doggie blogging - but I have Ellie Bean.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Richard Durbin: Bolton Filibuster Needs ONLY One More Vote

Steve Clemons writes at The Washington Note On "The Young Turks" Radio Show, Senator Dick Durbin says the Bolton bilibuster needs only one more vote to succeed.

There are about seven weeks left to find that vote, and it is essential that Congress, especially the Democrats, hand Bolton his pink slip and show Bush that he is indeed a lame duck. Otherwise, the Democrats will be seen as truly spineless.

Maybe, after November's mid-terms, we'll have a Congress that will look seriously at impeaching Cheney and Bush. Okay, it's late in the day. I'm dreaming.

Prisoners to Generals

"No statesman would launch a war when his generals make it clear that a military defeat is expected," begins Reuven Pedatzur's article in Ha'aretz. All too often, the generals are wrong, especially when their country starts the war, and underestimates their enemy.

Hitler's generals promised him swift victory over the Soviet Union, so he approved the operation that eventually led to the defeat of Germany in World War II. The United States became bogged down in Viet Nam, constantly escallating troops who were originally intended to be there in an "advisory" capacity. Because only Congress can declare war, officially Viet Nam was merely a "police action." 55,000 US dead, countless others scarred mentally and physically. The US "Shock and Awe" War in Iraq is turning into another Viet Nam for us. Egypt, in 1967: Gamal Abdel Nassar, on the advice of his generals, left his air force on the ground and attacked Israel. Six days later, he was handed an ignominious defeat. Saddam Hussein attacked Iran in what was supposed to be a short battle according to his generals. It lasted eight years.

The fundamental flaw of having policy-makers rely on their generals is point of view: "Senior officers view the world through rifle sights, and on many occasions they tend to disregard the social, cultural, political and regional aspects of the problem they wish to solve by using military force." To balance this, most democracies rely on other bodies to exercise control - the UN, (although The Decider ignores the UN) is normally one such body; and various parliamentary controls, such as Congress. And again, in the USA, Section 8 of our Constitution states clearly that:

Section 8 - Powers of Congress

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States... To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Here is where Israel differs from other Democracies (and, in my opinion, where the current Republican Administration differs sharply from all other administrations in the USA.) While some advise and consent from the Military is necessary, Israel is virtually held hostage to the decisions of her Generals.

The security policy-making process is in fact the domain of the Israel Defense Forces and the defense establishment. In the absence of non-IDF national security planning bodies, the major part of the planning - not only operational and tactical planning but also strategic and political planning - is done within the army.

The result is that military considerations have often become more dominant than political ones. Thus, Israel's foreign policies have come to be based on an essentially belligerent perception that favors military considerations over diplomatic ones. Violence is seen not only as a legitimate instrument in international affairs, but almost as the only means that can bring positive results.

In Israel, it is the IDF, not the Knesset, that determines its budget; it is the IDF who plans military actions, and presents to the Knesset as a fait acompli. To this date, now two weeks after the start of the second war with Lebanon, the Knesset has not held one meeting to discuss, nor solve, this war diplomatically. The Generals are running the country. Israel desperately needs a Civilian Board to oversee the workings of the Military - because the people of Israel do not want this war.

Pedatzur writes: "When one analyzes Israeli policy since the country's establishment, only four cases come up in which the prime minister came up with something that the army did not suggest or approve of. Three of these cases involve ex-generals as prime ministers; and in the fourth instance, the prime minister was backed by two generals in his government.

In 1977, Menahem Begin decided on a peace agreement with Egypt that came with a price - the withdrawal from Sinai, which sparked opposition from IDF commanders. But Begin enjoyed support from then defense minister Ezer Weizman and the foreign minister at the time, Moshe Dayan, both former generals. Yitzhak Rabin, a former chief of staff, decided to go along with the Oslo Accords in 1993, despite opposition from the army. Ehud Barak, also a former chief of staff, took the IDF out of Lebanon, despite very loud and public protests by army commanders. And Ariel Sharon, another general, decided on the Gaza disengagement plan and its execution despite strong objection from former chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon and his senior officers.

In all other cases, decisions regarding national security were based on proposals the IDF placed on the prime minister's desk."

He ends this article with a quote from Yigal Allon, one of the few Israeli politicians who tried to influence Israel into forming a national security policy that would operate with diplomatic means, rather than exclusively military. Allon said, "The need to defend the country against aggression, the military confrontations on the borders... the military achievements, the mass drills... all of these create an atmosphere that necessarily harbors acute social and moral dangers. The danger of the spreading of chauvinist and vulgar militarism is a real danger in Israel... The culture of arms bears with it the danger of losing social, moral and cultural values, to the point of the blurring of the nation's image as an enlightened society... This applies to all civilians and the youth, and also military personnel, who may be intoxicated by the very charm of involvement with arms."

Israelis - and here, I mean civilian Israelis, people like you, and me - do not want this war. The Lebanese people do not want this war. The only people who want this war are the people who define their lives by their status as warriors. But the true warrior puts down his weapons. The true warrior listens to his enemies, and negotiates peace.

WTF is wrong with blogger?

Trying to respond to people's comments and it won't let me. Is anyone else having blogger issues right now? I'm not ignoring people, but this device is making me insane!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

On Photography

I wonder what Susan Sontag's essay, On Photography would look like had she written it today. I first read her essay in Graduate School at University Of Illinois at Chicago. I was a Studio Arts Major. Each quarter, the MFA candidates had to take Graduate Seminar, which was a discussion about art issues. The instructor was always a visiting somebody from the Chicago art world - critics, artists, authors - always thought provoking, always challenging. But the quarter we read Sontag was the quarter our instructor was a critic with definate Communist leanings. All the critical writings he assigned were by Communist critics - Sontag being the best known. Karl Marx began as an art critic, by the way. In this class, I began to understand how our philosophies, our external influences, affect how we see and the choices we make visually.

Recently, I replaced a film camera with my first digital camera. I went for a 35 m SLR, which operates exactly like a film camera, only it's digital. But I'm still learning the camera, and the technical aspects make me clumsy. This is frustrating for me because I was a pretty good photographer before; I had a point of view. I'm a better painter, because it is more where my heart is. But I'm a pretty good photographer.

Digital photography bombards us with images. The internet creates a world of constant information, and we cannot find respite from the invasion of information and imagery. Everything we read, and see, we take as probably true - because it's on the internet. The anonymous nature of the digital age startles me at times. I tell you I am a 57 year old grandmother, and you take that as true. (It is.) But I could have told you all that I am a 27 year old Fashion Model, and tall - who would know the difference?

The opening line of Sontag's essay says: "Humankind lingers unregenerately in Plato's cave, still reveling, its age-old habit, in mere images of the truth." Mere images of the truth. Sontag's point is that photographic images do not have the gravitas of older, more "artisanal" (read hand made) images. The sheer volume of imagery clamouring for our attention renders them less important. The sheer volume of imagery creates a grand sense that "we can hold the world in our head."

Photographs are portable. They are easily reproduced. They exist on the information highway with ready access by anyone. They can be manipulated in the darkroom. Really clever photographers can manipulate in camera. They can be photo-shopped, edited online. They can be emailed. They can be printed, and kept in an album, or in a wallet. Photographs can be sent by telephone. They are everywhere.

The camera also serves to distance the photographer from what he or she is photographing. There it is, a physical barrier between self and subject. The photographer has the captured memory, the physical "evidence" of the experience - but is this the same as the experience itself?

"A photograph passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened. The picture may distort; but there is always a presumption that something exists, or did exist, which is like what's in the picture. " The written word, and the painted image, are always an interpretation of reality, or even a fictional creation. But somehow we assign truth to film in a way we don't to other media.

Yet Ansel Adams would spend hours cleaning up the area he was about to photograph, just to give the illusion of it being pristine. We take this image as truth, but it is his truth. He created it. "In deciding how a picture should look, in preferring one exposure to another, photographers are always imposing standards on their subjects. Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are."

Why is this on my mind now? Several reasons. One reason is highly political. I see images purporting to be the truth, and I am well aware of how images can be manipulated to support anything. One image is making the rounds completely out of context, and is being presented as a current image. Others, I just don't know if they are true or not as presented in the current context. They are horrific images, and they carry weight. They convict before all facts are available. We see them, and think, well they are so horrible they MUST be true. But are they?

The other reasons are highly personal, and to a degree, selfish. I travel. And I will be traveling soon, first to Australia, then to Bhutan. And I am going with my camera. My desire to document place is normal, but I don't want to have my camera stand between me and my experience. And more, I want my abilities to get up to the level of my point of view. And they aren't yet. The idea of framing, of selection - and with the digital camera, you can delete what doesn't work right away! - all this enters into this. My Australia trip is five weeks away, and I am obsessing about my photographs before the fact. And so I think, and I read, and I go out and take images that I am not willing to show anyone yet.

Where is our truth?

Putting things in perspective

DBK at Blanton's and Ashton's posted the backstory about this image, and I thank him for it. On the surface, it seems that these Israeli girls are being taught to hate, and throughout the leftist Blogsphere, it appears this is a relatively current photo.

But it isn't current. This article by Lisa Goldman at On The Face puts it into context:

Below is the story behind the photo - from the source.

I phoned Sebastian Scheiner, the Israeli photojournalist who took the photo for Associated Press (AP), explained that the image had given a really terrible impression and asked for the context. He sketched it out quickly and fluidly, but asked me not to quote him. So I spoke with Shelly Paz, a Yedioth Ahronoth reporter who was also at the scene and agreed immediately to go on record. She was quite shocked to learn how badly the photo had been misinterpreted and misrepresented; and she told me the same story Sebastian did, but with more details and nuance.

The little girls shown drawing with felt markers on the tank missiles are residents of Kiryat Shmona, which is right on the border with Lebanon. And when I say "on the border," I'm not kidding; there's little more space between their town and Southern Lebanon than there is between the back gardens of neighbouring houses in a wealthy American suburb.

No, how close is it really?

Well, there's a famous story in Israel, from the time when the Israeli army occupied Southern Lebanon: a group of soldiers stationed inside southern Lebanon used their mobile phones to order pizza from Kiryat Shmona and have it delivered to the fence that separates the two countries.


Kiryat Shmona has been under constant bombardment from South Lebanon since the first day of the conflict. It was a ghost town, explained Shelly. There was not a single person on the streets and all the businesses were closed. The residents who had friends, family or money for alternate housing out of missile range had left, leaving behind the few who had neither the funds nor connections that would allow them to escape the missiles crashing and booming on their town day and night. The noise was terrifying, people were dying outside, the kids were scared out of their minds and they had been told over and over that some man named Nasrallah was responsible for their having to cower underground for days on end.

On the day that photo was taken, the girls had emerged from the underground bomb shelters for the first time in five days. A new army unit had just arrived in the town and was preparing to shell the area across the border. The unit attracted the attention of twelve photojournalists - Israeli and foreign. The girls and their families gathered around to check out the big attraction in the small town - foreigners. They were relieved and probably a little giddy at being outside in the fresh air for the first time in days. They were probably happy to talk to people. And they enjoyed the attention of the photographers.

Apparently one or some of the parents wrote messages in Hebrew and English on the tank shells to Nasrallah. "To Nasrallah with love," they wrote to the man whose name was for them a devilish image on television - the man who mockingly told Israelis, via speeches that were broadcast on Al Manar and Israeli television, that Hezbollah was preparing to launch even more missiles at them. That he was happy they were suffering.

The photograpers gathered around. Twelve of them. Do you know how many that is? It's a lot. And they were all simultaneously leaning in with their long camera lenses, clicking the shutter over and over. The parents handed the markers to the kids and they drew little Israeli flags on the shells. Photographers look for striking images, and what is more striking than pretty, innocent little girls contrasted with the ugliness of war? The camera shutters clicked away, and I guess those kids must have felt like stars, especially since the diversion came after they'd been alternately bored and terrified as they waited out the shelling in their bomb shelters.

Shelly emphasized several times that none of the parents or children had expressed any hatred toward the Lebanese people. No-one expressed any satisfaction at knowing that Lebanese were dying - just as Israelis are dying. Their messages were directed at Nasrallah. None of those people was detached or wise enough to think: "Hang on, tank shell equals death of human beings." They were thinking, tank shell equals stopping the missiles that land on my house. Tank shells will stop that man with the turban from threatening to kill us.

And besides, none of those children had seen images of dead people - either Israeli or Lebanese. Israeli television doesn't broadcast them, nor do the newspapers print them. Even when there were suicide bombings in Israel several times a week for months, none of the Israeli media published gory photos of dead or wounded people. It's a red line in Israel. Do not show dead, bleeding, torn up bodies because the families of the dead will suffer and children will have nightmares. And because it is just in bad taste to use suffering for propaganda purposes.

Those kids had seen news footage of destroyed buildings and infrastructure, but not of the human toll. They had heard over and over that the air force was destroying the buildings that belonged to Hezbollah, the organization responsible for shelling their town and threatening their lives. How many small children would be able to make the connection between tank shells and dead people on their own? How many human beings are able to detach from their own suffering and emotional stress and think about that of the other side? Not many, I suspect.

So, perhaps the parents were not wise when they encouraged their children to doodle on the tank shells. They were letting off a little steam after being cooped up - afraid, angry and isolated - for days. Sometimes people do silly things when they are under emotional stress. Especially when they fail to understand how their childish, empty gesture might be interpreted.

I've been thinking for the last two days about this photo and the storm of reaction it set off. I worry about the climate of hate that would lead people to look at it and automatically assume the absolute worst - and then use the photo to dehumanize and victimize. I wonder why so many people seem to take satisfaction in believing that little Israeli girls with felt markers in their hands - not weapons, but felt markers - are evil, or spawned by an evil society. I wonder how those people would feel if Israelis were to look at a photo of a Palestinian child wearing a mock suicide belt in a Hamas demonstration and conclude that all Palestinians - nay, all Arabs - are evil.

And I wonder why it is so difficult to think a little, to get it into our heads that television news and photojournalism manipulate our thoughts and emotions.

Links to anti-Israel websites with that photo placed prominently next to the image of a dead Lebanese child have been sent to me several times. Someone has been rushing around the Israeli blogosphere, leaving the link to one particularly abhorrent site in the comments boxes. And it makes me really sad that the emotional climate has deteriorated to this point.

The moderates of the Middle East are locked in a battle with the extremists. And look what they did to the moderates. Without blinking, without thinking, we fell victim to the classic "divide and conquer" technique. We work hard for months and years to build connections, develop our societies, educate ourselves, promote democracy and free speech... And they destroy it all, in less than a week. And we let them.

What it's like to be a Cub fan

I admit it. I'm a Chicago Cubs fan. Grew up understanding the idea of waiting - as in "Wait til next year" which is what Cubs fans say every season. Next year, they'll go to the series. There's the famous famous Curse. Sam Siannis, who owned the Billy Goat Tavern, was a diehard Cubs Fan. He brought his goat to Game 4 of the 1945 World Series, and was denied entry. As he left, he (allegedly) said "There will never be a World Series in Wrigley Field again." The Cubs lost the series to Detroit, and haven't won a World Series since 1908. Nor have they been in the World Series since 1945. Close, but that only counts in horseshoes. In 2003, in the playoffs, the Cubs were about to win the clinching game when a fan (Steve Bartman) grabbed a fly ball in Right Field, and the Cubs went on to lose the game, and the playoffs.

Right now, the Cubs are 39 Wins to 60 Losses. They're in the bottom of the standings. As a Cubs fan, I'm used to disappointments but even this is too much to follow and I'm waiting for next year. But, little things make me happy, and THIS headline is one of them: Zambrano wins 8th straight to defeat Mets.

In a world going to hell in a handbasket, I need to look at the little things in life once in a while.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

He who cast the first stone probably didn't.

Arse Poetica posted an interesting article by Daniel Gilbert on how violence escalates. He says: What seems like a grossly self-serving pattern of remembering is actually the product of two innocent facts. First, because our senses point outward, we can observe other people’s actions but not our own. Second, because mental life is a private affair, we can observe our own thoughts but not the thoughts of others. Together, these facts suggest that our reasons for punching will always be more salient to us than the punches themselves — but that the opposite will be true of other people’s reasons and other people’s punches.

Examples aren’t hard to come by. Shiites seek revenge on Sunnis for the revenge they sought on Shiites; Irish Catholics retaliate against the Protestants who retaliated against them; and since 1948, it’s hard to think of any partisan in the Middle East who has done anything but play defense. In each of these instances, people on one side claim that they are merely responding to provocation and dismiss the other side’s identical claim as disingenuous spin. But research suggests that these claims reflect genuinely different perceptions of the same bloody conversation.

But in the world of "fair fighting", the second punch must have the same level of force as the first punch - and the third punch must also be the same level. An eye for an eye is fair, but an eye for an eyelash is not. So when the European Union criticizes Israel for bombing Lebanon over the kidnapping of two soldiers, they are criticizing the excessive use of force; the EU didn't question Israel's right to respond - nor do I - but the amount of force is out of whack.

Gilbert says: Research shows that people have as much trouble applying the second principle as the first. In a study conducted by Sukhwinder Shergill and colleagues at University College London, pairs of volunteers were hooked up to a mechanical device that allowed each of them to exert pressure on the other volunteer’s fingers. They were supposed to put the same amount of pressure on each other's fingers. The measured results showed that each time, pressure increased by 40%, yet the volunteers were convinced they'd applied equal amounts of pressure. Our own pain is more real to us than the pain we inflict on others; and thus begins the mutual escalation of harm.

So, along with hatred, greed, lies, intolerance, we have to throw into this stew a strange neurological wrinkle in our brains that leads to self-justification. That, along with an increase of fundamentalist thinking which tells "believers" they are somehow superior to others who believe differently, and the path toward mass destruction becomes inevitable.

In the Middle East, cooler heads have often prevailed. Statesmen have stepped in to intervene, to settle things down. Our pack of administrative liars have no interest in statemanship. Driven by greed, driven by a desire to create a New American Century, they want the Middle East to blow itself up so they can step in and create a new Middle East. So it escalates.

Pinch me, I must be dreaming.

Specter prepping bill to sue Bush is the word from Forbes. "We will submit legislation to the United States Senate which will...authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president's acts declared unconstitutional," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said on the Senate floor.

This announcement came on the same day that the ABA says that Bush's use of signing statements is blatantly unconstitutional. Bush, with over 750 signing statements, has used this 200 times more than all other US Presidents, combined. And while others have used signing statements, they've been largely ceremonial - something akin to saying this is a really groovy new law. George W. Bush, however, has used these statements to avoid risking a veto, which can be overturned in Congress. Signing statements let Bush say he's signing the bill into law, but he's not going to follow it. And Congress can't override a signing statement.

First Valerie Plame Wilson, and now Arlen Specter. Can Impeachment be on the horizon?

Monday, July 24, 2006

I fixed my PC.

So, the choice was this: buy a new computer - like an IMAC - or just fix the one I have. I did that, and treated myself to a flat panel moniter - much nicer than the old hunk of crud I had before. And since I could not blog the bean on Friday, here she is in all her summer finery, with Chicago in the background.

In California, it's so hot that...

Global Warming goes on trial.

California and other states have brought a lawsuit against the Federal Government about its failure to reduce greenhouse gas emission. The US Supreme Court normally defers to the administrative agencies to implement laws, but has decided to hear this case next term. The reason: in this case such deference is outweighed by the administration's glaring dereliction of duty.

The Clean Air Act of 1970 charges the government with regulating substances that "may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare," and it specifically includes those that might affect the "weather" or "climate."

Bush promised six years ago to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions, but so far all he's done is call for more studies. The Court's decision to hear the lawsuit will get some clarity of language, and perhaps shame Congress into real action.

In the meantime, it's so hot in California that...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

There's nothing like bad acting.

One of my favorite movie comedies is Waiting for Guffman, a short, improvised "documentary" about the world of Community Theater. One of the tag lines advertising the film is "There's a reason why some talent goes undiscovered."

It's hot, it's humid, and it's Sunday. But what did I do? I went with 18 of my friends to see another friend in a Community Theater production of the musical "Oliver." My friend is a decent actor. He's a good singer. But he was surrounded by people who just, well, shouldn't quit their day jobs. Just as Dr. Allen Pearl did in Guffman, and Ron & Sheila Albertson did. Dr. Pearl gives up his dental practice to move to Miami and gets unpaid jobs singing in nursing homes; Ron & Sheila are travel agents in the fictional town of Blaine, travel agents who've never left Blaine. They quit and move to Hollywood. Big mistake.

There's that singsongy voice bad actors use. There's the repetition of lines - like "Ma said ye just don't care, son. Ma said ye just don't care." The mugging, the shuffling of feet, the mouthing of the other person's dialogue so you don't lose your place. All of this was present in the show today. All of it. If you've ever done Community Theater, you know what I mean. Rent the DVD of Guffman, it's hilarious. Much more so than this show was today - and it was so hot, I thought half the cast was going to die on stage.

Could I be demonstrating a bad attitude? I think so.

Arabs press Syria to end support of Hezbollah

Arab diplomats are pressing Syria to stop backing Hezbollah. And Syria indicates it is willing to enter talks with the US to initiate a cease fire in Lebanon, according to Ha'aretz. Syria and Spain are working toward a package that would include a prisoner swap, and a return of the Golan Heights as part of the deal. It was unlikely that Israel would agree to such a deal, but the remarks were the first indication of Syria's willingness to be involved in international efforts to defuse the Lebanese crisis.

And Prime Minister Olmert, and Defense Minister Peretz, agree that a NATO lead peace force in Southern Lebanon would be acceptible.

Summer lightening in a fire ecology

Last night, about 8:20 PM, I was driving home from dinner with friends. All around me was the most spectacular display of lightening I'd seen since moving to Los Angeles. It was a combination of heat lightening and bold strikes - no thunder. An oddity occurred as I drove through the Hollywood Riviera section of Redondo Beach - rain, in July. We don't get rain in July. But as I was driving, I saw one particular bolt of lightening that hit somewhere in the vicinity of Catalina Island. I rounded the corner onto Palos Verdes Drive South, and saw an eirie orange glow - it took me a few minutes to realize that Catalina Island had taken a direct hit, and was on fire. All along the drive, people were pulled over. They stood outside their cars, watching, taking photos. Meanwhile, lightening continued to strike. Now, I'm from the midwest - I'm not going to stand outside in a lightening storm no matter how beautiful it is, because that's how people get fried.

Catalina Island is beautiful, but with limited capacity to fight this blaze. Marines from Camp Pendelton were called over to help contain it. Somewhere around 1200 acres have burned.

It is so hot in the LA basin, record heat - it hit 119 in Woodland Hills yesterday. At 9AM, here in Pedro, it's close to 80 degrees.

What have we done to our earth?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Hamas ready to accept unilateral cease fire

Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reports that Fatah sources indicate that Hamas is ready to accept a deal brokered by Egypt which will include unilateral cease fire between Gaza and Israel, the release of Israeli Defense Soldier Gilad Shalit, cessation of IDF assassinations in Gaza and eventual release of Palestinian prisoners. It is not clear if this is a done deal; Israel will not accept a cease fire that does not include the release of Shalit.

But what is clear is that Hamas wants to distance itself from Hezbollah. Hamas leaders believe Hezbollah has harmed the Palestinian cause by its actions and are striving to reach a separate deal with Israel.

Meanwhile, at an anti-war rally in Tel Aviv, major Arab groups, including Hadash and Balad, participated for the first time in any anti-war rally. They marched along with the Zionist Left, Yesh Gvul, the refusal to serve movement, and Gush Shalom, among others.

These Jewish and Arab groups ordinarily shy away from joint activity. They couldn't come up with a unifying slogan this time either, except for the call to stop the war and start talking. However, protest veterans noted that in the Lebanon War of 1982 it took more than 10 days of warfare to bring out this many protesters, marking the first crack in the consensus.

This was a distinctly anti-American protest. There were chants of "We will not die and will not kill in the service of the United States," and slogans condemning President George W. Bush. One woman, Tehiya Regev, lost two friends in the Kaytusha bombings of Carmel (a suburb of Haifa.) She told a reporter from Ha'artez, "This war is not headed in the right direction. The captured soldiers have long since been forgotten, so I came to call for an immediate stop to this foolish and cruel war." Ms. Regev was a new face to peace rallies.

Links are fixed, in case you tried to get there.

Every sperm is sacred...

I love Sumo Merriment's blog. She sums up the latest in Bush's hipocrisies, and I've grabbed this cartoon off her. Go have a look at the rest of it.

How did I miss this? Army fires Halliburton from Iraq contract

This article on July 12 shows that the overcharging by Halliburton have gotten out of hand even for the Pentagon. Pentagon auditors found over $1 billion in questionable costs under the contract. Current and former employees described instances where Halliburton overcharged U.S. taxpayers by paying $45 per case of soda, $100 for a standard cleaning of laundry, and $80,000 for brand new Mercedes trucks that were torched because of minor equipment problems. At one point, Halliburton billed the government for 36 percent more meals than was actually served to the troops while an internal company report said it had overcharged by 19 percent. Another military audit, first revealed by HalliburtonWatch, accused Halliburton of imposing "increased costs to the government” (and therefore higher profits for the company) by purchasing millions of dollars in trucks that were sitting idle and unused in parking lots under Iraq's desert sun. In addition, a report by Halliburton employees, first revealed by HalliburtonWatch, revealed how the company was delivering contaminated and unhealthy water to unsuspecting troops throughout Iraq on a regular basis.

Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) wants multiple companies to fulfil the contracts. He says, rightly, that when there is a single company filling the needs of the government contracts, that company "has the government over a barrell." In this case, that company, Halliburton, is also lining the pockets of Dick Cheney. In June, documents suggested that Cheney lied about his role in awarding a "no bid" oil contract to Halliburton in Iraq.

Yes, there are still the Haliburton oil contracts in Iraq. Haliburton's Hella Good Deal talks about the need for skepticism at this point. After the first dubious no-bid contract, Halliburton subsidiary KBR got a second oil contract with the Army Corps of Engineers.

The fix was in, according to the Corps’ top civilian contracting expert, Bunnatine Greenhouse: "I can unequivocally state that the abuse related to contracts awarded to KBR represents the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career." Greenhouse exposed the collusive relationship at an unofficial congressional hearing held by the Democrats last June (no official committee has yet chosen to invite her to testify), before she was demoted for speaking out.

So as demonstrated by the two oil contracts, Halliburton remains eligiable to bid for new logistics contracts in Iraq despite the blatant abuses including cost overruns, waste, kickbacks, $45 cases of soda. You get the picture.

Leading Senate Democrats, including Dorgan, Durbin, D-Ill., Harry Reid and Pat Leahy have also introduced a comprehensive contracting reform proposal—The Honest Leadership and Accountability in Contracting Act of 2006 (S. 2361). The bill would establish criminal penalties for war profiteering, require that lawbreaking companies be excluded from any new contracts and protect whistleblowers from retaliation, among other provisions. It was brought up for a vote during the Senate’s consideration of the 2007 Defense bill, and similarly shot down by the Republican Congress’ highly-partisan Halliburton protection racket.

Dorgan said the bill was shot down because there is "one-party rule" in Washington - the White House, Senate and House. He says "nobody wants to embarrass anybody." Nobody wants to really look at what's going on, because to do so would mean they would have to take responsibility and act.

The American people deserve better than this. Our country has been hijacked by warmongering criminals who have led us into World War III. WE invaded Iraq in order to line the pockets of a very few; WE have lit a fire under Israel, and are currently rushing so-called smart bombs to them, most likely to let Israel invade Iran and Syria - talk about the most amazing red-herring THAT is. Let's blame all of Israel for the cynical, criminal actions of the PNAC-led government in the US. We don't have the manpower to invade Iran; our Iraq invasion is a dismal failure; let's get Israel to do it.

We have to shine that spotlight back where it belongs: on Bush, Cheney, Rove, Wolfowitz, Kristol. Change OUR government.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The fragile nature of sobriety

Last Friday, I learned that the son of one of my friends died in prison. This was a young man, 35 (same age as my own son), very handsome, creative, intelligent, successful. He had long term friends, people with whom he'd grown up, known since early childhood. He had loving parents. He had every advantage a person can have. But he could not stay sober, or clean.

He would have stretches of sobriety, one time over a year - I remember when he took that cake. But he suffered from paranoia, and he had another rare disorder which made him think he looked grotesque. When he'd go out on a run, the paranoia became worse. About ten months ago, after one such run, he destroyed his office. He was arrested, the judge gave him parole. Shortly after, he was arrested trying to make a buy of cocaine. This time the judge sent him to prison.

On Thursday of last week, he hung himself in his cell.

Last night was the viewing at the funeral home - packed to the gills. One of the most amazing outpourings of love I've ever seen. Today, this morning, was a memorial service on the beach. All his closest friends, the surfing boys, eulogized him. All of them spoke about how much they loved him, and how this young man was always there for them. One of the friends, about five years sober, spoke about endless cups of coffee together. How this guy would do anything to help another stay sober. Yet he was unable to get the gift himself.

The memorial service was incredible. The eulogies went on for over two hours; in the end, 100 surfers did a paddle out to say good-bye in the ocean. They formed a circle, and the lifeguard boat saluted with a spray of water. One man I know spoke about his own son, who'd died last year, also unable to stay sober, and also a suicide. The tragedy, and power, of this disease is overwhelming. But so is the love, and support. And that's what's key to me, that, more than anything else: so many of us were there for his parents; others were there for each other - friends - but the connection of love, in all honesty, is the most beautiful thing I know.

At the meeting tonight, five of us were celebrating our AA birthdays; most of us had been at the funeral. We all went out to dinner, and it was more of the same - love, despite our many quirks and foibles. Love as an action. I am so grateful for my life and my experience; I am grateful I am able to show up for my friends in the face of their terrible loss. But I am very saddened by the loss of this man. Keep Matt in your prayers that he might finally be at peace. With a Wahoo Fish Taco Stand nearby.

Friday Grandbaby blogging

Here's Ellie being invisible. Why? BECAUSE MY PHOTOS ARE ON MY PC. MY PC HAD A MELTDOWN ON SUNDAY. And this is my laptop. My daughter hasn't sent updates this week because she's been insanely busy at work, which is good. So, no photos, because I don't have anything new, or old, that I can access. The wonders of modern technology.

So instead I will just say that she points to her dog and says "Doggie." She says Mama, Dada, Ball, Blue, Cat. When she says these words in her lovely, sweet voice, she knows what she means. Dada is not reference to the surrealist movement; Mama refers to my daughter, her mom, rather than Yo-Yo Ma, the cellist.

I need to take my computer to a place to get it fixed, and to do that, I need free time during business hours. Miss my Ellie Bean.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Wealth: a study in contrasts

Bill Gates and Dick Cheney. Both unbelievably wealthy individuals. And what do they do with it?

Well, Cheney's betting on bad news. He's got between $10 to $30 million in a series of funds that hedge well against inflation rates. Two of the three are tax-exempt funds; the third is an inflation-protected fund. The principal and interest of these bonds rise with consumer prices.

The Cheneys also had between $10 million and $25 million in American Century International Bond (BEGBX, news, msgs). The fund buys mainly high-quality foreign bonds (predominantly in Europe) and rarely hedges against possible increases in the value of the dollar. Indeed, its prospectus limits dollar exposure to 25% of assets and the fund currently has only 6% of assets in dollars, according to an American Century spokesman. It's like he hopes the dollar will drop so he can get wealthier. Betting against America, is old Blasty McBirdshot. BTW, Cheney's assets could be around $94M -- but it's a little unclear, because he hides a lot.

On the other hand, Bill Gates, worth more money than most countries, has just earmarked $278M for AIDS vaccine research. But the $287 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also comes with the requirement that researchers share data and collaborate in a way that's rare in science. Vaccine candidates that don't pass muster will be quickly abandoned. Those that show promise will get fast-track treatment. Warren Buffett recently handed $30M over to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which in addition to AIDS research, focuses on improving education. The Governator of California, who I really don't like, just gave a loan of $150 M for stem cell research in California (just after Bush vetoed a bill on stem cell research.)

So. If you had gazillions of dollars, what would you do with it? Would you hedge against inflation for your own personal gain, while letting your country disintigrate? Or would you work toward the greater good? It sounds so obvious in theory. But really, how many of us would put our money where our heart is?

Animal House Summit

This editorial by Maureen Dowd is worth printing in full. I thank Robin Andrea for sending it to me.


Reporters who covered W.’s 2000 campaign often wondered whether the Bush scion would give up acting the fool if he got to be the king.

Would he stop playing peekaboo with his pre-meal moist towels during airplane interviews? Would he quit scrunching up his face and wiggling his eyebrows at memorial services? Would he replace levity and inanity with gravity?

“In many regards, the Bush I knew did not seem to be built for what lay ahead,’’ wrote Frank Bruni, the Times writer who covered W.’s ascent, in his book “Ambling Into History.” “The Bush I knew was part scamp and part bumbler, a timeless fraternity boy and heedless cutup, a weekday gym rat and weekend napster, an adult with an inner child that often brimmed to the surface or burst through.”

The open-microphone incident at the G-8 lunch in St. Petersburg on Monday illustrated once more that W. never made any effort to adapt. The president has enshrined his immaturity and insularity, turning every environment he inhabits — no matter how decorous or serious — into a comfortable frat house.

No matter what the trappings or the ceremonies require of the leader of the free world, he brings the same DKE bearing and cadences, the same insouciance and smart-alecky attitude, the same simplistic approach — swearing, swaggering, talking to Tony Blair with his mouth full of buttered roll, and giving a startled Angela Merkel an impromptu shoulder rub. He can make even a global summit meeting seem like a kegger.

Catching W. off-guard, the really weird thing is his sense of victimization. He’s strangely resentful about the actual core of his job. Even after the debacles of
Iraq and Katrina, he continues to treat the presidency as a colossal interference with his desire to mountain bike and clear brush.

In snippets of overheard conversation, Mr. Bush says he has not bothered to prepare any closing remarks and grouses about having to listen to other world leaders talk too long. What did he think being president was about?

The world may be blowing up, and the president may have a rare opportunity to jaw-jaw about bang-bang with his peers, but that pales in comparison with his burning desire to return to his feather pillow and gym back at the White House.

“Gotta go home,’’ he tells the guy next to him. “Got something to do tonight. Go to the airport, get on the airplane and go home.” A White House spokesman said Mr. Bush had nothing on his schedule after he returned to Washington on Monday about 4 p.m.

When he began meandering about how big Russia was, you expected him to yell, “Yo, Condi!’’ and ask his secretary of state: “Hey, what’s the name of that other big country that has more people than any other country in the world? It begins with a ‘C.’ Dad spent some time there.’’

Perhaps it’s that anti-patrician chip on his shoulder, his rebellion against a family that prized manners and diplomacy above all. But when bored or frustrated, W.
reserves the right to be boorish — no matter if the setting is a gilded palace or a Texas gorge.

He treated Tony “As It Were” Blair like the servant in “The Remains of the Day,’’ blowing off his offer to help with the Israel-Lebanon crisis, and changing the subject from substance to fluff at one point, noting about his 60th-birthday Burberry gift: “Thanks for the sweater. Awfully thoughtful of you.’’ Then he razzed
the British prime minister, who was hovering and wheedling like an abused wife: “I know you picked it out yourself.”

After doing his best to undermine the U.N. and Kofi Annan, W. talked about the secretary general like a fraternity pledge he wanted to send out for more beer or a keg of Diet Coke: “I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen.’’

His loosey-goosey confidence that everything could be fixed with a phone call — and not even a phone call made by him, and not even a phone call made to the Iranians, who have more control over Hezbollah — was striking. He seems to have no clue that his own headlong, heedless actions in the Middle East have contributed to the deepening chaos there, and to Iran’s growing influence and America’s diminished leverage.

Mr. Bush may resent the sophistication required of a president. But when the world is going to hell, he should stop chewing and start thinking.