Friday, April 15, 2011


I'm going to redirect traffic from my political commentary, social commentary, media criticsm blog ( and my creative writing blog ( to this new Blog which will feature regular writers:

Lenora Jean Daniels, PhD, The Black Commentator (weekly)
Larry Pinkney, The Black  Commentator (weekly)
Retired Naval Commander Jeff Huber, (weekly)
Bob Somersby, The Daily Howler (daily)
Tom Engleheardt, TomDispatch (daily)
Rehka Basa, The DesMoines Register (twice weekly)
Paul Krugman, The New York Times (twice weekly)
Maureen Dowd, The New York Times (twice weekly)
Pepe Escobar, Asia Times Online (weekly?)
Arthur Silber, The Light of Reason (daily)
Chris Floyd, Empire Burlesque
Dawn (daily Pakistanian newspaper)
Asia Times Online (daily)
Der Speigel (daily)
John Pilger (twice monthly)
Immanuel Wallerstein (twice montyly)
Mark Ganzer (daily)

I will accept ANY and ALL applications to post here, entirely unedited.  PLEASE, readers, especially those of you from outside the United States, be eager to send your postings to me at:


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Gold and the Stone

Judge Goldstone Revisited


There is something tragicomic about the persona of Richard Goldstone.

First there was a veritable storm of fury when the original Goldstone report was issued.

What a fiend! A Jew who claims to be a Zionist and an Israel-lover, who publishes the most abominable slanders about against our valiant soldiers, aiding and abetting the worst anti-Semites around the world! The very prototype of a self-hating Jew! Still worse, a “mosser” – a Jew who turns another Jew over to the evil Goyim, the most detested figure in Jewish folklore.

And now the turnabout. Goldstone, the Jew who has recanted. Goldstone who has publicly confessed that he was wrong all along. That the Israeli army committed no crimes in the 2009-2010 “Cast Lead” Gaza operation, On the contrary, while the Israeli army has conducted honest and meticulous investigations into all the allegations, Hamas has not investigated any of the horrendous crimes it has committed.

Goldstone, the Man of Stone, has become Goldstone, the Man of Gold. A man of conscience! A man to be admired!

It was, of course, Binyamin Netanyahu who had the final word. Goldstone’s recantation, he summarized, has confirmed once again that the IDF is the Most Moral Army in the World.

* * *

MY HEART bleeds for Judge Goldstone. From the beginning he was placed in an impossible situation.

The UN commission which appointed him to head the inquiry into the allegations of war crimes committed during the operation was acting on a seemingly logical but actually foolish calculation. Appointing to the job a good Jew, and an avowed Zionist to boot, would disarm, it was thought, any allegation of anti-Israeli bias.

Goldstone and his colleagues undoubtedly did an honest and conscientious job. They sifted the evidence laid before them and arrived at reasonable conclusions on that basis. However, almost all the evidence came from Palestinian and UN sources. The commission could not interrogate the officers and soldiers of the Israeli forces because our government, in a typical and almost routine act of folly, refused to cooperate.

Why? The basic assumption is that all the world is out to get us, not because of anything we do, but because we are Jews. We know we are right, and we know that they are out to prove us wrong. So why cooperate with these bloody anti-Semites and Jewish self-haters?

Today, almost all influential Israelis concede that this was a stupid attitude. But there is no guarantee that our leaders will behave any differently next time, especially since the army is dead set against allowing any soldiers to appear before a non-Israeli forum, or, for that matter, before an Israeli non-military forum either.

* * *

BACK TO poor Goldstone. After the publication of his commission’s report, his life became hell.

The full fury of the Jewish ghetto against traitors from its midst was turned on him. Jews objected to his attending his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah. His friends turned away from him, He was ostracized by all the people he valued.

So he searched his soul and found that he had been wrong all along. His findings were one-sided. He would have found differently if he had heard the Israeli side of the story. The Israeli army has conducted honest investigations into the allegations, while the barbarous Hamas has not conducted any investigations at all into their obvious war crimes.

So when was Goldstone wrong? The first or the second time?

The answer is, alas, that he was wrong both times.

* * *

THE VERY term “war crimes” is problematic. War itself is a crime, never to be justified unless it is the only way to prevent a bigger crime – as with the war against Adolf Hitler, and now – on an incomparably smaller scale – against Muammar Qaddafi.

The idea of war crimes arose after the horrendous atrocities of the 30-year war, which devastated central Europe. The idea was that it is impossible to prevent brutal actions if they are needed to win a war, but that such actions are illegitimate if they are not needed for this purpose. The principle is not moral, but practical. Killing prisoners and civilians is a war crime, because it serves no effective military purpose, since both sides can do it. So is the wanton destruction of property.

In Israel this principle was embodied in the landmark judgment by Binyamin Halevy after the 1956 Kafr Qasim massacre of innocent farmers, men, women and children. The Judge ruled that a “black flag” flies over “manifestly” illegal orders – orders which even a simple person can see are illegal, without talking to a lawyer. Since then, obeying such orders has been a crime under Israeli law.

* * *

THE REAL question about Cast Lead is not whether individual soldiers did commit such crimes. They sure did – any army is composed of all types of human beings, decent youngsters with a moral conscience besides sadists, imbeciles and others suffering from moral insanity. In a war you give all of them arms and a license to kill, and the results can be foreseen. That is one reason why “war is hell”.

The problem with Lebanon War II and Cast Lead is that the basic approach – the same in both cases – makes war crimes as good as inevitable. The planners were no monsters – they just did their job. They superimposed two facts one on the other. The result was inevitable.

One consideration was the requirement to avoid casualties on our side. We have a people’s army, composed of conscripts from all walks of life (like the US army in Vietnam but not in Afghanistan.) Our public opinion judges wars according to the number of (our) soldiers killed and wounded. So the directive to the military planners is: do everything possible so the number of our casualties will be next to nil.

The other fact is the total disregard for the humanity of the other side. Years and years of the occupation have created an army for whom Palestinians, and Arabs in general, are mere objects. Not human enemies, not even human monsters, just objects.

These two mental attitudes lead necessarily to a strategic and tactical doctrine which dictates the application of lethal force to anyone and anything that can possibly menace soldiers advancing in enemy territory – liquidating them in front of the soldiers preferably from afar by artillery and air power.

When the opposition is a resistance movement operating in a densely populated area, the results can almost be calculated mathematically. In Cast Lead, at least 350 Palestinian civilians, among them hundreds of women and children, were killed, together with about 750 enemy fighters. On the Israeli side: altogether 5 (five!) Israeli soldiers were killed by enemy fire (some six more by “friendly fire”).

This result did not contradict the undeclared political aim of the operation. It was to pressure the Gaza Strip population into overthrowing the Hamas government. This result, of course, was not achieved. Rather the opposite.

The logic – and the balance of casualties - of Lebanon War II were about the same, with added huge material destruction of civilian targets.

* * *

FOLLOWING THE Goldstone report, our army did indeed conduct quite extensive investigations into individual incidents. The number is impressive, the results are not. Some 150 or so cases were investigated, two soldiers were convicted (one for theft), one officer was indicted for the killing – by mistake – of an entire extended family.

This seems to satisfy Goldstone, who this week gratefully accepted an invitation from the Israeli Minister of the Interior – perhaps the most rabid racist in the entire government, in which racists abound – to visit Israel. (When the conversation was leaked, Goldstone cancelled the matter and stated that the report would not be withdrawn.)

On the other side, Goldstone is aflame with indignation against Hamas, for launching rockets and mortar shells at civilians in Israel and conducting no investigations at all. Isn’t it rather ridiculous: using the same standards for one of the five mightiest armies in the world and a band of irregular and poorly equipped resistance fighters (alias terrorists).?

Terrorism is the weapon of the weak. (“Give me tanks and airplanes, and I promise I won’t plant bombs’” a Palestinian once said.) Since the entire military strategy of Hamas is terrorizing Israeli communities along the border in order to persuade Israel to put an end to the occupation (and, in the case of Gaza, to the ongoing blockade), Goldstone’s indignation seems a bit surprising.

Altogether, Goldstone has now paved the way for another Cast Lead operation which will be far worse.

I expect , however, that he can now pray in any synagogue he chooses.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch's book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

 Maddow ginormously bungled the shutdown. But that’s how it’s done on our side:MONDAY, APRIL 11, 2011

The New York Times’ profile in cowardice: When Gail Collins gets something pretty much right, we give credit here at the HOWLER. And good lord! If we’re willing to grade on a curve, the high lady earned a fairly high grade for last Saturday’s column.

After a bit of silly-bill foofaw, Collins debunked three of Donald Trump’s ongoing claims about Obama’s deeply troubling birth. Example:

Trump has paraded all about, telling millions of voters that Obama’s paternal grandmother once said she was present at his birth—at his birth, which took place in Kenya. This claim is perfect garbage, but Trump just keeps pimping on.

Collins shot it down. She also addressed Trump’s claim (though weakly) that Obama won’t present his birth certificate. And she shot down Trump’s repellently stupid claim that no one remembers Obama, or has any photographs, from his early years. Regarding this point, she quoted Trump as he lied in Suzanne Malveaux’s face:
COLLINS (4/9/11): This week on CNN, Suzanne Malveaux played Trump clips of Hawaiians reminiscing about the schoolchild Obama for a documentary the network had done on the president.

“Look, I didn’t say that ... If he was 3 years old or 2 years old or 1 year old and people remember him, that’s irrelevant,” Trump responded. “You have to be born in this country.”
But Trump did say that, on various occasions, speaking to millions of people.
According to Collins, he has even said that Bill Ayers wrote Obama’s autobiography. Truly, there is no limit to the places this slimy man will go.

(Remember when this press corps pretended to be troubled by Al Gore’s alleged lying? By the “lies” they themselves had dreamed up?)

On CNN, Malveaux did an excellent job, confronting Trump with reams of information, challenging him again and again. But the silence of the New York Times editorial board constitutes a major profile in cowardice—and a very public lesson in the way our “journalism” works.

Donald Trump is doing vast harm to our political culture. He is disinforming millions of gullible voters, thus heightening our destructive tribal divides. He’s baldly lying, through his teeth; he continues this repellent conduct in the face of all contradiction. But his hometown newspaper is too polite to offer back-talk to such a great man, much as it has rarely dared contradict its billionaire mayor.

Elsewhere, big pundits say how much they like Donald Trump as they tamely, deferentially challenge him about his disgraceful misconduct.

Barbara Walters won’t give the facts to her viewers, who got disinformed by this vile, slimy man. And inside the Times’ High Gotham aerie, Andrew Rosenthal’s timorous gang trembles and quakes, like the bunch of vassals they are. But then, they have behaved this way for a long time.

By the way, why doesn’t Charlie Rose challenge Mayor Bloomberg a bit more robustly? Remember the way he rolled over for Wendy Kopp? For our five-part report on perhaps “the worst interview ever,” see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/16/08.

More on those questions to follow. But life can be good on the TV machine if you have a billion bucks. Especially in High Upper Gotham, the vassals tend to defer.

The beauty of doing nothing

Photo by Raheel Qureshi/
I moved to America almost 15 years ago and decided never to look back. A very wise man had once advised me, ‘when you move on in life, always look forward, think about the future, cherish your past, relish your memories, learn from your mistakes but never languish your history or the road not taken. The best place and time in your life is nownever lose sight of that.’ This is the best advice I ever received, and one I highly recommend.
I was raised in an upper middle class professional household and my elders made me very aware of the difference between gainfully involved and enjoyably relaxed from a very young age. I grew up enjoying a lifestyle that most in Pakistan do. Surrounded by extended family, cousins, weddings, Eid, wonderful neighbours, childhood friends, family friends, chai, colloquial language, ethnic influences, afternoon siestas, desi food and the list goes on, and thus developed a personality and an outlook enriched with experiences from south east Asia.
I value my past and upbringing for it keeps me grounded and helps appreciate my present. First generation immigrants, for the most part, remain primarily humble because the reality of not being born here and the colour of one’s skin is an inescapable truth and one that I would never want to change. However what I would like to change is the pace of life here.
Granted, my appreciation for some American values is immense. It teaches one to work hard from the very onset of life, in my opinion it is the hardest working nation in the world and promises a good life in return. It nurtures the basic human nature of competitiveness and assures a reward at the end of the day, but in return it takes away something valuable and irreplaceable, a beautiful little something the Italians call Il bel far niente and it means `the beauty of doing nothing.’
I recently came across this phrase in a book and it jumped at me. Yes it did, for I have noticed of late that I actually feel guilty if I am not doing a task – that is so anti my upbringing. I distinctly remember my training had a course in `hanging with the aimless self‘. I may not have fully appreciated the value of doing nothing at the time, but I also do not remember feeling erroneous about it. Where did the pleasure of momentary purposelessness go and what have I replaced it with? The answer is simple, the American lifestyle that expects one to work, work and work and never not do ‘nothing’.
I pause for a moment and reflect on the advice I got so long ago, ‘relish your memories’. I vividly remember a gorgeous November afternoon, some thirteen autumns ago, uniquely Karachisque when the temperature was a wee bit cool and a wee bit warm, just about perfect to be under a khais and a ceiling fan all at once. The slow motion of the fan was churning the atmosphere in the room at my mental pace. I remember staring at the fan and counting its rotation to the length of the Benjamin Sisters song ‘Aaye mausam rangeilay suhanay’. The song was playing somewhere far way, maybe on a radio or a cassette player, at a neighbour’s house or at a construction sight.  The music kept coming and going to the beck and call of the changing wind! Then came the sound of a dhol; somewhere close by there was a wedding happening while I lay in bed playing hide in seek with nothingness, fleeting thoughts, vague awareness and passing images. Pure magic!
Maybe this kind of momentary and transient aimlessness is nirvana, or maybe not, but surely it does something for the mind and body that is relevant and substantial for maintaining sanity. Taking a breather, a pause from the routine humdrum has to be a good thing, but the American lifestyle stops for no one. It runs and expects one to run with it, the race to the finish line is hard and if one stops to catch their breath then the camaraderie reprimand one to get back in the race. Panting, listless and thirsty one gets back into the game, refusing to stop for a chai break with the self.
This country has taken something very precious away from me, and from most, the inherent need to take a moment off, pause and listen to the sound of silence, sit aimlessly and at times simply do absolutely nothing.
Bisma Tirmizi is a writer based in Las Vegas

Unclaimed vehicles

SOME 102 motorcycles that are parked on the premises of Karachi`s Anti-Car-Lifting Cell are on the verge of being deposited in the police`s central vehicle pool, the Nazarat. These vehicles are unclaimed amongst some 800 motorcycles recovered or confiscated by the police between Jan 1 and April 6. Last year, the Karachi police sent well over 300 unclaimed motorcycles to the Nazarat. The police quote many reasons why vehicles remain unclaimed: in some cases, owners are not in a position to afford the lawyers` fees, while in others the courts direct the submission of sureties of up to Rs20,000 to regain possession of motorbikes, and the owners choose not to pursue the case. Sometimes, the police also find that the given residential addresses and contact numbers are incorrect.
This issue of unclaimed vehicles — both cars and motorcycles — is present in all Pakistan`s towns and cities. There is little effort by the police to correct this, and there have been cases where unclaimed vehicles have been found to be in the use of the law-enforcement personnel. However, part of the problem is the lack of a computerised database which can help the police easily link vehicles with the complainant/owner. A vehicle snatched or stolen from one part of the country, if recovered in another town or city, is unlikely to be matched up with its owner. Given the number of vehicles snatched or stolen in Pakistan every year, there is a need to develop an integrated database to trace the ownership of recovered vehicles. Then, through the police or other means, provincial governments must set up a system whereby the particulars of unclaimed vehicles, including registration and chassis numbers etc, are regularly and prominently advertised so that people who have had their vehicle stolen or snatched can find out whether and from where their vehicle has been recovered.