Monday, July 25, 2011

While Most Americans Argue And Complain About How Our Money Is Going To Be Used Next, Israel Erupts In Protest.

Approximately 30,000 protesters marched in Tel Aviv last night, with social justice activists blocking central streets and chants of “Mubarak. Assad. Netanyahu” filling the air.
Tel Aviv police arrested 42 activists, which is an extremely rare number, “if not unprecedented,” according to +972 Magazine, which has been closely following the circumstances surrounding the sudden rise of Israel’s progressive left.

The protests are part of a larger movement that began as opposition to rising housing prices, and indeed is still centered around that issue, but has spread to other social justice and progressive causes.
These protests are being described as “the greatest challenge PM Netanyahu faces on the home front,” and show that the progressive left in Israel has awoken.

Change in Israel may be coming.

Noam Sheizaf offers a good visual description of how, last week, these protests began to foment:
"It happened almost overnight: Friday morning a week ago, walking near Habima Square in central Tel Aviv, I saw only a handful of tents, with no more than a few dozen Israelis who answered an internet call for an ongoing protest against rising rent costs. On Saturday evening the tents covered an entire block on Rothschild Boulevard, and protesters threw cottage cheese containers on the Likud HQ on nearby King George Street. A couple of days later, the tent protests came to dominate the news cycle.
Housing minister Ariel Attias (Shas) argued that the protesters were spoiled kids that refuse to leave the fashionable center of the country, but by Tuesday there were tents in Jerusalem, the southern city of Beer Sheva and as far north as Kiryat Shmona, near the Lebanon border (see a map of all the protests here). By Wednesday protesters tried to break into empty apartments in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; the tents on Rothschild Boulevard stretched several blocks, all the way from Habimah Square to Shenkin Street, and marches and rallies were scheduled for the weekend. The Friday papers declared that Binyamin Netanyahu sees the tent protest as the greatest potential political threat to his governing coalition."
These protests, which began as explicit anger at the rising rental prices in cities across the country, have been fueled by the response of Netanyahu’s government, which initially, with hostile rhetoric, dismissed them as being part of a large, leftwing movement being funded by outfits such as the New Israel Fund. The initial rhetoric, which claimed that the protests were not about anything other than the “Zionist Left’s” political agenda, only served to increase protesters’ anger and resolve.
These reactions from Netanyahu and other government officials have served to broaden the protests, which have now moved from rent prices to a host of social justice issues: women’s rights, union rights and education reform, among other things, with general chants of “revolution” heard on the streets last night.

What has yet to be heard, in the protests, are calls for more democracy in the wake of the anti-democratic laws that have recently been passed. Also absent has been the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
However, as these protest spread, and all indications are that they are going to continue – as Israel’s progressive left awakens – I suspect that all of the above issues will become represented by the protests, which are taking on a large, general “anti-Netanyahu” bent.

For the first time, last night, Israel appeared as its neighbors have for some time. Yes, the protests may have had a different genesis, but they share a common thread: anger with the current regime.
Things may be changing in Israel.
Author’s Note 1: Protests have moved in earnest to Jerusalem, where a thousand protesters blocked the entrance to the Knesset.
The protesters, who have set up camp in the city near the Prime Minister’s residence, marched by Netanyahu’s home on their way to the Knesset. As Haaretz reports:
"On their way, the protesters passed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence and tried to block a nearby street while calling on Netanyahu to resign. They were consequently scattered by police forces and continued marching to the Knesset."
This, from Haaretz, shows that Netanyahu’s frustration is clear:
"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebuked Likud ministers on Sunday for not trying to solve the housing crisis that gave rise to the mass nationwide protests.
Sources close to Netanyahu said he is extremely frustrated by the Likud ministers’ lack of cooperation, not only in trying to find solutions but also for not defending the government in media interviews."
Meanwhile, more tent cities have sprung up throughout Israel, showing that this crisis only appears to be growing for Israel’s ruling class.

And in Haaretz, Gideon Levy addresses what many commentators have wondered: how could these protests impact larger political issues (such as I/P) in Israel? He writes:
"If this unclear struggle by the renters of apartments on Shenkin Street is successful, matching the struggle against the price of cottage cheese, then additional Israelis will see that it is worthwhile, and that there is a chance and there is hope. Perhaps then they will go out and fight for matters that affect our fates to a much greater extent. If they see they have the strength to reduce the price of one-room apartments of 30 square meters, perhaps they will understand that they also have the power to change the nature of the country – 22,000 square kilometers not including the occupied territories.
If the struggle succeeds against the tyranny of the apartment owners and the Finance Ministry – which was what motivated them to go out and demonstrate – perhaps they will find the way of struggling also against other more severe forms of tyranny. That is the big test before the people.
A political pilot project whose importance cannot be underestimated is taking place now on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, and in other tent cities throughout the country. It is up to the Israelis to blow an empathetic, encouraging and impassioned wind into their sails. We must now leave apathy and cynicism behind at home and go out to the tents".
Author’s Note 2: Aziz Abu Sarah, in a very interesting piece called “Israeli housing protest makes no connection to the occupation,” writes:
"This argument doesn’t hold water anymore. It seems like many Israelis didn’t receive Mr. Daum’s memo about Israel’s golden era. On Saturday tens of thousands protested the housing problem in Tel Aviv. The main squares in Israel have become tent cities. Medical doctors and students are protesting their working conditions as the prices of food and gas are increasing rapidly. School teachers’ paychecks are shrinking every year . The social democratic ideals upon which Israel was established are evaporating. The rich are getting richer and the poor remain poor.
Israel’s low unemployment rate and high GDP are indeed impressive, but not necessarily indicative of a healthy community. China has the second largest economy in the world and has one of the highest GDPs. However, China is run by dictators and is filled with poor people. Many of Israel’s poor are the employed poor.
What amazes me is many Israelis’ inability to make the connection between the continuation of the occupation and the domestic problems Israel faces today; Israel is building constantly in the West Bank but it is failing to provide housing to its citizens within Israel proper. The current Israeli government’s focus on improving living standards in settlements while failing to do the same for the rest of the country is a moral failure."
Author’s Note 3: For additional reading on the “tent city” protests, I suggest the following:
+ Understanding the tent protests
+ Why we march tonight
+ Netanyahu rebukes ministers: give me ideas to solve housing crisis
Author’s Note 4: Christy1947 has a diary up discussing the possible connection between Israel’s housing crisis and the settlements, among other things. It’s a very interesting read.

"What bothers me the most are the people in America, almost as much as the government itself. Time and time again the people have been blindsided and yet, nobody is willing to raise their voices of the matter. I see the people of Egypt, Libya, and Algeria, to name the least, rise up against their government generally without violence. They see what their rulers are doing wrong and the people know how to fix it. They never sit in a coffee shop talking to their college friends about how their government is corrupt or how they should change a law or bill; these people fight back. I say at least more than half of the reasons why nothing seems to change or happen is because of the general public. The people should believe they have a say in any matter, seeing that this nation was built "by the people and for the people." The Tea Party tries to stick by the constitution as much as possible and you would think that their followers would challenge them on the subject. But with the blind, sheep mentality of the supporters, the idea of change simply fails. If the people would open their eyes and become aware of what their rulers are doing, change is sure to come. Now lets hope that America doesn't try to weasel in this protest and take control like they have with Libya."

A Few Thoughts Regarding Malicious Artistry a.k.a "Terrorists Didn't Kill America, Cowards Did"

After reading the premier posting on the new blog format, I wanted to respond with a few comments. First, I would like to address the utilization of patriotism and threats of terrorism as political tactics. Second, to identify these strategies, define and describe how and why they are used.
Malice illustrates a strategy that Samuel Johnson described as the "last refuge of a scoundrel". Patriotism and nationalistic fervor can be whipped up, stirring the population into a frenzy, and into a situation where the scoundrels must respond with preemptively constructed policies and agendas. Love of one's country itself is not necessarily a bad thing. While personally having grown suspicious of collectivism and witnessed heinous acts resulting from it, a respect and affection for the country where one resides is a type of fabric which founds the current political system, and keeps it and the population held together. No politician could conceivably be elected by a popular vote into office if they did not feign support, fervor and dedication to the system they seek to rule and modify. Where patriotism and nationalism go wrong are in the manner they are utilized by the elite.
Elite businessmen and politicians see patriotism as a means to an end. By catering and pandering to patriotism, people are manipulated into believing that love for ones country and a politicians victory are intertwined. At least this is the case for elections. The far-reaching effects of abusing patriotism and nationalism really become pronounced and malicious when used in the furtherance of predetermined goals. Two classic examples of this, one old, one new, are the experiences of pre-1945 Germany and more recently, the case of the Iraq war. Hitler used scapegoating in the furtherance of his goals, to rise to power, to "lead Germany to prosperity" and to create a racially and ethnically pure society. defines 'scapegoating' as: "a person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place". Scapegoating also doubles as a logical fallacy, more on this later. The result of Hitler's fantasy was horrifying, and a perfect case in which nationalistic pleas whipped the populace into a frenzy where their critical thinking was shut down by the mechanics of fear. Malice also touches on this with the focus on terrorism as a second strategy for GOP greatness. This second strategy was enacted perfectly during the W. Bush administration. With 9/11 fresh in the minds of Americans, fear was instilled into the American people, mobile chemical weapons labs come to mind, as well as Yellowcake forgeries. The fear of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons attacks literally just over the horizon were beaten into Americans day after day, U.N. presentation after white house press briefing, ad infinitum. Both of these strategies are a version of appealing to emotions. The point being that when humans become emotional, logical and rational thought processes are interrupted. Fight or flight is by all means a necessary and valuable capability of the human mind. However, in an era where many of early humanity's threats are diminished, television and the polity abuse this ability for their own gain. For Hitler, that gain was power, control, and the institution of wars. For Bush, that gain was power, control, the institution of wars and a whole slew of corporate extortion and exploitation.
In sum, populations must remain vigilant. There are numerous threats abound in the world today, nuclear meltdowns in Japan, environmental destruction worldwide, religious and political struggles and the scourge of terrorism; not the least of which is perpetrated by landless peasants living in caves.

[Thanks goes to and for bringing issues such as these to light and enlightening the masses, FOR FREE. Gnosticmedia has an excellent primer to logical fallacies, and PeaceRevolution provides a fleshed-out context for how rhetoric and fallacious arguments are used by the elite in the furtherance of their goals and exerting mental control on society. Both absolutely worthy sources for learning.]

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Terrorists Didn't Kill America, Cowards Did

Failed Liberty, Injustice and the Iraq Quagmire

I’ve never been one to call names, especially not towards a party that is generally associated with Libertarian ideals, but the latest incarnation of the GOP must be called out for many of the problems that persist in America.
GOP leadership is entirely to blame for the dumbing of America, illegal Iraq War and broken economy in the 21st century.  It won’t be long before they try to pin America’s woes on terrorists or liberals or both.    That said, it isn’t the politics or rhetoric that I am concerned with, propaganda tends to balance out over time.  What bothers me and the problem that we should all be concerned with is the strong appeal to patriotism and the use of nationalism to manipulate the masses.
How did America devolve into a near-fascist State?  I say “near” because I still hold out hope that the corporatism bubble will soon burst and Americans will remember what it means to care about justice, liberty, and individual rights.  

Divide and Conquer to “Right” the Ship

Among the first cowards to lay claim to patriotism and promote fear and terrorism were Rush Limbaugh and later Ann Coulter.
Both pundits are responsible for a lot of the nonsense that passes for politics these days and I’d throw in the younger Michael Moore and other flaming liberals but who really takes them seriously?  What makes Republican extremists so dangerous is that they are taken seriously by the party core.  Their “entertaining columns” and media personalities help set the table for what happens in Washington.  Whereas liberal activists wear pink shirts and lead protests, they have no direct access to Washington outside the “liberal media” that covers their antics.
The anger and hatred that has corrupted the well for Republicans begins with Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and publications like the Weekly Standard.  Even so, they have become national authorities, and extraordinarily wealthy entities I might add, as a result of their appeal to nationalism that divides Americans.   Whereas, Ronald Reagan is widely recognized for his attempt at popular appeal — despite his Republican political agenda — the new “patriots” have done just the opposite.   They no doubt reasoned that if there is no distinct line drawn in the political sand, then independents determine political outcomes and that rarely bodes well for the far-right.
Post-Reagan and Bush, the only way Republicans would become relevant again was by hurting the Democrats to off-set the negative image that Ronald Reagan and Bush gave Republicans.  Luckily they had their grips on Congress when Bill Clinton was in office, Newt Gingrich was a great force for the GOP and monica-gate would seal the deal to kick off the new Republican era.

Three objectives were necessary for the right to seize power:
  1. Obliterate the left-wing entirely.  Even now, partisans continue to hammer away at words associated with Democrats and the old left.  If you recall, it was once “communists” that were the main target of the right-wing, then they realized how much more effective it was to paint liberals as commies.  Once communists became a bad word in America, liberal went under full assault by the likes of Limbaugh (back when he was relatively clean and conservatism was still a good idea).   Limbaugh’s success gave rise to more people like him and any “liberal” politician would pay the ultimate price in votes.
  2. Shift the political spectrum to the right.  The old center is the “new left”.  The old left are in mental institutions if you believe the propaganda.  The old center shifted right and the right-wing veered towards neo-conservative thinking.
  3. Minimize the resistance and divide the “new center”.  The center is displaced, often labeled as “crazy” (see Ron Paul / libertarians) or “un-American” (see anti-war Democrats).  Anyone who failed to fall in line with the new political paradigm was ostracized.
The right-wing strategy worked and if not for an incompetent Bush Administration, poor Iraq War policy decisions and partisan loyalty that has the entire party going down with the ship, Republicans might have ruled for decades to come.
The problem with the success of right-wing pundits and strategists, Rush Limbaugh’s rise to prominence and the ascension of Ann Coulter is that they got a little too ambitious, they pushed too fast and too soon.   By effectively shifting the political spectrum, they opened the door for neo-conservatives to be thrust into American political prominence.   Nothing good can come of a ruling class that borders on the extreme and because neo-conservatives know that their window of opportunity is about to be slammed shut, they are resorting to engaging in the same tactics that they accuse Muslim fundamentalist extremists of using against us.

Neo-conservatives have turned to terrorism to remain in power 

If you really think about it, neo-conservatives have emerged as a new kind of terrorist.  Just because they don’t use weapons or go out and kill Americans, doesn’t mean they should remain unaccountable for their actions.  There is no one that I’d hold more responsible for ruining our economy and the deaths of over four thousand American soldiers than the neo-conservative wing of the Republican party.
Terrorism comes in many forms, it isn’t just about some misguided individuals strapping bombs around their waists and blowing up an American embassy.  Terrorism doesn’t mean a bunch of brown fools carrying out some stupid quest to achieve martyrdom while killing thousands of innocent people in the process.  Terrorism comes in a more subtle and  dangerous flavor than we witnessed on September 11th, 2001, and neo-conservatives have no problem terrorizing Americans.

Can anyone truly say neo-conservatives do NOT engage in terrorism?   It may only be my view, but the neo-cons have engaged in more acts of terrorism than Jihadist extremists.   As Americans, we forget that terrorism is a tactic that preys on fear in order to force the opposition into action on policy matters.   Though acts of terror are often done in desperation against a much larger force, neo-conservatives regularly use fear coupled with appeals to nationalism to bully their political adversaries.   This is the very same type of fear-driven tactic that got Hitler into trouble, it’s the very nationalism that destroyed Germany for over half a century.

Neo-conservative terrorism has been instrumental in shaping American policy and until now it has been very successful in keeping them in power.   If there is any part of  you that believes that statement is outlandish or extreme, consider for a moment how many times you’ve heard words that make you fear or hate a certain segment of the population.  How many times have you been conditioned to fear men like Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or even Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton?   What makes me think that these tactics have been successful?  Notice that the media and public are eerily quiet when it comes to the Iraq War, the economy, torture, murder and corporate fraud and corruption that has sent our economy spiraling downwards. Sure, the neo-conservative movement may die a nasty death in 2008, but consider all of the injustice that is occurring as a result of their actions and how little they’ve been accountable for their policy failures and fear-driven politicking.

 GOP Responsibility: The party must be reclaimed from the neo-cons, it can not sustain another George W. Bush

What the GOP has done with American policy should be criminal.  I have no problem with the ideals and foundation of the party, but the Republican party has strayed so far from its roots that it is hardly recognizable anymore. There have been many articles written about how conservatism has failed, but that is not the case in my view. Under President Bush, there was nothing truly conservative (or liberal for that matter) about his policies.

"To be completely fair, in the current political bull run, there is a stunning amount of Republican influence but in a Democratically controlled environment. And because they still feel the need to prove themselves (rather than consider, reflect and possibly even agree with the new way of political thinking), Republicans hardly even consider ANY of the positive effects of any of the current acts, laws etc. that are being passed through the house, instead they stick to their own guns feel proud for denying another "blue" bill and then they try and point the finger at Obama, saying that his ideas, actions, and current mindset are causing America's continuing downward spiral. Well, maybe I'm a little off my horse here, but maybe instead of instantly denying a bill to prove a point, maybe they should learn how to transfer belief into action and let the bill prove itself either right or wrong, because believe it or not, it actually might make a difference in this society (which is what we really REALLY need). Left in the wake of a 8 year disaster, there is no way any sensible (maybe even balanced) political thinker would expect one man to clean up an 8 year disaster within 4. And still to this day, Republicans are losing their hold on the political bar because the senile GOP vets are losing their own grasp in thinking. The older they get and the more they try to keep their traditional way of thinking, eventually it's going to seriously collide with the new way of thinking. They forget that they need to adapt to the ever-changing society that is considered the "American way of living" and this is where in this year, Republicans are really starting to cripple a government that desperately needs to be reinforced. They are trying to hold out as long as they can, but sooner or later they are going to have to accept that maybe they just might be wrong after all."