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Quote of the day

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Power is the collective will of the masses transferred to rulers selected by open or tacit consent

– Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

This, combined with Tolsoy’s statement, “modern history is like a deaf man answering a question nobody has asked,” are great insights as Tolstoy tries to figure out why Napoleon was one minute a genius, and the next a fool, and why hundreds of thousands of people followed, and then in the next moment condemned Napoleon. It isn’t merely about Napoleon; these are great, constant thoughts about power and history.
(Tolstoy goes on to question his statement about what power is)

The battle of Borodino

Down With the AUMF

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In 2021 the House of Representatives “voted overwhelmingly to repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF and has now included this repeal in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2023.”
The catch, of course, is that the Senate also has to vote to repeal the AUMF, and then the repeal is signed into law by the president.
President Biden, according to the FCNL petition, is in favor of signing to repeal the AUMF. To get there the Senate must actl the FCNL petition helps you send a pre-written letter to your Senators.
Besides being a bad idea, the AUMF also seems to me to be illegal. It is Congress, not the president, who can declare war.
Contact your representatives – in this case the Senate – to ask them again to repeal the AUMF

The Dole Blog

Effective October 16, 2002, the 107th Congress passed the Joint Resolution to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq. Signed by George W. Bush on that day the act has remained in force – pun intended – for the last eighteen years with Congress repeatedly updating and approving what has been called the Iraq Resolution.

President George W. Bush, surrounded by leaders of the House and Senate, announces the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq, October 2, 2002. – From Wikipedia

An authorization of use of military force (AUMF) is meant to provide temporary, limited, ability to conduct war. This differs from a complete, or total war; the war is meant to limited in scope. Clearly, the length of a limited war (oops, authorization of force) differs; and article posted recently by Heather Brandon-Smith of the Friends’ Committee on National…

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Badly damaged – Abu Akleh files

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The U.S. Security Coordinator investigation over the murder of AlJazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who is U.S. dual citizen, concluded the bullet that killed her, fired by an Israeli solider, was “badly damaged,” and this prevented a clear proof of the origin of the bullet.

Even CNN – and NYT, citing CNN – acknowledged that a bullet fired by an Israeli soldier killed Abu Akleh, and that it was done intentionally. Israeli analysts with former roles in the government agree, and said the order to kill a journalist (who was reporting on Israeli “military incursions”) came from high levels in the government.

Accountability is cool, but we already know who did it and who ordered it.

The subsequent attacks on Palestinians during Abu Akleh’s funeral
(from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/14/israeli-police-attack-on-shireen-abu-akleh-mourners-sparks-outcry)

Ordering the murder of a journalist, especially while they are doing their job, is a war crime.

This is not complicated.

Aborted

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There is no fury like scorning half the population

It will do little good to dwell on the ideology that led the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn Roe v. Wade today, but it’s worth reflecting on how we got here.

All of the current members of the Supreme Court have been nominated by recent presidents, although some recent nominees never made it to Court (McConnell prevented the nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016).

In an election that will not soon be forgotten, in 2016, Trump defeated Hilary Clinton. It shouldn’t be lost on us that Bill and Hilary Clinton urged Trump to run, sure that he would be easily beaten. More importantly, this meant Trump nominated to the Supreme Court people who would match his ideology.

Although she was out of touch of the basic interests and needs of the people in the U.S. Hilary was able to make to the general election with a lot of help from the DNC.

If you’re wondering how we have arrived at today – a day that the Supreme Court endangered, subjugated, and harmed a good portion of the population – look at the politics and political infighting that has led us here.

If you’re wondering how to move on from today and create a system that ensures people’s rights, safeties, and liberties, then work to change politics as we know it. The politics, policies, and infighting that got us here will not get us out of here.

The Championships

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Tennis might have originated in France but it is very much a British sport. Of the four majors each year it is Wimbledon that is called The Championships.

This year, in the midst of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, Wimbledon chose to ban Russian players from competing; Belarusian players were also banned because Belarus supports Russia.

Rather than resolving an international dispute, this created more conflict in the tennis community and the broader international community that watches tennis.

It’s clear that Wimbledon banned Russian and Belarusian players because the British government gave them no choice. Both the WTA and the ATP quickly issued statements condemning the decision, pointing out that preventing a player to compete based on nationality is against their guidelines. Very few professional tennis players were pleased with the decision.

Some would suggest that Wimbledon – with a little pushing the British government – was engaging in ‘sports diplomacy.’ The Championships at Wimbledon was merely trying to pressure Russia to stop the invasion of Ukraine in the same sense that tennis in Apartheid South Africa was an issue.

If Wimbledon is banning Russian players because Russia (not the players) attacked a sovereign country this raised the question for many people why players from the U.S. aren’t banned for the wars the U.S. fights, along with players from countries allied with the U.S. in these wars. Most of Europe, inducing Britain, France, Germany, and The Netherlands, plus Australia and New Zealand have all contributed troops or aid to unending wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places. The answer is that there would be no tennis players left.

The WTA and ATP doesn’t control the Grand Slams. But the two organizations representing the players do control the points that determine rankings. Individually, in response to the ban, both organizations announced that no points would be awarded during Wimbledon.

There’s still a lot of money to be made at Wimbledon, with the winner winning about $3,000,000. Without the points awarded, some top players indicated that they no interest in playing despite the money.

Wimbledon has made a mockery of itself. Everyone calls this a lose-lose situation. At this point Wimbledon has become nothing more than a glorified exhibition tournament. I’m not even sure why any players would play; the players should support one another and if some can’t play because of their nationality all the players should refuse to go.

E – – – H Day

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HAPPY E – a -r -t – H DAY

As the bumper sticker says, “Earth without ART would be “EH”.

We have a choice every day that we’re reminded of once a year on Earth Day. That choice is what kind of Earth we want to live on.

We currently live in a world dominated by war and and dependent on fossil fuels. Our dependence on oil means that every year it gets warmer in the summer than the previous year, and colder in the winter than the previous year. And the weather becomes more erratic and stronger.

Instead we could live a life not dependent on oil. Our life could be filled with art – art of our choosing. It could be full or writing and poetry, song, music, and paintings. We could spend our time doing none of those things, and still have a prosperous, enjoyable life.

This day is a good reminder to decide which life we want. Do we want a life of EH, or do we have a life of ART and an E-A-R-T-H? Choose well.

No Peace

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There can be no peace while there is military

Mask Warriors

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When Shakespeare wrote “we are but warriors for the working day” he wasn’t thinking of the modern-day customer service industry, but he might have well as been.

Customer service, as it is called, is just as much about trying to monitor behavior as it is about providing an item.

Take, for instance, the current effort of some reasonable people in government and in business to try to prevent the spread of a highly contagious and rather debilitating virus by requiring that people wear masks in a crowded environment.

Notice Face Masks Required Sign Blue
An example of a sign

It is a constant battle in stores and places that require mask mandates to remind people to put on the mask, and request that “could you please do better with your mask” so that the mask covers both the mouth and the nose. I would hazard a guess that in the store store I work at, which has clear “mask require in the store” signs posted on the door and in the store, about ten percent of the people enter the store without a mask and without an intent of ever wearing one.

The store tries to carry free medical (blue) masks for people who need one, but I’m mystified by the people who – two years into a pandemic – have chosen not to have a mask of their own. At the same time, I shouldn’t be mystified, because customers have said things like “down south” (in a more conservative county) “we don’t wear masks”

It’s not just about whether or not someone has their own mask after all this time. People are showing a compete disregard of the safely of others. If you expect a store to give you a mask, and you don’t have your own you’re saying that is the store, not you, that is incumbent to provide for the safety of others. If you have your mask on half way (or keep taking it off in the store) you’re intentionally ignoring public safety. (I don’t mind exceptions to the rule, like people who take their mask down to be heard).

At this point in the pandemic it should be obvious that even in places that don’t require a mask you should wear one, and in a place that says that masks are required there you should wear one.

Cruelty to the Enemy – Operation Cast Lead in review

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Thirteen years ago Israel launched what has been politely referred to as a “major military offensive” against the Gaza Strip. The offensive, called Operation Cast Lead, was not the first time or the last time Israel assaulted the Palestinians of Gaza. The Operation was merely a continuation, and a punctuation (almost an exclamation), of Israel’s policy toward Palestinians and to Gazans in particular.

It’s not clear how many people died during those three weeks; Robert Fisk lists the number of Palestinians killed at 1,417, including 313 children, and more than 5,500 injured Palestinians – many permanently. B’tselem, a human rights group in Israel differs, saying that 1,387 Palestinians died, of which 773 were civilians. B’tselem also reminds us that nine Israelis died, of which three were civilians. It’s clear that during the twenty-two days of the Operation that Israeli soldiers followed the rabbinical injunction to inflict “cruelty to the enemy,” as paraphrased by Maayan Lubell.

Because Israel denied B’tselem, the right to “enter the Gaza Strip to supplement the work of field-researchers” in Gaza following the Operation, in some instances the “organization was not able to establish whether the person killed took part in the hostilities.” Human Rights Watch, and other agencies were also in in large part denied access. Both organizations agree, along with other human rights organizations that “[c]ivilians lose their protection from attack only during the time they directly participate in hostilities” (HRW).

People familiar with other assaults on Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and elsewhere, over the years would not be surprised that war crimes were committed during Operation Protective Edge. It’s true that both the Israeli army and Hamas in Gaza could be accused of war crimes, but hasty to lay blame equally. The HRW report on Operation Cast Lead, published in August 2009, reminds us that the laws of war “oblige states to conduct impartial investigations into credible allegations of serious laws-of-war violations, and to hold accountable anyone found responsible for war crimes, regardless of rank,” but at that point several months later “the Israeli government and IDF have failed to conduct serious investigations into many of the credible allegations of laws-of-war violations by Israeli forces during Operation Cast Lead,” and the “soldiers who fought in the operation” that “spoke publicly about attacks on civilians and other violations” were accused of “hearsay and exaggerations,” by the Israeli army, which “criticized the soldiers for speaking out.”

Israeli tanks standing on the Israel-Gaza border while smoke billows from Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, January 14, 2009. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Israeli tanks standing on the Israel-Gaza border while smoke billows from Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, January 14, 2009. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90) – found at https://www.972mag.com/10-years-since-cast-lead/

The law of proportionality in armed conflict “forbids suffering that is caused in no direct relation to a concrete military advantage and in disproportion with it.” Although both sides have correctly been accused of launching indiscriminate rockets and mortars the numbers of casualties listed above tell us that Israel was looking to inflict cruelty on the enemy and those enemies were in large part non-combatants, including emergency personnel.

Part of the background for the reason for Operation Cast Lead, provided by Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), was that on the day Obama was elected – November 4, 2008 – “Israeli soldiers staged a raid (The Guardian cited by IMEU) into the Strip, killing six members of Hamas. This ended a ceasefire that had been in place between Israel and Hamas for the previous six months. Obama had made Middle-East peace an issue he intended to address as president; Netanyahu, who never had the best relations with Obama probably saw an assault on Gaza as a great way to thwart an effort toward peace.

Although the Operation ended just before Obama took office in 2009 during those weeks – and before and after – Gaza’s borders were closed, “enforced mostly by Israel but also by Egypt in the south.” Israel has its own reasons, such as cultural dominance, to close the borders, but this has always been supported by the United States.

As we look back at Operation Cast Lead thirteen years later it’s clear that the Operation was just another event in an almost normal day of the life of Palestinians of Gaza. The borders remains closed, enforced by Israel, Egypt, and the U.S., and in other several Operations since 2008 hundreds of civilians have died with no accountability.

West Side Stories

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This week I saw Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story.

America’s classic love story in the manner of a Romeo and Juliet, the original West Side Story won awards and led to a long-running Broadway production. The original West Side Story on the silver-screen (1961), which tells the story of New York’s white population fighting the Puerto Rican population over land that is being gentrified, wasn’t the original plan for the story-line. Richard Brody, in the New Yorker, reminds us that

The story of the original ‘West Side Story’ is that of white Jewish artists (Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, and Jerome Robbins, later joined by Stephen Sondheim) who planned to make a musical play about Jewish and Irish gangs and then, worrying that they were heading for cliché, shifted their focus to people they knew nothing about.

The 1961 production had an mostly white cast – with the exception of Rita Moreno, who starred in both the 1991 and 2021 productions). Speilberg did what he was supposed to do by having Latinos play the roles of Puerto Ricans, and for having Spanish dialogue in the show. Rachel Zegler, the lead that plays Maria, has a mother from Columbia.

The praise for the remake ends there. If you avoid suspending disbelief and look at the performance, you’ll see that, as Richard Brody points out, Spielberg has Zegler “act like a Disney princess” with “oversimplified facial and vocal expressions.” In the 1961film Maria had “recently arrived from Puerto Rico for an arranged marriage to Chino.” In Spielberg’s version she had been in the city for years with no mention of an arranged marriage; Chino is in night school and working as a mechanic. Brody points out that “nothing comes of these new practical emphases; the characters have no richer inner lives, cultural substance, or range of experience than they do in the first film.”

There’s a big difference between an arranged marriage than the expectation of parents that a daughter would marry within culture, and Maria’s parents were pushing her to like – and perhaps marry Chino.

The best thing of Spielberg’s version, Brody says were “the songs, their acerbity, the view of racial discrimination and class privilege,” which were already in the original production. He left out the important things from the 1961 version, while trying to set the story in the 1950: “there is no police lieutenant’s open insulting of white kids, or openly racist and threatening rant against Puerto Ricans.”

If you want to see “West Side Story” you might as well see the original. Or maybe you should just read Romeo and Juliet, and imagine that it’s set in the 1950s during a period of gentrification and immigration.