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Not much sooner did I set up my link to Michael Bérubé’s blog did I test it this morning to find that he’d plugged my earlier post about anti-semitism in some anti-war demonstrations. Can’t be sure, but I may have left him with the impression that I’m a British citizen.

Be that it may, he acknowledges my points and those of others, but also raises some interesting points about the difficulties of mainstream liberals who express criticism of Israel and some other engaging thoughts about the conflict, including the following points:

But there are two things I’d like to add. The first is that I did not expect Hezbollah’s resistance to be quite so . . . resilient. I thought this would be a political disaster for the region and a humanitarian disaster for Lebanon, but I did not imagine that it would also be a strategic disaster for Israel.The second is that I was probably wrong to say that there is no braking system in place. In one sense that’s true, because the U.S. has clearly green-lighted the “kill them all” option, and the wingnuts have begun to debate whether we made a mistake in not killing enough Sunni men between 15 and 35 in the course of our noble quest to liberate Iraq. A bunch of dead children, bombed in their sleep, and our government can’t even demand a cease-fire. (But let’s not overlook Condi Rice’s very first diplomatic triumph: getting Israel to announce a 48-hour suspension of air strikes. Oops, wait a sec . . . It turns out that “despite Israel’s announcement of 48-hour suspension of aerial strikes, bombs continued to fall across Lebanon, albeit at a slower pace and at more limited targets than earlier in the offensive.” Well, Secretary Rice, congratulations on that much.)

It’s his first post on the topic since the war broke out. He crammed a lot into one post (and you thought I was long winded), but it’s a worthwhile read.

Those of us who are opposed to the jihads of Hamas and Hezbollah as well as the excesses of the Israeli responses thereto have lamented the lack of a presence of a Ghandi or MLK figure in the region. There have been such figures, but unfortunately they don’t live very long. There was Anwar Al-Sadat, who negotiated with President Carter’s help a peace between Israel and Egypt that has been sustained for nearly three decades. He was of course assassinated just a couple of years later, and lest we compare him too favorably with the figures above, he was in the process of a crackdown against intellectuals of all stripes at the time. Still, he did make some progressive movement in a very medievalesque climate.

There was another figure – a leader in the PLO – lost in history who might have made a huge difference had he been allowed to live. Even educated folk I know aren’t familiar with him. I read about him during my first year of college, when he was assassinated. His name was Dr. Issam Sartawi. He was killed in Portugal in 1983 while attending a meeting of the Socialist International. I knew a woman who was a hard leftist in most respects, but also profoundly Zionist in defiance of the political culture of UC Santa Cruz at the time. We lived in a communal endeavor together and had already had some very intense arguments about Israel/Palestine. She was a year ahead of me, and had already become very defensive by the time I arrived, on the tail-end of the last Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Sartawi was killed during the spring quarter and I expected indifference based on what seemed to be her blanket rejection of any redeeming qualities of the PLO. Instead she was saddened and asked rhetorically “Why him?”

I would later learn that he was largely responsible for bringing the PLO to the negotiating table with Israel and had received international recognition for his efforts. This took him out of favor with Abu Nudal‘s band of crazies, and they killed him, probably silencing for years whatever moderate figures remained in the PLO at the time.

As a mostly unreconstructed leftist, I don’t often subscribe to what we have referred to as the “great man” theory of history. But I believe there are moments when individuals do make huge differences in the course of history, and there are certain individuals who show that potential. It could be argued that even what is left of the “peace process” between Israel and Palestine would not have been possible without his initial efforts. He made it very clear that economic development of Palestine was a must for enduring peace, commenting in reference to international soccer: “There will be no peace until the team of Israel plays against the team of Palestine – and we win.” A few details of his efforts can be found in the Wikipedia link above.

As noted the link above he also helped to establish the Palestine Red Crescent Society. In 1998, he received recognition within Israel with the creation of the Issam Sartawi Center for the Advancement of Peace and Democracy at Al-Quds University, an Arab University in Jerusalem.

I think it’s safe to conclude that the combination of Arabic heritage and leadership qualities for peace endeavors is not particularly conducive to the perpetuation of any genetic line, and is therefore not being selected for at the moment. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Photo source

Two beautiful young women died last month in a horrible freak car accident. Madeline was 19. Her memorial was held today at the Southern Humboldt Community Park. I didn’t know her very well. I had represented the driver, Emily Moody, a few years ago. I know Madeline’s mother fairly well.

A story from today’s memorial sticks out. When she was a girl, her parents bought some goldfish for their pond. Madeline was very fond of the fist, but they started to disappear one after another. One day they spotted a blue heron flying into the pond. Apparently the heron had been chowing down on a daily basis. Her response was a thoughtful young girl’s response – “I really loved those fish. Now I guess I’ll have to love the heron.”

She wrote the following poem at age 14.

I will always be your angel
I will be your shoulder whey you cry
When hope is gone, I will always be here
No matter how far you are, I’m near
I will always be your angel
I will help you find your way through night and day
And I want you to know in my heart you will always stay
Through everyting you must be strong and carry on
I am your angel from heaven
In heaven you will always belong

The following was e-mailed to me. Ironically, I’m going to be posting a postmortem for someone else shortly. This came to me from Richard Salzman. Let’s leave the peanut gallery comments for another thread, please?

Tim McKay, the executive director of the Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC) for virtually its entire 35-year existence, died at Stone Lagoon of an apparently massive heart attack on Sunday while he was engaged in one of his favorite activities: birding.

McKay, 59, was a relentless and inspirational defender of what he called the Klamath-Siskiyou. A native of Stockton who spent his boyhood in Benicia, McKay’s interest in the environment bloomed during a family trip to Alaska in the 1950s.

After coming to Arcata to study at Humboldt State, where he was a student government vice-president and eventually received a degree in history, McKay did a stint with the Forest Service in 1971. He also helped pioneer an early conservation group called Save Our Siskiyous.

A federal grant allowed him to become co-director, and later executive director (and sole employee) of the NEC. He had guided its concerns, activities, goals and dreams ever since.

McKay leaves a daughter, Laurel, 25; son, Forrest, 21; a brother, Gerry, his partner Michelle Marta, and numerous relatives and friends.

Plans for a celebration of his life in August are in progress.

Conact can be made through the NEC 707.822.6918 (M_F 10-6)

Hopefully he saw one last Bachman’s Warbler before he went.

More for the American heartland folk to ignore as they obsess on gay marriage and flag burning. Maybe it’s a deliberate Republican strategy to sleaze out so often that anything becomes old news fast. For whatever it’s worth, the NY Times is reporting that a federal audit has revealed “an accounting shell game to hide ballooning cost overruns” of State Department projects in Iraq.

The agency hid construction overruns by listing them as overhead or administrative costs, according to the audit, written by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent office that reports to Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department.

I imagine it’s getting some coverage on the talking head shows today, with the same old white geezers sitting around a table telling us that they will “wait for the facts.” Of course, there won’t be much media follow-up, and in a week’s time it’ll be old news as some other payola scandal emerges and Republicans can scream about what a negative campaign the 5th Column is running on behalf of the Democrats. Even on the NYT website, the link’s on small print now in the “Washington” section half way down the page listed under an article about Condi Rice returning to Washington and Joe Lieberman’s “sluggish start.”

Is anybody still wondering whatever happened to the 9 billion reported missing a few years ago? Not me. I’ve moved on. That’s what we do here. Old news. Get over it.

Update: Truthout is posting an LA Times article on topic. But I’m not finding any mention on the main pages of the cable news sites.

Well, I saw An Inconvenient Truth tonight. The Garberville Theater was filled with many of the usual suspects, and a surprising number of younger people which is encouraging simply for the interest. The film consisted of a Powerpoint slide presentation conducted by the former VP and arguably president elect 2000, laced with frightening footage of disappearing glaciers and convincing graphics of everything from the correlation between warming and increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to a convincing argument that the Republicans’ sheltering of the American auto industry from strict emission standards isn’t doing the car makers any favors in a global market. We were also treated with a touching family history, and I mean that without sarcasm – particularly at Gore, Sr.’s decision to stop growing tobacco after his daughter’s death at the hands of the poison the family had been selling.

Most shocking is that Gore is, for the first time in his life, is charismatic (a friend of mine remarked during the 2000 election that you knew it was a boring campaign when among the four candidates for President and VP, Gore was the most flamboyant). The Republicans have harped over the years that he continually “reinvents himself.” Well, he may have settled upon an effective invention this time. It wasn’t staged – he was in front of an audience, and he was engaging, humorous, and persuasive. And it looked natural. Arguably “presidential.”

Afterwards I met my good friend Fred Baron who shared my thought, and the thought of any political geek watching the film – the film marks the beginning of Gore for President, 2008. Certainly, the release was timed for the 2006 elections as well. And as reported earlier on this blog, it’s doing quite well.

The film wasn’t detailed on the science, though I’m told that the book addresses the science with considerably more depth. Other than the striking footage, the film presented nothing new to me in terms of substance. I would be more impressed if the film attempted to address the skeptics’ quite reasonable question as to whether the increased CO2 levels are causing the warming or simply an indicator of it. The arguments for causation rather than mere correlation are compelling, and Gore ought to have shared some of them. Perhaps he does in his book, but it’s central to the debate, and the film will reach many more people.

Which brings me to my problem with the film. Yes, it affected me. It’s impossible to sit through a two hour film with that kind of power without being affected, and I pride myself on my skepticism. But actually, it’s the power the film had over me that disturbs me about it, precisely when I am cognitively aware of its deficiencies. As George Orwell once remarked, “All propaganda is lies, even when you are telling the truth.” I agreed with Gore, for the most part, before I saw the film. The film inspires a sense of urgency, and I definitely share it.

I can understand Gore’s point about skepticism, but I’m uncomfortable with his attempt to discourage it. Truth, especially truth so important, should be able to withstand scrutiny, and even becomes more compelling when it does. The film should have incorporated a few of the intelligent criticisms, and dealt with them. Gore decried the reference to global warming as a “theory.” But evolution is a theory. Relativity as well. Other theories are treated as fact and applied that way, but remain theories because they can’t yet be proven in the sense that all variables have been eliminated. That’s the nature of science. Bush’s whining and use of tax money to dispute the relative consensus in the scientific community is actually beside the point. It doesn’t matter if there’s consensus. A theory doesn’t become a law until all variables are excluded.

A critic of Moore’s films once remarked that if he was a filmmaker he’d feel much more successful if the viewers were arguing in the aisles afterward, rather than applauding in unison. Personally, I believe that the cause against global warming would actually benefit from a film of that nature, precisely because I believe Gore’s premise is compelling. But unfortunately, propaganda, even for a good cause, doesn’t allow for much nuance. After the 2004 election, nuance is a bad word. Gore can’t afford to come across as reflective. He has to preach the word.

Which brings me to the fact that I saw Elmer Gantry last night for the first time. The experience may be coloring my response to tonight’s film.

All but one of the Rotten Tomatoes reviews are positive. And the one starts off by comparing Gore to Moore, revealing a political agenda of his own. Still, I appreciated the following passage:

Look, if you think Al Gore is a lunk head, and what he has to say about global warming is utter hogwash, then you’re gonna hate this movie. But if you like the man and agree with him politically, then you’’ll love it. The film makes him out to be a bigger martyr and a better savior than Jesus Christ, himself.

On the other hand, all criticisms of the film and speculations abouulterioror motives aside, Gore is most likely right. And the warming trend is now indisputable, the only question being whether humanity is responsible for it. And even that isn’t the core issue. The core issue is simply whether reducing CO2 emissions will mitigate the warming. The scale of the problem alone requires considerably more thought than the vast majority of pols are currently willing to commit to it.

Recently, Bush was asked whether he would be seeing the film. He responded with his characteristic smirk and said “Doubt it.” That clip, if available, should be added to the film as it plays right into its theme of mass denial.

For what it’s worth, Gore’s presentation has converted a former global warming skeptic. Well, that and four other books.

I’ll be updating this post with more links on topic over the next few days as I come across interesting comments on the film.

Update: Although he hasn’t seen the film, and has no intention of seeing it, Republican Senator James Inhofe feels quite qualified to compare the movie to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. How much do you want to bet that he’s never read that one either?

By now you’re read Heraldo’s Humboldt Herald post on Rob Arkley’s contribution to the Ohio GOP’s efforts to get black voters to vote for their black candidate. And by now you’ve probably heard that their candidate for governor, current attorney general Ken Blackwell, is in deep trouble. Blackwell is facing allegations of impropriety in the 2004 election, when he presided over the state’s election while simultaneously serving as co-chair of Bush’s campaign.

Well, in what appears to be a desperate move, the Ohio Republican’s “social conservative director” Guy Lankford is spreading innuendo to imply that the Democratic Party candidate Ted Strickland is gay. The evidence is that Strickland and his wife spend much of their time in separate residences, and that they have no children.

Playing to homophobia reaped rich rewards for the Ohio GOP (and President Bush) in 2004. This time however, they have a problem in that they would be appealing to a group of voters who probably won’t vote for Blackwell because he’s black. You play you pay.

Update: As pointed out in the comments section, Blackwell is the Secretary of State in Ohio, not Attorney General – which makes sense because the SOS is in charge of elections. Duh.

Honestly, I haven’t really followed the issue of the Balloon track/tract closely. I guess I should dip my feet in. I’ve heard a great deal of partisan squabbling, but North Coast Journal has published a description, a history, and a settling of the track vs. tract debate. And now I know where “balloon” came from.

One Ferndale resident isn’t concerned about whether the current potential buyers might lose interest. Maybe somebody involved can answer whether the predominant opposition to the Arkley plan is environmental or economic (ie. anti-big box). Yes, I know everything goes hand-in-hand, but really it doesn’t. Re Home Depot, will somebody explain why Measure J didn’t resolve that issue?

The Humboldt Advocate covered an effort by Eureka City Council Member Jeff Leonard to sell the proposed plan to members of the public. The article references some excellent questions, but didn’t provide Leonard’s response. Did he respond to them, or simply “stick to his original point?”


It seems that the polygraph results in the Whitethorne kidnapping/rape case will be released in August. Why so long? In all the television cop shows, the test administrator simply nods or shakes his head at the interrogating cop and that’s that.


My neighbor showed me a google download of History of Oil, by Robert Newman. It’s a monologue reminiscent of Spalding Gray’s old stuff, back when he was political. It’s a history known to those of us who were raised on Noam Chomsky, delivered in hilarious fashion. I don’t agree with all of it, but he raises some excellent points. It’s worth it for the entertainment value alone.

Update: I’ve been reminded that Spalding Gray isn’t apolitical now. He’s dead.


An Inconvenient Truth is at the Garberville Theater this weekend. I hope to see it simply because the federal government has spent tax money to discredit the movie, or more specifically to discredit AP’s report that scientists had praised the movie.

Meanwhile, our favorite blonde hippie was on Hardball and called Gore a “total fag.”


Listening the Thank Jah on KMUD this morning, somebody mentioned that Owl was suspended for a week. Does anybody know what that was about? That’s the second suspension arising from that show, the first being of Kathleen Creager for discussing the new station firing policy.

Update: Apparently they were referencing a joke. Should have figured I’d have heard about it otherwise.


I’ll be adding a new non-local blog to my list of links soon. Michael Berube has written for The Nation and other periodicals, and possibly related to a very entertaining debate with David Horowitz a few years ago ended up on Horowitz’ 101 most dangerous professors (here’s Berube’s response). I’ll be making a more detailed introduction later. For now I’ll just tell you that Berube is a terrific writer and a profound thinker, and you should give him a read. He also warns that blogging can ruin your career. Hmmmmm.

Update: I’ve been informed that Berube has accused Horowitz of editing his arguments in the above-linked debate.


Meanwhile, Molly Ivins is pushing for a Bill Moyers presidential candidacy. We could do much worse.


And Ned Lamont supporters are energized for what could be the upset of the century over Joe Lieberman.


Lastly, Save Ancient Forests introduces us to the PL relief team.


Turns out, Barbara Ehrenreich also has a blog. In her latest entry, she writes about how expensive it is to be poor. I can add a number of items to her list.

If Michael Walzer starts one, I’ll be a happy camper.

It’s a hawk catch phrase -goes without saying for everyone else. The ultimate expression of mitigation for any war effort, endeavoring to negate any criticism that might involve a weighing of consequences with the utility of the aggression.

I picked up a copy of July’s Greenfuse, a free monthly put out by anarcho-green activist Paul Encimer and friends. You won’t find Greenfuse online, but it is freely distributed at bohemian type places around the northcoast. It’s a bit narrow in ideological scope for my taste, but it has some compelling writing and maintains a countercultural aesthetic that’s probably going to be lost in a generation or two sans some new mass revival of an appreciation for homegrown culture.

Anyway, you’ll find some compelling prose this month, with a piece in particular grabbing my attention. Page 6, Orphaned in Gaza, by Sami Abu Salem, a resident of Jabalia Refugee Camp. He writes about a family with guests eating lunch with children playing when an Israeli rocket hit their home, ending lives and destroying the collective life of the family forever.

It is just an old house at the northern edge of Kahan Younis, in the south Gaza STrip. Its asbestos ceiling, wrinkled wall, and old wooden doors ridden with holes reflect the cruel poverty of Abdelqader Ahmed, 57.

His 80-year-old mother, Fadhiyya Ahmed, spent yesterday in one of her favorite pastimes – being with her family. Sons, daughters, grandsons, and sons-in-law gathered around her, celebrating the return of her son Zakariyya from Saudi Arabia.

The family and their guests were eating lunch when an Israeli rocket slammed into the house. Zakariyya, 45, in whose honor the family had gathered, was instantly killed, as was his pregnant sister Fatima, 37. Fatima’s 18-month-old son, Khaled, was critically wounded and carried to the hospital. Another relative, Shaima, 25, and pregnant, was critically wounded in the attack.

I respect the principled pacifism that opposes all war. We need more people with that level of faith. I don’t have it. From my view, at this point in our social and biological evolution, we remain a violent species. We don’t just have to fight. We like to fight. We’re going to fight. And sometimes, we have to fight. Certainly, the fight was justified 65 years ago in response to Hitler’s “Final Solution.”

And certainly, there are stories much like the one above about that fight. Stories of similar suffering perpetrated by the “good guys.” Sometimes deliberately. Millions of such stories actually if you consider Hiroshima, Nagasakai, Dresden, Tokyo, etc. “War is Hell.” The hawk will remind you that suffering is inevitable in war, but war is sometimes necessary – and that perhaps it is irresponsible of the dove to bring up the suffering in opposition to the war. Suffering being inevitable, the suffering is thus irrelevant to the discussion of whether the aggression itself is just and appropriate. We can discuss maybe whether the particular acts were necessary to the justice of the objective, but we cannot criticize the overall actions. There are bad apples, and we do our best to root out the Lt. Callys and Abu Ghraib guards. But don’t link the suffering and crimes to the overall war effort.

Insane from my point of view, but then I live on a different planet apparently. Why suffering should be excluded from the scale in weighing the utility of the aggression with the consequences is beyond me. Maybe the suffering is inherently on a magnitude of scale that we could almost never justify a war unless we could show that the suffering by the omission of the aggression would be worse. Would more Israelis be dying right now if the Ahmed house hadn’t been destroyed? We certainly can’t prove that. I can understand the difficulty of the hawk perspective. Better to not talk about it, or respond with stories about suffering on the other side, particularly as the result of murderous deliberation. Get the blood boiling. Whom did the Ahmeds vote for anyway?

He said that Fatima was talking and laughing with her sister, whiile their children yelled and played and the family talked all around. Suddenly everything was turned upside down. The rocket hit the house; he did not see anything because of huge clouds of dust until people carried him to the hospital.

“It is an unendurable life. We had been waiting for this nice moment for three years, but the Israelis turned it into a bloody moment. We can not bear such a life.”

Were the Israeli attacks justified? The situation there is filled with complexity and confusion – I don’t know what reasonable people in Israel or Palestine can do. I can’t judge whether acts are immoral or unnecessary, except when they can be shown to be deliberate efforts to kill with no broader strategy. I don’t think the Israelis meant to destroy this family. I do know that the act left the world a slightly more dangerous place for Israelis – however many survivors may have been converted to warriors. I hope for Israel’s sake that the utility of the attacks outweigh at least that consideration. It’s hard for me to imagine that it outweighs the humanitarian consideration. But I haven’t lost a son or daughter to a suicide bomber in a teen dance club either.

How much value do the Ahmed survivors place on life now?

Photo source – BBC

The Arcata Eye has published a follow-up article on the Paul Hagen firing – focusing on the local environmentalist movement from which came mostly praise for the terminated environmental prosecutor. I don’t know much about him, but this article leaves me with a strong impression of the man as a class act, particularly his willingness to complete a prosecution after his release – without compensation.

The praise isn’t universal in the article, but the small amount of criticism seems kind of vague and ambiguous. I certainly hope these environmental groups are pressuring CDAA for an explanation – something Hagen can’t provide due to a gag order that Hagen probably agreed to for a severance package. If Paul Gallegos is in any way responsible, he should also provide some explanation. Hagen wasn’t his employee, so the ethics around personnel issues shouldn’t apply. There is also the possibility that Hagen himself doesn’t really want to talk about it, but in previous interviews he seemed to imply that it was he who was made to agree on the gagging, and not CDAA.

But as I’ve been saying, to convince me that Gallegos is responsible somebody is going to have to show me how Gallegos has that kind of influence with CDAA, a conservative organization for the most part – at least historically.


July 2006